Lowell City Council meeting: March 5, 2019
Date: March 5, 2019
Time: 6:30 PM
ROLL CALL – all present
CITY CLERK – Minutes of Public Safety SC February 26th; City Council Meeting February 26th, for acceptance.
COMMUNICATIONS FROM CITY MANAGER – Motion Responses
A) Motion Response – Community Preservation Act – Register of Deeds Richard Howe spoke about the Community Preservation Act. He explained that it is a state law passed in 2000 that provides an incentive to cities and towns to preserve open space, create outdoor recreation opportunities, to do historic preservation, and to build affordable housing. If the residents of a city vote to raise their taxes to fund any of these things, the state will match the money raised from the Community Preservation Trust fund. The money in that fund comes from a surcharge on documents recorded at the Registry of Deeds. Since the law was created, property owners in Lowell have paid more than $5.9 million into the fund but because the city has not adopted the Act, none of that money has come back to Lowell. Several councilors spoke favorably about the Community Preservation Act. Councilors referred the report to the Council’s Housing Subcommittee to gather more information about the process.
B) Motion Response – Maryl Drive –This is a very steep, narrow road that connects Rogers Street and Fairmount Street. People use it as a “cut through” which causes damage and dangerous situations to those who live on the street. They are going to restrict the road to local traffic only and strictly enforce it.
C) Motion Response – School Contract Costs – Councilor Milinazzo points out that while the city-side of government has been cutting positions and costs, the school department costs, mainly salaries, have gone up considerably. He says teachers work hard and deserve to get paid but there’s only so much money available and so while salaries of the school department have gone up the amount of money the city has been able to spend on maintaining school buildings has gone down.
D) Informational Report – School Department Bad Bills – (a “bad bill” is a debt owed to a vendor from a prior fiscal year which was not paid during that fiscal year). City Manager Donoghue explains she met with leadership of school department today. Had a productive meeting. As a result, the school department will send the city an amended list of bad bills, the documentation for those bills, and a certification that those services were received and were not paid for. The School Dept also agreed to withdraw from the list presented to the council items that have already been paid. So the city is awaiting this new list. Councilors are critical of the quality of the report from the school department, however, City Manager Donoghue continues to explain that the school department is working on a revised report that is more specific and clearer.
E) Informational Report – GFOA Budget Award – A national organization recognized the finance operation of the city of Lowell for outstanding work.
VOTES FROM THE CITY MANAGER
Vote-Approve exemption of Peter Finnegan from MGL c. 268A s. 20 – approved.
Vote-Transfer funds to replace School Dept TV equipment, software and hardware for the operation of the Lowell Educational channel – Manager Donoghue says that the students are unable to use the TV studio while this device is inoperable. The school department does not have the funds to pay for it now. So rather than have the students miss out this entire year, she recommends that the councilors vote to make this transfer so that the equipment can be repaired and used. Voted unanimously.
Wire Insp. – FirstLight (Joyce Consulting Group) – Request permission to install underground fiber optic conduits at intersections of Lawrence and Billerica Streets. Referred to Law Department
Wire Insp. – National Grid/Verizon NE – Request installation of new utility pole and underground conduit at 97 Tanner Street. Referred to Law Department
PETITIONS – Misc. – Pineapple Realty, LLC (Geary & Geary, LLP) request zoning amendment to extend current Light Industrial Zoning District (LI) to include current parcels located in Traditional Two Family Zoning District (TTF) along 264-266 Plain Street and 58 Montreal Street. Referred to Law Department
CITY COUNCIL – MOTIONS
Leahy – Req. City Mgr. forward School Committee report regarding school playground equipment to appropriate department to formulate a plan of action.
Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have Inspectional Services provide a report regarding winter shoveling ordinance compliance and ticketing; as well as an additional report regarding barrel ordinance compliance.
Leahy – Req. City Mgr. have Transportation Engineer review the intersection at Monadnock Avenue and Raynor Street for possible 4 way stop sign.
Leahy – Req. Mayor invite Robert Merrill to the Council Chamber to present to him a Citation honoring his recent life-saving efforts.
2 Responses to Lowell City Council meeting: March 5, 2019
Thanks for your efforts around the Community Preservation Act!!! Can you speak to why this fund has accumulated money for almost 2 decades without any activity? What are the arguments against using the funds? We already spend money on the sorts of projects listed; why haven’t matching funds been used????
The state’s Community Preservation Trust Fund is regularly used by other communities including all the towns that border Lowell. So money paid into the fund by Lowell property owners has long subsidized projects in other communities. I think Lowell has not taken advantage of this fund because the dominant narrative in Lowell city council politics for the past two decades has been to not raise taxes (much). Adopting the CPA requires voters to endorse a referendum that raises their taxes. No one on the council wanted to take the lead on that, perhaps because they believed the majority of the 10,000 people who vote in city elections would not willingly vote to raise their own taxes no matter how beneficial it might be.