City Council Preview: December 18, 2018

Mimi Parseghian previews tonight’s Lowell City Council meeting:

Tonight’s City Council meeting is the last for this year.  It is short on Council motions, just one; but very long on Motion Responses; thirteen of them.

At the conclusion of the open meeting, the Council will meet again in Executive Session to discuss the charter change lawsuit.MOTION RESPONSES

Affordable Housing Motion (7/24/18) by City Councilor V. Nuon “Request City Manager develop a protocol for selling tax title properties to nonprofit organizations with a flexible payment schedule in order to promote their redevelopment as affordable housing.”

The 2-page motion response was submitted by Diane Tradd, DPD Director/Assistant City Manager. “Protocols already exist within the City to sell City-owned tax title properties, and non-profits are encouraged to engage in this protocol. Offering a flexible payment plan to these properties is not currently a viable option because it would need to be offered on all sales of these properties (including those that are not being redeveloped as affordable housing), which would put the city in a position to essentially become a mortgage company. We currently do not have the expertise available to make this a possibility. However, the City does currently offer a number of affordable housing and redevelopment opportunities, and is actively engaged with a number of community not for profit agencies actively working towards this end.”

Motion (3/27/18) by Councilor V. Nuon “Request City Manager have Human Resources Department develop a recruitment policy and procedure for hiring purposes”;  Motion (5/1/18)  by Councilor V. Nuon “Request City Manager provide a report regarding Equal Opportunity Employment in the City”;  Motion (5/1/18)  by Councilor V. Nuon “Request City Manager and Human Resource Department work with the Superintendent of Schools and School/HR department to explore ways and means to attract a diverse pool of candidates for future employment openings.”

City Manager Donoghue provided the Council a one page report which read in part:” In response to the above motions by Councilor Nuon, I convened a Diversity Working Group with the aim of figuring out how the city can ultimately become a more diverse and inclusive workplace. The group has formed with core members from the City Manager’s office, the HR department, the Law department, and the MassHire Career Center, and is tasked with finding ways to increase diversity and inclusion in the city’s hiring and employment practices, and modernizing some of our ongoing Human Resources practices. The group has met a few times thus far and is in the process of developing internal policy to modernize some of our recruiting and hiring practices. The aim of the group is to make some changes which will result in more diverse pools of applicants, ultimately resulting in a workforce that is better representative of the demographics of the city.”

RCN Cable Motion by Councilor J. Milinazzo “Request City Manager meet with representatives from RCN to discuss bringing a second option to residents for internet, cable and telephone services.”

Kare Keefe Mullin, Assistant City Manager replied that a meeting took place with RCN representatives. “RCN was receptive to the idea of studying whether coming into this market would be a good fit for their business, and determined they would need to complete a few studies to determine if Lowell would be a good fit for their business plan. The process of determining if this is a right fit for the City and RCN should take approximately 6 months to complete.”

Quarterly Financial Reports for Schools Motion (12/11/18) by Mayor Bill Samaras “Request City Council instruct City Auditor to provide members of the School Committee with Quarterly Reports on the money spent in each line item of the School Department Budget throughout the Fiscal Year.  (Requested per School Committee).

Bryan Perry, City Auditor replied that “going forward a YTD Budget Report showing those line items associated with the Education function will be provided to the School Administration on a quarterly basis.

Inland Street Motion (10/9/18) by Councilor J. Leahy “Request City Manager have DPW provide a report regarding the repaving, sidewalk repair and curbing in Inland Street.”

Christine Clancy, City Engineered answered that “DPW-Engineering Division in coordination with the City Transportation Engineer has investigated this request. Upon initial site visits and preliminary discussions with property owners, it is evident that the 14 mature existing trees along Inland Street have compromised the accessibility, condition, and the drainage of the sidewalk and roadway. ..It is proposed that the DPW-Engineering Division and the Transportation Engineer develop a proposed concept and hold a neighborhood meeting to further develop a design. The primary objective of the improved street layout will be to provide a resurfaced roadway with improved intersection crossings and ADA compliant sidewalks on at least one side of the street, while also trying to limit the removal of trees and parking.”


