Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Tonight’s meet was going to be a snoozer (albeit a short one), but word is the Massport people will be there. Get a jump on all the details of the ORH purchase so you can impress your friends at lunch tomorrow. Cover it Live is here. Starts at 7:00. Schmoozing starts at 6:30.
7:10: Here we go. O’Brien notes the ten medical professionals visiting from Russia. Robert Green, head of the Worcester Tennis club, is also here. He talks about the Tenacity Program, which would combine a literacy and tennis program for at-risk kids. He said a similar program in Boston has been successful, and students involved have a 96% graduation rate.
7:14: M.O’Brien brings up the airport transfer to Massport. He calls this a “landmark deal” and “the right deal.” He notes Massport has already been here for ten years operating the airport, and they have invested over $10 mil in operational deficit support–O’Brien calls this a ” down payment” on the transfer.
7:17: He brings up using proceeds for non-airport use–the City was able to structure a deal that allows this from the FAA. Total cash transfer will be $14.6 million dollars. The additional $2.6 million comes from the city keeping control over the airport industrial complex.
7:23: The city’s airport commission will be decommissioned–but the terms of the sale will allow it to function for the next two years, after which a new commission will be formed with Worcester and Leicester residents.
7:28: O’Brien says there will be a need to maintain a strong relationship with Massport even after transfer.
7:29: Massport CEO Tom Kinton says Gov. Patrick and Lt. Murray, Rep. McGovern, the FAA and the City all worked together to make this happen. He says there are two objectives: It compensates Worcester for their “investment” in aviation during a difficult time, and that this agreement preserves Worcester’s airport for future use. He calls existing airports and runways “scarce” and a commodity. He calls this airport a “strategic asset” because there aren’t other airports being built.
7:32: He says Worcester will have potential for “viable commercial service [over the] long term.” He says the 40,000 students in the 30 regional colleges and that 5% of the New England population make this a site that can be a commercial airline attraction.
7:35: Petty calls this “a historic agreement. A fresh start for the airport.” He says it took over a year to reach this agreement with limited staff. He says “people usually feel that Worcester gets the short end of the stick, but this is a pretty fair agreement.”
7:38: Petty wants to hold this a week to read through the huge document, but O’Brien makes it clear that they’re expecting a “yes” vote, saying any changes would be a “major setback.”
7:39: Rushton says he grew up at the base of the airport. He says throughout his life there’s been “chatter about the need to close the airport” and “thank goodness” that didn’t happen. He brings up the access road, saying within his first two weeks on the council he made a motion about looking at it.
7:41: Smith says he’s “very excited about this deal coming to fruition.” He asks if the motion to approve the transfer is the same as approving how the money is spent. M.O’Brien says no, those would be separate votes. Smith goes back to praising the deal, saying this puts the operation in the hands of the experts.
7:44: Haller thanks those who participated in those “long and arduous negotiations.”
7:45: Toomey says this “solidifies Worcester’s future” and this will do incredible things for Worcester and Massport’s futures.
7:46: Lukes says “what a relief.” She also thanks a new name: Gov. Cellucci, who brought Massport to Worcester. She wants to know how much traffic will it take to talk about building an access road, saying this debate is on the horizon. She says if Worcester bills itself as a regional hub with CSX and a bigger/better airport, then it’s going to happen.
7:49: M.O’Brien tries to answer Lukes’ rhetorical question. He says a transportation study was done three years ago that would connect Union Station to all points in the city, but also dealt with a larger scope including enhancing traffic flow and signage.
7:52: Eddy asks what is the best way to approach the airport from the city’s view, and what is the best way to approach the airport from a neighborhood view. He says he’ll be the first to say he’s been skeptical about the airport, the money spent on it and neighborhood issues. He says he’ll continue to be skeptical, but he says this deal is “equitable.”
7:54: He turns his attention to the neighborhoods. He wants the City Manager to allocate money from this agreement to neighborhoods, especially around the airport. He wants “an agreement that works with the people around the airport.”
7:56: Clancy says 22 years ago ORH was a “fairly vibrant airport” and they thought it “would usher in a new era for the city.” He says with this deal we get a “substantial deal in return.” He says there is nothing not to like about this deal, and thinks this “far surpasses” what he thought it would be.
7:59: Palmieri says he’s hopefully this will work out. He calls this a timing issue regarding the schedule to vote on it, and that it absolutely needs to get done before July 1. He points to Eddy’s earlier speech, saying it’s appropriate for a district councilor to have concerns about planes flying over his district.”This is something that is more than anyone would have expected in a short period of time.” He nods to Lt. Gov. Murray for helping this along.
8:05: J.O’Brien adds something from the mayor’s chair. He wants to make it clear that $20 mil will go to streets/sidewalks, and a corresponding $20 mil will go to school infrastructure. That’s all part of M.O’Brien’s budget.
8:06: Petty wants to make it very clear that this agreement doesn’t tie into the access road.
