Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Get your fill of city council coverage tonight because there are only going to be a couple of sessions over the summer. I know the withdrawal will be tough, but we’ll get through it together. Agenda. Cover it Live.
7:14: A rep. from National Grid is here to request the installation of a pole on King Philip Road.
7:16: The Worcester Senior Center is celebrating its 10th anniversary.
7:21: Recognizing the importance of the work done to the Robert Goddard memorial. “He’s still here. He’s buried in Hope Cemetery.”
7:24: Mary Keefe speaks about youth jobs, saying it’s “one of the places where we’ve suffered” alluding to cuts in the state budget. She says Worcester Interfaith has been in contact with UMASS Memorial and the City Manager to find money to increase youth jobs. She talks about the “Park Steward” program, which puts kids to work cleaning up city parks–35 new summer jobs. Her proposal calls for $60,000 to provide for the program. Haller recuses herself from the vote, as she’s on the board of the Worcester Community Action Council. The motion passes with the remaining ten in favor.
7:31: Lukes wants clarification that tonight’s vote is actually just to refer plans to the planning board–official votes on actually approving this won’t happen until Sept. She doesn’t get it, but it’s assumed that she’s right.
7:35: Clancy gives some history/background to what’s being voted on tonight. There’s a ton of zoning map amendments needing to be referred to the planning board, and some re-zoning around Putnam Lane, which is currently residential limited. He says other steps will still need to be taken down the road before this project is finalized.
7:40: Palmieri says “even with this vote it doesn’t mean CSX will be moving to…we are a ways away from seeing this resolved.” He notes that 11 private properties need to be purchased by CSX. He says he doesn’t know where CSX stands with those 11 abutters right now. “We’ve still got a long way to go.”
7:43: “The city council did listen,” says Petty, saying the deal has changed a lot since it was proposed. He says the environmental impact (?) was discussed at the last meeting, but he’s unsure what exactly have to be submitted on CSX’s side. He wants a report telling him what CSX has to do just so the council knows.
7:48: Toomey says we’re at the point where we know we’ll be working together for a long time. It’s “our concern” that the community and city make sure all obligations are followed, including staying on top of state and federal benchmarks. She says she’s glad they listened to community input. She points out to CSX they “they will be part of a community.”
7:50: Lukes wants to know when the planning board votes and final city council votes will be. M.O’Brien doesn’t give a date, but will “work diligently.” She says she’s giving it a no vote today not because she doesn’t support it but because questions remain over “puffed” economic spin-off and wanting to make sure commuter rail will happen. She says “we’re trying to do everything we can to disguise that it’s a freight yard” with landscaping. She’s concerned “we moved too quickly,” and compares it to a one year study attached to a 495 project. She says we have no analytical study with data telling us what the traffic impact will be. Too many questions about the impact on the city–“we’re going to become the New England hub of freight transportation.” She says we once marketed the city for healthcare and higher ed “we’re taking a slight detour from that,” especially with the airport changing hands too. She’s also worried CSX will try to take the 80 acres they originally wanted for their freight yard. She gets applause from the audience.
7:58: Clancy says there’s no denying that the land is currently a rail yard, or that it’s an expansion of a rail yard. He says “we’ve been dealing with those issues since the subcommittee.” He says it’s not new for approvals needing to be gained after preliminary approvals are given. He says this is only the beginning and the $23 million has been added to the mitigation pot for neighborhoods. He wishes this “greater speed” than CitySquare and as much success as St. Vincent’s Hospital
8:04: Rushton says “the Debbie Downer” mentality is “out of bounds.” Voting no “says no to jobs, economic spin off and commuter rail.” He says there are “procedural safeguards” for the community. He says that no environmental impact or traffic studies doesn’t follow history. “At the end of the day we have community advocates that stood up–advocate that have taken it to CSX and the City Manager. This is not the end of the road.”
8:07: Petty says we didn’t move that fast. Petty says there’s confusion about the project because of “leaving people hanging” from the council. He clears up that there’s no talk about an access road–people need to stop grouping the airport with CSX. “To make that accusation, people believe it.” He also says CSX has stated that they’re not going to expand beyond the 50 acre blueprint.
8:09: Palmieri says a fire Lt. thought the plan wasn’t as comprehensive as it should be, especially in regards to moving hazardous chemicals through the city. He thinks this should be more carefully looked at.
8:12: Haller wants to point out that we are in the position of emerging from the financial meltdown as a city moving forward, especially because of the big three projects–she calls them “game changers.” She admits there’s a certain amount of risk too, and concerns and doubts shouldn’t be squashed. “I think this is a time for Worcester to shine, and these projects certainly help do that.” She gives props to the City Manager.
8:19: Jo Hart speaks as a public transportation advocate. She’s “dead set against this project” for all the reasons Lukes has brought up. She says this will affect the environment all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, and says its an “urban nightmare.” She says she’s presented documents that haven’t been looked at or replied to. “We’re going to be a truck stop.”
8:22: Another resident (from the Charles Walsh family) has concerns. He says he’s been the sole responsible caretaker of Barbara Lane. He says he’s lost safe entrances and exits to his building. He’s also downwind from this new road–he wonders if his tenants will want to stay there with all the diesel exhaust.
