Lowell City Council Meeting: December 5, 2017

Council unanimously votes to reappoint Michael Geary as City Clerk.

Councilor Mercier on a point of personal privilege says she was not invited to the city’s Holiday Open House that took place earlier this evening. She says other councilors did not get the word about it either. She says in all her time on the council she’s never been disrespected like she was tonight. Mayor Kennedy says he does not run it, and did not invite anyone to it. He says it was planned through the city manager’s office and he’s surprised that the city manager’s office did not invite councilors. Councilor Elliott says “none of us were notified.” He says he came early by coincidence. He says this event is for the people and no one seemed to know about it.

Reports to Council

Low Riding Cars (Police Enforcement of rules against them). Councilor Leary askes Police Supt Taylor to explain the report. Taylor reviews the various ordinances and statutes that come into play such as loud and objectionable noise, tinted windows, altering the height of the car and other related things. In the past year, the Lowell PD has written citations in excess of $600,000 for violations of these rules. The police actively enforce these rules throughout the year.

Safety Patrols at Kerouac Park – Councilor Belanger complements Chief Taylor on the improvements to this area. The Chief says the police have increased patrols in the area, so the number of calls have decreased. Also, the police are working closely with other city agencies like the parks department to use a comprehensive approach. They are also investigating video surveillance equipment for the park.

Chelmsford Street Improvements – Councilor Leary acknowledges that many of the desirable features will be expensive to undertake, so it’s a question of money. He asks about less expensive things like painting cross walks, relining the street.

Corporate Sponsorships of Parks – Councilor Belanger is disappointed that there have been so few responses to the city’s RFP soliciting advertisement. Manager Murphy says an RFP is not the best way to solicit advertising; it takes a more personal touch, however, the city doesn’t have the staff to do that and it might not be appropriate for the city to do it. The city is working with the Convention and Visitor Bureau to take on that role. Another factor, though, is that fewer and fewer people are attending youth sporting events, so low attendance might be a disincentive to businesses to spend money advertising in this way.

Feasibility of Combined Maintenance Departments – Councilor Leary says if the city follows through on this it should save a lot of money and will do a better job of getting the work done in a timely manner. Representatives from the Collins Center of Boston is in the midst of conducting a feasibility study of combining city and school maintenance departments. The final report is due in February.

Public Hearing

Proposal to amend zoning ordinance – John Hamlet of Pawtucketville Citizens Council speaks in favor. Says his group has participated in many meetings. Thanks everyone that was involved in the process. Asks that the matter be returned to the Zoning Subcommittee for further consideration. Eric Slagle of Developmental Services speaks next. Councilor Milinazzo moves to suspend this public hearing for one week and to have the Zoning Subcommittee review the questionable items at a meeting earlier that same night. Councilors Elliott, Belanger and Mercier question a proposed amendment that allows dormitory-type facilities to have parking up to 1500 feet away. They are concerned that parking that far away won’t be used. Instead residents of such buildings will find parking closer to the residence, thereby disrupting the neighborhood. Councilor Mercier adds that this is an attempt to slip in a change that would allow the construction of a new private dormitory at Merrimack and Cabot Street which has previously been rejected to slip in under this new code. She moves that this portion of the amendment be removed tonight. Eric Slagle says he believes there is a misunderstanding of the purpose of this item. The existing zoning already says 1500 feet. This just clarifies how that distance is measured – entrance to entrance as the crow flies. It makes it more enforceable. It’s just for consistency. And since the supposed dormitory is much farther than 1500 feet away from any parking, this has nothing to do with that project. Councilor Mercier is persuaded to withdraw her motion and have that item be referred to the subcommittee too. Councilor Belanger says he has citywide concerns about how this item – the 1500 feet from a parking garage – has on other projects. Matter referred to subcommittee next Tuesday.

Public hearing to abandon portions of Montreal Street. Joe Dussault of the VFW says doing this will assist the VFW with parking.

Public hearing to adopt minimum residential factor for FY2018. Councilor Elliott explains that the city has two tax rates with the higher rate applied to businesses and the lower rate to residences. Conor Baldwin says the .85 number is the maximum amount the city can shift away from residences and onto businesses.

Communications: Manager appoints Marie Elianor to Hunger Homeless Commission.

Vote to transfer $2.1mil certified as surplus to reduce the FY2018 tax levy.

Council Motions

Elliott – Req. City Mgr. provide a report regarding “free cash” for fiscal year ending June 30th; and discuss using a portion to reduce taxes. City Manager says city estimate is $5mil although it hasn’t been certified by DOR yet. Councilor Elliott says this is the result of good management. He believes some of this money should be given back to the tax payers.

Elliott – Req. 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. Councilor Elliott says he stood at McAvinnue School on election day and witnessed many cars driving through the red light that allowed pedestrians to cross. Would like safety features to be upgraded before a serious accident happens.

Mercier – Req. City Mgr. 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.

Leary – Req. City Mgr. review feasibility of adding Foch Street to street paving list.

Meeting adjourned at 7:40 pm.

5 Responses to Lowell City Council Meeting: December 5, 2017

  1. DickH says:

    I went back and looked at my blog post of the November 21, 2017 city council meeting. This was the final entry: “December 5 from 4 to 6 pm will be the Holiday Open House at City Hall. The public is invited.”

    (However, even though I heard it, typed it, and posted it, I did not immediately put the event on my schedule and completely forgot about it until it came up during last night’s council meeting).

  2. Jason says:

    Two separate emails about the holiday open house, one with a save the date card attached, were sent out to the entire city via the email broadcast system by James Ostis in the Mayor’s Office on 11/20 and 11/28.

    Do city councilors in 2017 expect us to believe they do not use their city email? Does the mayor expect us to believe he doesn’t know what comes from his own office?

    Election is over, here come their true colors. I’d be happy to provide copies of the emails for posting. Have to wonder if this is aimed directly at the manager.

  3. David Maine says:

    I don’t see anything about the report on tax exemptions for veterans? There was a line item in the Lowell Sun on Wednesday.

  4. DickH says:

    The council didn’t discuss the report Tuesday night, so I didn’t type anything about it.

    However, Mimi did cover it in her “council preview” post on Monday. Here’s what she wrote: “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.”