City council live blog — 10/12/10

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

It’s been a quiet couple of days here on Daily Worcesteria, so what better way to rejoin the blogging world than with a city council live blog. You can also chime in here. (But the internet’s been spotty lately. Apologies if your comment isn’t approved right away.)

Tonight:
-Konnie Lukes takes on City Clerk David Rushford and his many marriages (no, not in a polygamist sort of way) — items 6a and 6b
-The city got seven Big Belly trash compactors. They’re installed at Worcester Common, Elm Park and Green Hill Park
The council might debate question 1 (eliminating the alcohol tax) (Held ’til next week)

Exciting times. If last winter/spring was the party (Arizona, CSX, airport, CitySquare, pit bulls) then this is the hangover.

7:07: Here we go. Small crowd. No Haller, Rushton, Eddy or Germain. Julie Jacobson is in the Manager’s chair. Jordan Berg Powers and Mia McDonald are appointed and reappointed to the Conservation Commission. Ken Capurso is reappointed to the Memorial Auditorium Board of Trustees. Let’s hope it’s a busy year for them with Acorn Management.

7:10: Palmieri asks DPW Commissioner Moylan about Lincoln Street. This is all relative to the power lines/poles out front of 443-444 Lincoln, which have been discussed at the last couple council meetings. Moylan says the city’s plan to put the poles out there will come within 18″ of the Oil Doctor sign, which shouldn’t be a problem. Moylan says the sign also infringes on the city’s right of way, and the sign could be moved. He says the idea of putting lines underground “if feasible” would seriously put the project off-schedule. He also says no one  (the city, state, or utility companies) will want to pick up the tab for additional construction.

7:15: Palmieri wants to know more about the delay schedule. If wires could go under ground the construction could be delayed longer than a year.

7:18: Toomey wants to know if there’s another route to get the wires there. Moylan’s not sure.

7:21: JOB wants to know if there was any compensation for the city’s land-takings. Moylan says 1,000 square feet was taken, with a total compensation of $150,000.

7:21: Rushton is here. He was at a Mill St. community watch.

7:23: Regina Levitt, the property owner, says the encroachment of her sign is within city regulation (city permit allows 12″). She says state engineers acknowledged that if poles are moved they will hit the sign. If the sign is moved in then cars couldn’t come out. The sign would have to be moved to the corner, and that would cost $50,000. She says the city should have considered burying wires, and claims the city could’ve met with the state to talk about this, but refused. She’s done her homework.

7:26: Moylan repeats that they don’t “see a need that the sign needs to be removed.” He also says there was adequate time to comment during the multiple design stages, and there were no complaints from anyone. Rushton says he doesn’t want to penalize businesses, but it sounds like the sign can remain without any cost to the city or property owners.

7:28: Palmieri says the prohibitive cost of changing the course of the wires and the impact on hundreds of residents is “what has turned me on this particular issue.” He would’ve liked to see a boulevard without above ground cables on conduits, but it doesn’t seem feasible.

10.14B It passes unanimously. Poles go above ground, close to the Oil Doctor sign.

7:31: Moylan says we’re going forward immediately with tree removals, but not stump removals — to the tune of $120,000. Clancy still has concerns about the stumps/dead trees.

7:37: Lots of tree removal/trimming complaints to councilors. Toomey and Smith weigh in. Much of the backlog has to do with ALB issues. Moylan says a lot of funds and personnel were diverted to ALB work.

7:40: Haller arrives.

7:44: Here come the marriage wars. Lukes says a report came on Oct. 1 from Clerk Rushford that says he performed 528 weddings at City Hall last year. His staff performed an additional 75. “This report ranges from bizarre to unfair” she says, as employees are performing a private business in a public building on public time. She says this would be equal to $60,000 that goes towards those that perform the wedding, not the city. She calls this a “significant issue that this council should finally tackle…what’s the city council going to do with it? It’s a management problem.”

7:47: She’s looking for a charter change. “We could say that if weddings are performed on city time in a city building, those funds go into the city fund.” She says the revenue generated equals “good wages for a good job.” She wants this looked at by the Municipal Operations committee. She wants a report from the solicitor to see if this is allowable under the charter.

7:53: Clancy wants the report expanded. He says this involves state laws because the clerk is an elected official, and “there are ramifications that come along with that.” Lukes adds that she wants to know if a charter change could be drafted to see if the clerk’s job description could be re-aligned to work under the City Manager. The report will come back in 3 weeks.

7:58: $98,789 from UMass Memorial Health Care goes to the Youth Opportunities Office.

7:58: How many accidents happen at the corner of Harding and Harrison? Clancy likes the question, and wonders about having a 4-way stop there. It’s going to the traffic and parking committee. Smith tags in: 4-way stops have federal contingents. This intersections may not meet that criteria, but he says his committee will look at it.

8:02: Rushton has much praise for Janet J. McGuiggan, who will be sworn in as a judge. It sounds like she used to work for the city’s law department.

8:03: Lukes wants a report from the retirement board about why they’re increasing Survivor benefits from $6,000 to $9,000. “We need to justify” raising pensions/benefits “in this day and age.” She’s certain it’ll be approved anyway.

8:05: Petition for funding for a “green repair program” from the school building authority, which would provide monetary aid for funding the multi-million dollar school repairs going on. The city council has to vote on this because the city technically is the vendor and has to authorize it. The state will reimburse the schools for up to 2/3 of the funding with this. This will reduce the amount of capital put into the program from the city. (The city allotted a loan amount of $50 million last spring knowing they wouldn’t borrow to that capacity. This is one of the programs they were looking at to bring down the costs.)

