Lowell City Council Meeting: May 23, 2017
(Councilor Rourke and City Manager Murphy absent from meeting).
Council takes motion out of order:
- Leary – Req. City Mgr. instruct Skanska/Perkins Eastman create a schematic design for Lowell High School Options 3 and 4 prior to the June 6th City Council meeting. Resident of Douglas Rd speaks. Recommends Option 3. Lowell High student speaks in favor of the motion. Also speaks in favor of keeping school downtown. Councilor Leary says there is so much information out there. Much of what is said and written is inaccurate. He thinks having a schematic design would help people envision what each option will actually look like. Says we have to tone down the nonsense and stop leading people in the wrong direction. Says people on Facebook aren’t changing opinions, they’re just inflaming the issue. He wants to use objective evidence to help make the decision. Councilor Leahy agrees with the motion. Asst City Manager McGovern says there will be a formal presentation to the council on June 6 which means councilors will get the information on June 2. Councilor Samaras supports this motion. He says at the start of this presentation, it was exciting, but he doesn’t know where it turned. Says it has become more divisive than the past presidential campaign. Says we owe it to the students to be adults and make this work, not to go at each other in anger. Says there is room for compromise and an integration of ideas. Councilor Milinazzo asks about the date of the public informational schedule. It is scheduled for June 8, a Thursday night, in the council chambers, that Saturday there will be another meeting and there may be yet another one before the June 13 council vote. Councilor Mercier asks that the council be provided with a list of the presentation dates. Motion passes.
Back to regular agenda . . .
Public hearings for Verizon pole installations.
Suspension of rules at request of Councilor Mercier so she can speak about Lowell Sun article about decision of Genesis Health Care to construct a new building in Dracut rather than in the Hamilton Canal District. She identifies the Genesis plan as a “signature opportunity” even if it was not a “signature building.” She criticizes the thinking that holds out for a major “signature” building on the Hamilton site. She asks for a report. Councilor Belanger says this is frustrating, says council had been told for a long time that everything was on track. Says it is frustrating that the council found out about this from the newspaper rather than from the city administration. Councilor Milinazzo asks that the report also include status of Watermark. Councilor Samaras says that Genesis kept changing its proposal. Would like a timeline of what was offered and when, and what was the final product. Councilor Elliott says everyone desires to make this an innovative district, but we have to be flexible so we don’t lose opportunities. Wants to know who made the decision not to proceed with Genesis in Hamilton Canal which opened the door for it going to Dracut.
Philip Shea appointed to Civic Stadium Commission. Approved by council.
- Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide report regarding poll results from downtown business survey concerning Lowell High School. Citizen speakers: Molly Sheehy says she supports Downtown Option 3. Councilor Mercier says Councilor Belanger has previously asked that a survey of downtown businesses be conducted, but she has not yet seen the results. Suggests asking the Chamber of Commerce to conduct the survey. Councilor Belanger says it he had made the motion along with Councilor Samaras. He does say in his opinion, having the high school downtown has a minimum impact on the downtown economy, but he would like to have the survey done anyway. Councilor Leary says he and Councilor Samaras have previously made a motion asking what would take the place of the high school if it leaves downtown; he would like to have that information, too.
- Mercier – Req. City Mgr. provide full detailed report regarding renovation work to Lowell High School in 1997; including spending breakdown of $40 Million on which buildings and what was repaired.
- Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have Verizon/National Grid/Comcast representatives meet with City Council in Council Chamber to discuss double poles, hanging wires and all around appearance of their equipment in the City.
- Leahy – Req. City Mgr. provide report from Traffic Engineer regarding intersection of Dutton and Market Streets concerning pedestrian crossing.
- Leahy – Req. City Mgr. explore possibility of locating the new high school in the Hamilton Canal District. City resident and retired LHS teacher Helen Littlefield speaks in favor of downtown location ofr LHS. Says she favors Option 3 but this might be an acceptable compromise. Noelle Creegan addresses creation of division in the city. Says she initially became involved because she wanted transparency. She criticizes Mayor Kennedy for comment he made on City Life today that comments on Facebook create division. Agrees with that, but says the Mayor made several erroneous comments. Says his speculation that Cawley would require eminent domain taking for Milan’s Pizza. Says this was just a fear tactic. Councilor Leahy says it’s “not my motion.” Says this subject has been discussed before around the city and he just wanted to bring it to the table. He says that the high school siting decision is deeply dividing the city. He knows that it’s time to make a decision, but he says “we have to make sure we get this right.” Councilor Belanger commends Councilor Leahy for his thinking on this. He regrets the divisiveness this has caused and thinks looking for a compromise is great. But he has been one of the foremost advocates of the Hamilton Canal District. The council has made it clear it wants HCD to be an innovation district. But he says he sees no harm in having the administration look at this, but he doesn’t think it’s going to work out. Cites the acceptance by the city of a recent MassWorks grant for job creation. This wouldn’t fit that. Councilor Milinazzo says he’s not questioning the spirit of the motion, but he’s not going to support it. Says we have a process in place and we should follow it. He says the council has refused to second guess the school building committee on the elimination of the South Common as a site, it would be inconsistent now to add a brand new site to the process. Councilor Mercier says she will support the motion but she has many question about it. Councilor Leary says he will support the motion to get the information, but he would not support the high school going there because he is still very bullish on the Hamilton Canal District. Councilor Samaras says it has been a very divisive issue but he hopes tonight will be a turning point. Councilor Elliott says he cannot support this motion, both because it departs from the established set of procedures, but also because the Hamilton Canal District has been underway for more than ten years so it makes no sense to throw that away just because this is a divisive issue. Mayor Kennedy says he will support the motion in the spirit of compromise, but he cannot envision a scenario where the high school would be placed there. He asks Councilor Leahy to clarify that he just wants a report from the city manager on this and not from the architects. Councilor Leahy says that’s up to the city manager (who is not present tonight). Councilors recognize the dilemma that getting a real assessment of this would require opening up the process and costing significant money (which they don’t want to do), but that a report simply from the city manager would not be a true assessment. Motion passes six to two (Milinazzo & Elliott voting no).
- Leary – Req. City Mgr. review potential grant opportunities in order to upgrade the Christian Hill Reservoir (“The Rez”) grounds in order to make the area a passive park; similar to other Lowell passive parks such as Tyler Park.
- Leary/C. Elliott – Req. City Mgr. contact Lowell General Hospital (Circle Health) for the purpose of negotiating a PILOT agreement between the City of Lowell and Lowell General Hospital.
- Belanger/C. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have Inspectional Services inspect property at 53 Third Street for code violations.
- Belanger/C. Samaras – Req. City Mgr. have proper department work with landlord of the building housing Ray Robinson Restaurant to eliminate graffiti on the site.
- Samaras/C. Belanger – Req. City Mgr. have proper department repair the sidewalk at 478 Middlesex Street in front of Sizzling Kitchen.
- Samaras/C. Belanger – Req. City Mgr. have proper department repaint the crosswalks on Bridge Street from Third Street to the Robinson School.
- Belanger – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding asbestos remediation, including costs, on the 1922 building as part of the Lowell High School project. Councilor Belanger says that last week when he was told the cost of remediating the asbestos was only $1.1 million he has been skeptical of that and believes it would be much greater. He wants confirmation that the remediation estimate is accurate.
- Kennedy – Req. City Mgr. instruct Traffic Engineer to analyze the feasibility of making Perry Street one-way.
Meeting adjourns at 8:58 pm