Councilors thank organizers of Creaticity Festival and Lowell Celebrates Kerouac. Merrimack Valley Food Bank and Angkor Dance Troupe invite councilors to upcoming events. Angkor performance this Friday and Saturday at the Lowell High Irish auditorium. The Food Bank recognizes October as Hunger Homeless Awareness Month.
Turnout Gear for Fire Fighters: City Council appropriated funds for a matching grant. The city didn’t get the grant, but will use the appropriated funds to purchase 55 sets. Another 30+ sets will come from the operating budget. There will still be needed approximately 120 more sets at a cost in excess of $200,000. The city will try to find funds in this fiscal year. If that’s not possible, the amount will be included in the FY19 Capital Plan. This provides 2 sets of turnout gear per firefighter.
High School Fire Safety: Councilor Samaras questions the fire chief who says that a new high school and a fully renovated high school would both have the necessary safety design and equipment. Regarding the water main on Rogers Street, the Chief says that the existing water main will provide inadequate water pressure to ensure the safety of a new high school at Cawley Stadium. He believes the cost for that is estimated at $700,000. He added that the water main should probably be upgraded anyway because of large businesses like Hannaford, however, that cost would be slightly less, probably in the $600,000 range.
Infrastructure Improvements and Field Replication Costs: Councilor Samaras questions DPW on flooding on Windward Road. The proposed fix would be to create a storm water retention area underneath the Cawley Parking lot. The estimated cost of that would be $5 million. The City Manager says whatever percentage of that job that is attributable to the high school would be partially reimbursable. Councilors Rourke, Belanger and Elliott emphasize that this work (and its cost) have to be done anyway, regardless of whether the high school is to be built there. City Manager clarifies that MSBA will reimburse 8 percent of the portion of this work that is attributable to the high school versus what is not needed for the high school (in other words, if it has to be done anyway, it would not be included in MSBA reimbursement). Councilor Mercier says she is delighted that so many infrastructure projects for Belvidere are being addressed because of this controversy. She asks “what more could you ask for?” Mayor Kennedy questions Commissioner Bellegarde on field replication plans. Asst CM McGovern says because the building has risen to five stories, its footprint is smaller so not as many fields have to be moved. Mayor Kennedy asks McGovern what the backup plan is if the plans for replication at Manning Field do not work out. McGovern says there is no backup plan now. If it doesn’t work out, then the city will have to figure out a different solution. Councilors Rourke and Elliott point out that the work to be done at Manning Field and at the Christian Hill Reservoir are good things for the city regardless of where the high school goes. Question about the parking lot for the high school that is on land owned by Tewksbury. Eric Slagle says that will likely require site plan approval and a special permit from Tewksbury. Councilor Milinazzo says this indeed will all be great but he questions whether we can afford it. Councilor Leahy adds that yes these will be great things, but we are still relying on Chelmsford and Tewksbury to assent to these things. Councilor Mercier says if we focused on the downtown site, we could pick apart the cost estimates. She says in either case, we don’t know where we are going with the price of this. She says we can afford this. We shouldn’t try to scare the public because we don’t know the answer of how much this is going to cost. Councilor Milinazzo says we do have the numbers and they make clear we can’t afford it. Councilor Samaras says we want to do what’s best for the children, but we also have a responsibility to the taxpayers. Says council has to be able to say to the taxpayers, this is the actual cost if we build at Cawley, this is the cost if we build downtown. Councilor Elliott says Councilor Milinazzo is engaging in scare tactics. He says the numbers he is using are exaggerated and inflated. Each week it’s something else. Says that’s how the game is played. He says we should just look at the footprint of the building and what it will cost. He says the other things were going to be done anyway.
School Busing Study – City personnel met with UMass Lowell engineering representatives today to help the city find more efficient bus routes and schedules for the schools. A further report will be forthcoming.
Regulatory and Zoning Approvals for Cawley Site – Resident speaks critically of lack of complete or accurate information that has repeatedly been stated. Criticizes this report for being incomplete. Points out that this site will require many special approvals, including some from adjacent communities. Says disclosing full and accurate information should not depend on someone asking the right question. Yet repeatedly the manager’s staff and the project team either don’t understand the process or are not accurately stating it. Councilor Milinazzo ask that this report be made available to the public because it clearly points out the complicated approval path from numerous boards both in Lowell and in other communities.
Motion Taken Out of Order
C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have proper department provide an update regarding property at 29 Frothingham Street. Registered speaker: Neighbor tells how the two family house now has several illegal apartments. There are many vehicles, some commercial, that park there regularly. Councilors engage in lengthy instruction about how the city is regulating properties like this. For instance, the house is assessed as a three family even though it is only a legal two family. Mr. Slagle states that the assessors inspect the house and assess what they see; they don’t cross reference the actual use with what is legally allowed. Councilors urge Manager Murphy to address this procedural gap. Another resident says the building owners are doing the work without permission and will then seek permission after the work is already done.
Vote to increase property tax exemption for properties owned by veteran’s organizations to be increased to $1.5 million. Referred to a public hearing.
Zoning Subcommittee report from earlier tonight: Report given by Subcommittee chair Milinazzo. Discussed proposals for regulating recreational marijuana sales sites. Tabled that until the city administration provides an updated zoning map. At that time, the subcommittee will take it up again.
Citizen Petition From Dannel Gannon on Lowell’s firearms policy. He thanks Kam Kay, Jordan Gys and John MacDonald for helping him with this petition. His complaint seems to be that the state standard is that a request for a license is supposed to be acted on by the local police department within 30 days. He says Lowell routinely takes longer than this. Then he cites a number of firearms incidents in or around Lowell and says this policy did nothing to stop those incidents. He says he is a certified firearms instructor. Complains that he cannot get an unrestricted license to carry in Lowell unless he writes an essay. Closes with a quote from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Another speaker: Thayer Eastman, says he finds the roadblocks he faces to get a gun license are so high. Council refers it to the law department for a report and recommendation.
C Leahy-Req City Mgr have the Traffic Engineer address safety concerns of pedestrians crossing in front of City Hall.
C Leary/C. Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have DPW paint and update crosswalks in front of Father Martin E. Norton Manor at 117 – 137 High Street.
C Elliott – Req. City Mgr. provide update regarding progress at the Rourke Bridge.
C Rourke – Req. City Mgr. have proper department install a stop sign at the corner of Stromquist Avenue and Bowden Street.
M. Kennedy-Req. City Mgr. provide a report on polling locations and discuss confusion regarding polling locations prior to the preliminary election. Mayor says there was some confusion, especially in Pawtuckeville, over the location of preliminary election polling places. Wants to prevent this from happening again in the November election.
M. Kennedy-Req. City Mgr. secure the current LTC policy on coverage of forums and candidates nights for municipal elections. Mayor Kennedy says he filed this motion because when the Belvidere Neighborhood Association held a candidate’s night for the school committee but LTC didn’t cover it. Councilor Leary, who is on the LTC board, is supposed to bring this up at an upcoming LTC meeting. Manager Murphy says LTC was obligated to cover that school committee forum by the contract that it has with the city, so LTC should have covered it. Councilor Belanger says LTC was negligent in not covering that and other forums.
Meeting adjourns at 8:52 pm.