Preview: City Council agenda (December 6)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Tiny houses, marijuana regulation. If you care about these issues, it would be appropriate for you to show up and speak for a couple minutes at the beginning of the meeting. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

In other meeting news, at 5:30pm December 7 the Planning Board will meet to discuss Brady Sullivan’s site plan for redeveloping the old courthouse. The Worcester Community-Labor Coalition has been putting pressure on city government around this, wanting various concessions and noting many concerns other cities have had about them. If you are concerned with any of these issues, this would be an appropriate place to speak out.

  • Library Board: The Council will be choosing 2 new members of the Library Board of Directors.
  • Economic Development Report: The quarterly report highlights the WRTA vacating its Grove St location (making it available for other uses), improvements to Union Station, 365 anticipated “luxury housing rental units” at CitySquare, UMass Memorial Health Care expanding their downtown presence 25%, and the decades-vacant South Worcester Industrial Park finally getting sold off and built up.
  • Private and Public Streets: Hilltop Group Holdings has petitioned the Council to make Denmark St a public street (maintained by the city etc).
  • Tiny Houses: The Council’s Municipal Operations Committee is asking the Manager to recommend new regulations “to include the trending use of tiny houses, granny pods and home medical pods.”
  • Stop Parking on the Sidewalk: Municipal Operations also wants the city to start cracking down on people parking on sidewalks.
  • Mounted Police: The Public Safety Committee wants the Worcester Police Department to get some horses.
  • Dirt Bikes on Streets: The police have had a special unit cracking down on people using off-road vehicles on the street. Public Safety says they did a great job. I saw some people speeding down Piedmont Street Friday, before that I hadn’t seen any of this activity for a month or two.
  • Marijuana Regulations: Mayor Petty wants a report from the city’s lawyers on “all possible options” for regulating marijuana sales in the city. Councilor Lukes wants to know if we can prohibit marijuana sales completely.
  • Wind-Blown Recyclables: Councilor Rosen wants the Manager to come up with a plan to revise our recycling system. The latest plan I’ve noticed is to have people put out their recycling in transparent trash bags, rather than in open bins where paper and bottles blow around the streets, get soaked by rain, etc. This is like the third time in recent months I’ve seen an item like this, I don’t understand why this is dragging on.
  • Traffic Tech in Newton Square: Councilor Rosen wants us to “use new and innovative pedestrian safety technologies” to make it easier for pedestrians to transit the traffic circle at Newton Square.
  • City Bond Rating Improves: Councilor Lukes wants there to be discussion of the city’s bond rating, which determines how cheaply we can borrow money. Two of the agencies rating us have us stable, the third has given us the highest bond rating from them we’ve ever had. Good news! Councilor Lukes wants more information on the many ways this might impact city government in the coming year, even things like “the eminent domain powers available to the WRA.”
  • Simpler Leaf Disposal: Currently, you can rake your leaves into the gutter on a certain day, and city street sweepers will remove them that week. Currently you have to be on the ball and know which week is the week for your street; Councilor Bergman wants you to generally be able to ditch your leaves on November 1 and not have to worry about all the complications.
  • Mt. Carmel Historic District: Municipal Operations wants there to be a Historic District established around Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, which very recently the diocese wanted to demolish and sell, a plan put on hold after great outcry from politicians and the public. Currently the church is being repaired and a foundation is being established to maintain the building for the long term.

