City Council meeting preview: Oct 24, 2017

Mimi Parseghian shares the following about what’s expected at tomorrow night’s Lowell City Council meeting.

I believe that the agenda item 5.1.C under the City Manager’s answer to the motions will probably garner the most discussion and debate.

This report is in answer to last week’s motion by Councilor Jim Milinazzo asking the City Manager to provide an ancillary cost summary for the LHS project and its funding plan.

The report prepared by CFO Conor Baldwin also includes a debt service schedule which includes principal and interest payments for capital improvement.  That table indicates that starting in FY 2019 and ending in FY 2049, we have outstanding debts totaling $18,341,158; $11,024,500 principal and $7,316,658 interest.   Starting in FY 2020, we will pay for these loans about $800,000.  In FY 2034, it drops to about $400,000.

There is another motion response that should be of great interest to most of us:  Lord Overpass Update.   The project has three phases and according to the report by Diane Tradd, Assistant City Manager/DPD Director, “it is fully funded through various grants, states and local funds.”

“A public meeting to present the Concept 4 at 25% design will be held in the Pollard Memorial Library basement meeting room at 6:00 p.m., November 13, 2017.  This will be the fifth public meeting/presentation regarding this project.

The information distributed to the City Council for this week’s meeting also includes a 7-page report, titled LowellSTAT Follow-Up from 9/19/2017 Development Services Meeting.  LowellSAT was implemented in 2010 to “improve the transparency, efficiency and accountability of the City government.  The information gathered is analyzed and provides data to assist in strategic planning.

The issues discussed in the report are: Trash Violations, Permit Revenues, Final Cost Affidavits, Receivership Program, DART Program, Barber Shop Program, General Billing, and Request Tracker.  Granted you may need to be a policy wonk to read all 7 pages but it covers precisely what local government’s role is, that is provide a safe and quality life style for its residents.

FY 2018 Live Auction Results is an informational report distributed by the City Manager. According to the memo, the City held an auction on 5 abandoned properties.  The auction netted $627,000.  The funds will be deposited in the Sale of City Property special revenue bund. CFO Baldwin who wrote the report states  “… these blighted properties will be returned to the tax rolls and will bring empty properties back into use. Many of the parcels have sat vacant for several years and in some cases, decades. Some of the participants in the auction were abutters of the properties and purchased the parcels to improve the overall neighborhood quality of life. Based on the success of this first auction, we anticipate having at least one more live auction before the end of the fiscal year.”

Item Number 6, Votes from the City Manager, has 5 items:

  1. Authorize City Manager to Execute Easement Agreement Between the City and UMBA (University of Massachusetts Building Authority) regarding LeLacheur Park.
  2. Authorize City Manager to Execute Easement Agreement Between the City and UMBA (University of Massachusetts Building Authority) and UML (University of Massachusetts Lowell) Portion of Pawtucket Street and Salem Street.
  3. Authorize City Manager to Execute Easement Agreement From City to UML; Broadway Street and Pawtucket Street.
  4. Authorize City Manager to Execute Memory of Understanding (MOU) Boston Surface Railroad Company, Inc.
  5. Authorize City Manager to Execute License Agreement Overhanging Awning Minas Lunch Corporation, 191 Appleton Street.

The City Council will vote to amend various sections of the Zoning Ordinance.  There should be limited discussion on these changes since they are the outcome of a series of meetings conducted by the City Council Zoning subcommittee to address various neighborhood issues.  According to R. Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services the report would be submitted to the Planning Board, … “the attached amendments to the Lowell Zoning Ordinance, which would cover several new use definitions, as well as other various changes to aid in economic development, provide thoughtful parking alternatives, and protect the large-scale residential tax base.”

There are 7 Council motions on this week’s agenda.

“City Council Bill Samaras Requests City Council Send Letter of Support to the Lowell Community Health Center Regarding their Request to Congress to Pass the “Community Health Investment Modernization and Excellence Act 2017” (CHIME). “ I looked up the bill and its states: “This bill amends the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to extend through FY2022 and make appropriations for enhanced funding for the community health centers program.” I like this motion.  Let’s see where the Councilors stand on this.

