Lowell City Council: February 28, 2017
Vote: To approve the four unranked options for Lowell High. Councilor Elliott moves to forward all four options to the state. But first there are 39 registered speakers to hear from:
Chris Meehan of Kearney Drive – keep LHS downtown. Lives in Cawley neighborhood. Predicts putting LHS on Cawley will have many adverse effects on neighborhood. Also says the move will shortchange female athletes and students in the arts. Says students benefit greatly from being downtown. Says we should embrace our history not run away from it.
Geoffrey Feldman of Middlesex St – Keep LHS downtown. Says it is the core of city’s culture. Says Option 3 will be a modern facility. Asks councilors to be honest brokers of information, especially when they see something incorrect online.
Lynn Daly of Winward Rd – Keep LHS downtown. Cites equity of access, especially for buses and walkers. Also optimizes access to cultural and education assets. Says downtown plan is also $20mil cheaper.
Seng Chan of Inland St – LHS at Cawley will be best for Lowell. Says he’s basketball coach at Boys and Girls Club, has seen many great new high schools, would like Lowell to have one like them.
Derek Mitchel of Parkview Ave – Keep LHS downtown. Says it’s a defining moment for a city that’s steeped in history. That sets us apart from other communities. Moving to a suburban campus loses that advantage. Says will lose benefit of UTEC, Boys and Girls Club, etc. Says it’s also about equity, every neighborhood can get to the school. Moving it to the city border makes it harder for kids to access
TJ McKiernan of Westford St – LHS at Cawley is a no brainer. Asks why we would risk health of students and staff by renovating downtown. Says no option but Cawley meets the education objectives. Says all the downtown options are a disaster waiting to happen. Predicts declining enrollment and families heading for the exit if the high school stays downtown.
Leo Creegan of O’Heir Way – Reiterates his support for Cawley. Says it won’t be a school just for kids from Belvidere. No kid should have to choose between getting to school or eating. Says a bus ride is a tool for education, not a hindrance to it. Also doesn’t want students in a less than ideal learning environment for four years. Says we don’t want kids in modulars. We don’t want kids or staff in a potentially contaminated situation.
Peter Martin of Parkview Ave – Says he supports downtown. Says his children would actually benefit by having LHS at Cawley but they shouldn’t benefit at the expense of other children of the city who aren’t as well off as they are. He urges councilors to consider all of the students in the city, not just their constituents. Mentions lack of fairness to female athletes and to those involved in the arts.
Matthew Lelacheur of Peron Way – Supports LHS at Cawley even though he lives in Pawtucketville. Says when city has come together it gets good results. Cites Tsongas and Mogan getting National Park and a subsequent generation getting a ballpark and arena. Says we have the opportunity for a suburban style learning environment in an urban setting, something that is not often available and we don’t want to lose that chance.
Brian Meade of Elliott Drive – For him it’s indisputable that downtown has the most benefits. Agrees both options have risks. Believes moving LHS has much greater risk. Says parents with concerns about renovation safety are legitimate but the can be addressed. Says modular classrooms are better than existing classrooms that have no windows. Says he doesn’t want modular, but says people are using that as a negotiating tactic. Predicts greater difficulty in getting to the schools will result in higher dropout rates.
Marco Leonardo of Market St (speaking through translator) – Says he is representing the Hispanic community. Says he is very interested in the various projects but they have not received any information about the project even though Hispanics make up 30 percent of students at LHS. Says he disagrees with losing an historical part of the city. It will affect all students, not just Hispanic students. Says wants the city to be united and make the decision for everyone, not just for one group. Urges councilors to step back and analyze what they are doing.
