Lowell City Council Meeting: December 13, 2016

Motion Responses:

Speed Limits. Report is referred to the Transportation Subcommittee.

Franklin Park Development

Westminster Village – There have been productive meetings with the management, which plans to initiate police details four nights per week, for four hours per night. This will be in addition to private security.

Appoint Cliff Krieger to Hunger Homeless Commission.


Authorize City Manager to execute a lease with Boys & Girls Club for police substation in Lower Highlands. Councilor Elliott says “we pay a lot of money for these satellite office leases” and questions whether they are as useful as they once were. City Manager asks police chief if he considers this to be an efficient use of the city’s funds for community policing. Chief Taylor says there are just two. One at the Boys and Girls Club, the other in Centralville. These provide critically needed space for police personnel, but also provides space in which officers can meet with residents. We would lose this community involvement if we moved everything back to the station. Councilor Rourke adds that the probation department uses the substation for meetings with people on probation.

Supplemental appropriation of $65,000 for DPD.

Authorize city manager to approve easement with PMC Property Group Inc at Broadway and Dutton Streets

Public Hearing and Vote: Adopt Minimum Residential Factor for FY2017. No one speaks for or against. Council adopts it 9 to 0 without debate.

Ordinance – Amend c.222 “Peace and Good Order” by creating new section 222.17, “Public Nuisance Properties.”

Finance Subcommittee Report (December 12, 2016). Report by chair, Councilor Elliott. Meeting concerned proposed fee increases. Manager Murphy provided an explanation for the proposal. The subcommittee voted to recommend to the full council that the fee increases be sent to a public hearing. The fees were last adjusted in 2008. This is not a “revenue driven proposal.” The city is not just raising fees to generate revenue. It’s to cover the cost of services which have gone up since 2008. Councilor Leary explains that many of the fee increases (such as for vacant properties) are intended to change behavior. Proposal is referred to Law Department to draft the appropriate ordinance language and then send the matter to a public hearing.

Transportation Subcommittee Report (December 13, 2016). Report by Councilor Dan Rourke, chair. LRTA now has an agreement with Zipcar with several cars in place at Gallagher Terminal. Also, starting soon, UMass Lowell students will be able to ride LRTA buses by using their school IDs, free of charge. Then the subcommittee reviewed ways to make Chelmsford Street safer.


By Councilor Elliott, request city manager provide update on Broadway Street bridge construction. Elliott says work appears to being conducted very slowly. Manager Murphy says he’s not usually apologetic for Enel, but he says the holdup was getting National Grid to move the utilities. He did say that Enel estimates the work will be completed in April 2017.

By Councilor Elliott, request city manager discuss expanding residential property exemption for homeowners and provide a report on any impact to the budget.

By Councilor Elliott, request city manager/traffic engineer look into reducing speed limits throughout the city. (withdraws the motion since other councilors have already filed similar motions).

By Councilor Elliott, request city manager develop ordinance to zone location for establishments that sell marijuana. There is concern about the number and density of marijuana dispensaries in Lowell. (Personal use and growing can begin this week; however, retail sales cannot start until January 2018). The council wants to put some restrictions on where these dispensaries can be located within the city.

By Councilor Milinazzo, request City Manager report on the status of the implementation of the Municipal Modernization Act of 2016. Councilor Milinazzo says this law takes effect soon, and will change the way the city does business in many ways.

By Councilor Belanger, request City Manager discuss the possibility of a non-binding referendum regarding Lowell High School project on November 2017 city election ballot. Councilor Belanger says the project is still in its early stages, but he is concerned that the various meetings we have had for public input have not been well-attended. He says it will be tough for him to make a decision without hearing from the taxpayers who will have to pay for this. Says he wants to be clear to voters how much it is expected to cost and ask them what they think. Asks that this be referred to the city manager for the timing of this to determine whether this can fit within the state deadlines for this project. Councilor Samaras says he believes waiting until November might be too late for the process to work. He does believe the city should make greater efforts to get the information about to the public. He’s not pleased with the way the public events have been handled by the consultants thus far. Councilor Leary askes when the Education Plan will be available. Mayor Kennedy says probably in early 2017. He expects the School Committee to have it in January or early February. Leary says everything flows from the education plan. Leary suggests having a Finance Subcommittee meeting on this in March, and says at that point we could consider having a debt override vote in November. Council Elliott says it makes sense to get input from the people, but before doing that, we have to tell them what it is that they will be voting on, what the financial impact will be. We can’t do that until we get the “preferred option” from the process. Manager Murphy calls this the most flawed procedure he’s ever seen (as mandated by the SBAB). He said everyone should just step back for a while and wait for the additional information that will come out in early 2017. Mayor Kennedy wants to echo what the city manager just said. He says when we started, this was going to be a $250mil project. As the process goes on, we’ve realized it’s going to be more expensive. The best advice is to wait until the feasibility study is done and the cost estimates are done. They did a debt exclusion referendum. The reason that is an attractive option is the schedule of the payments, you can put larger payments in the back end when they would not seem so large. He thinks that is a better option than adding it to the city’s annual budget. He says there are significant other projects that have to be done, including eleven schools that were constructed 30 years ago. All need major updates. The police station and the DPW facility are also of concern. But we are much better off if we wait to get the more accurate cost estimates and then we can decide where we’re going to get the money to pay for it. He said discussions held now will be much more valid after the real numbers and the actual plan are released. He expects there will be a lot of lobbying on both sides of the issue. Councilor Belanger thanks his colleagues for all the great points they made. He says he’s not trying to rush or circumvent the process, but says the preliminary estimates and low turnout at public sessions have concerned him.

By Councilor Belanger, request City Manager update council on Lowell House Project on Merrimack Street.

Council goes into Executive Session regarding pending litigation.

Public portion of meeting concludes at 8:13 pm.