People are discussing what’s going to happen with transportation improvements on the Thorndike-Dutton streets corridor because of what they will mean for access to and from the Gallagher transit terminal, around South Common, over to Cambodia Town and Western Avenue Studios, through the Hamilton Canal District, and into the core…Read More »
Lowell City Council: February 17, 2015 Motion Responses Rita Mercier asks if there are any plans to make some streets one way due to their narrowness from snowbanks. Manager Murphy says it’s an excellent suggestion. Mentions Lowell has highest snow fall totals in US. Says there’s a meeting tomorrow to…Read More »
Snowy Roofs On the roof it’s peaceful as can be And there the world below can’t bother me Last week it was ice dams; this week it’s unstable roofs. With the forecasters calling for our current storm to end with heavy, wet snow or even rain, many Lowell residents took…Read More »
Tonight I attended the Lowell City Council Transportation Subcommittee meeting on the Lord Overpass project. In attendance were six or seven representatives of VHB, the engineering firm hired by the state to oversee this project. Also in attendance were more than 30 Lowell residents, most representing groups or constituencies with…Read More »
Welcome to March Well March is finally here. I saw somewhere that March 1st signals the start of “meteorological spring” but today’s forecast is for more snow which will just add to the beauty of the 111+ inches that have already fallen this winter. The City Council, at its Tuesday…Read More »
When I saw the front page of today’s print edition of the Lowell Sun, the photo of the Rialto Building used to illustrate the story on Middlesex Community College looked surprisingly familiar. That’s probably because I’m the one who took it. Below is the photo that appears in today’s Lowell…Read More »
City Auditor report on snow and ice costs. City Manager says Governor Baker is lobbying FEMA to reimburse municipalities 100% for snow costs. Nothing definite but city preparing paper work just in case. Councilor Milinazzo asks city to investigate FEMA reimbursement of lost revenue for some businesses. Manager says he’ll…Read More »
The following is from State Senator Eileen Donoghue:
Dear Friends & Colleagues:
Boston 2024 has launched a series of 20 statewide community meetings over 20 weeks to give the public across Massachusetts an opportunity to ask questions, offer ideas, and help shape the bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games.
I am proud to announce that Lowell will host a community meeting at Lowell City Hall in the Council Chamber on Wednesday, March 11th at 6 pm.
Boston 2024 is in the early stages of a competitive bid process to bring the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games to Massachusetts and this meeting will be an opportunity to discuss the benefits of hosting the Games and its impact on the City of Lowell. I encourage your attendance and participation at this important meeting. Please feel free to share this invitation as the event is open to the public. For additional information about Boston 2024, please visit www.2024boston.org.
I look forward to seeing you there and engaging in a productive conversation about the Games.
Eileen M. Donoghue
The Greater Lowell Chamber of Commerce held its 20th annual Legislative Breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Tewksbury yesterday morning. After welcoming remarks from Tewksbury Board of Selectmen Chair Todd Johnson and some brief remarks from Dr. James Mabry, the new president of Middlesex Community College, the several hundred Chamber members in attendance heard from State Senators Eileen Donoghue and Barbara L’Italien and State Representatives James Arciero, Marc Lombardo, Rady Mom, David Nangle and James Miceli (with me serving as moderator).
Senator Donoghue, who represents the 1st Middlesex District which consists of the city of Lowell and the towns of Dunstable, Groton, Pepperell, Tyngsborough and Westford, spoke of the ongoing “Commonwealth Conversations” that members of the state senate are conducting across the Commonwealth. She said two constant concerns raised by citizens are the need for more and better jobs and the cost of health care. People are also demanding that the state “fix our transportation infrastructure.” Donoghue then talked about the 2024 Olympics (she filed the bill that kicked off the process), emphasizing that the only Massachusetts taxpayer participation in the Olympic effort would be to fix our infrastructure shortcomings which are things that need to be done Olympics or not. She said that under today’s economy, places like South Boston, the Seaport District and Kendall Square have thrived but that much of the rest of the state has been left behind. The Olympic bid will benefit the entire state (especially Lowell which would host rowing on the Merrimack and boxing at the Tsongas Center) and will be a huge boost to tourism, which is already the third largest industry in the state.
