Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
Decisions, decisions. Is tonight the night that you log into our Cover it Live widget and spark a riveting discussion about city council matters, or do you sit down in front of WGBH to watch the four gubernatorial candidates debate? (It’s going to be moderated by CNN’s John King, if that persuades anyone.)
If you picked the former, here’s the agenda. See you at 7:00.
7:11: We’re about to start. Shout out to the group from Pushkin, Russia that’s here.
7:19: The mayor says a lot of councilors are “very excited” about the PILOT agreement made with Clark University. MOB (Mike O’Brien) says the money is “significant” when added to other money from other schools. Clancy holds the Clark item for the first item next week to use as leverage to see if similar negotiations can be started with Holy Cross. Rushton wants the other schools contacted as well. Lukes wants more in the report, including breakdown of property owned by each school and their other assets. Eddy wants Clark President David Angel to come in and accept gratitude next week.
7:27: Gemme and Petty talk about response to 911 calls. Petty says the police have been responding to hot spots in the area where there are frequent 911 calls (citing Chandler/June area). Gemme says neighborhood watches are about 6 weeks away from being “fully operational.” Lukes says “we’re dealing with a small geographical area” and there’s one specific landlord there causing the problems. He lives in West Hartford, CT. She says a drug store was robbed earlier this year and $40,000 worth of drugs were stolen. She says we’re not seeing the full impact of 911 calls in this area. She says she’s happy to hear evictions have started there and limiting that landlord’s section 8 availability. A back and forth between Lukes and Gemme: the chief says his stats weren’t trying to minimize crime in the area. Lukes wants a more thorough report.
7:38: Eddy weighs in. Gemme says Community Impact Division is specifically designed to work with neighborhood groups. Gemme says that area of Chandler is stable, but like anywhere else an event can occur. He says CID officers’ jobs are to gather intel and data from these groups and report back to the WPD. Eddy says this area is stable because of efforts of the WPD and the council.
7:42: Toomey says police response to her emails and phone calls have been “right on and professional.” She says “whatever you need in technology, let’s try to help you,” citing the dept’s understaffing of 60ish patrol positions.
7:45: The owner of 443 and 445 Lincoln St. is here. She says if National Grid moves it poles it will infringe on some expensive signs on their property. She says it will cost $50,000 to move it with its underground wires and such (it’s in front of the Oil Doctor). She says National Grid should be sinking wires underground, especially now that they city is widening the street right there. No rep. from National Grid is here.
7:53: Auditor DelSignore is here to summarize his report on the general funds and four enterprise accounts. He calls last year a “good year” for the general fund. He says rating agencies will be pleased to see we’ve made up for losses in 2009 from the snow account and 9c cuts. He says school federal medicare money came in over budget, and $0.5 mil in loan premiums also can be counted as revenue.
7:58: He says the risk of higher foreclosures may “loom” to negatively affect the city’s bottom line next year, and revenue from vehicle excise taxes will probably shrink too. Building permits are up from last year. Trash bag sales are up a little bit too. “All in all, in the general fund the news is good,” but he’s worried about 9c cuts next year.
Enterprise account news aren’t so good. Airport had a $2.3 mil operating loss before MassPort comes in. Golf course lost $177,000, but we’re on a positive trend for it this year. He says last year it rained a lot, this summer it didn’t. That’s the biggest difference. Sewer at a $940,000 deficit.
8:09: Eddy wants to clarify the golf course numbers. He says it takes into account capital spending to improve facilities. Revenue alone for the golf course, as a net, is in the black. DelSignore says not last year, but this year, yes. Eddy wants a report from Moylan between the restaurant and the golf course about revenue and expenditures.
8:23: Lukes is excited about putting city $ transactions online with newly developed software. Those should be up in about two weeks.
8:25: CFO Zidelis talks about early retirement for city workers. A lot of focus on the school side. Clancy is worried about pension scales and paying in schedules. He notes that pensions/retirements are geared towards the end of the career, so someone who’s worked in the public schools for 25 years may take a huge hit to their pension if they retire early.
8:36: Assist. City Manager Julie Jacobson talks about their business retention program, which consists of going out and personally meeting with local business of all sizes and asking if they’re happy with the city. They’ve also put together a business retention team.
8:40: Toomey calls this “good news.” She wants it publicized more, especially on the internet via YouTube or Twitter.
8:41: Lukes wants more info about businesses that close. She says at one point they discussed having exit interviews with owners that have shut their doors. Jacobson says they have a dept. funded by the state that sees paperwork filed by closing companies. Those workers then offer support or guidance to training options for these business owners. The group is called the Rapid Response Team. Lukes says she’s as concerned about “mom and pop” places or sole proprietors, not so much large companies. She wants to know if there’s a way to follow what’s happening with those places. MOB says the information exists, but with an Economic Development dept. of five people, it’s difficult to stay on top of this. He estimates he’ll have a report in next quarter about how to track these kinds of things with new technology and data finding.
8:51: Palmieri gives some love to Lincoln St., saying it’s one of the most commercially vibrant areas in the city, but is often overlooked as such.
8:55: The city council goes on record as opposed to Question 2 unanimously (Rushton missed the vote). This means the city is in favor of keeping the state’s affordable housing law on the books.
8:57: Lukes wants to know why Worcester’s smoking rate is so high. Derek Brindisi says the high ethnic and elderly populations are the probable causes for the high rate. Brindisi says there’s a trend that tobacco manufacturers are targeting youth, so a lot of the health dept. is focused on not getting youth to start.
9:01: The council goes into executive session for discussion over the manager’s contract.
10:12: And we’re back from executive session. The mayor says an extension has been reached and will be finalized in a later executive session. No more comment on it.
10:20: Finance and operational transfers.
10:22: Haller wants to hear the manager speak about WRTA negotiations. It’s held to next week.
10:26: Toomey’s animal task force to establish the definition of a dangerous dog and how a dog can pass a test to ease restrictions from the upcoming pit bull (and dangerous dog) ordinance has been taken off the table. She’s giving it to the manager to figure out what do with it instead of continuing to wait for votes to get “outside experts” on a panel.