City Council Preview: May 14, 2018

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

This week’s City Council agenda is dominated by the vote for two major ordinances.

The first is the regulation of recreational sales of marijuana.

As we recall back in November 2016, the voters of Massachusetts passed a referendum legalizing the use of marijuana for adults.  It took the legislature about 2 years to come up with the structure that will oversee this implementation of this referendum.  Since the majority of Lowellians voted for this measure, it would have taken another community-wide election to prevent its implementation in this City.

The Lowell Council wisely chose to determine how to best implement this new law, providing the necessary control and safety while accepting the necessary revenue.  There will be a 17% tax on marijuana sales, 3% coming directly to Lowell.

Lowell already has a medical marijuana dispensary.  It is located near where I live and there has not been a single incident since they have set up the offices. The new Massachusetts law prevents the same facility to sell both medial and recreational marijuana.

The second ordinance is the single-used plastic ban.  The City of Lowell recently voted to join many other Massachusetts communities in banning the use of these plastic bags. Not only they are a cause of trash as they flow freely through the City but also they cannot be recycled and the City gets penalized by our waste disposal contractors.

If accepted, the ordinance will go into effect on January 1, 2019 and it will only be applied to establishments over 3,000 square feet.  In addition to this ordinance, the City Council will take a vote to support House Bill 2121, “An Act reducing plastic bag pollution.” The bill would prohibit disposable plastic bags at retail establishments and restaurants.


There are eight motion responses from the City Administration.

Paws to Read: Motion by Councilor K. Cirillo (2/27/18) Request City Manager Explore Feasibility of Implementing “Paws to Read” program at the Pollard Memorial Library. The response was prepared by City Libration, Victoria Woodley who seemed enthusiastic about the possibility of such a program.

She writes: “’Paws to Read’ is a therapy program that brings animals (such as dogs) and children together so the children can read to the animals. Is this program effective?  Children who read aloud to therapy dogs or shelter cats on a regular basis demonstrate drastic improvement in their reading skills! Animals provide a safe, non-judgmental presence for struggling readers.

“I have spoken with our Coordinator of Children’s Services. She is very interested in the program.  She would like the time to apply for the dog therapy programs and schedule a meeting with dog handler to check out the demeanor of the dog.

“I recommend that you give us a period of 2 months to vette these programs and let us get back to the Council when and if we can implement a dog therapy program.”

Short Story Dispensers: Motion by Councilor K. Cirillo (9/4/2017) Request City Manager Provide City Council with Report on the Potential Installation of a “Short Story Dispensers” at Strategic Locations.  This response was also prepared by the City Librarian.

She wrote that “Short Story Dispensers” are not limited to the library but could have a large impact on the City. After giving a detailed explanation how the dispenser functions, she indicated that the Knight Foundation has given the Public Library Association for 3 dispensers in 4 libraries.  Most of the selected locations are in high traffic area including medical facilities.  “The idea is to give families time to read while they are waiting for someone to help them resolve their significant challenges.”

She recommends that we wait for these dispensers to be installed so that we can evaluate their implementation and then decide if we want to invest in them.

I like the concept.  Not only having the opportunity to purchase a short story while I am waiting or hanging around a public area but also this provides an opportunity for local authors to submit their stories.

Tour de Lowell:  Motion by Councilor K. Cirillo (3/23/2018) Request City Manager Provide City Council with Report Regarding the Rejuvenation of the Tour de Lowell; report to include information from prior races in the City.

According to Henri Marchand, who prepared the response, the bicycle races, Tour de Lowell, began in 1981 and ran for 13 years. “The Tour was a one day event that included children’s trike and bike races, a 26 mile amateur road race and a professional 40K Criterion race with cash prizes.

A number of organizations are interested in working to sponsor a similar Tour de Lowell in the summer of 2019. Of course as with festivals and races,  the City of Lowell will supply the necessary public safety and logistic services.

Boating Regulations Merrimack River: Motion by Councilor J. Milinazzo Request the City Manager update the Council regarding working with proper authorities to enforce waterway regulations on the Merrimack River.  In the response provided by William Taylor, Superintendent of Police, he writes that the Lowell Police Department is prohibiting use of personal watercrafts (sky jets) between the Rourke Bridge and the Pawtucket Waterfalls.  The LPD has also purchased a Patrol River Boat and citations will be issued to violators.