8:08: Airport director Andy Davis finally gets a shout out.
8:09: We’re now in the finance committee to talk about the budget. Kevin Dowd is the president of the library board, he speaks. Grace Clark from the commission on disabilities reminds the council about the Americans with Disabilities Act. She wants 5% of the $20 million for street/sidewalk repair set aside for ADA compliance repairs/retrofits.
8:14: Clancy wants emphasis on curb repair and stump removal, saying some calls date back a decade.
8:17: Eddy says this may seem to be a small item, but it “speaks to neighborhoods.” He calls it a commitment city-wide to neighborhoods.
8:19: Rushton wants to know why the $78,000 for these repairs isn’t coming out of the $20 mil set aside for repairs. M.O’Brien says it’s an “ordinary maintenance function” rather than a “capital function.”
8:25: Commissioner Moylan speaks about burm repair. Money spent on it will help alleviate the backlog.
8:28: Haller is concerned about Worcester’s withdrawl from the Massachusetts Municipal Association. She wants to reduce the stump/burm repair to $50,000 and keep member ship in the MMA because it allows for partnership with other cities/towns.
8:31: Petty says burms and tree stumps have been an issue for sometime.
8:32: Lukes says it’s important to be a member of these kinds of organizations, especially because we’re the 2nd largest city in New England, and much of it is about marketing and maintaining a presence. She says she learned as mayor that those partnerships are “crucial” to show the state that the city is active. Lukes is steamed that she never got a list of city employees’ salaries–she wanted to use that to guide department decisions–and Lukes wants to go back to the old way of having department heads speak to the council before the budget is set.
8:39: M.O’Brien says we’re continuing with the process as was established for this year’s budget allocations.
8:40: Toomey says it is important to continue belonging to MMA, especially because of their work with women.
8:41: Eddy says he understands the importance of MMA, but he says for city residents have a stump removed is more important to citizens than Worcester’s involvement in the MMA.
8:46: Haller doesn’t like that PILOT funds would be used instead of city funds. She’d rather see them go towards projects the city wouldn’t necessarily use it’s funds for–she wants to know specifically how this will affect the library, which receives PILOT funding. Haller wants to know if M.O’Brien would have offered a library budget $250,000 less than it is if not for PILOT money. M.O’Brien says yes, he would have. Haller wants to know what the library would like to see what the library would look like without the $250,000 in PILOT money. She’s worried about cuts to early education programs.
8:52: Palmieri is upset about library cuts too. He says that there’s already not enough respect for the library as there is for other departments. Palmieri wants PILOT from Clark University. “Holy Cross, I don’t know where the heck they are. They’re in no man’s land when it comes to PILOT.” Palmieri calls on J.O’Brien to “stand up and help here” about getting more funding to the library, since no one is more outspoken about education. He calls out Clark and Holy Cross to “step up.”
8:59: Smith says that he’s also concerned about the library. He wants to know how much money it would cost to restore total library services. M.O’Brien wants to know what date to use as a reference.
9:02: Clancy brings up Clark and Holy Cross and PILOT again, saying the “breaking point” with WPI was that they could allocate their funding to the library. He believes a similar “breaking point” could happen if the schools are approached again. M.O’Brien says he’s going to pick up negotiations again.
9:05: Penelope Johnson from the library is here. She says that the library’s priority is to keep their hours, so if they lose funding then programming is what gets cut.
9:11: Lukes talks about the proposed cost of living increases for retirees (proposed). Lukes wants numbers. M.O’Brien says it’ll get to her for next week.
9:17: Haller brings up the recycling rate: 31% (right up there with Cambridge’s 33%). She wants to know how we can increase it. She wants to know the highest percentage Worcester has had over time, and if there’s room to increase that part of the budget for FY11.
9:20: Lukes goes back to her salary list. She wants to know when she will get that. M.O’Brien says hopefully next week.
9:21: Jo Hart is speaking about the MMA. She wants the city to keep the membership and print out a copy of the State House News or have a computer set up to view it in City Hall. She also defends Clark over PILOT, saying they already do a great deal. But she would like access to those colleges to use their libraries. She thinks that would be a sufficient way for schools to contribute.
9:24: Bill Coleman brings up the library. He says as a board member he’s not allowed to raise money for the library, but the PILOT contributions have set a standard around the state. He plugs his column in InCity Times to read more about it. He says that schools don’t want to see PILOT contributions go to things the City would otherwise pay for.
Back to the Regular agenda:
9:28: Water and sewer rate hikes up for advertisement. Palmieri, Lukes and Eddy vote “no.” Rushton gets clarification that this vote doesn’t need 8 votes to pass.
9:31: Palmieri brings up a report given to him from citizens regard CSX pollution in their Chicago rail yard. He says residents living within a two mile radius of a rail yard have a 10x higher chance of cancer. “I could go on. There’s a whole host of these issues, and they’re pertaining to CSX.”