Preview: City Council agenda (October 18)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Not too much on the agenda. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • War Memorials: Over the next month, the downtown Vietnam Veterans and EX-POW memorials, currently adjacent to Notre Dame church, will be renovated and moved to the Franklin Street side of the Common.
  • Crosswalk Crackdown: Councilor Toomey has an item asking whether we can raise the fines “for violating pedestrian right of way in crosswalks.” At the moment I would guess maybe 10% of Worcester drivers are good about stopping for someone to use a crosswalk.
  • Home Businesses: Councilor Lukes has an item asking for a list “of all home businesses in the city” and various questions about what we require of them. What percentage of home businesses in Worcester do you think are actually registered with the city? This item reminds me of the recent debates about Airbnb in Worcester.
  • New Main Street Mural?: The people who own the parking lot across from the Palladium want to put up murals on retaining walls abutting the lot. The Council needs to approve an easement. Councilor Lukes has concerns and has tabled this item “under privilege” until this week.
  • A Tangent: Since Worcester has had various debates about new services like Uber and Airbnb in recent years, a recent US 7th Circuit Court of Appeals decision may interest those who read these Council notes. The Court ruled that Chicago is allowed to have different regulations for Uber vs. taxis, and could refrain from regulating Uber at all. The decision is by the legendary Judge Richard Posner and worth reading if you care about this stuff. I liked this paragraph, in which he makes an argument I wish the Worcester City Council would take more seriously: “‘Property’ does not include a right to be free from competition. A license to operate a coffee shop doesn’t authorize the licensee to enjoin a tea shop from opening. When property consists of a license to operate in a market in a particular way, it does not carry with it a right to be free from competition in that market. A patent confers an exclusive right to make and sell the patented product, but no right to prevent a competitor from inventing a noninfringing substitute product that erodes the patentee’s profits. Indeed when new technologies, or new business methods, appear, a common result is the decline or even disappearance of the old. Were the old deemed to have a constitutional right to preclude the entry of the new into the markets of the old, economic progress might grind to a halt. Instead of taxis we might have horse and buggies; instead of the telephone, the telegraph; instead of computers, slide rules. Obsolescence would equal entitlement.”

Preview: City Council agenda (September 20)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Lots of changes in parking, improving snow removal. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Street Changes: There are lots of street changes on the agenda. Two of the bigger ones: Hana Lasell requests speed bumps etc on “Ruth St. and the surrounding streets of Van St. and Underwood St.” Michelle Medeiross resident-only parking on the block of Sterling St. between Harlem St. and Fairfax Rd., “both sides, twenty four (24) hours a day and seven (7) days a week”.
  • Hazardous Waste Disposal Day: Worcester residents will have the opportunity to get rid of hazardous waste properly on Saturday, October, 2016. More info.
  • Worcester-EPA Agreement: The city and the EPA have long been in conflict over Worcester’s polluting the Blackstone. We now have an agreement with the EPA that will allow us to create an “integrated plan” for dealing with these impacts. It will be years before the plan is done. Reading this report, I have no idea how to judge this agreement.
  • Snow Removal: The Manager has a report noting that the city did a bad job dealing with snow last year. They have various plans to do a better job, basically making more equipment and personnel available.
  • Regulating Zoning of City Nonprofits: Last week, Councilor Bergman had an item about “enacting legislation to regulate and restrict non-profit organizations in residentially zoned districts.” I noted that this item seems to come up all the time and lead to nothing. This week, the City Manager has a report noting that this item last came up about a year ago and is still on the agenda of one of the Council committees.

Preview: City Council agenda (September 13)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Homeless encampments, the mural menace, drought. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Nuisance Bus Stop: Daniel and Cindy Phan ask the city to relocate the bus stop in front of their home at 208 Pleasant St. There’s a whole litany of complaints here, but the bus stop one in particular is interesting—I haven’t noticed anyone complain about a public bus stop before.
  • Official Homeless Site: The Public Health Committee (Petty, Rivera, Economou, Mero-Carlson) wants the Manager to issue a report on what a Worcester “sanction site” might look like, a place homeless people could camp at legally and officially, with showers, medical clinic visits, etc. The City Manager has clarified that this is not going to happen, this is just part of the discussion of what to do about existing homeless camps. Currently, there are around 90 people in the summer (and 20 in the winter) living outside in the city behind houses, in the woods, and anywhere else they can find.
  • Maximum Lukes: Recently, an international group of artists came to the city and, with official support, created a bunch of huge, stunning murals downtown. Councilor Lukes, as is her wont, intends to spend the city’s time nitpicking this majestic achievement. Her agenda item, in full: “Request City Manager report on process for selection of murals in the city pursuant to the PowWow Worcester event, including the funding and funding sources, what type of juried process was followed, whether a further event with the same selection process will be held, how the participating artists were selected, the address of the artists, what payments were made for the benefit of artists, why more local artists did not participate, and what kind of outreach to the public, property owners and art community was followed, how long will the murals be shown and what kind and cost of maintenance is planned.”
  • Restricting Group Homes etc: Councilor Bergman has an item on “enacting legislation to regulate and restrict non-profit organizations in residentially zoned districts.” Currently state law allows non-profits to buy residential properties and use them in ways consistent with their missions. The Council has been trying to restrict these uses for a long time with no luck. Councilor Bergman knows zoning as well as anybody, so perhaps he has a new idea in mind here.
  • Stage 3 Drought: The Manager has a report on the drought. Usually our reservoirs are at 81.7% at this time of year; currently they are at 55%. Watering your yard, washing your driveway, etc are prohibited.
  • Wage Theft: Mayor Petty and Councilor King have an item asking the city to stop awarding contracts to employers guilty of wage theft.
  • Banning Leaving Free Stuff on the Curb: There’s a proposed ordinance that would clarify city law such that leaving stuff on the sidewalk with a “free” sign would be considered illegal dumping.
  • Dogs in Parks: This agenda item is back again this week.