Elmer Martinez of Pawtucket Blvd – President of class of 2015. LHS should remain downtown. It benefits the businesses around it. Says college students don’t have money due to debt and there aren’t enough adult workers. It is high school students who are spending their money. There’s a huge drop off during the summer. Always has believed that the city is the campus, cites Pollard Library, MCC, UML, and other. Cites tough conditions many LHS students are raised under. Community organizations adjacent to LHS were critical to students. Says downtown LHS is equidistant from every part of the city; having it at Cawley will be much tougher for many. Moving LHS would lose so many benefits.
Karen Green of Elliott Drive – Favors LHS staying downtown. Cites benefits of central location. Favors taking additional downtown property if necessary. Concerned about traffic in Belvidere neighborhood if school moves there.
Jim Teague of University Ave – Cites his own experience at Lowell High and that of his children. They all loved the downtown location. Grew up in Belvedere and has nothing against Cawley Stadium, but the experience of being in the downtown has many great benefits and creates a sense of pride in the city among students. Says if the high school moves out of downtown, future students will have lost a lot.
Varak Uy – President of CMAA – Wants to focus on the communication process. Wants the Cambodian community to be part of the process. More effective communication is needed. Notes that there are fewer than 10 Cambodian’s in the audience at the council meeting and most of them are high school students. Says Cambodian students make up a big part of the school and that Cambodian people own many homes in the city. Says CMAA would like to assist in improving communications between the city and the Cambodian community on this isse.
Maria Sheehy of Adam Terrace – Supports LHS staying downtown. Lowell has obligation to do what’s best for all of Lowell’s children. Says many of Lowell’s students face many obstacles. We shouldn’t make getting to school another obstacle for them. Says that long term future of city would benefit by LHS staying downtown. Says a big reason for Lowell’s success is that we embraced our urban identity. Moving LHS to Cawley would be chasing some suburban dream. Moving it would diminish downtown. Moving also sends a mixed message: downtown is not good enough for you to go to school, but we want you to spend money downtown.
Young woman who graduated LHS in 2012, lives on Gerson Terrace. Graduated from Penn (Ivy League school). Says she was accepted there because she went to an inner city school. She supports keeping the school there.
Brian Martin – LHS Head of School – Says it’s important for the city to understand his position. Thanks city manager and council for supporting a new school. He says he tries to put himself in the place of students who would be most affected by this decision so he feels he has a responsibility to speak for them. Question is what site provides the best opportunity to level the playing field for all of Lowell’s families for the next 75 years. He thinks the answer is a simple one: maintain a central school in an urban setting close to city services. Asks how many high schools in America are located within a National Park? Or walking access to Tsongas Arena, MCC, UMass Lowell, Pollard Library. Says downtown offers best educational opportunity for all students. It is the most accessible to students and to parents attending night or evening events. Says the loss of 400 staff members and 3100 students will adversely affect downtown. Says if a business with 400 employees was moving out of downtown, the council would go berserk. Also addresses question of what happens during construction. Says that can be addressed through strong school leadership and professional management which we have. Lowell High is the most inclusive and diverse institution in the city. Having it downtown says a lot about the city. Invites everyone to come to LHS in the morning and watch the students arrive at school and see how they wake the city up every morning. That’s why LHS should stay downtown.
Stephan Anstey of Pawtucketville – Father of 2 LHS grads. Says no question the LHS facility should be improved, but believes keeping it downtown is best for the city. Says we always talk about the importance of partnerships, but if LHS moves, many of those who utilize services of entities in Lowell will be far away and less likely to interact with those entities.
Ishmael Rosado (speaking through translator) – From Puerto Rico. In Lowell for 8 years, an artist. Wants to defend historic architecture. Says city has a great heritage of strong women and immigrants who made the city great. He wants students to know and love their city like their parents do. He would not want the city to be a place where students just go to school for four years and then leave. It would be best to leave the high school within the city.
Maureen Hovey of Upham St – Says she has heard supporters of downtown dismiss her concerns about asbestos as a scare tactic. Says everyone should be scared about the potential of accidental exposure. The children will pay for this with their health. Says moving Cawley is the right thing to do.
