Lowell City Council meeting: January 5, 2016
(Ed Kennedy’s first meeting as mayor; Jim Leary’s first as a city councilor).
Joint motion by Mayor Kennedy and Councilor Elliott to support resolution on bill pending in state legislature on natural gas leaks. Registered to speak is State Senator Jamie Eldridge who thanks the council for allowing him to speak. He wants to provide some context to this bill. Says Tom Golden is a strong advocate for this bill. Last session, the legislature took up the issue of the hundreds of thousands of gas leaks in Massachusetts, many of which occur in older cities like Lowell. This bill would require utilities to better document these leaks and to develop a plan to remedy them. Portions of the bill did not pass during the last legislative session so they are back again this year. This would also prohibit utilities from charging the cost of sealing these leaks back to their users. He appreciates the council’s consideration of this resolution and says the council’s passage of it would send a strong message to the rest of the legislature.
Next speaker on this motion is Derek Pilotte. He repeats many of Senator Eldridge’s points and also urges the council to use its own powers to force the gas companies to fix these leaks now.
Next speaker is Dan Tuttle. Say if Lowell really cares about preventing global climate change we need to do more. Says we must oppose the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Says fixing these gas leaks in existing pipelines would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10%. Many people involved in this however feel that just fixing existing leaks will not be enough. Promises to be back with additional measures to suggest.
Nicole Wilcox speaks, identifies herself as a member of 350Mass of Lowell (an environmental group).
Councilor Elliott recounts how the council has tried to work cooperatively with the utilities on concern about leaks. He says it’s a safety issue and suggests the council take the same approach it has with double poles (i.e., not allowing routine measures sought by the utilities to get their attention).
Next matter: Accept resignation of Patrick McCartin from Election Commission and appoint Beverly Anthes to serve the balance of the term.
Robert Malavich reappointed to Planning Board.
Roslyn Willie-Bonglo reappointed to Lowell Housing Authority as tenant representative.
Motion by Councilor Leahy that the city establish a minimum standards of habitability for all structures in the city. Councilor Belanger says this will be a good tool to use to combat illegal activity in the neighborhoods. Councilor Mercier says part of this effort should include a maximum of cars that can be parked on a premises. Passes.
Motion by Councilor Leahy for a report on buildings in the city that are in total disrepair. Passes.
Motion by Councilor Leahy to find ways and means to rehabilitate Lowell Police Headquarters. Councilor Elliott recalls that the city put out an RFP for a study for a new police station some time ago. He asks that an update on that be included in the report. Goes on to say that the building is a disgrace; that it’s a health and safety hazard. The time for a band aid approach has passed. Manager Murphy says the preliminary outcome of the study is that the cost will be astronomical and so “we’re working hard to find an affordable option.” Council Leahy asks if any of the holding cells in the new Judicial Center could be used. Manager Murphy says there was some talk of that but it would benefit the towns more than the city and it wouldn’t be a good idea to place a jail in the Hamilton Canal District.
Motion by Councilor Elliott for a report on the timing of traffic lights at some of the bridges across the Merrimack River. Several councilors give share their ideas on how the traffic lights might work better. Manager Murphy says the city has studied this and has what it hopes is a solution that will help with the problem. The council should expect a report on this new system at an upcoming meeting.
Motion by Councilor Elliott for a report on the status of the “Wounded Warrior” parking spot at City Hall.
Motion by Councilor Milinazzo for a report on open and hold-over seats on boards and commissions. Manager Murphy takes the opportunity to urge all residents of Lowell to apply for boards.
Meeting adjourns at 7:36 p.m.
3 Responses to Lowell City Council meeting: January 5, 2016
As always, a very nice report Dick. Thanks so much for voluntarily performing this very important service to the community.
If a utility company neglects repairs that is not the fault of ratepayers and the cost should not be passed on to them because we have no say in how the utility spends our money. We do pay for climate change.
On another topic I agree that the timing of lights could help relieve traffic congestion at bridges.
Manager Murphy has asked residents to apply for boards, but there are no open advisory board positions on the City of Lowell website.