Preview: City Council agenda (August 16)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Dog park, Airbnb, dumping, Pokémon Go. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Proposed Police Hearings: Local activist Gordon Davis wants the city to hold hearings regarding “broken windows,” “stop and frisk,” body cameras, etc. I’m noting this request here because for all the protests etc around this stuff, these issues only rarely appear before our local elected officials in written, actionable form.
  • The Right to Defend Your Good Name: Local activist Susan Serpa wants a new rule so that when a city official insults a member of the public during a public meeting, that citizen would be granted two minutes to argue in their defense.
  • Boards and Committees: John Amoah and Timothy Quinn have been appointed to the Mayor Thomas Early Scholarship Fund Committee. Meaghan Hardy-Lavoie and Hank VonHellion have been appointed to the Worcester Arts Council.
  • Trash: The Commissioner of Public Works reports that in June the city cleaned 155 sites, hauled away 30 tons of trash from public areas, removed 76 instances of graffiti or stickers, hauled off 30 abandoned vehicles and 4 shopping carts, and issued 11 related citations for $3900.
  • Dog Park: We now have a master plan for dogs in parks. If passed, the plan would allow dogs on leashes in most parks, and would make it a little easier for us to have an actual off-leash dog park somewhere. Many more details at the end of this post.
  • Elm Park Construction Done: The city’s 5-year, $6 million upgrade of Elm Park is done.
  • Tax Breaks for Senior Housing: The administration has responded to Councilor Bergman’s proposal for the city to exempt from property tax anything built or improved for housing a senior relative of the property owner, this exemption lasting as long as the person lives there. First, this is already an option under current law. By a simple vote of the Council, we could give up to a $500 break for this (equivalent to no taxes on a $25,000 upgrade). Second, if we wanted to give larger tax breaks, we’d have to ask the state legislature to take action; it’s not something the Council could do. It’s likely the Council will ask to raise the limit.
  • Airbnb Crackdown: The administration presents possible legislation that would give the Council more control over Airbnb renting in the city. The first piece would make it clear you can still rent rooms to people if they’re renting for more than 30 days. The second piece would require a license (and presumably fees) to rent to someone for less than 30 days. The City Manager encourages the Council to have some public hearings as part of the process, both because this is a relatively new issue and because, administratively, there are a lot of moving parts.
  • Overdoses: We have a report warning that August and September are historically months with lots of overdoses. We’re currently on track to have about as many opiod overdoses in 2016 as we did in 2015. It’s nice the number isn’t going up, but it’s a high number. Police and fire administered narcan (anti-overdose medicine) about 150 times in 2016 so far. We had 2 overdose deaths in July, and 89 suspected overdose incidents. Most repeat incidents are happening on Main Street, Chandler/Madison Street, or at the library. If you want to learn to use narcan, there’s a free class August 23, 5:30pm, at the library. Last year I got some narcan and took a class, and I’m glad I did. Now when I see someone passed out on the sidewalk I can give their foot a little tap to see if they’re responsive. I haven’t narcanned anyone so far. Our Department of Public Health is doing a bunch of education on drugs, but it’s not yet clear what effect this has had.
  • More Dumping: The city’s “Quality of Life Taskforce” has a report on how they’re responding to neighborhood problems and homelessness. There is a ton of info in this report. Some highlights: They’ve removed 395 tons of dumped junk in the past year and issued $8000 of fines. They have installed cameras to record activity in areas with frequent dumping, so they can catch more dumpers. They have 2 proposed ordinances that would increase city fines for dumping. On the homelessness side, they have identified 80 camps of homeless people and are doing outreach to them.
  • Marijuana: Councilor Gaffney would like a local law restricting public weed smoking just as we restrict public drinking.
  • Jaywalking: Councilor Gaffney asks the city’s law department what we can do to crack down on jaywalking. (Every time I walk around the city, I am so glad we can freely jaywalk; every time I drive I am driven nuts by people wandering slowly back and forth across busy streets.)
  • Water Street: Councilor Lukes would like to see us try “traffic calming” strategies on Water Street on weekends, like making some areas pedestrian-only.
  • Architectural Review: Councilor Lukes would like to see there be an “architectural review” phase of new public buildings and new construction by developers getting tax breaks.
  • Pokémon Go: Delayed from last week. Councilor Lukes has an item asking if we can use Pokémon Go “as a teaching tool regarding current public events and city historical monuments and buildings,” and also asking if there are “negative and dangerous aspects of the game and whether police oversight is required.”
  • Outsourcing the Parks: Delayed from last week. Councilor Lukes has an item asking for a pilot program to outsource “maintenance of a large city park.”

