Preview: City Council agenda (January 29)

The Worcester City Council meets Tuesday at 6:30pm. The agenda is here.

This week: Streets, finances.

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  • Zoning: Susan S. Nichols requests all of 195 Mill Street be zoned business BL-1.0, as it currently has split zoning. The Economic Development Committee endorses a request (made last May!) to rezone 223 Greenwood St. (in Quinsig Village, adjacent to Rand Whitney) from single family residential to manufacturing. The Planing Board endorses Robert Longden’s request to rezone 305 Belmont St., currently a mix of light manufacturing and 2-story businesses, to all 3-story business.
  • Working Off Property Taxes: Bill Coleman has a petition asking for a “Senior Citizen Property Tax Work-Off Abatement Program”.
  • Fixing Online Agendas: Councilor Wally asks if the city can start including relevant attachments with the online meeting minutes it posts. Currently, a board or commission might have a meeting, and the online agenda or minutes would have an item like “Alien Abduction,” and the context of that discussion would remain a mystery, because the minutes wouldn’t have a link to a slideshow or handout or whatever the person submitted to the committee in re alien abduction.
  • Snow Plow Surveillance: Councilor Lukes has an item asking the City Manager to do a better and more efficient job plowing the streets. This would be the sort of snow plowing item that pops up most weeks most winters, except she also asks if we should start using “surveillance camera networks to plow the streets more efficiently.”
  • City Finances: The Manager will present the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the last fiscal year, as prepared by independent accountants the city hires. There is a ton of stuff in there. The first bullet point is: “The liabilities and deferred inflows of the City (primary government) exceeded its assets and deferred outflows (net position) at the close of fiscal 2018 by $674,056.”
  • Private and Public Streets: The Planning Board wants the Council to approve Polar Beverages’s request to remove the private Wolfenden St. from the official map. They also endorse Kristin Sundberg’s request to make the private Martha Ave. a public street. They endorse John Paul and Michelle L’Esperance’s request to make the private Bishop Ave. a public street. The Public Works Committee asks the Council to reject Carole Edwards’s request to make part of Hooper St. public.
  • Renaming Streets: The Public Works Committee endorses Councilor Rivera’s request to rename Kilby St. to Boys & Girls Club Way.
  • Adding Businesses to Municipal Recycling?: At the last meeting, a couple recycling-related items were discussed that were not on the meeting’s agenda. First, Councilor Russell wonders if we could let “very small businesses” use our recycling program. Currently, it’s only for single-family homes or small apartment buildings.
  • Recycling Systems: Second, Councilor King would like us to change our recycling system from using small open bins to using larger 2-wheeled lidded bins or clear plastic bags. I am so happy to think about being able to use bags for recycling just as we do for trash, rather than having our neighborhood hit by a rain of garbage each week on trash day as the wind blows stuff out of the recycling bins and onto the streets. Some, for whom “single-use plastic bags” are anathema, are organizing against the bag proposal. I don’t think the amount of extra plastic injected into the recycling system (the bags would likely be recycled) is what we should be worrying about here, but I did break out a scale and a calculator to compare bags with the current system. Our current bins are 3.5 pounds or so, containing as much plastic as 50 transparent trash bags. The bins last as many as 5 years in my experience, and as few as 2, before they start to crack and fall apart. We currently use 3 bins, so we might use 100 bags a year. If the bins last a full 5 years before replacement, the bin system would generate 10.5 pounds of waste plastic in those 5 years, whereas a bag system would generate 39 pounds of plastic. (If the bins broke in 2 years the bag system would only generate 16 pounds.) To put this another way, my household would be generating an extra 1/4 ounce of plastic per day (a gram per person). Are there things the average household could be doing to reduce their plastic waste by vastly more than this? I think so.

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