Lowell City Council Meeting: April 12, 2016
Special joint meeting of city council and school committee begins at 6:15 pm to brief the two bodies on the status of Lowell High School project. City Manager Murphy explains that is the biggest project in the history of the city of Lowell. The city has selected its project manager (formerly known as “clerk of the works”). The city has selected a firm named Skanska. A couple of key employees from Skanska do a brief presentation on the company’s background. Councilor Leary asks about the time table of the feasibility study. CM Murphy explains MSBA requires the city to look at multiple sites, but MSBA has cautioned against looking at too many sites. Councilors and school committee members ask a few questions. Special meeting adjourns at 6:48 pm.
“College Town” – City Manager Murphy explains that there is no set definition for “college town.” He compares it to a mosaic consists of many different tiles. He cites things like UMass Lowell students coming to Mill No. 5, new technology companies, art and entertainment, etc.
Enel Bridge repair schedule – Councilor Samaras said the purpose of this motion was to assure the public that the city is planning in a way to minimize traffic tie ups. Manager Murphy says the city is now interviewing engineering firms to find a “point person” for the bridge reconstruction. One of that company’s tasks will be a traffic mitigation plan.
Lowell Memorial Auditorium renovation plans – Fixing the restrooms is the first priority. Councilor Belanger says short term fixes are fine, but this building needs extensive renovations and the cost of that will be very expensive. He makes a motion for a cost estimate for future payments and costs for renovations.
City manager request for travel for Councilor Leahy for the city to pay for him to go to Third District Day in Washington. Councilor Mercier is skeptical about this being an appropriate expenditure, calling it a “junket.” Councilor Elliott says there is no budget for this, that on similar trips, councilors have paid their own way. Mayor Kennedy says when he was formerly on the council, the city did pay for councilors to go to several national forums. He went to a few and found them to be valuable. He’s not suggesting everyone go to every conference, but the councilors should take turns going to things like this. Councilor Mercier says if it passes, she wants a report from this “informative” trip. Councilor Samaras makes a motion that the finance subcommittee study the possibility of creating a fund to pay for future trips taken by city councilors. Councilor Belanger says Councilor Leahy had explained to him the purpose of the trip and he thinks it is in the best interests of the city. He suggests Councilor Leahy explain to the taxpayers the benefits he expects to derive from the trip. Councilor Samaras’s motion to refer to finance committee passes. The request for out of state travel passes 8-0 with Councilor Leahy abstaining.
Report of Zoning Subcommittee meeting from earlier tonight. Discussed possible changes to “dwelling” classification of zoning code. It comes from the installation of a manufactured or modular home in Pawtucketville. The subcommittee has forwarded some proposed changes to the law department for a report.
Motion by Councilor Belanger for an update on selection of a master developer for the Hamilton Canal District.
Motion by Councilor Elliott for a report on the status of the Cogeneration Plant on Western Ave and its outstanding property tax liability.
Motion by Councilor Elliott for report on status of panhandling ordinance and strategies the city is using to deal with aggressive panhandling. Councilor Leahy says it is urgent to find a way to effectively deal with panhandlers. Councilor Belanger says this is “beyond nuisance levels.” He wishes judges would walk around downtown Lowell for a few days. Says he has received several complaints from major employers in downtown that female employees will not walk around downtown because they are intimidated by aggressive panhandlers. Councilor Leary quotes School Committee member Hoey as saying panhandlers are harassing high school students now.
Motion by Mayor Kennedy to have DPD work with the Cambodian community to install a statue in the vicinity of Clemente Park.
Meeting adjourns at 8:25 pm
3 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: April 12, 2016
Thanks again, Dick, for the great summary.
The panhandling issue is difficult; as much as downtown dwellers find it uncomfortable I’m sure that the people panhandling don’t want to be in the position they are in.
A multi-faceted strategy involving coordinated assistance and mitigation is likely the best way to manage it; I’m glad that the council referred it to a multi-group subcommittee to brain-storm.
Creativity is warranted for this complex problem which brings me to my point — the creative suggestion by Mayor Kennedy to consider an ordinance limiting drivers from paying panhandlers in the road was very interesting mitigation measure. It reverses the problem from ‘outlawing the panhandler’ to ‘cutting off the flow of money that encourages panhandling’.
This is certainly not the only measure that could be taken (it needs to be a combination of both assistance and mitigation) but I applaud Mayor Kennedy’s outside-of-the-box thinking. We need more creative ideas like that (whether or not they pan out) [pardon the pun]!
From my experience, us “downtown dwellers” are at least grudgingly accepting of panhandlers. The complaints seem to most frequently come from people from other parts of the city who cite the panhandlers as a reason not to come downtown.
Their loss, I say, but what do I know. :)
If you want to help those in need I suggest a donation to the Lowell Transitional Living Center or the Eliot Church where people can get a meal and other assistance. Some people believe panhandlers are organized scammers.