Dog Park Notes

Master Plan includes a number of key recommendations that include the following:

  • An Ordinance amendment that includes: Changes to where dogs are allowed on leash; Sunset Provision that requires a review of the program after two years; Changes to licensing of dogs, license fees, and tightly controlled off leash locations; Locations still off limits to dogs even on a leash; Provisions for the City Manager to manage this revised ordinance
  • New policies and operational protocols: To support the new ordinance change that will require DPW & P to develop operational and management protocols to ensure successful integration of the dogs and their owners into the public park landscape
  • Establishment of a Friends of Worcester Dog Parks: To support the new dog related facilities and be an advisory group to the Parks & Recreation Commission
  • Public outreach: To market and inform the public of the new ordinance, new facilities, and updated rule and regulations
  • Installation of new park elements to support access by owners/dogs will include: New signage to support the new ordinance; Two types of new off leash facilities (Type A – lower costs to allow facilities to be developed on a smaller footprint with basic amenities. Some of these could include second phase of work as funding becomes available; Type B – higher costs with a more elaborate and expansive program, larger footprint, and more amenities)

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, August 18

Cross-posted from Tracy’s blog.

Two meetings for the Worcester School Committee this week: TLSS and the full committee.

The Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports standing committee is posted as meeting tomorrow at 5:30, but there’s no agenda posted online. The full committee meets Thursday at 4 pm; you can find the agenda here.

There are a number of recognitions, including Al Ganem, who is now the superintendent of the Hampden-Wilbraham school district.

The report of the superintendent is the annual opening of school report (no link as yet, as the report isn’t posted).

Goddard would like a voluntary school uniform  ( consider this your periodic reminder than any such uniform policy in the public schools must be voluntary, as students are guaranteed the right to an education).

As you may have seen in today’s T&G , the nearly annual request for a report on school choice students is on the agenda. Something that appears to be being missed in the reaction thus far is the way the numbers skew older. That somewhat has to do with growing numbers of surrounding districts cutting off on school choice students; once a student has choiced in, they can stay until graduation, so in some districts, only older students who were already in would be allowed. However, it does argue that at least some of these are students who have attended the Worcester Public Schools and left. I don’t think a video is going to convince those students that they’ve missed something.

There is a multiple part response to Miss Biancheria’s inquiry on Durham, transportation, the new  transportation person , and invoices , including the 23-page contract with Durham.

The administration is (again) asking that an items that the administration doesn’t respond to within 24 months be automatically filed. Note that this would allow administration to kill an item they didn’t want to report on by letting it age out. I’m not saying that they would; but it would be possible. 

Mr. O’Connell wants a program for gifted students, to know if the annual grant assurances document has been signed, if the guard shack at Burncoat should be removed ( can they do South’s, too? ), to submit a grant request to MSBA for technology, and to…sign warrants?

gb #6-281 – Mr. O’Connell (August 10, 2016) To implement the provisions of the November 1995 letter of the Commissioner of Education, and the Advisory on School Governance which accompanied it, that “the school committee remains the body responsible for approving and transmitting school department expenditures to the municipal accountant for the drawing of warrants. The Department of Revenue’s Division of Local Services has advised that all school department bills must be approved by the school committee. When the superintendent, or principal and superintendent, have statutory authority to incur expense, the Department of Revenue advises that the bills must be approved by them as well as by the committee.”

