Regarding the report on the new garage for the Hamilton Canal District and whether he is alarmed by the slippage of the construction date, Manager Murphy says that it will take some additional time for the MassWorks grant to bring the infrastructure to the site for the new garage and the city got news of the funding for the “Signature” Bridge which will also help with construction. He believes all of those things will come together at the same time so he is not unduly concerned. Manager Murphy adds that he will be coming to the council in the near future with a proposal for an additional garage for the HCD to provide spaces for the Judicial Center and Lowell Community Health Center.
Questions by Councilor Milinazzo about what appears to be weak penalties imposed on repeat offending bars by the Lowell License Commission. He says that because bars will tend not to appeal shorter suspensions, so the Commission tends to impose these shorter penalties. Milinazzo asks if the city has ever revoked a liquor license. The commission administrator explains the preference for “progressive discipline” and a desire to avoid a license holder filing an appeal. Councilor Elliott says the report (which Councilor Milinazzo also referred to but which wasn’t included in the public packet for this meeting) is “eye opening” and says it shows that repeat offenders continue to skirt the law. He says the license commission should get more aggressive and deal with the appeals as they come. Councilor Samaras says in light of all the problems, he is now in favor of cutting back on the hours of liquor establishments. Councilor Leary says we should not penalize “good” bars because of “bad” bars. Councilor Leahy sounds a similar note, saying the license commission needs to get tougher on bad bars. (Manager Murphy had said earlier in this discussion that he thought the long term approach to this problem was to cut back on the hours of service across the board, but the council either did not hear him, or is ignoring him).
Report on Smith Baker Center. Yun-Ju Choi of Coalition for a Better Acre briefs the council, saying the project will cost about $16 million. She expects 40% of that will come from tax credits; the rest will come from grants and donations. She mentions the October 7, 2016 benefit concert during Jack Kerouac weekend.
Report on cost of out of district students in Lowell schools. Council has a lengthy discussion on this because the cost of these students is estimated at $180,000 this year for the 36 students in this category. [This is a decades-long practice that allows teachers in the Lowell public schools who do not live in Lowell to have their children attend Lowell public schools. It is a perk for employees that was never bargained with the teachers union nor the focus of an official policy. It just was always done that way. I believe it arose this year during school committee budget deliberations because some of these students were attending some of the more popular public schools and parents of children who wanted to go to those schools but were turned away because of no spaces complained about the practice. The council has some standing to discuss the matter because it votes on the funding for the schools, however, as Mayor Kennedy points out, it is a matter for the school committee and before the school committee, which is addressing it]. Councilor Belanger pivots into “refugee” students in the city and the “high cost” of educating them. He says the city needs relief from that.
Twin ordinances amending the zoning code on mobile, manufactured, and modular homes. Referred to public hearing.
By Councilor Milinazzo, request City Manager have the Human Resources Department prepare a report highlighting the changes in health care benefits between 2011 to 2016, i.e., co-payment amounts, referral requirements, generic prescriptions.
By Councilor Belanger, request City Manager have Police Superintendent update council on status of charges brought against the 22 individuals arrested for drug distribution offenses in Operation Triple Play.
By Councilor Belanger, request City Manager have Police Superintendent provide a report on enforcement procedures for vehicles with out of state plates stored on local property.
[Motion that did not make it on the agenda, but which was timely filed]. By Councilor Belanger, request City Manager to investigate COPSYNC-911, a security communications system for the Lowell Public Schools. It allows teachers to instantly communicate with law enforcement. Says the school committee acted on it last year but nothing has been done. Says a friend of his, Brendan Flanagan, told him about it (the cost is less than $100,000) and he asks that Flanagan be allowed to speak. He does. It’s his company that sells the product. Councilor Belanger would like the manager to follow up with the School Superintendent on this.
By Councilor Leahy and Mayor Kennedy, request City Manager provide an update regarding traffic control and corsswalks on Andover Street.
By Mayor Kennedy, request City Manager instruct Traffic Engineer to develop a traffic scheme for the Mammoth Road/Pawtucket Blvd intersection, that will relieve morning traffic congestion.
Councilor Elliott asks for a suspension of rules to ask the City Manager about the agreement he is negotiating with UMass Lowell. (Councilors have a copy of a document but it wasn’t/isn’t available to the public). Moves that this matter be sent to a subcommittee. Mayor Kennedy recommends it be a joint subcommittee (finance and educational partnerships).
Council adjourns at 8:15 pm.