Lowell City Council Meeting: October 21, 2014
Meeting opens with council recognizing all who participated in last Saturday’s Centralville neighborhood cleanup, especially the more than 100 Lowell High Jr ROTC cadets who participated (40 of whom were present at this meeting).
Rita Mercier asks City Clerk Michael Geary to explain procedure for minutes of executive sessions. Clerk Geary says he keeps minutes of executive sessions secure until the city council orders them released. The procedure is to go into executive session, review the minutes, and vote to release or not release them. If the council votes to release them, the clerk releases them to the public. Mercier asks him to compile a list of all executive sessions so they can address each of them
Councilor Milinazzo moves that report on Fr Morissette Blv bike lanes be referred to transportation subcommittee (Milinazzo, Martin and Leahy) for a report and recommendation.
Draft ordinance re sidewalk signs and sandwich board signs. Councilor Kennedy notes that the ordinance is silent on the size of the signs and leaves it to the historic board. He says that kind of broad discretion may have been a cause of the problems so he advocates making the rules more detailed. CM Murphy says that’s an excellent suggestion and will incorporate it into the ordinance. Councilor Samaras says the Historic Board has offered several suggestions for sign sizes so the city and the historic board should resolve that. The sidewalk sign period will coincide with sidewalk seating period. Samaras says the ordinance should have some flexibility that allows signs except in periods of inclement weather.
Council votes to accept state grant for construction of a pedestrian bridge as part of the Concord River Greenway.
Vote to cancel council meetings of Nov 11 and Nov 25. Passes unanimously with no discussion.
Island on Central Street designated Robinson Memorial Island. Passes. Sent to Board of Parks for their determination.
CCs Kennedy and Leahy request report on number of police department vehicles and also to allow police officers to take vehicles home. Kennedy says his portion of the motion deals with the number of vehicles. Says prior administration reported that LPD had 150 vehicles, most of which are not marked police vehicles. Says the earlier report was incomplete. Would like a report now that says where all of these vehicles came from and what they are used for. Suggests city may want to auction off some of them. Councilor Leahy says if we get more vehicles out into the neighborhoods there will be more visibility. If we let police officers take police cruisers home when off duty, people will feel safer. CC Mercier has some concerns about allowing police to bring cruisers home while off duty. She wants to see cruisers on duty in the neighborhoods but doesn’t understand how this would accomplish that. CC Belanger says there are too many police vehicles. Would like to know how many are active on the street. CC Samaras says the chief should be asked his opinion on this. CC Leahy defends his idea. CC Rourke asks that the report identify how many police officers actually live in the city.
CC Leahy motion about strategy for snow removal and for use of independent contractors for snow removal. Leahy says we could have done a better job last winter. There were too many cases of downtown parking spaces filled with snow waiting for snow to melt.
CC Leahy motion to explore use of outside contractor to fill vacant traffic engineer position. Says other communities outsource such positions so we should explore doing that while the position is vacant. CC Kennedy says it’s a good motion; that Northern Middlesex Council of Governments provides traffic engineer support to a few communities. CC Milinazzo says with all the motions of this council the traffic engineer is kept very busy. CM Murphy says the job has already been posted and he has four applicants. He says since he’s been CM the traffic engineer has been very busy.
CC Belanger asks for two free weekends of parking in downtown garages (during holiday shopping season). Says after speaking with merchants he thinks it will be helpful to “heal this parking perception.” He says there’s plenty of parking downtown that’s clean and safe. This would be a good way to introduce people to the garages and get used to using them.
CC Belanger asks CM create neighborhood crime watch throughout city with appropriate signage. Says problems in the city persist. Violence seems to have calmed down but random shootings still persists. At neighborhood meetings he gets impression there are so many shots fired that people don’t bother calling the police or at least they wait 15 minutes. He says the city needs the citizens to help. To have someone on every block in the city providing eyes and ears for the police. Suggests looking at how other cities do it.
CC Belanger requests CM report on possible parking ordinance changes. Belanger says this is motivated by Jeff Speck’s remarks and a meeting Belanger had with the Lowell parking department. He says no one wants parking to be primarily a revenue generator. Says we need a plan that works for the merchants. Maybe we need to enforce on Saturdays. We’ve all reached the conclusion that we have to enforce later in the day. Downtown is a neighborhood. Residents have guests, visitors, and merchants need turnover but we know that some downtown residents park curbside Friday night and don’t move their cars until Monday morning. We need some changes to the status quo. Milinazzo says it’s a good motion. Says we should look at parking ordinance as an economic development tool.
Meeting adjourns at 7:49 pm.
One Response to Lowell City Council Meeting: October 21, 2014
The job description for the traffic engineer position should state “to provide as livable and prosperous a life as possible without using a car.”
People don’t judge a city based on how easy it is to drive through, but with how easy it is to walk throughout. i.e. Portsmouth, Newburyport, Boston, Newport, Burlington VT etc.