Meeting opens with Councilor Mercier requesting a moment of silence for the seven victims of the Branch Street fire. Mayor Elliott joins in with heartfelt remarks on effect of the tragedy and on the way the entire city pulled together in response to it. He presents commendations to the Lowell Police Department and the Lowell Fire Department and thanks all the agencies, organizations and individuals who did so much to assist the victims making special recognition of the Red Cross, City Manager Murphy, and a number of city departments. Councilor Mercier then thanks Mayor Elliott for recognizing everyone else but then commends Mayor Elliott for his leadership throughout this ordeal.
Several non-controversial public hearings on utility requests.
Regarding school department moving back into downtown, Councilor Belanger is pleased that the school department is moving back to downtown but he criticizes the plan to put the Family Resource Center into a ground floor space on Merrimack Street that might otherwise be used for a for-profit retailer. Mayor Elliott comes to the defense of the school department, saying one of the criteria of the RFP was that it be ground floor and centrally located. He also says it’s a very busy place and having it on the ground floor is important. Councilor Kennedy reminds everyone that the School Committee responded to a council request that it move downtown so we should praise them for it. He adds that maybe in a year or two retail space will be so sought after that the building owner would welcome relocating the Resource Center but for now it would be best to leave it as is.
Councilor Leahy asks about a report on pedestrian safety on Andover St. The traffic engineer investigation found insufficient need for crossing lights for pedestrians.
Extensive discussion mostly be neighbors about a house being constructed on Alma St.
Petition to address the council by Ellen Collins on DeMoulas situation. She has a PowerPoint presentation. She requests the council publicly support Arthur T DeMoulas and the associates of DeMoulas Supermarkets who have been fired recently.
Vote authorizing School Department to enter into lease for Bon Marche building, etc, for school administration offices. Councilor Mercier questions how much thought and planning went into this proposal. Asks whether various alternative schools could have been consolidated to free space for the headquarters in a building with better parking and without rental payments. She says despite her concerns she feels no alternative than to vote for it. Passes 9 to 0.
Report of Finance Subcommittee meeting held earlier tonight. Topic was proposed ordinance amendment regarding water and sewer fees. Amendment establishes procedure to address and abate as needed estimated water bills. Subcommittee recommends referring it to a law department for drafting of the ordinance after which a public hearing will be held.
Report of Public Safety Subcommittee meeting held earlier tonight regarding several topics: Narcand (an antidote to heroin overdoses) will be available on Lowell Fire Dept vehicles in early August; regarding curfew ordinance, it was referred to solicitor’s office to explore ways to strengthen it; regarding synthetic drugs, they heard about public education; and strategy to combat violent acts presented by leadership of police department.
By Councilor Mercier to have the council tour the Lowell water treatment facility. She says the plant is in disrepair with equipment failing regularly, at least that’s what she has heard. She says she has heard that since she filed the motion, the staff there is doing repairs. Still, she would like to have a tour made available for city councilors so they can assess for themselves the state of the facility. Passes.
By Councilor Mercier to have council provided with copies of a sanitary survey conducted by the state two years ago of the Lowell water treatment facility. Passes.
By Councilor Kennedy request RFP for back water study of flooding risks in Claypit area and other areas of Pawtucketville. Passes.
By Councilor Belanger for a citywide cleanup before the start of the Lowell Folk Festival. Passes.
By Mayor Elliott requests report on costs to educate new comer students to Lowell Public Schools. Says purpose of motion is to get a grasp on the costs associated with ELL and those issues. Student population in LPS in last four years has had significant increase in number of students that puts a great demand on resources. A report from School Supt reflects students who come into this country with refugee status demand many resources which takes resources from mainstream classrooms. In past year, there were more than 250 additional “new comer” students. The city and the schools can no longer keep pace with this trend. The city added additional money. Says Lowell has never turned its back on anyone. We are a city of immigrants. Says the difference is the cost of the level of services we are required to provide now than the cost of what was required in the past. He says there are limits on how much we can handle. He says if the trend continues we will jeopardize our ability to educate our existing students. He wants governor and even the president to come to Lowell and see the demands placed on the system by new comer students. It’s an unfunded mandate that falls disproportionately on cities like Lowell. Doesn’t see how we can sustain this without a massive influx of funding from the state and federal governments because we’re not on the right track when it comes to funding our schools.
Councilor Belanger concurs Lowell is a city of immigrants but we have a problem that’s serious that is going to get far worse with refugees and undocumented and illegal aliens on the list to come to Lowell. They don’t have well developed skills. Says we need to know how many of these students are coming to our schools. Six planes of children from the southern border have landed at Fort Devens and we’re likely to get many of them. There’s also 100+ children from the Congo coming to Lowell. Says we need to get Congressman Tsongas to stand up for her city. Says if the President wants to have failed immigration policies then he should pay for it not the homeowners of Lowell. Says we have to get on this right away. I don’t mean to come off as offensive; I’m merely standing up for the taxpayers of Lowell. It’s very expensive to educate these children and it shouldn’t be on the backs of the taxpayers of Lowell. Motion passes.
Meeting adjourns at 9:43 pm.
[NOTE: The above are my notes taken while watching the city council meeting and are not a verbatim transcript. However, because of the inflammatory nature of Councilor Belanger’s remarks regarding immigrants coming to Lowell, as soon as the video replay of the meeting is available online, I will produce a verbatim transcript of those remarks for the public record].
[NOTE-2 (July 24, 2014 at 9:15 pm) I just finished transcribing Councilor Belanger’s complete remarks. The verbatim transcript can be found HERE].