National Grid Electric, Luce Street Motion (6/26/18) by Councilor J. Leahy Request City Manager have National Grid identify trouble spots concerning electric infrastructure on Luce Street.

A response to this motion was presented on September 20, 2018. The Council requested additional information.  “Over the past five years (2014-2018), the electrical feeder that services Luce Street and the Belvidere area experienced 42 outages. The extents and duration of each outage varies. The primary causes of the outages are related to fallen trees or tree limbs and animal contact…National Grid performed an analysis of Luce Street and the Belvidere section of Lowell. The analysis shows that the service quality of the electric grid in this area meets the standards regulated by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.”

Pan Am Idling Trains Motion (12/13/18) by Councilor J. Leahy “Request City Manager investigate the reasons for idling trains in the Lawrence Street area.

Eric Slagle, Director of Development Services responded to the motion. “After outreach from Assistant City Manager Kara Keefe-Mullin, Pan Am agreed to a meeting with the City on various issues, including the reports of ‘idling’ of trains on Pan Am tracks near Lawrence St. On November 29, 2018, City staff met with Pan AM. At the meeting, Pan Am explained that the parking of trains for less than 4 hours was not considered idling of trains. These trains in the Lawrence St. area are parked for a process where one train crew leaves the train and another train crew is brought to the tracks via taxi to take over the train. There are requirements for this process which involve having safe and reasonable access to the tracks close to a location where access to taxi service is possible. During this process, Pan Am cannot have the trains shut off as that would require a complete safety check to restart the trains, including every car and connection, which can take upwards of 6 hours.”

Traffic Planning for Retail Cannabis Locations Motion (12/13/18) by Mayor Bill Samaras “Request City Manager instruct proper departments prepare traffic mitigation plans in response to anticipated opening of stores selling retail cannabis.”

Eric Slagle, Director of Development Service provided the response.  He wrote in part,

“From a staff perspective, we believe that the extreme traffic issues that have happened in the first two retail cannabis locations are primarily the result of the small numbers of locations coupled with the novelty of the retail cannabis business. Since any retail locations in Lowell other than Patriot Care would not be opened for several months after a HCA is signed, we do not anticipate the extraordinary traffic issues seen at the state’s first two locations. Nonetheless, we will be keeping a close eye on the traffic situations at various retail cannabis locations throughout the state and will reserve the right to request heightened traffic management plans from locations if the City feels such requirements are necessary.”

25 MPH ORDINANCE Motion (12/13/18) by Councilor K. Cirillo “Request City Manager have proper department review roadways in the City in order to take advantage of the new state law, Chapter 90, Section 17C, allowing communities to lower speed limits on busier roads.”

The response was submitted by Diane Tradd, DPD Director/Assistant City Manager who wrote in part “Note that statutory speed limits only exist in the absence of special speed regulations. Where special speed regulations exist in the City of Lowell, that posted speed limit will always supersede a statutory speed limit within a thickly settled or business district…The Transportation Engineer will review where in the City it would be appropriate to adopt the 25mph speed limit. It may be appropriate City-wide, but is definitely appropriate in the downtown business district and other locations in the City where pedestrian traffic is substantial.”

Traffic Light Sequencing Motion  (12/4/18) by Councilor E. Kennedy request City Manager instruct the Transportation Engineer To Review The Efficiency Of The Traffic Light Sequencing Along Route 113-VFW Highway.

Diane N. Tradd, DPD Director/Assistant City Manager submitted the three-page response, which included a map and a graph, the report concluded that “Interconnecting signals can really help with traffic congestion during peak times as the camera detection and connected controllers can turn a light red to stop traffic flowing into a congested area until the downstream controllers clear the roadway. The Transportation Engineer recommends requesting that MassDOT perform a study to determine if the signal timing could be sequenced to improve traffic flow along that route. It is also recommended that the City pursue options to have a case study of interconnected signals in the downtown along Bridge and Merrimack to evaluate the impact on traffic flow and congestion.”