8:25: A lawyer for David Clark Co. is here, he thanks the work done by CSX, City Manager, Tim McGourthy and subcommittee members for their help in accomodating the company. He says there’s still a way to go, but progress is being made.
8:26: Leonard Ciuffredo is here, still in opposition, and says the neighborhood mitigation fund is “lipstick on a pig.” He says he has high expectations for the city. “I think we can be better than the freight hub of Massachusetts.” He invokes the children and the grandchildren.
8:28: George Kerxhali from the Grafton Hill Business Association wonders about a list of recommendations regarding I-290 and other items that they think haven’t been “adequately covered by the public works group.” He wants them to refer that back to public meetings. He says the GHBA is still opposed. He says it’s only been three months. “There’s alternates to saying a freight yard is there so let’s double it.” He goes back to the magnitude of a project being passed in such a short amount of time. He doesn’t see this as progression.
8:35: Another citizen (Mr. Reid) says that if he could have attended the last meeting he would’ve with concerns about the on-ramp to I-290 near Grafton st., and the more trucks going up there the more an exit would be blocked, and “stymie economic development down Shrewsbury St.” Eddy seems impressed with Mr. Reid’s ideas, and wants a write up. GHBA is added too.
8:40: Votes to send map amendments to planning board: All but Lukes vote in favor
Adopt CSX donations: All vote yes
Votes to approve amendments to the project overall (since Feb. 23): All but Lukes vote yes
8:50: Haller wants to know about the city’s involvement in demoing 95 Grand st. She says the Main South CDC has an interest in 93 Grand, and doesn’t want it damaged in the demolition.
9:02: Haller says DPW is conducting a resident survey on how clean they think the city is.
[Lt. Gov. Murray just stopped by. Didn’t address the council, just stood in the gallery.]
9:03: Clancy wants to know if the Lake Park facility’s restrooms will be made ADA compliant. “Too many people running into the woods.” Moylan says yes.
9:08: Haller wants to know about the city’s acquisition of street lights from National Grid. Moylan says it has taken longer than anticipated but as of July 1 the city has owner ship of the streetlight system. Haller wants to know if that means maintainance work belongs to the city now too. Moylan says yes.
9:18: Haller says we are “changing the paradigm in our city in how we treat homelessness” as the city’s comprehensive housing plan comes up on the agenda. She says this is absolutely about the PIP shelter. The PIP isn’t moving or downsizing–it’s closing, she says.
9:22: Clancy is talking about surplus funds in accounts at year-end. He says there’s a “backlog of abandonment” by the chief forester and his staff–he wants that money used to “beef up and clean up that backlog.” M.O’Brien says he “wouldn’t call it abandonment, just simply fallen behind.”
9:26: Clancy wants to know how much has been paid on claims of reported damaged/sick trees that damage property. He wants that looked into. J.O’Brien wants a breakdown of whether or not it’s worth adding additional staff to help out with this. Lukes brings up her shade tree trust, a program that would deal with trees dying due to natural gas leaks. She wants to know why it wasn’t implemented.
9:30: A lot of money moving around accounts. Common for the end of the fiscal year as accounts need balancing and money needs to be used.
9:38: J.O’Brien questions the $250,000 for pool work. He says there’s hope to get a pool for next year on Shrewsbury St. and a spray park or pool at Holmes Park. He’d like a five-year forecast for pools in the city. He notes the $51 mil for school repair. J.O’Brien would like another comprehensive schedule for what schools are getting what work when so people can see/know where there money is going.
9:47: Palmieri says he hopes it’s not a spray park at Holmes Field–he’s not settling for anything less than a pool.
9:51: There’s some debate over who allocates more public works money for whose district. Clancy says he’s never steered more money to his district than anyone else’s.
9:54: Lukes wants to separate the items involving the tax increase from the other 20-some items about to be voted on (X and Z). Eddy wants a roll call on that. He says these finance items are “all linked to the future of this city.” Lukes says it’s an issue of having the ability to express an opinion.
Here’s the roll call: Clancy N Eddy N Germain Y Haller N Lukes Y Palmieri N Petty Y Rushton Y Smith N Toomey Y O’Brien N. All items have to be voted on as one. Everyone but Lukes votes to advertise all the items, including the tax increases for street/sidewalk repair and school upgrades.
10:04: Smith brings up his valet ordinance. He’s disappointed that more reports haven’t come back to council before summer session. He says there’s already a commercial zone approved in the 1980s on Commercial St. He wants that sign back up there, which would count as a valet zone. “This has been sitting dormant for too long.” He criticizes this as being anti-business.
10:08: Clancy is poised for rebuttal. He says those signs might not be valid anymore. Smith wants those signs reinstalled–he’s not asking for a new ordinance. But J.O’Brien clarifies this as motioning to have DPW take action, Clancy can hold this under privilege, which he does. The great valet parking war wages on. Smith also wants trees planted on the median on Mills St.
10:15: Concern about someone using city electricity on the common for a microphone/amplifier for “preaching.” This person didn’t have a permit.
10:15: Germain wants Green Hill Parkway remade into a two way street.