September 2019 Minutes

LDNA 9/23/19



Carolyn Alphen

Jack Moynihan

Sam Litvin

Meeting called to order at: 7:03.

Opening greeting

Approval of minutes

Approval of August 2019 minutes:  Motion made by Sam and 2nd by Carolyn; approved.

Treasurer’s Report

               $840.29 balance in account.

Police Report

Capt. Kennedy – In charge of downtown “Charlie” sector.

  • Car breaks involve unlocked cars  — Please lock your cars!
  • Disorderly conduct and unarmed robberies involve kids on bicycles.  LPD is working on the problem with the Juvenile Court.
  • Ongoing compliance checks at downtown bars are having success at discouraging underage drinking even though they have very good fraudulent drivers licenses.
  • Positive feedback from downtown residents regarding new precinct and increased downtown patrols.

Q:  Status of 60 day trial for Uber & Lyft?

A:  To avoid crowding at let-out time of bars.

Q:  But downtown residents aren’t able to get ride-share cars to come to their residence.  This is a real problem for residents that need these services.

A:  (City Manager) This shouldn’t be the case.  Will look into this.

Q:  Needles are an issue at South Common

A:  Call x3200 police non-emergency number and the needles will be picked up right away.

Q:  Actually, lots of issues at South Common.

A:  LPD is aware and working on it.  Lots of arrests were made recently specifically to get people help and services that they need in cooperation with the co-op program and Lowell’s new Drug Court.

City Manager Eileen Donoghue will speak on progress with various issues.

  • Couldn’t be more proud of the Lowell Police Dept.  The summer was relatively quiet compared to many other cities due to LPD’s hard work.
  • Council has stressed financial security, partnerships with institutions, and public safety.
  • Hamilton Canal District devised as an economic development engine for the city.  It got a bit stuck due to the recession, but now its back on track.
    • Streets “F” and “G” are under construction and the new signature bridge is nearing completion.
    • Ground has been broken on the new garage.  New construction manager at risk process and use of pre-cast concrete will bring the project in on budget and should be complete in about a year.
    • New courthouse should be finished by the end of the year.  Various court tenants will slowly more into the new building over a period of several months.
    • Various lots are being looked at by private developers and it looks like land swap with National Park is nearing actualization.
  • Lord overpass project will begin in the spring, to avoid conflict with garage construction activities.
  • Tiger bridge program going well, except for the central street bridge.  This project ran into difficulty because the canal couldn’t be fully drained of water.  The bridge will be re-designed and then they will re-try.  Project is being managed by MassDOT.
  • New public art sculpture: “Hydro” was unveiled last week at Utopian Park.  Park will be landscaped soon.
  • Plaza in front of Leo Roy Garage has been fixed up by the city.  Also, Kerouac park has had major improvements.
  • Jackson Street will get new street trees.
  • Middlesex & Marston Street bench has been removed and area will be improved.
  • Hanging flower baskets have been replaced and expanded.  A person has been hired to maintain them.
  • Public Safety:
    • New downtown precinct is focusing attention in the downtown area.  City has seen big double-digit decreases in various crime categories.
    • New police boat has made a big difference in dealing with craziness on the river.
    • New police ATV allows easier access to otherwise difficult to reach locations by the rivers.
  • Homelessness:
    • Big problem all over the state and country as well as Lowell.
    • In the spring a taskforce was formed, including police, school, hospital, CTI, many other organizations throughout city.  Looked at successful Worcester program and brought in national expert to consult.
    • Problem identified was not a lack of services, but that none were focused on housing, and the various programs weren’t coordinating.
    • Old model required homeless people to get themselves “on track” before any help would be provided.  New model is “housing first”  so their situation is stabilized, and then on-site services can be provided.
    • Transitional Living Center has historically kicked people out during the day.  Now, in partnership with the taskforce, the shelter will stay open 24hrs and provide a platform for providing services.
    • Rooming house development will be pursued to prove longer-term housing for the homeless while they get services.
    • On a day and night in June, a count was taken all over the city to figure out how many homeless people there were in the city.  Result was just under 200 people.
    • Hospital is helping because health care costs are much lower if people are in housing instead of on the street.

Q:  What about safety at the shelters.

A:  Facility is under-funded so that’s a challenge.  But city is working with the shelter on this problem.

Q:  What about mental health?

A:  Services have been provided by a facility in Lawrence.  City is now working to have Lowell Community Health provide these services locally.

  • High school project approved by MSBA, but its now under way for real.
  • Lower Locks Status
    • Mayor Samaris and Vice-Mayor Nuon have been pushing for a solution.
    • Land is owned by many parties including city, park, UML, MCC, etc, which has been a challenge.  Parties came away from meeting with a sense of urgency.
    • All stakeholders have agreed to work on a feasibility study to figure out exactly what needs to be done.  It will be a major project.

Q:  Will Lord overpass project project connect with Western Ave Studios?

A:  No.  Train tracks are I the way.

Q:  What can the city do when a developer comes in and starts and then abandons a project.  (Specifically worried about a project 246.1 Market Street between Canal I and Canal III)

A:  Developers have a fixed time to get things done.  And they need to maintain the site.  Will look into this specific property.

Q:  Do properties need to maintain the area in front of their buildings?

A:  Yes.

Q:  Can institutions (e.g. UML) do more to give to the city in lieu of taxes.

A:  UML actually does do a lot, but a lot is behind the scenes.  In fact, one project the UML decided to maintain as a private property rather than buying it as a concession to keep it on the tax roles.

Q:  Comcast is a pain?

A:  New company is coming in to offer fiber as an alternative.

Q:  What will happen to the old courthouses?

A:  They are owned by the state.  Building on Gorham Street is a historic structure that will be very difficult to deal with.  Another building is in very bad condition, but the city may be able to do something with it.

Mayor Samaris:  The city manager has done a fantastic job.  Many of the successes she mentioned are due to the Manager’s hard work and her taking the initiative to come up with good ideas to solve problems.

General Information

  • October 8th panel discussion at Senior Center on the new voting system options.  Will be on LTC.

Meeting Adjourns at 8:49.

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