Mayor Elliott opens the meeting by introducing UMass Lowell students from a Community Psychology class and has their instructor tell the council about the class.
Motion Responses by City Manager
Councilor Leahy questions the detour that uses Pevey Street to bypass the bridge repairs on Broadway; suggests Middlesex St be used instead. City Manager says they’ll take another look at it.
Councilor Mercier asks about the report on the Baystate Marathon route and whether it can be rerouted in a way that reduces disruptions of traffic. Let’s everyone know that from this discussion came the idea of holding an Oktoberfest type event on the grounds of the Tsongas Center at the end of the race. Says it’s an example of how other good things can come from a motion.
Councilor Belanger discusses report on Smith Baker Center committee. Says an RFP was issued about 5 years ago but there were no takers then. From this more recent effort another RFP will be issued with more attractive terms. Commends the committee and hopes it works out satisfactorily. Councilor Leahy asks about the overall plan; whether there is a parking solution that will be part of it. DPD director says that within a quarter mile of the Smith Baker Center there are 3000 parking spaces. Leahy responds that people don’t want to walk that far. CM says they’re trying to identify closer parking spaces.
Council Rourke thanks City Manager for re-activating an “impact team” that pairs inspectional services with police so their efforts can be coordinated. Eric Slagle, head of inspectional services, explains how the police pass information about problem properties to inspectional services which then inspects the building for code violations and other problems. Putting focus on property this way usually prompts the landlord to take a variety of actions which often lead to the problem occupants leaving. Police Chief Taylor explains that he’s trying to shift more assets to being preemptive rather than reactive. In other words, they want to identify and act on these problem properties before crimes are committed rather than afterwards. Councilor Milinazzo asks about the Receivership Program. Slagle says they are reactivating that (it was used during the foreclosure crisis) for use in these types of situation.
Councilor Kennedy thanks the CM for the police vehicle inventory report and says he’ll file a followup motion once he’s had a chance to study it.
Council votes to accept Information Technology grant for the MIS Department from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. CM commends Lowell MIS Department for being on the cutting edge of the use of technology in the Commonwealth. Approved unanimously.
Proposal to change ordinance regarding “sandwich board” advertisements (to allow them). Councilor Leahy says he sits on the disability board which wants to be sure they don’t constitute an obstacle to walking and wheelchairs. Approved.
Vote to permit City Manager to execute a disclosure statement in accordance with Massachusetts law. This would authorize the manager to help negotiate a contract with school unions despite a member of his family being an employee of the school department. Approved.
Councilor Mercier asks for a point of information regarding the property tax increase and asks the city manager to offer an explanation. The tax levy is increasing 3.5%. This is the revenue we need to produce to pay our expenses. This amounted to $7mil for this fiscal year. How do you get that? You have to spread it across all of the tax payers of Lowell. The actual tax rate to be spread among all those taxpapers was 2.8%. If your value didn’t change, your bill would go up an average of $68. But some properties went up in value; others went down. This would cause the house by house increase to vary percentage-wise. Says the fact that the value of our properties is going up is a good thing. Councilor Belanger thanks Councilor Mercier for bringing this up. Says there was something in the newspaper over the holidays about a 6.8% increase. Belanger says that’s an extreme example. Says we’re doing something right when property values are increasing. Along with that come higher taxes.
By Councilor Kennedy to reappoint City Clerk Geary to another 3 year term and to send the issue of his salary to the personnel subcommittee for evaluation. Approved.
By Councilor Mercier, have CM request the state to install devices at the end of the Lowell Connector to reduce the odds of people driving into the brick wall at the end of the Lowell Connector. Other councilors speak in support of the motion.
By Mayor Elliott, have the city council discuss feasibility of hosting an Arts Festival in downtown Lowell. Says he’s been to a number of events and many artists have suggested having some kind of citywide event to assist them in sharing their work. Asks City Manager to evaluate the proposal. Councilor Samaras says he supports the motion and says such a festival could become an economic engine for the city that would benefit everyone.
By Mayor Elliott, request City Manager provide update on construction schedule for new judicial center and to contact DCAM about the reuse of the existing Superior Court. Councilor Belanger says it’s a great motion. Asks to amend the motion to include the infrastructure that’s part of the judicial center project.
By Mayor Elliott request substance abuse subcommittee meet to address heroin overdose problem in the city. Councilor Rourke suggests this be done at a meeting of the full council rather than a subcommittee meeting since more people could attend and more would be watching. Councilor Belanger says he understands Councilor Rourke’s sentiments but he says there’s a reason we created this subcommittee. One was to take this discussion on the road. Says suburbs have the misperception that it’s an urban problem but says it’s just as bad in the suburbs. Says we need to press the Baker administration on getting more state assistance in the form of treatment centers for cities like Lowell.
Councilor Milinazzo thanks the Mayor, Councilor Mercier and others for going to Cambodia tomorrow on official business. Other councilors join in and wish them well. Mayor Elliott says they were invited by the United Nations and the Cambodian Government. They will be traveling to the Thai-Cambodian border to visit the refugee camp site that most of Lowell’s Cambodian residents passed through on their way to America.
Motion to adjourn: 7:53 pm