Lowell City Council Meeting: May 2, 2017

Resolution to support Southern Cameroon Community in New England in its desire to restore its national sovereignty through a democratically organized referendum. Fru Nkimbeng speaks in support of the resolution. Reminds councilors that Lowell has established a sister city in Cameroon, and has in the past greeted the country’s king to Lowell. Fru explains that there has been recent persecution of the English-speaking Cameroonians by people from the much more populous French-speaking portions of the country. Resolution passes unanimously.

Motion (taken out of order) – Councilor Leary – Req. City Mgr. work with the appropriate department in order to improve the road drainage issues between Alcott Street and Windward Road. Resident of Windward Road says she has lived there for 55 years and has experienced flooding from sewer backups for that entire time.

Councilor Mercier gives a report on the meeting at the Wang School last night of the Flood and Neighborhood subcommittees. Subcommittee received a briefing on the protocol to be followed in times of flooding. Council and citizen preference is to modify that protocol to require “crest gates” to be lowered earlier in a rising water situation than it is now. They also discussed methods of notifying residents of flooding situations and responses, and the various emergency response, transportation, and shelter plans that are in place. Councilor Mercier makes a motion regarding the “crest gate” issue.

Report on Tanner Street development is referred to Economic Development Subcommittee.

Report on Charter School Reimbursement. The city contributes $20mil per year to Charter Schools, but only receives $3mil in reimbursement from the state. Lengthy discussion on the increasingly large burden the insufficient reimbursement amount puts on the city’s budget. Manager Murphy said that throughout his time in the legislature, they could never get 100% reimbursement. Councilors discuss forming a coalition with other communities experiencing the same problem with this, including the possibility of litigation against the state.

Councilor Elliott gives a report on tonight’s Finance Subcommittee meeting on the financing on Lowell High School. The city’s CFO gave a report on the impact of the various LHS options on the tax rate. Says all of the information will be available on the city’s website under the Finance Subcommittee package, but will also put it on the Lowell High Project section. Councilor Elliott says the impact will be significant. The next subcommittee meeting will be on May 16 at 530. At that time there will be a presentation on the city’s debt obligations.

Councilor Milinazzo gives a report on the Zoning Subcommittee meeting. Delays giving his report until next Tuesday at which time the city manager will have a report to distribute to councilors and the public.

Registered speaker – Bob Montgomery – resident of Butman Road. Advocates Option 3 for Lowell High School. Has concerns about “juvenile pedestrian safety.” States that a number of streets have children who attend the Reilly and Sullivan Schools that are relatively narrow and have no sidewalks. Is concerned for their safety if young drivers attending a high school built at Cawley would jeopardize these young walkers.

Petition urging councilors to make striping of bike lanes a priority. Presented by Chuck Arnold of Lowell Bike Coalition. Says weather and ware cause bike lane striping to fade and create dangerous condition for bicyclists. Says more people on bikes, less people driving cars and parking cars. Two others spoke in favor of this.

Council Motions

Councilor Leahy – Req. City Mgr. explore feasibility of creating an ordinance to ensure permits are issued between 60 and 90 days from incident in order to rehab or demolish a fire damaged structure.

Councilor Samaras – Req. City Mgr. request Supt. of Lowell Schools prepare a presentation and/or report regarding buildings needed to meet the educational plan for the Lowell School system. Samaras says he’s not looking for a recommendation as to the site, but he is looking for a presentation from the School Superintendent in which he states the needs of the system, including buildings other than the high school. Says the more information councilors have, the better.

Councilor Belanger – Req. City Mgr. update City Council regarding JFK Plaza improvements. Manager Murphy says all of the work will be done by July 1st. Includes replacing paving material, adding seating, building a monument island.

Councilors Leary and Leahy – Req. City Mgr. initiate an inquiry for a financial review; specific to all Gateway Cities School building projects, as it relates to a needed increase to the square foot reimbursement rate with the MSBA and Treasurer Goldberg.

Councilor Leary – Req. City Mgr. work with the DPW in order to improve the road conditions on Ruth Street.

Councilor Elliott – Req. City Mgr. have Inspectional Services initiate neighborhood “SWAT” team to address code violations at dilapidated properties in City.

Councilor Elliott – Req. City Mgr. report on current repairs needed at Lowell High School.

Councilor Rourke – Req. City Mgr. have Building Dept. enforce an ordinance mandating that all non-owner occupied buildings and construction sites in the City display a sign indicating a 24 hour working phone number, email address as well as a current street address for inquiries; sign to be at least 18 inches by 12 inches with 1 inch font and displayed at all entrances and exits; any non compliance after October 1, 2017 will be subject to fine of $100 per day.

Although not on the agenda, the council has an extended discussion on the “pub crawl” incident that disrupted downtown on Saturday night. Manager Murphy says he has already asked Police Superintendent Taylor to give him a full report including the punishment that will be sought from the License Commission against the bars that were involved.

Meeting adjourns at 8:40 pm.