Split Annual School Appropriation Motion (12/11/18) by Mayor B. Samaras “Request City Council direct City Manager break out costs of Transportation and Adult Education from cash contribution provides by the City in the Budget. (Per Request of School Committee).

Conor Baldwin, Chief Financial Officer/ Acting Treasurer/ Collector submitted the response. “Lowell has historically appropriated one, lump-sum total each year in the annual operating budget to the school department to support the Lowell Public School District. From that total appropriation, the school committee exercises full budgetary control to sub-classify and appropriate sums for various educational purposes… However, it is worth noting that if the FY2020 budget is appropriated in the manner suggested by the School Committee, any transfers between the classifications would then require an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the City Council, in addition to a vote of the School Committee… the School Department may request to the City Manager an amount necessary for each appropriation, but the City Manager shall decide and ultimately submit an amount to the City Council for approval.”

EMG Study & MSBA Repairs Motion by Councilors E. Kennedy and K. Cirillo “Request City Manager develop an action plan at eliminating the deferred maintenance in all of the schools throughout the City and that the City Manager seek funding from the MSBA in order to implement the Action Plan.”

Motion by Councilor E. Kennedy “Request City Manager re-organize the way in which the City addresses the deferred maintenance of School Buildings in order to improve productivity and efficiency.

The eleven-page report submitted by City Manager includes tables and data.  In her opening comments the City Manager writes “The City engaged EMG Corp. in a city-wide municipal facilities conditions study which will inform our preventative maintenance plan for all municipal facilities going forward. The final reports from this study were delivered to our office just this week, and we are sorting through the vast amount of information contained therein. In parallel, the City is in the process of acquiring and implementing a work-order system. The EMG study will inform the preventative maintenance plans within each building – these plans will need to be loaded into the work-order system so that each time a preventative maintenance item comes due for service, a work-order will automatically be generated and delivered to the appropriate party for completion. This remains a work in progress and is a large undertaking for multiple departments.”

I am assuming that the report will be sent to a sub-committee for further discussion and eventually serve as a blue print for the implementation of the recommendations.

Falls Water Gauge at Pawtucket Motion by Councilors E. Kennedy and K. Cirillo “Request City Manager take the necessary steps to install a water-level gauge at the Pawtucket Falls.

The response states that “this week City Engineer, Christine Clancy and City Solicitor, Christine O’Connor, followed up on an earlier letter sent to Enel regarding the installation of a Water-Level Gauge at the Pawtucket Falls. This past Wednesday they had a phone call with representatives from Enel’s local office, as well as their headquarters in Italy. The matter has been sent for further study, but it is expected that we will hear back with a decision sometime after the holidays.”


Mayor Bill Samaras “Request City Manager provide a report to the City Council and School Committee/Administration regarding School Department reimbursement for the Digital Connections Partnership School Grant Program totaling $553,217.46 that was sent to the Lowell Treasurer/Collector’s Office in February Of 2018 as well As Medicaid Reimbursement. (Per Request Of The School Committee).

One Response to City Council Preview: December 18, 2018

  1. Christopher Hazel says:

    “addresses the deferred maintenance of School Buildings

    “will inform our preventative maintenance ”

    A proper preventive maintenance plan avoids any need to defer maintenance. But I have to wonder if the motion was just about mitigating deferred maintenance going forward or if “address” means talking about the what it would take to bring previously deferred items back to a state of good repair. That is, capturing what the effort and cost is to maintain an inventory that’s in a “normal” state of good repair vs. capturing the cost and effort to bring inventory *back up to* a “normal” state of good repair from a long period of deferred maintenance are two different things.