Okay, maybe we’ll come back to that one…

Mr. Monfredo wants to thank Houghton Mifflin for a book donation, to UMass Med for a donation to Worcester Tech ( which wasn’t received by the school committee) , a report on the summer programs, to include the Heimlich maneuver in CPR training, to participate in Constitution Day in September, and to recognize a WEC donation.

Miss Biancheria wants a report on the new bus routes.

The administration is forwarding the Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention for related policy changes.

They want to file a list of items requesting reports from Ms. Colorio, Mr. Monfredo, and Mr. O’Connell.

They’re requesting acceptance of a $10,000 grant for Career and Technology Education .

There are a series of prior fiscal year payments.

There also is an executive session after the meeting for deliberation around collective bargaining for bus drivers and monitors, for custodians, and for teachers.

Preview: City Council agenda (July 19)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Pokémon Go, conservation, the Neighborhood Response Team. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Pokémon Go: Councilor Lukes has an item asking if we can use Pokémon Go “as a teaching tool regarding current public events and city historical monuments and buildings,” and also asking if there are “negative and dangerous aspects of the game and whether police oversight is required.”
  • Public and Private Streets: Carole Edwards et al request Hooper St. from Catharine St. to Mount Vernon St. be made public; Tony Bahnan requests the Council reconsider their decision to deny the request to make Luther Ave. public; the Council will officially make public Barrett Ave., Candlewood St., Hilma St., Navasota Ave., West Chester St., Wescott St., and Willow St.; the Planning Board recommends the Council make Bangor St. public, and revert part of Bergin Lane to be private.
  • Library Board: The Council will at long last be electing someone to fill the vacancy on the Library Board of Directors.
  • UMass Walking Paths: UMass Memorial Health Care would like to create walking paths at the Memorial and Hahneman campuses “some of which are actually city property.”
  • “To Keep the Constitutional Oath”: Rich Aucoin and Susan Serpa would like the Council to reiterate their intent to keep their oath to the Constitution.
  • Boards and Commissions: Njeri Gichohi will be appointed to the Elder Affairs Commission, and Michael Crompton to the Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees.
  • Thoreau’s Seat: The Greater Worcester Land Trust (with help from the Paxton Conservation Commission) is buying 98 acres on Asnebumskit Hill in Paxton. The Council will vote to aquire a conservation restriction on 78 acres of Asnebumskit Hill to protect our drinking water and continue to build the belt of protected lands in and around the city.
  • Neighborhood Response Team: The Manager has a report on the 8-person Worcester Police Department Neighborhood Response Team. “…the overriding objective of the NRT is comprehensive and substantive problem resolution. Officers will identify problems in neighborhoods by seeking information and feedback from residents, business owners and Neighborhood Watch Groups. They will maximize their efforts by utilizing data from the departments Crime Analysis Unit to pinpoint patterns of crime in the city. The NRT has been in effect since June 26, 2016. Since its inception the NRT has focused on the lower Pleasant Street area between Oxford Street and Winslow Street and lower Main South to include Oread, King and Benefit Street neighborhoods. Officers have made 62 arrests for various quality of life issues including drug dealing, drug possession, drinking in public, trespassing and warrants.” (Another part of the report claims 20 arrests…)
  • Off-Highway Vehicle Task Force: For several weeks now the WPD has had some police focused on people driving off-road vehicles around our streets. According to a report this week, they’ve made 6 arrests, written 55 city ordinance violations, and confiscated 48 bikes and four wheelers, finding that most of the off-highway vehicles they’ve looked into are either unregistered or stolen.
  • LED Streetlights: The city will soon replace a bunch of streetlights with LED fixtures. If this goes well, we’ll replace them all. Payback time is 11 years. After that, the city expects they will save us about $1 million a year. They are planned to last 30 years.
  • Downtown Roller Rink?: The Parks and Rec Committee wants the Manager to report if we can make the Oval behind City Hall a roller rink for the fall.
  • Submission of Profane Material: Councilor King has an item asking that we revise the Council rules so that no “council member, municipal employee, and or member of the public at large” can submit anything to the Council “that is profane, contains slurs, or hate speech…there is no place for such material in the official record of the City of Worcester.”
  • Outsourcing the Parks: Councilor Lukes has an item asking for a pilot program to outsource “maintenance of a large city park.”
  • Six-Figure Capital Transfers:
    • $170,000.00 between Watershed Land Acquisition accounts.
    • $309,778.74 between Parks Capital Equipment accounts.
  • Six-Figure Grants and Donations:
    • $200,000.00 from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts for Improvements to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.
    • $156,937.00 from the Department of Justice.
    • Acceptance of the gift of murals from the Worcester Natural History Society d/b/a EcoTarium, and an order to accept a temporary easement for 321 Main Street.
    • U.S. Department of Labor’s Disability Employment Initiative VII Cooperative Agreements Grant for a maximum award of $2.5 million.
    • Commonwealth of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Grant in the amount of One Million Dollars And No Cents ($1,000,000.00).
  • Six-Figure Operational Transfers:
    • $953,326.00 for the Off-Street Program for the First Quarter of Fiscal Year 2017.
    • $6,636,036.36 from various General Fund, Enterprise/Special Revenue Accounts, and Capital accounts, and be appropriated to various General Fund, Enterprise/Special Revenue Accounts, and Capital accounts to make adjustments to City accounts to balance the Fiscal Year 2016 budget.
  • Six-Figure Loan Orders:
    • $9,316,000.00 to fund four building improvement projects of the Worcester Public Schools.

