Lowell City Council Meeting: November 17, 2015

Vote to appoint a City Auditor. Councilor Leahy instead moves to repost the position. Councilor Belanger says he supports the motion but says we should emphasize that in addition to the stated salary, it includes a $4500 stipend for being on the retirement board. Councilor Kennedy concurs with these suggestions and suggests that the advertisement again state “salary negotiable” and that the current salary is $97,000. Councilor Milinazzo suggests increasing the salary range in order to attract more desirable candidates. Will repost at $101,800 with no stated upper range, just “salary negotiable.” Passes unanimously.

Council votes to cancel council meeting of December 1, 2015 because with City Hall being closed on Thanksgiving and the Friday after Thanksgiving there would be insufficient time to complete the agenda in time for the meeting.

Councilor Kennedy says the City Manager’s report on gas leaks is inadequate. Manager Murphy explains that National Grid has refused to provide additional information, claiming it is proprietary. Murphy suggests that the next time National Grid comes before the council looking for something, the council raise this issue with the National Grid representative.

Beverly Woods from Northern Middlesex Council of Governments speaks about the feasibility study for the replacement of the Rourke Bridge. The study reviewed prior studies that plotted other paths for the bridge and its approach routes. Unfortunately, changes in land use have eliminated some of those opportunities. They did study several options including moving the crossing to North Chelmsford’s Vinal Square (eventually eliminated as an option for environmental reasons); another that simply replaces the existing bridge in place; and another would have the bridge go over the Pawtucket Boulevard entirely and exit onto Old Ferry Road. The next step is to complete the environmental impact report. The estimated cost of this project would be $55mil to $80mil. Even though the cost is very high, she says that the increasing cost of maintaining the existing bridge has made Mass Department of Transportation more interested in pursuing this project, however, MassDOT is in the midst of developing its statewide capital plan to decide how its money is to be spent. Woods recommends the council send a letter to the Governor urging action on this bridge. The council has to become stronger advocates for this project. Woods said in the best case, a new bridge would still be five years away.

Amendment to Loading Zone Ordinance. Instead of Loading Zones, spaces will be reserved for “commercial vehicles” which is defined as a vehicle in the act of unloading. This could be a UPS truck or a private vehicle that’s unloading something for a business. Passes unanimously.

The Inspectional Services Division has established a “permit complaint hotline” that will allow people to call in 24/7 if they see any work being done without a permit. The number is 978/674-1488

Lowell High School Field House roof has been repaired by the city DPW. Ralph Snow says it’s an old roof with thousands of bolts and seams so that even though it doesn’t leak now, it will leaks again so the long term answer is either a new roof or a new building.

Report from Transportation Subcommittee Meeting held earlier tonight. Focus was on Andover Street and making it safer to cross. Says the city provided an excellent report and asked that it be posted on the city’s website.

Council adjourns at 7:35 p.m.

One Response to Lowell City Council Meeting: November 17, 2015

  1. Brian says:

    One step forward two steps back.

    Putting a tree lined median in the center lane on Andover St is an outstanding idea. The next logical step would be to narrow Nesmith St so people will feel comfortable walking or biking to DTL.

    To my friends in the Highlands: You should be organizing a rally outside the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments to SAY NO to a new 4 lane Rourke Bridge. When you increase capacity of roads you increase congestion. See induced demand.

    More people from Dracut, Tyngsboro, NH etc. will use the bridge as a cut through to RT 3 and 495. Developers will build more cheap tract housing and strip malls in Pawtucketville. You can’t widen Wood St, Drum Hill, or Stevens St so how will the additional cars not increase congestion on those streets?

    Ask Beverly Woods to show you the numbers. The cost of upkeep for the current bridge shouldn’t be more than the initial cost and future upkeep of a new and bigger bridge.

    If upkeep costs for the current bridge are truly too high then you should demand a permanent 2 lane bridge be built in it’s place. Congestion will at least stay the same, not get worse.