Lowell City Council Meeting: July 28, 2015

Motion by Mayor Elliott for report on proposed Regional 911 Dispatch Center.  The city is contemplating joining with Chelmsford, Dracut and Tewksbury to create a regional 911 dispatch center.  Two citizens who are currently employed as dispatchers spoke against it.  Manager Murphy explained that the proposal is under consideration but that what is currently being proposed is not in the best interests of the city in his opinion although he continues negotiations.  Several councilors express their misgivings.  The main proponent of this regionalization effort is the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments.

A public hearing on the installation of electrical service was delayed at the request of Councilor Leahy because no representative of Mass Electric was present and he felt by delaying it to the next meeting, Mass Electric might pay more attention to the issue of double telephone poles in the city.

The city manager appointed James Ostis to the Lowell Cultural Council

The city manager appointed Ericka Haddad, Kyle Van, William Flanagan, Geraldine Lantigua, Robert Hornbaker, Robert Cartier, Jr. and John MacDonald to the city’s Veterans Commission.

Representative of State Dept of Transportation present to give overview of realignment of VFW Highway and Bridge Street intersection.  The $2.7 million project should be completed by September 2016.  This will begin in the third week of August.  Some of the islands in the middle of the VFW will be removed to make room for traffic while the work is being done.  It sounds like the pedestrian crossing light will stop all traffic to allow people to cross.  The representative from the state doesn’t really have any information so the council is going to refer it to the traffic subcommittee so someone else from the state can return with the plan but also with some ideas other than just tying up all the traffic which is the way it is now.

Report from Transportation Subcommittee on meeting tonight that heard about the city’s “complete streets” program.  Subcommittee recommends that the program proposal be sent to a public hearing on August 11.

Motion by Councilor Kennedy requesting the city manager to investigate whether the city should become an administrator of “efficiency funds” from the Community Choice Power Supply Program.

Motion by Councilor Leahy to have city consider buying equipment to paint lines on streets

Motion by Councilor Leahy to paint lanes for buses on Merrimack Street

Motion by Councilor Leahy to have Neighborhood Subcommittee discuss the use of placards versus residential parking permits.

Motion by Councilor Belanger to refer Jaywalking Ordinance to Public Safety Subcommittee.  Combined with similar motions by Councilor Samaras and Mayor Elliott.  Councilor Belanger observes that with three separate motions being filed on this issue, its strong evidence that jaywalking is something that people are finding troublesome.  Says it seems that nationwide some places are “backing off” because of the trouble in places like Baltimore.  He doesn’t want to see the city of Lowell back off because of this.  Says there is now an ordinance in place that allows the police to confiscate bikes and skateboards.  Says jaywalking contributes to traffic problems, public safety, and panhandling.  Says panhandlers are accosting drivers at red lights.  Says there are small nuisance crimes that are getting out of hand.  Says in other cities with police backing off, crime is skyrocketing.  Councilor Samaras says jaywalking is a problem.  Says we have a number of ordinances to combat this problem (as well as skateboarders and bikes).  Suggests developing educational programs as a strategy to curtail these nuisance crimes.  Mayor Elliott says this has been a longstanding issue that recurs from year to year.  It seems that the new traffic pattern has made this worse.  Councilor Mercier confirms this is a problem that’s been around for many years.  Remembers how the police back then developed a strategy of rewarding walkers who obeyed the rules.  Asks what is meant by “enforcement” by police?  Is it a verbal reprimand?  A fine?  Councilor Leahy says we should look at what is the root cause of this problem.  Suggests education.  City Manager says there is a state ordinance that sets the maximum fine for jaywalking at $1 so he’s asked the statehouse delegation to consider filing legislation to increase the fine.  Says he will provide a full report for the council.

Councilor Belanger request cosmetic repairs to the old Water Dept building on Hampshire Street and also to provide surveillance of Eagle Park which was the site of a serious assault several months ago.

Councilor Mercier motion to take steps to make Berry Rd an accepted street.

Councilor Milinazzo asks for update on state parking lot paving regulations related to storm water runoff.  Says some property owners say the regs make it too expensive to repave their property.

Councilor Samaras on what is being done to monitor South Common and other parks after closing.

Councilor Samaras requests state delegation vote to override Governor Baker’s veto of (some) funding for Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Councilor Martin status report of property at 234 University Ave.  There was a fire several years ago at this property; neighbors are concerned.

Mayor Elliott request City Manager to have National Grid repave the section of Westford Street that was opened for installation of new gas lines and then was not returned to its original condition.  City Manager says it will be repaved – from School to Stedman Street.  The realignment of Cupples Square is part of this.  The city had actually requested the utilities to do the work sooner than planned in advance of the city’s planned repaving.

Mayor Elliott requests report on cost of sick time/vacation buy back.

Council goes into Executive Session at 9:07 pm.

3 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: July 28, 2015

  1. Mrquake says:

    I agree there is a problem with Jay walking. I wonder though if it is really as bad as some people perceive. With the way the pedestrian walk lights are now set up. You can be crossing the street with the pedestrian light and vehicle traffic has green light to go across the direction of the “safe” crosswalk. And God forbid, that you are disabled like I am. The abuse I receive weekly is disgusting. Better signage, particularly downtown is a must. Try crossing central, market, Prescott streets. A prime example Dutton and Merrimack also. I have only known of one police officer who pulled someone over for failure to yield to pedestrian. That he knew who I was may have played a role. I would love to see some statistics for this

  2. Craig H says:

    Amen, Mrquake. Crossing in the middle of the block in several areas downtown is ironically and unfortunately far safer than attempting to do it at the intersections. Unless and until the city can see its way fit to have dedicated “walk” cycles with no traffic flying through the intersections at the same time, there is little sense and justification to devote officers’ time to chasing down the pedestrians while it’s the motorists who are the most dangerous and culpable.

  3. Anonymous says:

    For those who are interested in differing approaches to how pedestrian crossing signals work, please take a look at Dick’s Sunday notes :https://www.richardhowe.com/2015/08/02/lowell-week-in-review-august-2-2015/. Dick does a very nice job at laying out the rationale for each system.

    What I think would help people with disabilities and preserve the sanity of everyone else is to allow for an automatic walk signal concurrently with the green for cars, yet also allow for an extended walk when a pedestrian button is pressed. This would be a hybrid system. It would probably work best if a count down were provided along with the white walk light. If anyone has heard of a system please let me know here.

    Another assist for people with disabilities might be the advanced walk walk light (Leading Pedestrian Interval). I believe that the only way to relieve the “Jay Walking” problem is to stop treating pedestrians as second class citizens. Drivers who speed through someplace are not as likely to stop. I think that this applies as much to downtown Lowell as anywhere else. If you also feel this way then you make sure your voice is heard: Vote! Make sure the candidates know that this is important! Contact city councilors! Attend City Council meetings!