pokemon

Pokémon_Go_-_screenshot_of_map

Preview: City Council agenda (June 21)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Airbnb, food trucks, eminent domain. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Airbnb: Last November, Councilor Rosen had an item raising concerns about Airbnb in the city. This week, he’s asking the Manager to present the Council with ordinances “to require those residential houses and buildings that are associated with Airbnb or similar companies and who offer short and long-term overnight lodging be permitted only in commercially-zoned areas and require such establishments obtain a business license from the city.” Personally, I am very pro-Airbnb, and I hope against hope that these ordinances will be well thought out and foster both nontraditional renting and quality of life in the city, rather than just hassling people with no upside.
  • Boards and Commissions: John Finlay and Elizabeth Proko have been reappoined to the Worcester Airport Advisory Committee; Edward Moynihan will be reappoined to the Community Development Advisory Committee; Robert Bilotta will be reappointed to the Commission on Disabilities.
  • Skate Park?: Bill Coleman has a citizen item asking about a previous request to establish a skateboard park and a Worcester Youth Commission.
  • Aquatic Events Regulation: Councilor Economou has an item asking the city to require any aquatic event in Worcester to be reviewed by the Fire Department and “and if need be a rescue dive team be assigned to such an event.” (Noting “this language would be similar to” language in both state and Lake Quinsig permits.)
    Attachments
  • Community Policing: Councilor Lukes has an item asking what changes are being made in our Community Policing Program and why.
  • Property Tax Appeals: Councilor Lukes has an item asking how many appeals have been filed in the past 2 years and how they’ve been decided.
  • Land Preservation: The Council will vote to amend the Greater Worcester Land Trust’s existing Donker Farm conservation restriction to include an additional 8.6 acres the GWLT is planning to buy out there. (This doesn’t involve city money.)
  • More Food Truck Zones: In recent years the Council has regulated many Worcester food trucks out of existence; lately they have experimented with “Food Truck Friendly Zones.” This week the city’s Chief Development Officer recommends two additional zones, one at Memorial Auditorium and one at the new Mercantile Plaza downtown.
  • Eminent Domain: In a report this week the city’s lawyer confirms that existing eminent domain laws allow the city to take and dispose of property for vague reasons like “the enhancement and economic well-being of a community” and so the city could use eminent domain to advance the Downtown Urban Revitilization Plan if need be.
  • Mt Carmel Church Historic District?: As part of the process of setting up a historic district to prevent the demolition of Mt Carmel Church (a demolition no longer planned), the Council asked the city’s lawyer for a report on this, a report which will be made to the Council this week, and which contains no surprising details.
  • Six-Figure Loan Orders:
    • $780,000.00 for capital equipment for the Sewer Department
    • $795,000.00 for Water Department Equipment
    • $550,000.00 for Capital Equipment Schools
    • $2,500,000.00 for various systems that are in need of improvements at the aging Water Filtration Plant
    • $300,000.00 for the acquisition and maintenance of water meters
    • $2,700,000.00 for rehabilitation of the Water Reservoirs
    • $400,000.00 for Newton Square improvements
    • $1,400,000.00 for Water Infrastructure
    • $12,025,000.00 for fixing parking garages and open-air lots
    • $200,000.00 for the development of a EAB & Forestry master Plan
    • $2,910,000.00 for the Blackstone Visitor’s Center
    • $2,000,000.00 for Blackstone Gateway Park
    • $6,000,000.00 for Water Mains & Gates
    • $1,000,000.00 for Water Transmission Mains
    • $100,000.00 for the Water Cross Connection Survey
    • $280,000.00 for improvements to traffic signals
    • $4,000,000.00 to fund rehabilitation at the Library
    • $300,000.00 to complete the construction of the Regional Emergency Communications Center
    • $200,000.00 for Water Building Rehab
    • $3,250,000.00 to fund school building rehabilitation
    • $100,000.00 for improvements to the Sewer building
    • $14,300,000.00 for Sewer Infrastructure
    • $550,000.00 for new street lights
    • $2,000,000.00 for rehabilitation and repair of dams
  • Seven-Figure Capital Transfers:
    • $1,680,000.00 from Building Rehab to RECC Center
    • $1,250,000.00 from one Sewer Reconstruction account to another
    • $1,500,000.00 from one Street Resurfacing account to another
    • $1,100,000.00 from Street Construction to Downtown Streets & Sidewalk Improvements
    • $4,078,385.00 from state funding to Street Resurfacing
  • Six-Figure Grants and Donations:
    • $400,000.00 from the FY17 Commonwealth of Massachusetts PARC Grant Program
    • $600,000.00 from the US Department of Education Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) Grant
    • $3,576,999 of state and private grant dollars for the FY17 program and operations of the Division of Public Health.

