Citation to Cobblestones on their 20th anniversary of opening in Lowell.
Councilor Rourke motion that city join FEMA’s Community Rating System. This helps residents in flood plain get reduced rates on flood insurance. Several people speak in favor of it. Passes unanimously.
Mayor Elliott motion re improving pedestrian crossing of Andover St at Douglas Rd. Scott Darlington, a resident, speaks on the issue. Numerous councilors concur there is a need to improve pedestrian safety. Motion passes unanimously.
Public Hearing on proposed ordinance to ban fireworks. Council takes up motion by Councilor Mercier to form a special unit of police to combat fireworks. City Manager says not only have they drafted this ordinance but he’s directed the police to formulate a plan to suppress firework usage. Chief Taylor says proposed ordinance will greatly assist police in confronting fireworks. Displays map showing firework and disturbance calls. There’s been a significant increase in such calls recently. This fine-based ordinance is more workable for police than the state statute which is a misdemeanor and therefore requires the officer to summons the wrong doer into court. He’s increased number of patrols in areas with most fireworks usage (Highlands, Centralville, Back Central). There’s a special team of officers who go out each night. They also send out teams of police with fire fighters to address fire safety issues. When they do get a call, they send a supervisor in addition to the patrol officer. This Thursday they are also hosting a public education program at 1pm at Regatta Field on the dangers of fireworks. Says one thing that makes this particularly difficult is that neighboring states, especially New Hampshire, sell fireworks so it’s easy for people to get them into Massachusetts. Councilor Milinazzo moves to amend the ordinance to strike “sparklers” from the ordinance. The ordinance as amended passes as does Councilor Mercier’s related motion, both unanimously.
Execute contract with Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union to install/maintain ATMs in certain public buildings. (This has been delayed by Councilor Mercier for more information which she received and now she has no further questions). Passes unanimously with Councilors Martin and Milinazzo abstaining.
Of Sean Callahan, a local attorney, as alternate member of board of appeals. Approved without discussion.
Of Dr John Donovan to the board of health (reappointment). Approved without discussion.
Of four individuals to the Hunger Homeless Commission. Approved without discussion. Brent Rourke (case manager at Dept of Mental Health Lowell office), Susan Smith (Lowell public schools), Dan O’Connor (retired from Dept of Transitional Assistance and on Board of Directors of House of Hope), and one other who wasn’t there.
Of Nancy McGovern to the License Commission. Ratified by council unanimously. Manager Murphy says he’s known and worked with Nancy for many years and stresses that she lives downtown which brings an important perspective to the Commission.
Manager’s Response to Motions
Councilor Mercier re the city purchasing a mulch blower. It is in the FY15 capital plan.
Councilor Kennedy re large hikes in water bills. Asks how those bills will be reconciled. Manager Murphy says there are two separate issues. This response is related to the procedure for obtaining final water meter readings. Councilor Kennedy’s question relates to a report the manager sent to the councilor that he expects will go to a subcommittee. He anticipates recommending an ordinance that gives the water bill review board greater authority to compromise.
Councilor Kennedy re Lowell Stat report on parking which shows expected revenue this year is less than expected. Asks how it will be addressed. Bob Healy says estimate in FY15 is higher than this year because this will be a full year of kiosks and because of some parking agreements with UML, Winn Properties, etc. He’s confident that the projected amount will be reached.
Councilor Mercier reads a prepared statement regarding problems with problematic water procedures and practices. Also suggests possible reforms.
Councilor Belanger says he’s shocked that someone gets an outrageous water bill and then has to wait an excessive amount of time for an appeal hearing. Next he talks about Lowell Stat and parking. He’s troubled meter maids were ticketing cars at Lelacheur Park during the Spinners opening game (turns out they weren’t ticketing anyone). Asks manager about negotiations with UML for use of parking spots on Fr Morrisette Blvd. Manager Murphy says we’re about to sign lease with UML for 160 spaces. Murphy also says Mr. Weber (owner of Spinners) asked the city to help with traffic enforcement. He says Parking Enforcement Officers were there as ambassadors, directing people to city curbside spaces instead of increasingly expensive parking garages and private lots. He says the Ayotte Garage provides free parking during Spinners games to anyone who wants to park there and walk. He says Mr. Weber is quite happy with how the city is handling parking for Spinners games.
Councilor Leahy says he’s received calls about local churches near downtown who get tickets shortly after 8am when attending 7:30am mass. Asks the city to consider deferring such enforcement. Regarding water, he says what do people who haven’t had meters read in years do? Do they call and request a reading or do they keep quiet.
Next there’s a report that “previews” tax bills for this year since they will go up due to increased values and the tax rate increase. Manager Murphy doesn’t want residents to suffer from “sticker shock” when the actual bills arrive. Councilor Belanger says real estate values are rising which is good news, but that also results in higher assessments and higher taxes.
Councilor Leahy motion to have DPD work with Jeanne d’Arc Credit Union to develop their old site on Merrimack Street.
Councilor Leahy motion regarding bridges over canals. Mayor Elliott has a similar motion directed at bridges owned by Enel to have them inspected and brought up to minimum standards. Lots of council comments in favor of pressing Enel to accelerate the repair of these bridges. Mayor Elliott says Enel has a long track record of doing the minimum amount of maintenance and has repeatedly shown that it doesn’t care about the city and its residents. He doesn’t know what can be done but urges the city to adopt a strategy that forces Enel to be a better citizen of the community.
Councilor Belanger motion requesting City Manager seek out additional money to support more special events in the city. Says it is increasingly expensive to hold festivals and he believes the city should try to support the existing festivals financially because of the economic development they bring to the city. Passes without discussion.
Councilor Belanger motion for an update on the RFP for the School Department Headquarters. Says it is a “key piece of revitalizing the downtown.” He says having the Department HQ downtown is much more important than having teachers downtown because administrators go out to lunch unlike teachers. Councilor Kennedy says the responses to the original RFP were “faulty” and so the RFP was reissued. He says it’s important that the School Dept be located in downtown. Manager Murphy says the original responses were deemed “non responsive” and a new RFP was issued. Says new bids will be opened on July 7 and that that bid gives a preference to downtown locations.
Councilor Martin motion that “pickle ball” be introduced to the city recreation league this summer. He says it’s increasingly popular. Sometimes it’s good to try something new. Councilor Mercier adds that there should also be shuffle board courts for senior citizens.
Councilor Rourke motion for update on partnership between Lowell Police and city’s Development Services office. Says it’s important for city residents to know how closely the police and other city departments work. Asks for a presentation at a future meeting.
Councilor Rourke requests report on feasibility of the city providing wifi to the downtown. Passes
Motion to go into executive session to discuss litigation involving Greater Lowell Vocational High School. Council will adjourn from there.