Lowell City Council Meeting: July 12, 2016

Vote – The council authorized the city manager to enter into an agreement with Barbara Poole, a local artist, which will allow her to install sheer fabric panes of various colors in the openings of the brick wall of the former Appleton Mills building that runs along the Pawtucket Canal adjacent to Jackson Street.

Public Safety Subcommittee Report – Subcommittee Chair John Leahy reports on meeting that was held at the site of the Markley Group property in South Lowell. Explains who was at the meeting. Neighbors were concerned about placement of security gates. Markley said it would consider installing a pedestrian gate as well as a vehicular gate that could be used in case of an emergency. They also talked about the diesel storage tanks. Lowell Fire Department was present. Councilors learned that diesel fuel is the least volatile of fuels and so the risk of explosion or fire is minimal. Markley also reviewed security camera and landscaping plans which Leahy believes will benefit the entire neighborhood. They discussed safety concerns but Councilor Leahy says that hearing the information provided, this will be “a big plus for the neighborhood.” Says they had a “long discussion with the neighbors” and that everyone had plenty of time to express their concerns and for various city officials to respond to those concerns. Leahy is satisfied with the fire departments ratification of the Markley plan.

Public Hearing on abandoning city’s rights in portions of Carter and Prince Streets for the petitioner Markley Group. Atty. George Eliades speaks on behalf of the Markley Group. Introduces Jeff Flanagan, executive VP of Markley. He speaks about the size of the company, the importance of partnerships with host communities. Says experience with Lowell “has been second to none.” Stresses the importance of this proposal to the overall project. Eliades resumes speaking, says others from Markley are there and will be available to answer questions. He says Councilor Leahy accurately expressed what occurred at the meeting at the site. He says the biggest thing for Markley is “safety and security.” The entire site has a security fence around it and there will be 24/7 security on site. As for the road, he points out that it is not a neighborhood road. There are no houses on it. This road was created solely to allow Prince Spaghetti trucks to access the building. He says the Markley work will be “a huge benefit” that will “clear up a lot of the problems that have existed there.”

Frank King, a neighboring business owner, and Carol McCarthy of the local neighborhood group, both speak in favor of the proposal.

Speaking in opposition is Armand Hebert (who lives in another neighborhood), criticizes Markley group for not satisfying the concerns of the neighbors who have concerns. Says “there are some pockets being lined” referring to city officials. A councilor objects and Mayor Kennedy tells the speaker to stay on point. Shouting back and forth. Speaker sits down. Another speaker asks the council to postpone its vote until the Markley Group complete the promised access road which is now a dirt road. She says “fire trucks don’t drive on dirt.” She says she is a registered, informed voter who votes in every election. Another speaker says she works in the Lowell public schools. She wants to know if the school (Cardinal O’Connell) has been coordinated with. A resident of Moore St speaks against it. Says traffic at Moore and Gorham is already unmanageable. A resident of Iowa St who has consistently appeared and spoke against this.

Councilor Milinazzo moves to approve the petition. Councilor Mercier speaks. She said she took a tour of the property and was very impressed with what Markley has done and plans to do. She says Markley has too much at stake with its business to neglect security. She says she has learned that diesel fuel is very stable and safe. She compares it to the volatility of propane tanks which are all over that neighborhood but have never caused any concerns. Regarding safety for the school, she compares it to the Stoklosa School which is right next store to a major natural gas facility. She says all the public safety professionals involved agree that this is not a hazard. She also says that she resents the suggestion that she “lined her pockets” on this project. Says she will support the proposal. Councilor Elliott acknowledges there are problems with Moore and Gorham Street. Manager Murphy has Traffic Engineer Lisa DeMeo address plans for improving that intersection. Asks fire chief to address access to the buildings. Chief says Markley group has assured LFD that the gate will be monitored 24/7 and would be opened immediately for an emergency. He says he personally worked at Gorham Street Fire Station for seven years and says from his experience there, this project will not adversely affect the response time. Elliott blames most of the problems in that neighborhood on Prince leaving in 1997. He hopes this project will reinvigorate the whole neighborhood. Councilor Samaras says this economically sound for the city and this will make that a better and safer neighborhood. He said the council has to rely on its public safety professionals and they all say this is OK.

Passes 9 to 0.

Public Hearing to create a Cultural Affairs and Special Events Program Assistant in the City Manager’s office. Andy Jacobson, board chair of COOL, says creating this position will help the city realize all the cultural objectives it has been pursuing. Maxine Farkas, treasurer of Lowell Cultural Council, speaks in favor of the new position.

Passes 9 to 0.

Motions (all motions pass unless indicated otherwise).

By Councilor Samaras, request city manager have proper department repaint crosswalk on lower Merrimack Street by Middlesex Community College.

By Councilors Samaras and Belanger, request city manager have Lowell Police provide data from the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Office on number of people in 2015 released from Middlesex County Jail to Lowell and how it compares to other communities.

By Councilors Leary and Samaras, request city manager provide a report outlining the dates of known projects that are set to begin development within the Hamilton Canal District project.

By Councilor Leary, request city manager have the Engineering Department or other appropriate department review and make recommendations for flooding issues on Lura Street between 76 Lura until Wedge Street.

By Councilor Elliott, request city council discuss adopting a resolution in support of House Bill 2584 and Senate Bill 1451 relative to PILOT legislation. Councilor Elliott explains these bills and should include Representative Nangle’s bill, too. Councilor Belanger says that “stand alone” nonprofits like the Boys Club and other smaller nonprofits should not be concerned about this because those kinds of entities are not what he has in mind when seeking PILOT payments from nonprofits. Councilor Mercier says taxable property is being taken off the tax rolls faster than the “taxpayer’s wallet can keep up with it.” Councilors amend the motion to also support the Nangle motion and to also refer this issue to the finance subcommittee.

By Councilor Elliott, request city manager/CFO provide report on cost savings accrued since the city joined GIC, including both school and city costs.

Two announcements from City Manager Murphy:

July 28 at 7 pm at Pollard Memorial Library there will be a public meeting on the roadwork to be done on Nesmith Street in the vicinity of Kittredge Park.

This morning Perkins Eastman was selected to be the designer of a new high school. He said that by the beginning of 2017 we should have some designs and suggested locations for the new high school.

Council adjourns at 9:05 p.m.