Lowell City Council Meeting: March 22, 2016

Motion Responses:

Intersection of Princeton Blv and Baldwin St – it’s a state responsibility; the state had no plans to do anything, so the city’s inquiry has prompted them to look at ways to improve it. Councilor Mercier asks about the property at that corner. Manager Murphy says he met with the owner last week, that it wasn’t a very productive meeting, so he has assigned an assistant city solicitor to work with inspectional services to take legal and necessary steps to compel compliance with city ordinances.

Illegal Parking on Western Ave – The problem is that car repair shops are parking cars overnight, taking up spaces that could be used by patrons of Western Ave studios. Manager proposes installing parking meters and banning overnight parking. He thinks that will make spaces available to visitors.

Lowell Police HQ update – Need approximately $1 mil in immediate upgrades for safety and health issues (and about $30 mil total to bring the entire station up-to-date). In April, there will be a proposal brought to the council for a new police station as part of an upcoming capitol plan, however, given the expense of an entirely new station, it seems that doing these repairs is a more reasonable path to take. (Construction alone of an entirely new facility would cost $55 mil). Several councilors seem skeptical that (1) the existing building can be effectively upgraded and (2) the cost of a new station could be less than $55 mil. Manager reiterates that the council will get a comprehensive report two weeks from tonight.

Dumping of mattresses and debris on Lawrence St – City will install hidden video cameras in the vicinity to attempt to ID those doing the illegal dumping.

Report on Demise of Trolley System – After much study, the city and its partners in this project concluded that the capital costs plus the annual operating costs would not justify the project and that the available money would be better spent on a comprehensive multi-modal transportation plan.

PUBLIC HEARING – amending traffic ordinance (not sure what it’s about: can’t retrieve it from the website; no discussion). Passes unanimously without discussion.

Presentation by City Manager on the city’s 2015 Year in Review (extensive presentation; I’ll do a separate post based on the written report). Highlights include Hamilton Canal District (judicial center construction to begin this summer; Genesis health care about to begin construction of $31mil facility; Watermark still pursuing corporate HQ; MassWorks grant from state will bring infrastructure into site). Across city, Markley Group, Summerset Industries took over old post office on Phoenix Ave, Navigation Brewery relocated to Western Ave. Many new small businesses have opened. Cupples Square is a “trademark for the future.” EDUCATION: City now exceeding net school spending by more than $1 mil. ($3.8 mil deficit two years ago).  New High School project poised to begin construction within the next year. PUBLIC SAFETY much improved. Less crime, more police officers. Manager Murphy says he enjoys being the city manager more than ever and thanks city councilors for their support. Says the city faces many challenges, especially financial, in FY17 but he believes the city will effectively deal with all of these challenges.

Changes to one way street alongside Pyne School – trying to make the one-way portion to be only at arrival and departure time for the school, not during the entire hours of school. But councilors are trying to recall the sentiments expressed last week. This still has to go to a public hearing, but if it’s going to be amended, it should be done now in advance of the public hearing. The principal wants it one way all day; the neighbors want it just in the morning and in the afternoon. [Councilors seem confused about how to proceed. Make that “very confused.” Now I’m very confused.] Council sends it to public hearing “as amended” which means one way only at arrival and dismissal times.

Report on Public Safety Committee meeting – two items discussed were (1) school safety on which they received a “thorough” report from Asst Supt Jeanine Durkin who assured the council that the school department is prepared to deal with any crisis. And (2) jaywalking, bikes on sidewalks, and skateboards – recommends higher fines for those things, better education.

Motion by Councilor Elliott to discuss City Manager’s evaluation and the process to be followed. Councilor Belanger moves to refer it to Personnel Subcommittee. Passes.

Motion by Councilor Leahy to have Melrose and Shirley Avenues paved.

Motion by Councilor Samaras for report on lighting in downtown (lighting maintained by both the city and by other entities), especially around MCC and UML.

Motion by Councilor Leary to explore creating a public park/recreation space of the Christian Hill Reservoir.

2 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: March 22, 2016

  1. Bob Cerovac says:

    Dick, thanks for the update on the one-way street by the J.G. Pyne School. Are you in favor of it? Or leave it as, one way during arrival/dismissal and tway way after that?

  2. DickH says:

    Bob, since I live on the other side of the city and only am on that street when visiting Lowell Cemetery, I’ll leave it to the neighbors and the school to work it out. It sounds like a subcommittee meeting in the neighborhood that sought some kind of consensus might help. I’m afraid the procedural formality of a public hearing and council vote might cut off the opportunity to negotiate a mutually acceptable solution.