Lowell City Council Meeting: March 17, 2015

All councilors present at start of meeting despite it being St. Patrick’s Day.

BUDGET – FY16 budget update from City Manager.  First of many reports.  Predicated on department head “wish lists” which will be trimmed down by fiscal realities.  In response to Councilor Milinazzo question, Manager concedes that the city’s “excess levy capacity” (meaning we have the ability to raise taxes more) cuts down the amount of state aid the city will receive.  Same with rising home values which mean the ability to raise more money through taxes.  Councilor Samaras asks about school funding, particularly expenditures on charter school and how it relates to the rest of the school system.  Conor Baldwin, Chief Financial Officer, says that Greater Lowell Tech’s assessment to the city is increasing by $1 million this year.  Also says the state will be reducing (or at least not increasing) aid to schools, both making this budget very challenging.  CC Belanger asks about snow removal costs and its impact on net school spending.  Baldwin says a substantial amount of snow removal costs will be able to be attributed to net school spending (which will decrease the amount of money actually spent on the schools).

BRIDGES – CM says city trying to negotiate an agreement with Enel about the eight bridges the company owns in Lowell.  Enel has no incentive to repair that bridge and is not eligible for any state or federal funding.  City is trying to gain ownership of these bridges.  As part of the agreement, Enel will replace the School Street Bridge and pay for a feasibility study to replace the remaining bridges.  Before finalizing this agreement, the city has to determine if it can obtain approximately $25 million in funding to repair these bridges.   If we can get $25 million from the Feds, it will make a lot of sense for the city to take over ownership of these bridges.

RESOLUTIOM – Council votes unanimously to support Representative Rady Mom’s bill to increase crime for firing a gun into a house.

REPORT OF SUBCOMMITTEE – Parks and Rec subcommittee by chair Rita Mercier.  Got report from Parks Dept on what is needed to get parks ready for youth activities in spring/summer.  MIAA has ruled that start of spring sports may be delayed due to conditions.  Much of the snow in Lowell has melted but no one knows the condition of the fields underneath the remaining snow.  The weather over the next two weeks will largely determine when fields will be ready.  Second issue was renaming of Point Park within Hamilton Canal District.  Met with Susan Halter, Director of COOL, and Newell Flather of the Parker Foundation.  Flather advocates renaming it for the Utopian Movement which was popular in the city during the Industrial Revolution.  The subcommittee voted to support the renaming of the park to Utopian Park but it’s the decision of the city board of parks.  Councilor Mercier asks full council to support this proposal.  Council votes 9-0 to endorse renaming the park Utopian Park.  The advocates contemplate a 35-foot high sculpture for the park that would be called Hydro.  The subcommittee urged the advocates to have the statue made in America rather than China as was being contemplated by the proponents even though this would add approximately $150,000 to the cost which would all be raised from private sources.

Report from Ad Hoc Subcommittee on School Construction which took place last Friday at Lowell High School.  The Headmaster Brian Martin gave a presentation on some of the problems sought to be rectified by a new or renovated school.  Mayor calls the tour informative and educational.  CC Samaras says the building is clean and well-maintained by it still does not offer the kind of facilities that should be available to 21st century students.  Samaras suggests Headmaster offer similar tours for interested Lowell residents.  CC Belanger says the tour was quite revealing.  He says we all want a high school for our kids.  Last week we talked about the tax increase that would be necessary to pay for it and maybe there was some hesitation, but then when I toured the school and say how our city kids are disadvantaged, then you see how the need for the new school is more compelling.  CC Leahy says it was like the old days when he was on the school committee.  Says we’ve kept up with the building but that it is time (for a new building).  (The SBASB will announce its decision on whether Lowell is still in competition for funds as soon as next week).


By Councilor Mercier and Leahy.  Request a report on maintenance of infrastructure throughout the city.  Referring to when we hire contractors to do a job and then the work quickly deteriorates, should we be making a claim against the bond posted by the contractor?  Purpose of the motion is to hold contractors accountable.  Discussion of harmful effects of rock salt on cement sidewalks.

By Councilor Milinazzo request a report on elimination of parking spaces on Broadway near Dutton.

By Councilors Rourke and Samaras for a report on parking on University Ave in East Pawtucketville.

By Mayor Elliott request City Manager ask UTEC to meet with Youth Services Subcommittee for an annual update.

Councilor Mercier congratulates Mayor and City Manager for their performances at last night’s St Patrick Days Dinner.  Also commends Lowell Police Officer for saving the life of a 16 month old child who was choking.

Meeting adjourns at 7:33 pm

4 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: March 17, 2015

  1. Anonymous says:

    What effect does this $25 million dollar request have on our outstanding Tiger grant request regarding the Trolley proposal? It seems to me that if the City Manager is successful in getting the money to take over the bridges that we will be allowing Enel to get rid of their albatross and that we will be stuck with it. Hopefully the City Manager is prepared to extract some concessions from Enel. But, I fear that we will be stuck holding the bag here.

  2. hhammermill says:

    Does anyone know if there is any more background related to the Enel bridges? On the surface this seems to me to be a case of publicizing the costs of the canals while keeping the profits private (Enel lists boott hydropower as very profitable). . .on the other hand a few of the bridges are in really bad shape and need to be fixed. . .

  3. hhammermill says:

    I thnk a simple step for the Enel bridge problem would be to clearly label all bridges in the city with signs stating who owns them. I find that many people instictively blame the city for problems on bridges they don’t own; if more people know that Enel is the problem then perhaps we’ll get more public support for creative solutions.

  4. Linda says:

    So in a roundabout way Enel gets enough taxpayer $$$ to build four bladder dams and unloads eight aging bridges in need of repair.
    Once again Enel gets the steak and Lowell gets the bill.
    Am I missing something?