Lowell City Council Meeting: April 11, 2017

Update on last week’s flooding in Pawtucketville and Centralville. Manager Murphy says the city was very proactive in monitoring the flood levels and the related portions of the city’s action plan. Fortunately, the water did not rise to a destructive level, but the city’s emergency management operation was prepared in case it did. The Manager reports that Enel was very cooperative in this instance.

Because they are on the subject matter, the council takes up three motions related to flooding offered by Mayor Kennedy:

Mayor Kennedy – Request City Manager and City Engineer develop a protocol for flood warnings in the Clay Pit Brook neighborhood and Rosemont neighborhood, and refer matter to Flood Issues SC for citizen input. Mayor Kennedy says based on Manager’s remarks, there is a protocol in place but he thinks the methods should be better publicized.

Mayor Kennedy – Request City Manager consider extending the Clay Brook culvert to beyond the dam area and make it part of the Capital Plan. He says this is something that could be added to a future capital plan. It would greatly improve the quality of life in the affected neighborhood.

Mayor Kennedy – Request City Manager consider the construction of a dike on the west bank of Beaver Brook and make it part of the Capital Plan.

Since Mayor Kennedy had left the chair to speak on the above motions, he asked that his other motion be taken up at this time:

Mayor Kennedy – “Request City Manager provide City Council and the LHS Building Committee with clarification regarding the apparent conflict between 963 CMR 2.21 and the recent Skanska response to the inquiry regarding Section 3.1.8 (Regarding Past Projects) of the MSBA Preliminary Design Program Review, report to include an estimate of the financial impact of this provision should the high school leave the downtown area.” Mayor Kennedy explains that there was a $28mil contribution by the Commonwealth for a 1997 renovation to the high school. At a prior meeting of the School Building Committee, Skanska said the “look back” period for the state recapturing the money if the city vacates the property as a school was 20 years so it wasn’t an issue. Kennedy says he dug in deeper to this issue and found some indication that it is a 50 year look back which means the city would have to reimburse the state for a substantial amount of the $28mil. He also says other regulations suggest that if the current high school is vacated, there are limits on how the city can dispose of it. He says this motion is just looking for additional information to help councilors make their decision. Manager Murphy says the city received a clarification today from MSBA on the money issue and it is 20 years, so it will not be an issue. The only payback for past improvements would be approximately $350,000. Mayor Kennedy says it is a confusing issue and he suggests the city get MSBA’s response in writing since there are a variety of scenarios.

Councilor Elliott asks that one of his motions be brought forward:

Councilor Elliott – Request City Council discuss dedication of a park bench in memory of Cole Kinney per request of the family.

Vote to authorize city manager to execute a parking lease at three parking garages for spaces to be used by residents at 1 Merrimack Place (the private dormitory). City Parking Director explains that there’s an existing agreement with UMass Lowell for 450 parking spaces at the Ayotte Garage, but this agreement expires this May and will not be renewed, so all of these spaces can be accommodated at the Ayotte Garage with a net increase in available spaces. In addition. The repairs to the Roy and Lower Locks garages should be done in June of this year, which will further relieve parking pressure at the Ayotte Garage. Council will receive a report on the overall parking situation in downtown Lowell, then votes in favor of this parking space lease.

Remaining Council motions

Councilor Elliott – Request City Council vote to recognize veterans of the month, from the Lowell Veterans’ Commission, on a quarterly basis at City Council meetings as well as welcome back veteran service members from overseas.

Councilor Elliott – Request Finance SC meet weekly to discuss financial aspects of Lowell High School. In brief discussion, City Manager Murphy says that he expects the vote on the Lowell High site will come before the city council on June 13, 2017.

Councilor Leahy – Request City Council vote to name open space at 150 Douglas Road, previously gifted to the City by the Knott family; as “Lowell Veterans’ Park”, and dedicate its use in honor of Lowell veterans. Referred to Board of Parks.

Councilor Belanger – Request City Manager update City Council regarding Ayers City Redevelopment and access plans to that area. Belanger explains that this project seems to have faded into the background with all the discussion about the high school, so he would like an update.

Councilor Leary – Request City Manager provide a status update regarding the fines and actions taken on property located at 44 McKinley Avenue.

Councilor Leary – Request City Manager review the feasibility of combining Public Works and Lowell Public Schools Custodians departments into a Maintenance Department, the report to include both positive and negative issues that such a merger would incur, any potential efficiency improvements and costs savings achieved. Leary explains that there have been ongoing school maintenance problems. He knows of other towns that have done this and have increased efficiency. He understands it will take time to make this kind of change, but the first step is to study it which is the purpose of this motion.

Meeting adjourns at 8:24 pm.