Referendum on New High School – Councilor Belanger explains putting a referendum question on November ballot is fairly easy, but state timetable requires the city to make decisions earlier than would be needed to delay that decision until the November election. City Manager explains that the city has been expediting the process because the cost of construction keeps going up, but if that decision is delayed until November, the city would still qualify for state funds. Councilor Elliott says he still favors a referendum to allow the voters to have a say on the expenditure for a new high school. Councilor Leary says that by June there will be a preferred site selected and it will go out to bid. Manager Murphy says you could still delay the decision until November, but construction costs would be higher. Councilor Leary asks about financing through a debt exclusion. Manager Murphy says a debt exclusion would require a binding referendum vote.
New Marketing Strategy for Hamilton Canal – Councilor Belanger says occupants of 110 Canal Place are pleased with DPD. He asks Allison Lamey to explain. She says DPD staffs a desk one day each week at the 110 Canal Place building to work more closely with the occupants of that incubator space so that when the businesses there outgrow their space, DPD will help them find larger space within Lowell.
Action Plan on School Heating and Air Conditioning. Councilor Leary says this is a chronic issue so he hopes this plan will deal with it once and for all. Councilor Leahy echoes those comments, saying we’ve been doing this the same way for 20 years so maybe it’s time to try a new approach.
Vacant and Foreclosed Properties – Eric Slagle of Developmental Services shows councilors an interactive map on the city’s website that shows vacant and foreclosed properties that have registered with the city over the past two years. When the property owner pulls a permit, that will show up on this map. This is not connected to a live database, so it will be updated quarterly to show new permits and changes in status of the property.
Amend city ordinance re fees and penalties. Eric Slagle speaks in favor. Says most fees fall under developmental services. The new fees were set after doing a comprehensive survey of what is charged in surrounding towns and in other cities of Lowell’s size, and ensure that the fees cover the work exerted. No one else speaks in favor. No one speaks in opposition. Passes unanimously.
Order to name intersection of Rumford and Chrystal streets for Victor Cote. Passes.
Councilor Belanger-Req. City Mgr. work with emergency services to execute an initiative from the Opiate Task Force to develop a rapid response plan that the First Watch Program detects as an abnormally high amount of overdoses in a concentrated area within the City. Councilor Belanger explains that this is a recommendation from the Opioid Task Force. “First Watch” is a computer app provided free by Trinity Ambulance to the city. It tracks overdoses and allows follow up visits with affected individuals. It also provides real time data to quickly respond to spikes in overdoses. Motion passes.
Councilor Belanger-Req. City Mgr. provide detailed report from Inspectional Services as well as the amount of emergency calls regarding the juvenile group home located at 12 Nesmith Street. This facility has been a longstanding problem, according to Councilor Belanger. The property owner and the state agency he rents it to must be held accountable for the very high number of police calls that come from this group home.
Councilor Belanger-Req. City Mgr. have DPD provide a report updating development progress of the Smith Baker Center. He would like representative of Coalition for a Better Acre appear before the council and provide an update.
Councilor Belanger-Req. City Mgr. organize an introductory meeting with the new owners of the Franco American property to discuss future vision of the property.
Councilor Leahy – Req. City Mgr. contact Comcast to have them remove all excess cable wiring hanging from poles throughout the City.
Councilor Leary-Req. City Mgr. have the appropriate department remove the graffiti on the front of the Washington School.
Councilor Leary-Req. City Mgr. review the feasibility of installing a crosswalk between 65 and 63 Plain Street and Walgreens Pharmacy.
Mayor Kennedy-Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding efforts to secure funding for an environmental impact study of the new Rourke Bridge. (Vice Chair Dan Rourke takes the chair). Mayor Kennedy says he’s concerned that the past feasibility study will soon be outdated and of no use. We must conduct an environmental impact study soon, but we need state funding to pay for it.
Mayor Kennedy-Req. City Mgr. provide an update and report regarding the BID survey being conducted by the DPD. Mayor explains we’ve been patiently waiting for the survey re the Business Improvement District results.
Mayor Kennedy-Req. City Mgr. provide an update and report regarding the Superintendent’s efforts to have the LPD achieve accreditation. He says this and the previous three motions are “reminder motions” about things he’s discussed before. He just doesn’t want them to be forgotten.
Announcements: Mayor Kennedy says that tonight is the last council meeting to be covered for the Lowell Sun by Grant Welker, who is moving to the Worcester Business Journal. Also announces that on February 8, 2017, the Belvidere Neighborhood Association will host a meeting on the new Lowell High School at 6:30 pm in the Sullivan School gymnasium.
Meeting adjourns at 8:08 p.m.