City Council Preview: December 5, 2017


Mimi Parseghian looks at the agenda for this coming Tuesday’s Lowell City Council meeting, which begins at 6:30 pm and will be televised live on LTC channel 99 and streamed live on LTC’s website. And if you can’t attend the meeting in person, or watch it live, check back here tomorrow night right after the meeting when I’ll post my City Council meeting notes. From Mimi . . .

After a two week hiatus, the Lowell City Council will meet this coming Tuesday. The agenda has a handful of Council motions and quite a few Administrative answers to previous motions.

Of major interest to all are the two line items that pertain to the City’s real estate taxes for next year.  One is from the Administration asking the City Council to approve the transfer of $2.1 million from the Overlay Account to the General Fund.  The other is a motion from City Councilor Rodney Elliott requesting that the City Manager provide a report regarding “Free Cash” for Fiscal Year Ending June 30th and Discuss Using a Portion to Reduce Taxes.

The majority of us have a difficult time understanding all of the complexities off municipal finance.  Fortunately for me, I read Joe Smith’s posts on Facebook.  This morning on the Lowell Live Feed page he discussed these two items: “The City appears to be taking action to hold down the current year’s tax.,, But the latter [free cash] was ‘borrowed’ from the reserve fund with the promise to pay that fund back once the free cash was certified. The problem with using reserves to fund the current budget is that it will weaken the debt borrowing capacity with some big items on the table in the near future. Maybe we should ask why is there a need when the budget requested just a 1.5% increase in the tax levy, and already the new growth has exceeded the budget prediction.”

The agenda has the customary Verizon and National Grid requests and reports.  Having followed the City Council activities for a quite a few years, it appears that these types of requests have increased.  My observation is anecdotal at best but a my concern is that too many of these requests are for stub poles and anchors.  Those are the wires and metal poles which are added to the old wooden poles to bring stabilize them.

There also a number of items on Zoning issues as well appointments.

City Councilor Elliott has another motion:  “Request City Traffic Engineer Determine If the Traffic Signals At the Intersection Of Mammoth Road And 4th Avenue (In Front Of The McAvinnue School) Can Be Changed To The Type That Have A Flashing White Strip In The Center, Similar To Those On The Pawtucket Blvd. At Camelot Court/Sampas Pavilion.

City Councilor Rita Mercier is requesting the “City Manager Ask The Lowell Memorial Auditorium Board Of Trustees To Possibly Communicate With The President Of The Tenant Council At Fr. Norton Manor On High Street When There Is A Large Event Held During The Day So That Fr. Norton Manor May Make Arrangements For Needed Parking For Care Givers Arriving At The Apartments.

The last motion is from City Councilor Jim Leary requesting City Manager to Review Feasibility Of Adding Foch Avenue To Street Paving List.


Motion on 11/7/2017 by City Councilor John Leary 8.3 Councilor Leary – Request City Manager report on status of low-riding cars in the City; report to include actual Massachusetts statute regarding low-riding cars and the enforcement required.

I found the answer quite interesting.  It details the number and types of citations issued for these violations from September 2016 to Present.  That number is 407 and they cover four types of violations: Altered Heights (41 citations @ $35); Harsh and Objectionable Muffler (79 citations @ $50); Tires Extended Outside of Fenders (48 citations @ #100) and Excessive Window Tint (238 citations @ $250.00 238).

Motion on 10/17/17 from both City Councilor Jim. Leary and City Councilor John Leahy – Request City Manager have DPW paint and update crosswalks in front of Father Martin E. Norton Manor at 117 – 137 High Street.  Done!

Motion on 7/25/17 Councilor Rourke – Request City Manager have Traffic Engineer look into a four way stop at the intersection of Riverside and Sparks Street. The informative and well- presented 3-page response prepared by the City’s interim City Enginerr Nicolás H. Bosonetto. It not only includes a narrative but images and a schematic.  The final answer: “A four-way stop sign at this location is not warranted by MUTCD or MassDOT regulations. However, a four-way stop sign was installed on a trial basis 60 days ago and it has now been removed because it caused significant traffic congestion and numerous complaints that traffic was being backed up to University Avenue during afternoon rush hour.”

Motion on 9/12/17 8.13 City Councilor Corey Belanger – Request the City Manager work with the Lowell Police Department to enhance safety patrols along street corridor from Kearney Square to Kerouac Park. In the past 3 months there were 157 calls to that area, however 114 of those calls, 73% were Proactive Policing which includes Directed Patrols, Foot Patrols, Property Checks, and Warrant Checks.

Motion on 7/11/17 City Councilor Jim Leary – Request the City Manager Provide an update regarding the improvements to be made on Chelmsford Street. Response should be filed under unambiguous category. Here is the last paragraph: “Due to the high number of transportation construction project currently being undertaken by the city (TIGER bridges, Lord Overpass, Thorndike Street widening, HCID roadways, etc.) there is a lack of funding and staff resources to undertake this project in the near future. It is estimated that improvements would be scheduled for construction in the 2020-2023 timeframe.”

Nicholas Navin, Parking Director SUBJECT: Update to Council Motion of 4/25/17 by Councilor Leary: Request City Manager review the feasibility of creating an application (“App”) to determine the availability of parking spaces within the City owned parking garages and public parking on streets.

Update on Motion of 4/25/17 City Councilor Jim Leary – Request City Manager review the feasibility of creating an application (“App”) to determine the availability of parking spaces within the City owned parking garages and public parking on streets. This option is not coming to Lowell any time soon.  “Many of the parking technologies to improve wayfinding and circulation are very expensive with an array of pros and cons. These endeavors would no doubt improve the parking experience, but under the current conditions and parking rates it would be very difficult if not impossible to afford at this time. To continue making progress to this end, we should consider investing collaboratively with other departments into the communications infrastructure downtown so that we can be poised to make these improvements in the future.”

Motion on 9/12/17 City Councilor Rourke – Request City Manager add Fowler Road to the paving list. Fowler Road. and Boulevard Street, which is right next to Fowler in the Pawtucketville section of the City have been added to the paving list.

Verbal motion Councilor Milinazzo – Request City Manager for information regarding additional veteran tax exemptions. The Administration attached a 2-page listing on Veteran’s Laws and Benefits from the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s office.

Motion on 9/26/2017 by City Councilor Corey Belanger – Request City Manager Update City Council Regarding Bids for Corporate Sponsorship of Parks and Open Spaces. “The City’s Purchasing Agent in May 2017 issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for naming opportunities for athletic fields that was sent to the largest employers in Lowell. Due to a limited response, the RFP was extended to a July 2017 deadline date from which two companies responded to the RFP but did not meet our expectations. In order to advance this project the City is negotiating a contract with the Greater Merrimack Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to sell advertisements at the Martin-Alumni Complex and act as fiscal agent and solicitor.”

Motion on  5/16/17 City Councilor Jim Leary – Request the City Manager provide an update regarding the feasibility for combining the Public Works and Lowell Public Schools Custodian departments into a Maintenance Department. “The finance department has been working internally with the law department, HR, and public works, to investigate the feasibility and potential financial and operational efficiencies that could be achieved by combining the school custodial department with the lands and buildings division of DPW. To assist in the investigation and develop a plan for implementation, the city has engaged the professional services of the Collins Center for Public Management at UMass Boston… The team will analyze the provision of facilities management across the various departments of the City, and propose structures and other changes that may eliminate redundancy, decrease long-term costs, and/or improve service delivery. “ The report will cost the City $25,000.