Mayor Kennedy introduces and thanks the Michael Roundy and Bianca Morrow, the organizers of this year’s very successful Lowell Kinetic Sculpture race.
City Auditor explains report on Charter School funding which was included in city council packet. (see my report on that report in Sunday’s Week in Review post). Councilor Elliott asks about the increased amount the city is paying to charter schools versus the reimbursement amount. Manager Murphy says the disparity between the reimbursement and the obligation the city has to pay for charter schools has been out of balance for many years and it’s getting worse. The payment to charter schools comes right off the top of the amount of state aid paid to the city. Councilor Samaras says whatever benefit charter schools have, if this imbalance continues, it will have a negative impact on our ability to hire teachers and other personnel. Councilor Milinazzo says “to be blunt, the proponents of Question 2 are lying to the people of Massachusetts” about the financial impact of charter schools. Councilor Leary agrees with Councilor Milinazzo, says it is inaccurate to say it will not harm the public schools, it will harm the city budget, as well. Because it comes off the top of state aid to the city, it adversely affects the city more than the school department. Councilor Mercier says she believes in choice, but we have to look out for the best interests of the city. We already have three charter schools in the city. I think that’s enough. She says if Question 2 passes and more charter schools come to Lowell, the financial impact will be more severe. She says people already have a choice and she thinks it’s adequate. Says we should keep the cap on charter schools. City Manager says this will have an adverse impact on the city’s ability to meet net school spending because they just can’t keep paying it.
Report on River Meadow Brook Rail Trail (running from Cross Point to Plain St), Councilor Leary thanks city manager for the report and asks that it be referred to the Parks Subcommittee (it is so referred).
Report on Bridge St parking. Councilor Belanger explains that cars coming down Bridge St in the morning face heavy traffic. He’s happy to see that curbside parking on one side of Bridge in that area has been eliminated. He hopes it will be strictly enforced.
Report on Hamilton Canal timeline. Councilor Belanger asks that it be referred to Economic Development subcommittee.
Public hearing on petition of National Grid to replace iron gas mains with plastic ones on Glenwood St and on Eastview St. A number of residents speak about their desire to retain the existing street trees in the neighborhood rather than have them clear cut by National Grid.
Loan order to borrow $500,000 to pay for surveillance cameras for police and other department (money formerly appropriated for Shot Spotter system). Referred to public hearing on October 25.
Economic Development Subcommittee report given by Councilor Samaras. They received a presentation by Jay Mason of the Sustainability Commission (formerly the Green Building Commission). The Lowell Sustainability Council will be holding its 2nd Annual Sustainability Summit at The Enterprise Bank’s Community Room, 18 Palmer Street, 2nd floor- opposite The Coffee Mill on Saturday, October 22, from 10AM to 1:30PM. [Ed. note: original report had wrong date].
Councilor Milinazzo, a member of the subcommittee, moves that the council restate its support for the work of the Sustainability Commission. Councilor Mercier commends the city employees and volunteers who work on this issue, saying they have great passion and that they save the city a lot of money.
Councilor Elliott request city manager provide report regarding inspections of boarding room homes in the city. Elliott explains that an ordinance a number of years ago required regular inspections of all apartments in the city. How is this being applied to rooming houses. He says many rooming houses he sees are deplorable looking. They need to be kept up to code like everything else in this city. He’ll wait for the report to make further comment.
Councilor Elliott request city manager have Lowell Police provide update on drug enforcement efforts in the city regarding heroin and fentanyl distribution. Elliott says it really means all drug abuse. He doesn’t want police to disclose tactics, but he wants to increase our efforts on all fronts. Councilor Belanger commends the motion, saying that the city is doing a great job in its response to this, but across the country he feels that drug dealers “are getting a free pass.” He says we need more resources (from outside the city) to combat dealers, saying “not much is being done to them.”
Council Samaras request city manager have traffic engineer provide a report regarding changing light sequence at Rourke Bridge to better handle traffic flow. Says at Pawtucketville and Highlands neighborhood group meetings, all say traffic has gotten much worse. Says residents felt that having a police officer controlling the lights worked better. Councilor Leahy says he thinks the traffic is working pretty well. Suggests doing a better job of painting the merge lane on Rourke Bridge. Councilor Elliott disagrees, saying “it’s a disaster trying to get over the bridges in the morning and evening.” Says people in Pawtucketville “feel landlocked; it takes its toll on residents after a while.” Councilor Belanger says that the pedestrian crossing lights at the Hunts Fall and Rourke Bridges, especially, contribute to the traffic backups because he says the pedestrian walk lights are built into the cycle rather than a call when needed control.
Councilor Mercier request city manager have proper department increase light sequences downtown and on Thorndike Street to allow additional time for pedestrians to cross. She says she walked from her office near the South Common to the Gallagher Terminal. She said the walk light across Thorndike Street barely gave her enough time to cross safely. She is concerned that people with mobility issues would not have enough time. She says “it probably doesn’t affect us because we usually drive, but we have to think of people who are walking, especially the elderly and disabled.”
Councilor Leary request city manager provide an updated status on the Coelho property located at the corner of Baldwin St and Princeton Blvd. Leary says he encountered former councilor Caulfield at an event and he lodged a complaint that this property is still a problem. Leary says he drove by and didn’t see much improvement.
Councilor Leary request city manager work with Lowell School Dept as it relates to the potential need and funding required for modular schools for the 2017-18 year.