Monthly Archives: December 2010

Crompton Park ice skating rink open

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Today isn’t the day for it, but there’s going to be at least one functioning ice skating rink in the city this winter.

The Crompton Park ice skating rink opened this weekend to anyone who wants to skate for free on a real rink.

The rink’s frame was built by members of the Carpenters Local 107 union, filled in with water sprayed by a decommissioned Worcester Fire Department truck, and human-zambonied by students of Ana Maria’s ALANA (African Americans, Latinos, Asian Pacfic Americans, Native Americans, and Allies) club.

In essence, this a completely community-led initiative. Along with those mentioned on top, others involved include students from the Gerald Creamer Center, Canal District Alliance, South High Community School students, Rotary International, Friends of Mike Germain, Wings Over Worcester, Nice Rink, Fairview Farm, Daughters of the Holy Spirit and Worcester Publishing. Pernet Family Health Service, located at 237 Millbury St has skates available for use and is also accepting donated pairs.

The rink is open from 10 am to 5 pm daily and can be found on the tennis courts.

In talking to community members, opening the rink has a greater significance this year. A month after the murder of Kevin Shavies just a few hundred feet away, those involved in building the rink say it’s important to push back against negative events with something positive.

It also proves to any doubters that all you need to make a skating rink is a frame, a hose and some cold weather.

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State rules no Environmental Impact Report needed for CSX

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Outgoing state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs  Ian Bowles has read through CSX’s Environmental Notification Form and declared yesterday that there was no need for the large freight company to file a more extensive and rigorous Environmental Impact Report. From the Telegram:

State officials yesterday issued an environmental certificate for the proposed $100 million CSX freight yard expansion in downtown Worcester, ruling the project will not require an environmental impact report.

Shortly before noon, Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian A. Bowles issued the certificate, which will allow the project to proceed without further environmental review by the state.

Some questions still remain:

-Since the deal was struck in February the acreage of the site has been reported hundreds of times in the media and government hearings as 50 acres, but there’s no concern that the reported site area jumped up to 79 acres once CSX filed their MEPA. The rational of the higher number may be sound, but there should be skepticism that the real number came out so late.

-There’s been no mention of the type of “switcher engines” that will be used in the freight yard. In many rail yards — Chicago’s is one example — old engines are used for pulling trains/cars to different tracks. These engines are typically the dirtiest, and since they don’t take anti-freeze they run constantly but never leave the freight yard, which concentrates the diesel particulate emissions over one small area of town. That question has been asked of the company on two separate occasions, but they’ve yet to provide an answer.

-CSX was able to skirt groundwater issues as well, since the Blackstone River/Reservoir doesn’t warrant as strict environmental protection as others, such as the Nashua or Chicopee. The City says they have no worries about chemicals from the rail yard seeping into the Blackstone because any overflow in the area will be pre-treated at the Quinsagmond St. treatment facility before flowing in the Upper Blackstone plant.

As we reported here, CSX will still have to deal with some environmental questions during the permitting process, but the EIR seemed the last best effort for a more comprehensive study of air quality and noise pollution (among other issues). According to the T&G, 73 letters were written to the EOEEA regarding an environmental review.

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City council live blog — 12/21/10

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

It’s going to be a good one tonight. Keep up with all the tax talk with Cover It Live. Here’s the agenda.

6:59: Internet’s already a little spotty so far. Still waiting for people to roll in.

7:11: Members of the public will speak first. I’m going to butcher their last names.

George Valeri is first to speak. He wants to speak in favor of the lowest res. rate. He says it’s a matter of survival — people are having trouble eating. Even if it’s only a $31 increase, when you make $500 a month and it takes $500 to feed a family, $31 is a lot. He says he owns 17 units on Wall St. that hasn’t made money in three years. He can’t raise rent because people can’t pay the rent he’s charging. He says this country is becoming a “socialistic country” because we’ve pushed jobs out.

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Tax rate looks like it will move away from lowest residential

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Rumors are running around that those in favor of splitting this year’s tax increase between both the homeowners and commercial property owners have scraped and clawed together six votes for tonight, enough to push it through the 11 member council. If it’s true, this would be the first time the council did not set the lowest residential rate since 2006.

Here’s the run down I have. An * by their name means their vote has been confirmed either by Worcester Mag, the T&G or comments they’ve made during previous council meetings. “No” denotes a vote for lowest residential rate, “yes” denotes a vote for splitting the tax increase between homeowners and residents.

Paul Clancy*-No
Bill Eddy-Yes
Mike Germain*-Yes
Barbara Haller*-No
Konnie Lukes*-No
Joe O’Brien*-Yes
Phil Palmieri*-No
Joe Petty*-Yes
Rick Rushton*-Yes
Joff Smith-No
Kate Toomey*-Yes

From what we’re hearing, this is what the tax numbers would look like:

The council will vote in line 258. The residential rate would be set at $16.06 per $1,000 valuation, which means homeowners would see a $178 dollar property tax increase for the year — on average $31 dollars more than it would have been if the lowest residential rate was set. On the commercial side the tax rate would drop to $34.65 per $1,000 valuation but their taxes would go up, on average, $1,139. This does, however, spare them on average $329 if the lowest residential rate were to be voted in. So, the average property tax in Worcester for a homeowner will be $3,307 vs. $21,087 for commercial property owners.

Even if this spoils the surprise for you, tune into tonight’s meeting anyway. Plenty of other good stuff will be discussed.

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Last minute jockying for influence over tax vote (updated with more numbers)

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Tomorrow night the city council will vote to set next fiscal year’s tax rate(s), so of course advocates for both business and homeowners have spent the last week or so doing whatever they can to get access to councilors.

This year has a different feeling than other years, regarding the tax vote. Last year, many councilors (or at least the majority needed to pass the vote) promised voters they would vote for the lowest residential rate while campaigning, taking a lot of the mystery out of the vote that following winter. This year, however, we’ve got a split right down the middle.

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Worcester Citizens for Business release survey results

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Just in time for the city council’s annual establishment of the city’s tax rate(s), Worcester Citizens for Business has released a survey of 107 local businesses in the hopes that it will help push the council to give commercial owners a break this year.

So who did they ask? 64 percent of the businesses asked employ 1-20 people, 76 percent are in service or retail and 53 percent have been in Worcester for 21 or more years. What did they find? 82 percent said Worcester’s greatest strength was its location while, surprise surprise, 82 percent also said its greatest weakness was the dual tax rate. According the survey, 39% of those businesses polled are eyeing locations outside of Worcester.

(See the Worcester Citizens for Business survey.)

This year the group has tried for more visibility leading up to the tax discussion, and one friend of the group, Tony Economou, has already announced his candidacy for next year’s city council elections. Rumors are another group member may announce later on.

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City council live blog — 12/14/10

Posted by Jeremy Shulkin

Agenda. Cover It Live. Get ready for a lot of economic development talk. See you at 7:00.

7:10: Just waiting for the councilors to come out of executive session. Stay tuned.

7:38: Here we go. Long executive session. Haller starts off by talking about the streets and sidewalks initiative. She says there are concerns that sidewalks are being overlooked, and if a street isn’t fixed, then that bordering sidewalk will be ignored. Citizens are here with a petition that asks the city to address sidewalks that are in need of repair even if the streets aren’t.

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