“City Council Bill Samaras Requests City Manager Initiate an Application to the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Fund Through the Mass Cultural Council and Mass Development to Enhance the Presence of Public Art and Lighting in the City and to Expand these Efforts into the City’s Neighborhoods for the Coming Year.”

“City Council James Milinazzo Request City Manager to Prepare a Detail List of All Estimated Costs Associated with Both High School Locations (emphasis mine) and the Direct Impact to the Taxpayer Including Soft Costs, Construction Costs, and Ancillary or Related Costs; i.e. Article 97, Water and Sewer Upgrades, Transportation and Pedestrian Improvements, Potential Eminent Domain Costs, and Busing Costs, etc…” I hope all 9 councilors applaud this motion and like most tax payers in Lowell join us in eagerly waiting for these estimates.

“City Council Jim Leary Requests City Manager Provide a Report Regarding DPW Usage of Chemical Application when Treating the Road Before, During and After Storms; Report Should Include Costs Associated with Implementation and Recommendations for Saving Costs.”

“City Council Jim Leary Requests City Manager Provide a Report Regarding the Number of Contractors Used to Treat Roads Before, During and After Storms; Report to Include Use of GPS/GIS Technology, the Amount of Product Each Contractor Vehicle Applies on the Roads, the Costs Associated with the Implementation Recommendations for Saving Costs.”

“City Council Jim Leary Requests City Manager Review the Feasibility of Changing the Direction of Traffic over the Howe, Ouellette and Rourke Bridges [to] One-Way During Peak Driving Periods in an effort to Determine if this Could Improve Traffic Congestion.”

2 Responses to City Council meeting preview: Oct 24, 2017

  1. Jason S. says:

    Regarding the last motion about bridge traffic. This has been done a few times temporarily due to various construction projects and bridge repair issues. It causes a significant problem for emergency services which need to cross the river. Staffing had to be increased to supplement capacity during those projects at a very high cost.

    I think this idea is not feasible in any way. Two of the city’s largest employers are located on the North side of the river and the hospital has a large amount shift work which means crews have to come in to work at the same time crews get off work. I’m sure UML would also have some similar issues as the school has many operations beyond the typical business hours.

    Speaking from a fire department perspective, we already have some response time issues on the North side of the river. It takes a very long time to get more than one engine to outer Pawtucketville, outer University Ave or the back of Christian Hill. There are only three pieces of fire equipment and nine firefighters between Centralville and Pawtucketville. Call volume is rising, not falling. UML expansion has made the area busier than any time in history and the VFW highway Beaver Brook bridge replacement is already slowing responses down.

    In addition the side street capacity on Middlesex, Aiken and Pawtucket St could not handle the additional inflow of vehicles. You would simply be pushing the problem a little up the street. We need to encourage fewer car trips and other means of getting around.

  2. Brian says:


    I’d imagine the most often heard complaint councilors hear is about traffic. I’d also imagine every councilor, at one point, thinks they might have the answer to this nagging problem.

    Synchronizing lights, cops directing traffic, widening streets, adding signs, building garages, mandating off-street parking, and temporary one-way street initiatives have been tried and ALL HAVE FAILED. It’s only going to get worse with the HCD buildout.

    This recent Strong Towns article sheds some light on why we, and other stubborn cities, keep failing.

    We’re applying simple or complicated solutions to a complex problem. Given the basic geometry of our streets and number of cars out there this isn’t something we can figure out without destroying our city in the process.

    Your last comment “We need to encourage fewer car trips and other means of getting around.” is the only way forward that has a chance of working. Creating a protected bike lane network and making it easier to walk to destinations is complicated but far less complex than making cars work in a street network built before the automobile.

    When voters start demanding this, instead of complaining about traffic to councilors, we’ll see change. Until then quality of life in Lowell will worsen.