Lowell City Council Meeting: March 10, 2015
Representative Rady Mom addresses the council on a bill he has filed to make firing a gun into a house a felony. Asks the council to formally vote to support this bill so it will aid its becoming law. Police Chief Taylor says this legislation is needed to fill a loophole in current law. If a person fires at a dwelling house but doesn’t hit anyone, he faces much less serious charges. Several councilors commend this effort. This law will make the penalty for the act more appropriate to its seriousness.
Councilor Bill Martin asks about the Lakeview Ave shooting (when a woman was shot while in her bed), whether the people inside the house have cooperated with the police. The Chief says “the cooperation was lacking.” Councilor Martin says he resents people portraying Lowell as a place where there are random shootings and violence when the vast majority of the violence is targeted at people who are in the drug trade and who don’t cooperate with the police. He says if you don’t want to get shot, stay out of the drug trade. He says it’s time for us to say things as they are and not add to the frenzy about dangerousness when it’s mostly contained within those who are already acting illegally.
Lowell Catholic High School breakfast
A student from Lowell Catholic High School addressed the council about a memorial breakfast to be held at the Lowell Catholic gymnasium on Sunday, March 15, 2015 at 9:30 am, to raise money for a scholarship in memory of PFC John F. Landry Jr., a member 1st Cavalry Division and a graduate of Lowell Catholic High School, who was killed in action in Bagdad on March 17, 2007. The cost of the breakfast is $25 and proceeds go to a scholarship awarded to a third year student at the school.
Presentation on Use of Civilians by Police Department
Chief Taylor briefs the council on the number of uniformed officers who he moved from administrative positions to patrol duties as part of his prior reorganization. Now he proposes hiring three civilians to replace regular police officers. Instead, he would hire a civilian for an MIS position now held by an officer; replace a detective with a civilian victim/witness advocate in the criminal bureau; and contract an agency to perform employee assistance duties now being performed by an officer. All three officers would be reassigned to duties that require an actual police officer.
Impact on Funding for New Lowell High School
Presentation by Conor Baldwin on tax impact of the bonding that would be necessary to build a new high school. A new high school would require a $55 mil loan payable over 30 years. Over the life of the loan, $104mil would have to be repaid (principal and interest) which works out to $3.5 mil per year. The annual impact on property taxes for an average homeowner in Lowell would be $99.25 ($475 per year for the average commercial building). Over the 30 years of the loan, the average homeowner would pay an extra $2997.50 for the new high school. Councilors ask a variety of questions seeking clarification.
Councilor Belanger says he’s keeping an open mind but indicates that the police station is in “much worse shape” than the high school and the question about a new high school is whether the city can afford it. Councilor Milinazzo responds that no one moves to a community because of the quality of the police station; people move into a city because of the quality of the schools. The council should keep that in mind when making a decision on this issue. Councilor Mercier asks where this new high school is supposed to go? Mayor Elliott says this cost estimate is based on the school on the existing site. Manager Murphy says the cost and the location will be determined by the feasibility study. Mayor Elliott says he filed this motion to generate the type of discussion the council is having now. Says the state will decide in the next couple of weeks if Lowell will be selected to go forward with a feasibility study. Says these cost estimates presume nothing else new being done. Says my concern in moving forward on this matter is pre-empting other priorities such as additional classroom space at three middle schools which will be critically needed because of a growing student population. I’m not saying we should or shouldn’t support this; I’m just saying there are other factors to consider and we shouldn’t forget about them.
Councilor Martin says that $55 million in new debt adds approximately $100 to the annual tax bill, but this doesn’t factor in new growth or additional state aid. I understand there are other needs that might come along but there are also other sources of revenue that come along too. Councilor Leahy says this is just a snapshot of where we sit today. This is the impact it would have today.
Councilor Martin asks for a report on Two for Lowell, a down payment assistance program for owner occupied 2-, 3- or 4-family houses in Lowell. This program was pretty successful but due to poor real estate market it hasn’t been used very much but as the real estate market improves, we should revive the program. The start should be a report on how it’s been used, how much money is available, etc. Councilor says it sounds good but since he’s a freshman councilor “he’s not too inclined to it” so he looks forward to the report.
Councilor Belanger requests report on new synthetic drug ordinance. Manager recommends referring it to the drug subcommittee.
Councilor Samaras requests report on what will be needed to get area parks ready for youth activities given the severity of this winter.
Councilor Leahy and Councilor Rourke jointly request a quarterly report on the number of drug overdoses in the city.
Meeting adjourns at 7:55 pm (Councilor Kennedy absent this evening).
2 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: March 10, 2015
What is needed to clear the area parks is volunteers from each league. The City has already over spent this winter and the leagues need to help out the taxpayers.
C. Martin makes a good point about future growth to offset the cost of a new high school. Lowell is lucky because its Traditional Neighborhood Development(TND) pattern was laid out before the dominant auto-oriented development pattern developed in the 1950’s. It will be easier for Lowell to repair our neighborhoods and downtown than say Dracut which is based on sprawl and limited transportation options.
Our Lowell ancestors left us a legacy of neighborhoods to be enhanced, not built from scratch, so costs will be less and benefits magnified. But we can’t let suburban zoning codes undermine the potential for mixed-use tax-generating development in neighborhoods bordering downtown. We can repair city streets damaged by auto-oriented engineering. We can properly price and enforce parking so retail businesses can thrive. We can incentivize transit oriented development. We can build thousands of new housing units on surface parking lots to help keep rental costs down and slow gentrification.
Cities and suburbs are barely holding on with the conventional development pattern. Growth from horizontal building is coming to an end in Lowell. We can start repairing Lowell now and get ahead of other cities or we can wait until economic realities force our hand. Either way, long-term, Lowell will come out on top but the latter will be much more painful.