Preview: City Council agenda (June 7)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Economic development, finance items. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Quarterly Economic Development Report: Items include 4 new restaurants (Lock 50 in the Canal District, Deadhorse Hill on Main Street, British Beer Company on Shrewsbury Street, and Antonio’s Pizza by the Slice on Chandler Street); $18 million hockey rink scheduled to open in August of 2017 in the Canal District; foundations are being poured for a 237 unit market-rate residential apartment complex at Front & Foster—a garage and 133 more united to come; UMass Memorial Healthcare will soon bring 500 jobs downtown; the city plans to permanently close Southbridge Street in front of the Hanover Theater for a new plaza; the New England School of Acupuncture is moving downtown from Newton (120 employees, 200 students).
  • Private Street: George Kiritsy requests Holly Terrace be made a public street.
  • Marijuana: Billy Breault has an item asking the city to create a policy regarding medical marijuana use by employees while on the job and using city vehicles.
  • Fieldstone Farm Conservation Restriction: The city will be pitching in $100k to buy, along with the state, a conservation of 124 acres in Princeton that drain into our drinking water supply.
  • Library Board Attendance: The Library Board has a new policy to try to remove board members who miss 3 meetings in a row or 3 of any 5 meetings. The Council is in charge of the final decision to kick someone off the board.
  • 2017 Capital Improvement Plan: Huge amounts of finance items.
  • Six-Figure Capital Transfers: $473,276 from Fire Capital Equipment to Worcester Fire Department Capital Equipment; $240,000 from Sewer Infiltration Control and Sewer Infiltration/Inflow to Infiltration/Inflow; $300,000 from Sewer Reconstruction to Sewer Reconstruction; $100,000 from Water Land Acquisition to Watershed Land Acquisition to fund the Fieldstone Farm Conservation Restriction; $275,496.90 from DCU Special District to DCU Enhancement Project “for costs associated with the Corner Melt & Metal Detectors.”
  • Six-Figure Donations: $100,000 from UMASS Memorial Healthcare to support the City’s 2016 Recreation Worcester Program.
  • Six-Figure Operational Transfers: $1,435,000 transferred between various Community Development Block Grant accounts to pay for various CDBG projects; $700,000 from Contingency to Court Judgments “to provide funding for the settlement of legal cases through the end of the fiscal year”; $350,000 from Police Personal Services to Police Overtime.
  • Six-Figure Loan Orders: $780,000 to Sewer Equipment; $3,581,460 to Citywide Capital Equipment; $795,000 to Water Capital Equipment; $550,000 to Capital Equipment Schools; $2,500,000 to Filtration Plant Modification; $300,000 to Water Meters; $2,700,000 to Reservoir Rehabilitation; $5,000,000 to Street Construction; $2,150,000 to Sidewalk Improvements, to fund the continued improvements to citywide sidewalks.; $1,500,000 to Private Street Conversions; $400,000 to Newton Square Improvements; $100,000 to Citywide Street Improvements; $1,400,000 to Water Mains & Gates; $12,025,000 to Off Street Building Rehabilitation; $250,000 to Building Rehabilitation-Parks; $6,100,000 to Parks Improvement; $200,000 to Parks Tree Planting; rescind previous loan orders for Blackstone Visitor’s Center and replace with $2,000,000 to Blackstone Gateway Park; $1,400,000 to Account #91C7847, Parks Improvements, for costs associated with Parks improvements; $6,000,000 to Water Mains & Gates; $1,000,000 to Water Transmission Mains; $100,000 to Cross Connection Survey; $280,000 to Traffic Signal Improvements, to fund costs associated with the improvements to traffic signals; $4,000,000 to Library Master Plan Rehab; $974,850 to Citywide Building Rehabilitation; $300,000 to Regional Emergency Communications Center Building Rehabilitation; $200,000 to Water Building Rehab; $300,000 to Water Land Shed Acquisition; $3,250,000 to Building Rehabilitation Schools; $100,000 to Sewer Building Rehabilitation; $140,000 to Building Rehabilitation Parks; $14,300,000 to Sewer Construction; $550,000 to Street Lights; $2,000,000 to Dam Improvements.