Senator Barbara L’Italien, who represents the 2nd Essex and Middlesex District which consists of the city of Lawrence and the towns of Andover, Dracut and Tewksbury, explained that although she was just elected this past November, she had previously served four terms as a state representative for Andover. She acknowledged her roots in Essex County but said she is quickly and happily become acquainted with Middlesex County. She is the Senate Chair of the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee which has as a priority seeking out untapped sources of Federal reimbursement for state and city government. Her background is in social work and she is very interested in education. She is pushing for a shift to “project based learning” in our schools, which she said is how learning must take place in the 21st century. She said that our public schools are “showing tremendous innovation”. She observed that her district is somewhat unique in that she represents both a city and suburbs. When you represent just one or the other, you tend to take stronger positions on issues that makes you less inclined to compromise. Representing both requires you to see things with a broader view.
Representative James Arciero represents the 2nd Middlesex District which consists of Westford, Littleton and three precincts in Chelmsford. He explained that his district “is one of the fastest growing high tech areas in Massachusetts.” One of his goals during his past term was to identify the needs of businesses in his district. Three big ones stood out: (1) improving the “reverse commute” for people who live in Boston but work at high tech companies in Westford/Littleton; (2) infrastructure improvements; and (3) tax credits and grants which he said have been key to creating and retaining more than 3000 jobs. His goal for the coming term is to continue this economic development momentum and to troubleshoot any problems that arise.
Representative Marc Lombardo represents the 22nd Middlesex District which consists of the town of Billerica. He started by expressing the pride he feels in being the “token Republican” of this group which has been the case for a number of years. He said that organizations like the Chamber of Commerce are “the lifeblood of the community.” He has found that business owners are concerned about the cost of doing business, especially with the “2020 workplace.” By 2020, he said, 50% of the workforce will be millennials and that we must find ways for college graduates to stay in and be part of our communities. Lombardo is “very happy with our new Governor” and says besides the challenge of the current $750million deficit and the added costs of snow removal, the state faces a structural budget deficit estimated by some to be as high as $1.5billion. He said Governor Baker is committed to reducing the number of state workers and will “slow the unattainable goals of Mass Health.” Lombardo also spoke about transportation spending, which he said was the highest cost per mile in the United States. He closed by saying “reform is coming on Beacon Hill” and that it would be helpful to business.
Rady Mom who represents the 18th Middlesex District spoke next. He talked about the practical challenges of being a freshman legislator but he also said that as a small business owner and father of four, he understood very well the economic and educational challenges facing the state. He then shifted to talking about the incident over the weekend in Lowell in which a woman who was sleeping in her house was wounded by gunshots that were fired into the building. He said that the first bill that he sponsored in the state legislature was one to increase the penalties for firing a gun into a dwelling house. He said we must have zero tolerance for shootings; that one shooting is too many; and trying to change that is a big reason why he ran for office.
Dave Nangle, representing the 17th Middlesex District, talked about the legislature’s recognition of the struggles constituents have faced simply getting to work due to the weather and poor performance by the MBTA. He said his office was extremely busy yesterday fielding phone calls from state employees seeking to take advantage of the proposed early retirement package which should result in substantial savings to the Commonwealth. He closed by explaining that his colleague, Representative Tom Golden, was not present because he was accompanying House Speaker DeLeo to a meeting in Boston.
James Miceli of the 19th Middlesex District (most of Wilmington and Tewksbury) was the final speaker. He cited his experience working as a selectman and with selectmen in attracting major manufacturers to Wilmington in unobtrusive settings as evidence of what government can do to assist business. He also said that as a business owner himself (he owned two insurance agencies through the years), he understood the challenges facing many in the room. He said that he continues to be a member of the Ways and Means Committee which he enjoys. He said he has previously worked with Charlie Baker during the Weld and Cellucci administrations. He said Baker was a “great person to deal with” and predicted a “turn for the best” under the new administration.