Elizabeth Donoghue of Windsor Park Rd – 2015 LHS grad now at UMass Amherst. Says LHS is easily accessible to everyone. Moving it would put an unnecessary burden on many students. Says the Cawley plan would cost $20mil more. That money could better be used on staffing and resources for the high school. She closes by saying that students or also students of Lowell, not just Lowell High. Moving the school out of downtown would devalue that.
Joe Healy of Monadnock Ave – Runs a gym in Lowell and has been quizzing students and parents whose kids train there on this question. Most of them say it should be at Cawley and if it’s not, they won’t attend LHS. Speaker talks of the importance of attracting good athletes to Lowell High. Says building a school adjacent to athletic facilities would increase the number of students participating. Says downtown presents many distractions to students so putting it at Cawley would be more of a campus for students. He says removing it from downtown will be a boom to downtown. That would remove all the problems like loitering and jaywalking that students bring to downtown and will attract businesses that cater to business professionals.
Christine Hungate of Westview Rd – LHS grads whose kids go there now. Says our primary obligation to students should be to give them the most opportunities possible. Keeping it downtown offers the most opportunities for students so she supports that.
Rebecca Stasivich of ___ – Advocates keeping high school downtown. Strongest argument for that is its central location. Graduated from LHS in 1990, moved away and then came back, happy to be raising her children her.
Russ Williams of Clark Rd – Went to LHS and UML. Urges transparency in the entire process. Says the politics of this “need to go away.” We need more information, especially on the cost, and then let all the people of Lowell make this decision, “not just the people here.” Says he does support Cawley.
Terri Delinium of Fairmount St – Supports Cawley. Talks about eminent domain. Says it is very complicated and will add years and expense to Option 3 (downtown). Says she works in risk mitigation. Says there are too many risks for downtown.
Susan Zacherer of Barsford Ave – Works in downtown and has three children who graduated from LHS. Says having LHS downtown is a huge asset for the city and for the students. Says an urban high school offers unique advantages that would be sacrificed if we create a cookie cutter copy of the neighboring suburban high schools in the area.
Bridget Seen (sp?) of Elliott Dr – Supports Cawley site. Concerned about safety of downtown renovations. Talks about diversity. Says if she feels unsafe about sending her children there, she has the opportunity to move to another community. She says if we care about all of the children, we won’t risk losing the numerous families who might move away to avoid the risks of going to the school during renovations.
Debbie Callery of Windsor Park Rd – Supports LHS staying downtown. All roads lead to downtown. It is the heart of the city. Her son graduated from LHS in 2015. If the school was at Cawley, he never would have ventured out of that neighborhood. He would have missed the opportunity to become more independent by experiencing downtown.
Onese Omeyani of Dundee St – current senior at LHS. Says it is a privilege to attend an exceptionally diverse school that has done fantastic work in making the school and other things more accessible to all students. Moving it out of downtown jeopardizes that. Access to everything downtown empowers students and encourages them to get involved in the community. The bottom line is keeping LHS downtown is the most equitable option.
Francisco Melendez of ___ – supports Cawley. Says he went to LHS. He was one of those kids who was poor, who walked to school. Says he never felt that having LHS downtown offered him more opportunities. Says he has coached basketball for 20 years. Says surrounding towns judge his players by the fact that they come from Lowell. He tells them that nothing defines them but them. Says his daughter goes to Lowell High. Says he has been embarrassed when games are canceled because the roof is leaking. He says they deserve to be on a campus that shows them they are just as good as the surrounding communities.
Srey Pov Vary of Lewis St – Urges councilors to provide language access for Cambodian parents so they can share their thoughts with councilors.
Tom King of Glenwood Ave – supports Cawley site. Coaches lacrosse, baseball, basketball. Says consultants have said that the location that meets all the educational requirements is the Cawley site. He also has concern about safety in a renovation.