Preview: City Council agenda (May 24)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 7pm. The agenda is here. This week: Library board, SWIP, properties, little motorcycles. Pretty short. If you know of anyone else who’d like to get our weekly preview via email, the link is here.

  • Library Board: Someone will be elected to the vacant spot on the Library Board.
  • “Council In Session”: Bill Coleman has a citizen petition asking the city to install “a ‘Council In Session’ light outside of the Council Chamber that turns on for loud and exiting crowds.”
  • Boards and Commissions: George Cortes will be appointed to the Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee.
  • SWIP: The city is selling 5.22 acres of the long-vacant South Worcester Industrial Park for $417,500 to locals who plan to build industrial and commercial buildings.
  • Saving Mt Carmel: The city’s lawyers have submitted draft laws that would extend the Council’s ability to delay demolitions from 12 months to 18 months. This was request in light of the possible demolition of Our Lady of Mt Carmel Church. The City Manager notes that the proposed laws wouldn’t be retroactive, and so wouldn’t affect the Mt Carmel situation.
  • Appointing Assistant City Clerks: Who’s in charge of this? According to a report, the laws are complex, but the Manager says he’ll hire whoever the Council appoints.
  • Code Violations: There’s a report on all code violations at properties the Worcester Redevelopment Authority would like to see redeveloped. Since basically the only thing people have been emailing me about is the fate of the Midtown Mall, here are the code violations there: operating multiple churches without a certificate of occupancy (this is resolved); possible basement mold (inspected, “no cause for formal enforcement”); possible fuel oil leak behind a wall (inspected, “no cause for formal enforcement”); complaint concerning water infiltration (inspected, “no cause for formal enforcement”).
  • Non-profits with Taxable Property: Some non-profits own property on which taxes are paid, non-profit status notwithstanding. There’s a list of them in a report this week. These include the Antiquarian Society, Preservation Worcester, the bishop, Worcester Academy, and some of the colleges. The report notes that possibly taxes are being paid because these properties are being used for non-educational/charitable purposes, though it could just be a mistake.
  • New Murals: The city is granting easements for 2 new murals, one near the Hanover Theater, one on Jackson Street in Main South.
  • Six-Figure Grants and Donations: The city will apply for 14 Massachusetts Division of Career Services grants totaling $3,035,328.00; a donation from the Worcester Redevelopment Authority for the Worcester Jobs Fund totalling $100,000.00; 3 state Highway Safety Division grants totalling $106,500.00; Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education‘s Connecting Activities and Career Pathways grants totalling $317,380.00.
  • Off-Road Vehicles: Are the people riding little non-street-legal vehicles around the city irritating you? This week the Council is considering an “emergency ordinance” to crack down on them. It would increase penalties for riding them where not allowed, and assign 2 police officer teams to focus on “aggressive enforcement” for the next 4-6 weeks. This would include monitoring social media to track down riders.
  • Racial Incidents: In response to an alleged racial incident involving a city employee, the city notes that it can’t release details of such investigations, because they are personnel matters, and those are confidential by law.