NOVEMBER 12, 2019
Mayor Donna D. Holaday
City Election: Congratulations to all our incumbent City Councilors who ran for re-election and are returning for another term on the City Council. And welcome to our new City Councilors:
- Christine Wallace, Ward 4
- Jim McCauley, Ward 5
- Byron Lane, Ward 6
Also, congratulations to Sean Reardon and Bruce Menin who will be returning to the School Committee and welcome Sheila Reardon Spaulding, our new School Committee member.
And thank you to all who made the decision to run for elected office.
FY2020 Tax Rate: Our Finance Team is recommending and I strongly support a FY2020 tax rate of $12.84 per thousand, which is a tax rate decrease of $0.24 per thousand compared to the FY2019 rate of $13.08. The tax rate decrease is primarily driven by market increases to commercial and industrial properties in the City, which went up 8.4% this year, while residential values went up 3.8%. As a result of the new assessed values, the average single-family taxpayer will see their tax bill go up approximately 1.9%, which is the lowest residential increase since FY2008. In addition, 36% of those homeowners will actually see their tax bill go down, which as you know is not typical.
We’ve used free cash to balance the tax rate in the past to smooth any large increases, such as those caused by the debt exclusion projects – this is not that type of year. Free cash is down to $1.87 million, the lowest it has been since 2012; given the uncertainty of the economy, we need to continue to build our reserve accounts, maintain a balance to fund the inevitable overage in the snow and ice account, and, last but not least, make investments in our capital infrastructure, drainage, streets and sidewalks.
Low St. National Guard Property: DCAMM has completed the mandatory bid process for an appraiser and the City is ready to proceed with the appraisal for the 2-acre portion of the Low St. property that includes the auxiliary building. The city will pay $5,500 for the appraisal and it will be completed within 30 days.
High St. Paving: As previously mentioned, the city hired ATC, an independent engineering firm to conduct an analysis of the status of the new pavement on High Street in areas that were both damaged by the striping contractor Hi-Way Safety and areas not affecting by the striping. Cores from each area were tested and compared, and test results indicate that the line removal process conducted by Hi-Way safety did in fact damage these areas of High Street. The City will be referring to these test results as we pursue legal action against Hi-Way Safety for mitigation and a resolution.
NRA: As part of its review of the Home Rule Petition, the House Committee on Bills in the Third Reading requested documentation of all the parcels to be acquired by the City upon the dissolution of the NRA. The process of obtaining all the deeds has taken much longer than anticipated. Part of the delay is that this title search goes beyond just the waterfront parcels but all parcels the NRA has both acquired and sold over their existence. The NRA, through eminent domain acquired parcels throughout downtown, and unfortunately the title search has discovered discrepancies and inconsistencies that need to be researched and resolved. It is unfortunate but necessary to provide the Third Reading Committee this information before the Home Rule Petition goes to full vote.
DPS SNOW PREP: In preparation for the upcoming winter season, our DPS Director and Deputy Director held a training for all DPS staff responsible for keeping our streets clear and safe during wintry conditions. Employees reviewed updated dispatch and operating procedures, plowing techniques, and new zones. They also reviewed the new GPS tracking technology installed in all plows including contractors.
In addition, the City will be hosting a public information session on Thursday, December 12 at City Hall to discuss snow policy and procedures for the upcoming winter season. This will be a great opportunity for residents to meet our staff in charge of managing show, as well as learn about the new equipment, tools, and software the City is adopting to make snow removal more effective and more efficient in the upcoming season. Part of the session will be devoted to educating residents on how they can assist in safe and efficient snow removal. This includes complying with the City Ordinance to shovel sidewalks and prevent snow being thrown into the street.
Youth Services is looking for volunteers for the Snow Angels Program to help others in need with snow removal or request a snow angel to help.
Smart Growth Summit: On Oct. 29th Merrimack Valley Smart Growth Summit was held in Lowell hosted by the Merrimack Regional Planning Commission (MVPC) and MA Smart Growth Alliance. I participated in a panel discussing a wide range of topics facing the region, including affordable housing, the Merrimack River and the Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs) issue.
A follow up meeting with Summit participants indicated the Lowell Wastewater Plant will be reviewing new real time bacterial testing technology. We are working on Newburyport participating in this pilot that would also involve notification/flagging. A $100,000 state earmark could provide the funding.
Joint City Council & School Committee Meeting: Just a reminder that, in accordance to City Charter, the City Council and the School Committee are holding their joint meeting next Tuesday November 19th in advance of the upcoming Fiscal Year 2021 budgeting process. Dinner will be served at 6 PM and meeting will start at 7 PM.
New Hire: I am pleased to announce that my new Executive Assistant, Donna Musumeci will be starting on Wednesday, November 20. Donna brings years of executive level experience and will be a tremendous asset to my office. Please feel free to come by and introduce yourself.
Veterans’ Day: Thank you to our Veterans Services Officer, Kevin Hunt for organization another wonderful tribute to our service men and women. Thank you also to the City Councilors who joined us.
Rotary: Police Officer Meghan Tierney was honored on Nov. 7th by the Rotary as an Unsung Hero. Meghan serves as our School Resource Officer.