8:11: Clancy says they should expect a memo from Moylan soon about how they’ll go about picking streets and sidewalks that will be redone as part of the $20 million repair plan. Haller says she’s “disappointed we’re hitting the streets and not getting the sidewalks done at the same time.” She likes a policy of “if we do the streets then we do the sidewalks.” She uses Elm St. as an example. The street is good, but the sidewalks “are a mess.” Clancy says don’t worry, Haller’s concerns “have been heard.” Clancy says we may have to use asphalt instead of concrete for sidewalk repairs “to get the bang for the dollar.” Former councilor Gary Rosen’s rubber sidewalk idea is brought up, but not taken seriously.

8:15: JOB brings up his walking corridors idea. “There’s probably 20 to 25 walking corridors…we want to take some assessment on.”

8:16: Palmieri is very excited about this project. His main concern though is that there will be enough contractors to complete the jobs.

8:17: Rushton stands up for the council’s vote to raise taxes for these sidewalks. He says construction equals progress, and says he got a “great letter” from a constituent who supports redoing the sidewalks.

8:19: Jo Hart addresses the council as “the official-unofficial” sidewalk person. She calls out the council for driving and not knowing what the sidewalks are like. She wants a “large public hearing” about the sidewalks. She says the elderly who constantly fall go unnoticed, and have some ideas how to improve the sidewalks.

8:21: Adjourned!

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10 Comments

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10 responses to “City council live blog — 10/12/10

  1. Brad Wyatt

    Any mention of Boston Billiards, or Worcester Envelope closing, or why business can’t survive in Worcester?

  2. dont forget to add Brad why when a landlord advertises an apartment..two inquiries have jobs, 15 are on SSI…39 on welfare and the remainder just like to see what it looks like on the inside:>)

  3. -Q

    7:47pm lukes looking for charter change….,
    then why ask for charter change on this one issue? why not ask for a charter commission to review the ENTIRE city charter and see if there is not some room for improvement – bring the city charter up to date on ALL issues not just one inflammatory issue where a certain city councilor has a personal gripe with the city clerk………perpetuating personal gripes continuosly like lukes does serves no one in our city……….

  4. In answer to Cara’s question in Cover It Live: no, none of the councilors were at the Mass Health Council award dinner in Boston.
    The manager’s still recovering from surgery.

  5. During all the years I was able to afford a car, I would never have had so much interest in the subject of walking corridors. Now, after a year-and-a-half of walking and taking public transportation everywhere, that subject has moved way up on my list of priorities.

    Mayor O’Brien does appear to enjoy walking – especially whenever he’s talking on his cell phone. I know his attention span is fine, but he seems to be hyperactive – always in motion – very animated, even when he’s sitting “still”. I’ve also seen him taking the Route 30 bus before. So, I’m hopeful that he’ll work toward undoing at least some of the damage that the oil barons did when they conspired with auto manufacturers to dismantle and pave over all the electric trolley/streetcar sytems in the small-to-midsized cities and their outlying exurbs. Worcester needs to follow the lead of cities like Portland, Oregon and Tucson, Arizona in moving away from being so car-centric, otherwise it will most likely remain a suburb of Boston.

  6. -Q

    Daisy N. if I may extroplate on your comments:
    “to have a central downtown core trolley service with outlying parking areas thereby creating a friendly walking/easily traversed downtown storefront business environment to enhance commerce and trade”
    BRILLIANT!

  7. Thanks Q. If the administration ever does take the idea seriously, we would most likely end up with only a very short loop in the downtown area anyway. I put in a petition for two much longer routes on Sep. 7th, but unless some benevolent billionaire benefactor (say that 3x fast) out there loves Worcester enough to swoop in and pay for such a project, it can never happen. I thought at first that I was misreading the price, but the cost for installing a new electric trolley system ranges from $25M to 40M per mile.

    Also Q, what do you think of my suggestion for a community development trust through which members of the general public could buy shares in the former courthouse to fund its restoration and conversion for re-use? That petition made it onto the Oct. 12th agenda, but ended up listed under Traffic and Parking(??). And on that same subject… I agree with Councilor Smith that a law school located at the former courthouse property would probably be the best re-use for it. But if, for whatever reason, that doesn’t happen, what would you think of the idea for converting the historic section of the former courthouse property into a trolley station with an adjoining Park & Ride behind it?

  8. -Q

    for the court house re-use I would like to see private investment (ie: property now on the tax rolls) and re-use the facility maybe dining establishments/markets/cafes while honoring the historical features the older section has.
    As far as a trolley station that has merits for a portion of the structure maybe as a stop/ticket sales etc…
    but I would envison any trolley system to originate out of union station and to intergrate the downtown core/shrewsbury st./highland st/main st. out to clark u……for starters

  9. -Q

    DaisyN. how about
    to cut the cost of $25-$40m for rail lines the answer would be solar powered/alternate fuels trolley bus system run by the wrta – the wrta would run routes in the downtown business core
    and restuarant destination rows, college campuses and central neighborhood cores and then on to the periphery surrounding contiguous towns………….

  10. The WRTA has bought some hybrid buses, but I’d like to see the oil companies cut out of the picture altogether. I’m not sure if solar would be reliable enough, and as far as I know, the oil companies still own (and are still hoarding/shelving) the patent on the long-distance electric car battery they bought from its inventor back when they banned the use of the nearly perfect EV1 car. (See video documentary “Who Killed the Electric Car?”)

    Also, I know that inconvenience is probably the #1 reason why college students and middle class drivers won’t switch to using city buses. But even if a city bus could take them from door to door at any hour of the day or night (as with the colleges’ own shuttle services), I still think many of those commuters would still choose personal vehicles and college shuttle services over the industrial, blue-collar city buses. Modern intra-city light rail systems, on the other hand, seem to attract college students and middle class commuters in droves.

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