City Council Meeting Preview: Jan 16, 2018

Mimi Parseghian provides this preview of tomorrow night’s Lowell City Council Meeting

This week’s extensive agenda offers a glimpse into what may be an area of concentration for the 2018 – 2019 Lowell City Council.  I am referring to City Councilwoman Karen Cirillo’s five motions.  I appreciate it when an elected official has a focus and wants to advance topics which may not be on the mainstream’s radar.

The freshman Councilor has three motions that could be classified as environmental concerns.

  1. Request City Manager direct the law department to create an ordinance that would require the City of Lowell ban plastic bags in stores larger than 4,000 square feet. The ordinance would only apply to carryout bags used at stores. These are to be exempt from the ban: thin-film plastic bags used for dry cleaning, newspapers, flexible transparent covering for uncooked raw meat, poultry, raw fish, hard cheese, cold cuts, fruit, vegetables, baked goods or bread and wet items.
  2. Request City Manager approve the purchase of 10,000 reusable bags for our seniors and low-income residents and develop a plan to distribute them to our residents.
  3. Request City Manager direct the law department to create an ordinance that would require the city of Lowell ban all sales and distribution of expanded polystyrene (styrofoam) food containers, with a requirement that food packaging be recyclable or compostable. This ordinance will affect all establishments that serve food or drink in single-use disposable service-ware. This includes but is not limited to cups, plates, bowls, hinged or lidded containers, straws, cup lids, and utensils. Food establishments such as restaurants and fast food stores, grocery and convenience stores, beverage retailers, and other retailers will be required to comply with this ordinance.

I will not anticipate the reaction of her fellow Council members.  I am hoping to be surprised and that these motions will find the majority willing to entertain the impact of trying to minimize or eliminate material that cannot be recycled.  In his Sunday column, Dick discussed the City’s plan for sustainability; urging the City Council not to ignore it but to modify it if need be.

I appreciate Ms. Cirillo’s introducing motions that are bold and that will generate analysis leading to creative solutions.  Now let’s see if the majority of the City Council shares my views.

The fourth motion introduced by Councilwoman Cirillo is “Request the City Manager direct the department of planning and development to give the City an update regarding where we are in the process of the canal bridges’ bids which are due to be received on January 30th.” I look forward to this report.  I for one am a bit confused about the total cost and the details of the transfer of ownership of the canal bridges to the City.

Her last motion Requests “City Manager have the Division of Planning and Development produce a zoning amendment to allow the zoning board of appeals to issue a special permit for the addition of front porches to existing homes.”  I hope the Council allows this motion to advance to the Zoning Sub-Committee so that the concept can be fully studied and discussed.

The last motion on the Agenda is from City Councilwoman Rita Mercier “Request installation of (2) handicap parking signs in the front of the East End Club at 15 W. 4th. Street.”

The City Manager’s portion of the Agenda is quite lengthy. The Motion Responses portion has five items.

Response to City Councilor Bill Samara’s motion (10.24.17) “request 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.”

The reply drafted from Henri Marchand indicates that the Division of Planning and Development is in the process of applying for a $400,000 grant to help fund improvements at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium; the Cultural Affairs and Special Events (CASE) will explore opportunities for funding and partnerships to develop additional lighting and public art in the city. Currently they are working with the Lowell Waterways Vitality Project. They are also working with the Cultural Office of Lowell to complete a significant public art project in Utopian Park.  Utopian Park is the one acre of land at the triangle tip of the Hamilton Canal.

Response to Mayor (now City Councilor) Ed Kennedy motion (4.4.17) Request City Manager consider the construction of a dike on the west bank of Beaver Brook and make it part of the Capital Plan.” Answer provided by Nicolas Bosonetto, Interim City Engineer. In 2008, The US Army Corps of Engineers performed a preliminary study of Beaver Brook and the effects of upgrading the levee system along the brook. Further study is therefore needed to analyze the impacts the proposed levees would have upstream of the levees and a cost/benefit analysis for the ‘non-structural’ options such as relocation of homes.

Response to Councilor Rita Mercier motion of 9/12/17. Request City Manager have Traffic Engineer install handicap parking sign (60 day trial) for 380 West Meadow Road behind home on LaPlume Avenue.” The handicap parking sign was placed on LaPlume Avenue two months ago. The associated 60-day trial ordinance was inadvertently left out, but has now been included in 60-day trial ordinances per council vote on January 2, 2018.

Nicolás H. Bosonetto, Interim City Engineer (Interim) answered Mayor (now City Councilor) Ed Kennedy motion (5.9.17) “Request City Manager have Traffic Engineer reexamine the intersection of High Street and Rogers Street (Moody School) for possible installation of a 4-way stop sign.” A four-way stop sign is not warranted at this location. However, a number of significant changes have been made: new pedestrian warning system; repainting of lane markings; new crosswalk were constructed; a speed limit sign has been installed; and crossing guard is stationed for dismissal and arrival of the students.

Motion from City Councilor John Leahy (10.3.17) “Request City Manager have proper department review congested traffic at intersection (lights) at Aiken Avenue and Lakeview Avenue, and report possible solutions.” 1. No Right on Red signs have been placed at the intersections to diminish the number of vehicles turning onto Aiken Street from the west side of the intersections. 2. MassDOT will be reconstructing the traffic signal at Aiken Street and VFW Highway intersection in the summer of 2018. As part of the design process the city requested that the new MassDOT signal be constructed with the capability of communicating with the city’s signals at Lakeview and West Sixth Street.

There are four items under the City Manager’s Information portion of the Agenda

2017 Compstat Crime Data A 2-page document on the 2017 crime data in the City. The bottom line is that crime is down.

Attorney General’s Receivership Program Dick gave a detailed explanation of this effort in Sunday’s post. The memo written by Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services, reports on Attorney General Maura Healey’s efforts to assist the City with the issue of abandoned properties.

Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services, also wrote the report on Clearing of Snow from Sidewalks. The snow clearing ordinance requires that a property owner remove snow from an adjacent sidewalk within 12 hours after snow ceases falling. Slagle writes:

“Our inspectors track which properties have been warned. Should either a follow up inspection or a subsequent complaint indicate that the snow has not been removed from the sidewalk, the property owner receives a violation with a $100 fine. There are challenges that our inspectors face in the enforcement of this ordinance. First, in some of the neighborhoods in the City, not all of the streets have sidewalks, and this fact can be difficult to ascertain once a large amount of snow has fallen. Also, a subsequent snowfall can start the clock ticking again for shoveling. Finally, weather conditions and/or weekends can render a warning moot if the snow would disappear naturally. For the winter of 2016-2017, Development Services staff issued 145 warnings for snow removal, and wrote 19 violations for a total of $1,900. For the winter of 2017-2018 thus far, Development Services staff issued 105 warnings for snow removal, and wrote 13 violations for a total of $1,300.”

Snow removal, clean sidewalk, and paved roads are a major issue in the winter.  In addition to this report, there is going to be a presentation on Snow Removal.  The agenda did not have any other details but I believe this was a decision made by the City Manager after there were a series of questions on snow removal by the City DPW and contractors.

One Response to City Council Meeting Preview: Jan 16, 2018

  1. Donovan White says:

    Santander Bank has been plowing their parking lot snow onto the sideawalk on Merrimack St for years.