The Legislative Breakfast is officially over but the work continues
City Auditor report on snow and ice costs. City Manager says Governor Baker is lobbying FEMA to reimburse municipalities 100% for snow costs. Nothing definite but city preparing paper work just in case. Councilor Milinazzo asks city to investigate FEMA reimbursement of lost revenue for some businesses. Manager says he’ll check it out.
Discussion of Overdose Deaths
Councilor Mercier commends report on city substance abuse; asks that it be posted online so residents can see it. Manager thanks Frank Singleton and Trinity Ambulance for the report. Mayor Elliott says the numbers are alarming. Asks representatives of Trinity Ambulance who are in attendance for any advice they can share. John Chemely of Trinity says he used to think it was all kids but this report shows the average age of opioid overdoses is 35 years old. Says education in schools won’t do the job. Recommends a committee of care givers and responders (which Councilor Belanger had just recommended). Says EMTs see patient for 30 minutes then the hospital might admit them to a rehab facility, the closest of which are in Boston.
Mayor says he wants to know what to request from the governor. Seems more treatment facilities here is very important. Chemely says every community has similar problems so the solution should be regional. Does say that cities have the highest incidence but it’s in the suburbs too. Mayor asks about repeat offenders. Singleton shows map from Das office that in 2014 there were 145 fatal overdoses of which 103 are from heroin. Singleton says progression to fatal ODs normally is 3 years or more so there’s opportunity for intervention. He also says that Tewksbury State Hospital could become an effective treatment center with sufficient state funding.
Councilor Milinazzo asks if the newly created Lowell Drug Court refers defendants to Tewksbury State Hospital. Councilor Rourke (a probation officer) explains the Drug Court has a mandatory 6 month in patient program followed by 12 months of close supervision. Then you have 6 months of further supervision. Says Councilor Mercier, in her job with the Sheriff’s Department, is involved in this. Says this program has a 90% success rate but nothing works unless the individual wants to change.
Councilor Kennedy asks if this has been a constant problem that is just getting more publicity. Singleton assures him it is not based on statistics going back to 2008. Says whatever is going on, there’s definitely an expansion of this epidemic. Points to people who get injured at work, get hooked on prescription pain killers, then transition to heroin which “is a crapshoot” because you don’t know what is in it. Singleton explains that it’s only recently that medical profession prescribes large amounts of very powerful drugs that were not marketed or given ten or fifteen years ago (this is in response to questions from Councilor Kennedy). Singleton maintains excess prescribing by physicians is a big part of this problem and the state health department is working to change this whole prescribing practice. Says during drug turn in days, people bring in enormous bags of opioids from relatives who may have died. Says elderly might not recognize power of these drugs but kids certainly do. Says high cost of opioids on the street now turning quickly to heroin and that heroin is very potent these days. Singleton says if we had 25 people dying per year in Lowell of meningitis there’d be an uproar but with that many overdose deaths, there’s not nearly as much concern.
Councilor Mercier asks about Narcan, saying that a dose of that revives the addict but if the addict doesn’t seek immediate treatment they can easily OD in a short period of time. Chemely says if the person signs a “refusal” the medical providers can’t treat them. Addicts often “furious” after Narcan dosage because it brings them down from their high. They refuse treatment, go back out to seek more drugs, and quickly OD. Chemely says if there person doesn’t want to deal with addiction, you can’t force them to do it.
In response to Councilor Samaras question, Singleton goes back to over-prescription of opioids by the medical profession, especially dentists. People feel that they are prescription drugs so they must be safe when in fact they are potentially very deadly. There will be a subcommittee meeting on this with many inside city and state government in attendance.
Chief Information Officer Miran Fernandez gives a report. Recommends partnering with Comcast which has an established infrastructure within the city for WIFI. There are hundreds of businesses and thousands of customers of Comcast which means Comcast provides many access points for its wifi system all over the city. If you’re already a Comcast customer, you can log in to Comcast almost anywhere in the city for free.
