Lowell City Council Preview: April 9, 2018

Mimi Parseghian previews tomorrow night’s Lowell City Council meeting:

This week City Council agenda is led by a vote “To execute the Employment Agreement between the City of Lowell and Incoming City Manager Eileen M. Donoghue.”  In his Sunday post, Dick discussed the use of “employment agreement” as opposed to “contract” in Lowell City Council history.

Motion Responses by Administration:

There are 8 motion responses on this week’s agenda.  Some are straight forward, some should create some discussions and others are going straight to a sub-committee for further discussion.

Motion by Councilor Karen Cirillo (1/16/18): “Request 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.” The response, prepared by R. Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services explains in detail the current zoning laws that cover this topic but points out that “statutory requirements for obtaining such relief that are burdensome.” He concludes by stating “…Development Services believes that the current zoning strikes the proper balance between encouraging porches in residential neighborhoods, and establishing appropriate front setbacks to maintain the neighborhood character.”

Motion by former Councilor C. Belanger (12/2/17): “Request City Manager update the City Council regarding UTEC Mattress Recycling Facility.” The response was prepared by Diane N. Tradd, Assistant City Manager/DPD Director. After providing background information on UTEC and its mattress recycling program, including statistics and data on its current operation as well as facility, Assistant City Manager Tradd wrote: “As the City Council is aware, last year UTEC was unsuccessful in bidding for the former Soucy Industries site at 252 Mount Vernon Avenue. It was the high bidder with a $352,000 offer, but it was determined that a competing proposal by local general contractor S&R Corporation was more advantageous and brought more long-term value to the neighborhood.” She concluded her memorandum by stating “DPD continues to update UTEC when new properties come on the market or other opportunities arise and will remain engaged with the organization as it identifies a site to build a new facility.”

Motion by Councilor E. Kennedy (12/12/2017): “Request City Manager [work] with the Superintendent of Schools to develop a school facility maintenance master plan and designate funds to support it.” The three-page response, prepared by CFO Conor Baldwin states “A scope of services for the study was developed and publicly advertised for proposals via RFP 18-68 (‘Facility Condition Assessment’) on March 5, 2018. The scope of services included in the RFP is attached to this memorandum. Five (5) proposals were received by the Chief Procurement Officer on March 22, 2018 and a selection committee of five (5) city officials, representing both the city and the school department, were appointed to the review committee. The proposals are currently under review and once all members of the committee have submitted their recommendations to the Purchasing Department, the committee will meet to decide next steps and whether interviews with the respondents are warranted.”

The final report is expected to be completed by August 30, 218.  According to the CFO, the objective is to develop a “long-range Capital Plan for all municipal buildings.  The

The desired outcome is an electronic database containing current information about municipal buildings for use by the City’s facilities and management personnel. The City of Lowell would expect to own the database and continue to use it and update it as a living document following the completion of the study. “

Motion by City Council V. Nuon (4/3/18): ‘Request City Manager provide list of names and terms of service for City Boards and Commissions.” In his memo to the City Council, Acting City Manager Michael Geary writes that “City website has been updated to include the current title, member name, term expiration date and a point of contact for all of the City’s advisory bodies. This will be an ongoing process as individuals are added and removed.” The response provides the listing Boards and Commissions members, their date of appointment and the date of their appointment expires. There are close to a hundred volunteers serving on the 23 Boards and Commissions.

I always felt that the Council and the City Manager should have an aggressive recruiting campaign to generate a city-wide effort to get more people involved in serving on these Boards and Commissions.

Motion by City Council J. Leahy (4/3/18): “Request City Manager provide update regarding Downtown Spring Cleaning (Including Summer Jobs).” The response, prepared by newly-appointed Department of Public Works Commissioner, James Donison, lists the 2018 Street Sweeping Schedule, which is also available on the City Website. The City Street Sweeping effort has already begun.  As far as Downtown is concerned, “The annual plan for the Downtown is for the sweepers to be scheduled for additional patrol in order to supplement the vacuum trucks. [The area has been extended]  to include the Middlesex Street corridor leading to the Judicial Center construction site.  According to the memo, “the Summer Jobs programs are organized through the Lowell Career Center and the City Recreation Department. Depending on their budgets.”

Motion by Councilor R. Mercier (3/27/18): “Request City Manager place Phoenix Drive on the re-paving list.” This response was also prepared by Jim Donison, P.E., DPW Commissioner.  He writes that the reference must be Research Drive.  According to City records, currently this is a private drive.  Mass DOT took land to construct Research Drive but failed to deeded to the City. The City will reach out the DOT to initiate the request.  Upon acceptance by the City, the street will be added to the repaving list.

Motion by Councilor K. Cirillo (3/20/18): “Request City Manager provide an update report regarding National Grid’s gas pipeline project for a new 12 inch line to replace current 6 inch line which will run through Chelmsford, Lowell and Tewksbury.”  The response was short: “This gas line replacement is a requirement as part of a Federal program which will allow a robotic inspection camera to be able to inspect the interior of a larger size gas pipeline to insure pipeline integrity for safety reasons. Public hearings have been held. National Grid has indicated that the project may start construction in the fall of 2019 pending all City and State approvals. They are available to make a presentation to City Council if requested.”  If I read this correctly, the City Council will need to make some kind of approval.  I will until wait until Tuesday for further clarification.

Motion by Councilor E. Kennedy (03/27/18): “Request City Manager instruct Downtown Coordinator to develop a practical policy for decorating the display windows in vacant storefront units in the Central Business District.” In years past, the Cultural Organization of Lowell (COOL) undertook projects to assist property owners with vacant storefronts in decorating their windows during the holiday season from the City of Lights parade in November through December. The Economic Development Office will leverage that outreach (Downtown Stakeholders meeting on March 5, 2018) and momentum to work with the Office of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (CASE) and others within DPD to devise a strategy and policy for decorating vacant storefronts in the Central Business District. Input will also be sought from stakeholders. “

The other major vote taken by the City Council on Tuesday is an ordinance amending our Zoning Laws regarding the Marijuana Business.

Motions by City Councilors: Although there are 9 motions, numbers 1, 3 and 7 are on the same subject.  They will probably be taken together.

Councilor R. Mercier: Request City Manager find ways and means to create a childrens’ neighborhood playground next to 517 Moody St. on City property in the Acre section of the City.

Councilor V. Nuon: Request City Manager install civilian camera’s in the Treasurer’s/Collectors office

Councilor V. Nuon: Request City Manager direct the Parks Department to install swings and slides on City Park located next to St. Joseph’s apartments @ 511 Moody St.

Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager provide the City Council with a report on the potential installation of “short story dispensers” at strategic locations.

Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager instruct the proper department provide a report of any broken streetlights that are in need of replacement and in the report have protective options for the lights, for example a grate placed underneath.

Councilor K. Cirillo: Request City Manager instruct the division of planning and development to compile an updated inventory of vacant upper story downtown office/business spaces, including how long they have been vacant

Councilor E. Kennedy: Request City Manager to initiate a plan to upgrade and improve the public park on Moody St.

Councilor E. Kennedy: Request City Manager add Glenellyn Road to repaving list and take immediate steps to repair the potholes on Glenellyn Road.

Councilor E. Kennedy: Request the LTC consider installing the apparatus necessary to televise the sub-committee meetings and other appropriate events in the Mayor’s Reception Room.