Lowell City Council Meeting: May 26, 2015
Tax Increment Financing Agreement (TIF) with the Markley Group is approved. This company will located a major computer server facility in the former Prince Spaghetti mill in South Lowell. The property is currently assessed for $5.9 million in its unoccupied state. This TIF sets that value as the amount for future taxation. Only 20% of the value of any improvements made to the facility will be taxable. The city will actually realize more in taxes once the building is occupied, even with the TIF. Manager Murphy says he is proud to bring this to the council because this facility will help reinforce the image of Lowell as a progressive, forward-thinking community. [Various councilors voice support for the TIF while emphasizing it is a reasonable, prudent tax incentive].
Jeffrey Flanagan, Executive Vice President of the Markley Group, addresses the council. Thanks all he has worked with in the city and says the company is very excited about this project. He explains the companies mission which is essentially providing cloud computing and communications. Says they will built a “dark fiber network” back to their Boston facility which will allow Lowell-based businesses and educational facilities to have super high speed access to telecommunications companies that are linked to their Boston facility. This entire business is very collaborative so they look forward to working with other companies here in Lowell. [I’m fairly conversant in the language of computer communications and this guy is speaking at a very high level which is good in that he knows what he is talking about and corroborates that this is a cutting edge company, but it also means that none of the city councilors – no offense intended to them – have any idea of what he is talking about].
The TIF passes unanimously.
Enel Bridge Tiger Grant Application
Chris Gleba speaks, raising questions about the wisdom of this proposal. Points out that the Federal TIGER grant (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) is discretionary so what happens if the grant is not awarded. Makes a number of points, also emphasizes the lack of information about the proposed deal.
Craig Thomas of DPD gives an overview of the problems with the Enel Bridges. Lack of proper maintenance has caused bridges to close or be limited in their carrying capacity which hinders economic development and the expansion of UMass Lowell. Enel claims it only has to assess the bridges and mark (or close) them accordingly. They have no legal obligation to repair or replace them. Lays out some of the details of the proposal from the city’s perspective. Says it’s a $16mil project, seeking $13mil from Feds, UML will reimburse $2mil, and Enel will contribute $750K. If this goes through, the city will gain ownership of 8 bridges. “Infrastructure ownership and maintenance is what we do.”
Adam Baacke of UMass Lowell speaks next. Commends the city for putting together such a complex proposal. Says UML extremely interested in this, mostly because the bridge problems are stifling the ability of UML to continue to grow. To grow further, we must broaden our transit system and we can’t do that without safe, reliable bridges.
Thomas returns to explain the council has several votes on this tonight to make it all work. They are all part of the same package. He assures councilors that the city is not really paying anything to Enel; the company is not being rewarded for letting the bridges fall into disrepair.
All votes pass unanimously.
Personnel Subcommittee Report
By chair Corey Belanger. Meeting earlier tonight on proposal to remove fire chief from Civil Service. The Subcommittee voted unanimously to take the job out of Civil Service. Final vote continued to June 9 meeting.
By Councilor Belanger, asking Manager to brief council on plans he has for future of Hamilton Canal District. CM Murphy says they are preparing an RFP for a master developer that he will bring back to the council very soon. Belanger asks if we really need a master developer? Murphy says we do, we need someone in that business who can seek out individual developers to do the various projects.
Council adjourns at 8:07 pm.
One Response to Lowell City Council Meeting: May 26, 2015
FYI 2/3 of the Enel Bridge deal passed. The three parts are:
1) Permission to apply for a federal TIGER grant to pay for bridge repair
2) A purchase and sale agreement for six of the eight Enel bridges for $0 and
3) An agreement to remove Enel from the tax base and collect a fee instead (called the PILOT ‘payments in lieu of taxes’ deal)
#1 and #2 passed.
#3 is the basis of Enel’s commitments and was still pending negotiations at the time of the city council meeting so was referred to the economic development subcomittee. We still know very little about #3.
#1 depends on #2, and #2 depends on #3.