Air BNB Zoning Regulations: Motion by Councilor R. Elliott Request hat City Manager Provide a Report Regarding BNB Zoning Regulations and Rentals of Units to Students.  The 28-page report, prepared by Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services, suggest that a new Zoning Ordinance may need to be drafted to cover this area.  He writes “It is unclear if the Zoning Ordinance intended to classify the use of a residential property for short-term rental, such as Air Bnb as a Tourist Home because the Zoning Ordinance does not have a specific definition of Tourist Home Development Services proposed an ordinance change which would have defined Tourist Home and updated the definition of Transient …”

Gas Repairs in Belvidere: Motion by Councilor J. Leahy (5/1/18) Request City Manager have department review the work being done regarding gas repairs throughout Belvidere.  The response prepared by DPW Commissioner, Jim Donison, indicates that “this gas main replacement program will be taking place over the next 11 years throughout the City.”  As far as Belvidere is concerned, Phase 1 has been completed; Phase 2 projected to be completed in July 2018 and Phase 3, August 2018.

 Sidewalks:   Motion by Councilor R. Mercier (5/8/18) Request City Manager Provide a Report Why Sidewalks are not Being Done As Part of Paving Projects In The City; In Addition Find Ways and Means To Do The Same (per Example C. Street); (5/1/18)  Request City Manager Honor the Commitment By The City To Replace Sidewalks on Humphrey Street.

The response “DPW/Engineering will be requesting proposals from contractors to replace sections of deteriorated sidewalk sections and also to extend a 200 foot sidewalk section on the south western section of Humphrey Street towards Methuen Street… Similarly, quotations will be obtained from the current contractor who is performing the roadway work on C Street or from other sidewalk contractors to perform the replacement of the sidewalks on C Street.”
Public Applicant Identification: Memo from City Solicitor Christine O’Connor providing a legal opinion on “Opinion Request on the Confidentiality in the Hiring Process.” If I interpret the opinion correctly, resumes submitted in public session can be disclosed but resumes submitted to a public body, not in public session, cannot be disclosed.

MOTIONS: There are 12 Council motions this week; three of which concern State School Funding.  Dick provided the background in his Sunday post.

Councilor R. Mercier: Request City Manager have City Engineer begin process to accept Grosvenor Street.

Councilor R. Elliott : Request City Council discuss Home Rule Petition to fully fund Charter School Reimbursements to cities and towns.

Councilor E. Kennedy: Request City Manager have Law Department draft City Council Resolution In support of Senate Bill 2506 (An Act Modernizing The Foundation Budget For The 21st Century).

Councilor E. Kennedy: Request Mayor invite the following Merrimack Valley cities of Lawrence, Haverhill, Newburyport and Methuen to join with the City Of Lowell in support of Senate Bill 2506.

Councilor E. Kennedy: Request Mayor invite surrounding communities in the Greater Lowell Area to join with the City of Lowell in support of Senate Bill 2506.

Councilor E. Kennedy: Request City of Lowell join with Brockton and Worcester pursuant to their lawsuit against the Commonwealth Of Massachusetts Re: Foundation Budget (CH. 70).

Councilor K. Cirillo: Request Neighborhoods Sub-Committee hold periodic meetings within the next eight months, in the chamber or in the neighborhoods, to take up various items that have been brought up during their meetings.

Councilor K. Cirillo: City Manager provide the Council with a report regarding the safety of the Smart Water Meters being installed throughout the City.

Councilor K. Cirillo: City Manager an update to Council regarding the State’s response to the issues that arise at the Sampas Pavilion, i.e, late night noise; parking; and safety.

Councilor J. Milinazzo: Request City Manager have “No Parking From Here To Corner” signs installed at the end of Richardson Street by McPherson Park.

Mayor Samaras: Request City Manager review the costs of creating a “311” number for the City of Lowell.

Mayor Samaras: Request City Manager instruct proper department to ensure all restaurants with sidewalk seating comply with the 48 inch clearance as required by the American with Disabilities Act.