Daniel Finn of Elliott Dr – Asks city officials to get back on track, to set aside their political agendas, and to make the best choice for the students which is the Cawley site.
Armand Hebert of Wilder St – Says the building committee failed to do its job. Says remodeling the building is a waste of money.
End of registered speakers.
Councilor Elliott believes that all four should be sent to the state. He says it is important to be transparent. He criticizes some people who have told the Portuguese community that they will lose Holy Ghost Park if the school moves to Cawley. He believes it’s a scare tactic because there are no plans to take any land from them. Asks city manager to reach out and make same assurances.
Councilor Samaras thanks everyone for speaking. He says several speakers urged us to reach out to minority communities in the city and we all want to do that.
Councilor Mercier says she is proud of everyone who spoke and the respectful demeanor of everyone. She says it is important to disagree without being disagreeable. Says goal tonight is to present four options to the state. But she says the Cawley option is at risk “so we have to turn that around so everyone is represented.”
Councilor Milinazzo thanks everyone. Suggests that we include a recording of what has been said tonight with our submission. He’s prepared to move all four options forward.
Councilor Leahy thanks everyone. Says he’s not worried about Article 97. He says now we’ll get the final numbers and all the facts which we don’t yet have.
Councilor Leary says he was very impressed with the articulate arguments on both sides.
Councilor Belanger says he is inspired by the passion of the speakers tonight. Says he is looking forward to the rest of the process. Urges people to “take a breath” on social media which “is becoming the 2016 election all over again.”
Council votes 9 to 0 to send all four options to the state.
Update on Smith Baker Center – By Yun-Ju Choi of Coalition for a Better Acre. Talks about fund raising efforts to date, about the programs that will be moved into the building after renovation, and about its use as a community center. Says fundraising will be about two years and construction will be one year. That’s still the timeline.
Four Way Stop Trull Lane
2017 Pavement Marking
Comcast Hanging Wires
Bridge Street Improvements
LHS Meeting Minutes
Limited comments by councilors on these replies to previous motions.
INFORMATIONAL from City Manager
Net School Spending FY16-FY17
Refunding Bonds – Budgetary Savings
2016 Audit Response
Councilor Elliott commends city manager for the first two and moves that all three be referred to the Finance Subcommittee so they can be discussed more fully.
Vote to reappoint Richard Lockhart and James Wilde to Historic Board
Vote to designate Norman Giguere as chair of Veterans Commission
- Leahy – Req. City Mgr. provide report from DPW regarding waste barrels being left on curbsides in all neighborhoods during the week. Says this has come up at a lot of neighborhood meetings.
- Leahy – Req. City Mgr. provide a report from Inspectional Services regarding clearing of snow from sidewalks; report to include amount of citations and fines as compared to last year.
- Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have Water Department review bills regarding high water costs.
- Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have proper department replace the missing plaque at the South Common swimming pool with a granite stone that was named the “Anthony L. Archinski Memorial Pool” in 1978, in his memory.
- Mercier – Req. City Mgr. have proper department install a stop sign on Lewis Street at the corner of the Bridge.
- Mercier – Req. City Mgr. increase City input to address the massive amount of illegal dumping in the City, especially in Centralville.
- Elliott – Req. City Mgr. have City Solicitor prepare language for a Home Rule Petition to require State to provide 100% of Charter School student tuition costs to cities and towns.
- Elliott – Req. City Mgr. meet with Winn Development to reconsider developing parcels 8 and 9 residential and parcel 5 commercial.
- Elliott – Req. City Mgr. evaluate potential cost savings from streamlining the Parks Department and the DPW.
- Belanger – Req. City Mgr. update City Council regarding status of lease agreement with the Lowell Spinners.
- Kennedy – Req. City Mgr. have proper department review the parking restriction regulations or lack thereof in the vicinity of the intersection of Mt. Vernon Street and Varney Street.
Meeting adjourns at 10 p.m.