City Manager and Councilors thank Miran. Councilor Milinazzo suggests referring this to Technology Subcommittee.
Councilor Mercier encourages everyone to fill out city census which was mailed out recently. Enclosed with that were handouts for landlords and for homeowners regarding need for permits for home improvement projects.
Sunday Morning Shooting
Mayor Elliott asks for suspension of rules to inquire of City Manager about Sunday morning shooting. Asks for a report from police on plans to revive police gang unit. Manager recommends an executive session to update the council. Says it was not a random shooting but a targeted attack.
Panhandling Ordinance – No public input, no council discussion (much previous discussion has been had on this item). Passes unanimously.
Appointments –Jim Wilde and Richard Lockhart reappointed to Historic Board.
Subcommittee Reports – City Clerk and Auditor Oversight committee met tonight to consider salary adjustment for city clerk. Committee will seek more information before offering a recommendation.
By Councilor Mercier to obtain glass display cases for exhibiting gifts given present and past mayors on behalf of the city. They should be shared with the public in the Mayor’s Reception Room in appropriate display cases. Manager Murphy says the city has already purchased two display cases and they will be delivered tomorrow.
By Councilor Mercier requests Parks and Recreation Subcommittee convene to discuss naming of “Point Park” within the Hamilton Canal District. This park will house sculpture and art work that will be paid for by donations. Newell Flather, one of the donors, has suggested that the park be given a more appropriate name.
By Councilors Belanger and Rourke to have DPD publicize a “Lowell Week” as a way of assisting businesses that have lost revenue due to the tough winter weather.
By Councilors Belanger and Samaras to organize a festival in April in Cupples Square to celebrate Cambodian New Year.
By Mayor Elliott and Councilor Belanger request report on practice/law on grandfathering of older properties under the city’s zoning ordinance. This arose out of the Branch St fire property and the ability of the owner to rebuild it to its pre-fire capacity under zoning ordinance. Interested in reducing density there.
By Mayor Elliott to refer report on city employee overtime usage to Finance Subcommittee. Says he received call from Lt. Governor this evening saying that Chapter 70 (education) and local aid will see an increase in the governor’s budget which is being released tomorrow.
Meeting adjourns at 8 pm
Doing winter cleaning last week at our house, we found some old newspapers, which are always a fascinating window on the past. In this case, hostilities in Europe during World War II were reaching a climax. One can imagine what it was like in the city reading the reports on the war in Europe and in the Pacific each day, following the progress with great concern because almost every family had a member or friend in harm’s way. I wasn’t born until after the war, but my father and five of my uncles were in combat. The day this newspaper was published, my father was with the Army’s Fourth Division pushing into Germany. Following are the headlines from page one of the Sun. Note that this is the 7 o’clock edition, which would be 7 p.m. because there’s a bulletin on the day’s stock market activity (“irregularly higher course today in active trading … around the 700,000-share mark.”)—PM
THE LOWELL SUN, FEB. 3, 1945, FRONT PAGE
Russians Pour Across Oder; Foreign Diplomats Begin Flight From Reich Capital
Peace Rumors Sweeping Cairo
Yanks Rip Siegfried Line; Pour Through Strongest Part Off Monschau
Yanks Drop 3000 Tons on Berlin Heart
Local Soldier Loses Life in Belgium, Pfc. James P. Smith (of 466 E. Merrimack St.)
Report Big Three Talks Under Way; In Southern Russia?
Held in $1000 as Would-be Armed Robber (Fulton St. shopkeeper assaulted)
Woman Faces Court After Stabbing (assault at 615 Merrimack St. in dispute over use of hallway sink)
May Move Welfare Dept. to City Hall; Manager Said to Be Planning Closing of Cabot St. Site
Need More Blood Donors Than Ever
50 Percent Increase in Postal Receipts Here
Mother, Child Injured by Auto (crossing Kearney Square)
Little Oil for Germany
Plan Election Next Week; To Select Military Sub for Hartwell