Posted by Jeremy Shulkin
7:10: Councilors are just trickling in now, estimated start time 7:17.
7:11: Here we go. (I was six minutes off, for those of you bad at math).
7:14: Clancy calls for a moment of silence to honor those who died at Pearl Harbor (and the other wars since).
7:15: Proclamation for First Night Worcester. A rep. from First Night makes a call for $5 donations (in return, you get a flashing button).
7:18: Elections for Library Board candidates: Karen Donneris, Victoria Roman, Deborah Packard, Pastor Anna Sicaro, and Phylis Harrington are the candidates. (Spellings butchered.)
Deborah Packard and Phylis Harrington are elected by the council.
7:24: Lukes wants to know about PILOT payments for non-profits. Lukes praises the swiftness of the report, saying she wasn’t expecting it so soon. She points out that there’s no mandate to exempt non-profits from taxes. She says that only comes on the federal level; the state could assess a non-profit tax if it wanted. “It wouldn’t benefit directly Worcester” unless through a bump in local aid.
Lukes also wants “the whole picture” — a list of all non-profits or government entities in the city paying PILOT. “My concern is unless we have a clear policy in how we’re going to be dealing with PILOT programs…we’re going to be listening to a discussion about raising taxes in the city.” She wants more information “on the laws that provide non-profit institutions tax exempt status in the Commonwealth.”
7:29: Palmieri says he doesn’t disagree with what Lukes says, but “at this juncture there is something in place” citing the Manager’s work with getting PILOT from area colleges. “There’s nothing wrong with having more rules in place” but he doesn’t want to limit the Manager’s discussions, particularly with Holy Cross. He reminds people that Holy Cross has an endowment of $500 million.
Lukes clarifies that she wants to look beyond colleges, but at other non-profits. “My intent is not to involve the council in anything the Manager is now proceeding with.”
7:33: Clancy talks pool demolitions — the ones that are already closed due to their poor conditions and/or the PCBs found in the cement. He wants to look at block grants or CSX money coming in (to be reimbursed later). He wants to see “creative ways to find the money now to demolish those pools.”
7:36: M.O’Brien says he’s been looking at ways to deal with this, including borrowing the revenues from CSX, a PILOT agreement from Clark for University Park, and looking at block grants. He’s going to come back to council with a report detailing a demolition bid for the spring.
7:37: Eddy reiterates Clancy, saying “I know your administration is focused on neighborhoods…these (pools) are indeed public safety issues.” He wants to know a possible timeline, as in ‘can this happen in FY11?’ (my paraphrase). M.O’Brien says he’d have to look back at the funding. He estimates it would take 1-2 construction seasons to complete all the work.
Eddy says he understands there’s fiscal constraints. He wants to see if money can come out of the capital budget to get these pools demolished, even if that means delaying a capital budget project that the council all wants to see happen. He says first and foremost these pools need to be taken out of the neighborhoods because there could be a disaster waiting to happen.
7:40: Moylan says the plan right now is that there’s $540,000 to use to put out a bid to demolish “certain pools.” “The way we see it now the work will go out this spring, and some of the pools will be demolished. The holes will be filled in.” He adds that if additional money can be found then others can be done, but this is “best case scenario.” “Right now I would like to think we will get the task done for next year.”
7:42: Lukes says “listening to how we’re going to get our money sounds like robbing Peter to pay Paul…from one priority to another.”
7:47: Haller says she was at Clark earlier regarding University Park. She wants to know if these PCBs would make brownfield money available to dealing with the PCB pools. M.O’Brien doesn’t think so — the job creation aspect wouldn’t be there, for one reason. Haller adds that she agrees with Eddy in getting these pools demo-ed as soon as possible.
7:48: Smith (who’s on the Youth, Parks and Rec. committee) says that he wants the next pool built in the city to be in district 1, as there’s not going to be one there, while every other area will “have access to a first-class aquatic facility.” He wants a plan/timeline/funding from the Manager as to how they can make this work.
7:51: Eddy praises an earlier presentation from DPW head Moylan. He says the investments across the city should make the council proud. He calls up Moylan to talk about what projects are happening.
Moylan says a new ball field on Bailey Road (contribution from the Spillane family) is coming, as is Rockwood (baseball field for community use) is being finalized — “sod being placed almost as we speak.” Vernon Hill Park, value of $7 mil, is “now complete.” Phase I of work at Institute Park has started too.
Eddy adds “the key word the Commission spoke about it ‘partnerships.'” He means between politicians and private families.
J.O’Brien says “quick math” shows that’s $14 million worth of work happening in parks right now.
7:57: Clancy recognizes the Lt. Gov. and Gov. for their help securing money for certain projects too.
8:02: Toomey would like to see time stamps on videos (and the videos on YouTube) of council meetings showing where each council order/motion is. She’d also like to see city parks with wi-fi.
8:03: Frank Winship (sp) is here from Charter. He wants to offer help with formatting and feasibility.
8:05: Toomey talks about adding bike lanes in the city and encouraging other ways of transportation besides driving. She’d like to city to “consider the feasibility of establishing a partnership between local health care providers.”
Toomey also wants better signage for directing people to Green Hill Golf Course. Plenty more talk on the Golf Course follows from Toomey, including getting them to promote themselves on Twitter/Facebook, and making sure the maps leading eaters to the restaurant up there are correctly guiding drivers.
8:14: There’s talk about the James Street bridge, and there’s December 20 meeting about it. It could be closed for four months. Lukes says the businesses in the area won’t be happy. She wants to know what jurisdiction the city has in this instance, since it’s a state bridge. M.O’Brien says it is, in fact, a state bridge, and DPW will participate to help the DOT in their rebuilding. O’Brien says there are no resources set aside to help the businesses impacted by the upcoming construction, and adds there construction going on across the city. He doesn’t want to open discussion to business who could complain that construction has limited their growth and recoupment from the city/state is needed.
Rushton calls this bridge repair a “needed project.” “This will have an impact on James Road, dramatically.” He cites the bad traffic in the area, and it could make people start visiting businesses that are previously ignored because of the current bad traffic.
8:25: The council authorizes “the Implementation of a Revolving Loan Fund at the Worcester Public Schools for the Upkeep of Foley Stadium.”
Clancy says City Admin indicated last week that tax rate assessments should be forthcoming. M.O’Brien says they’re working with the Department of Revenue. M.O’Brien says “it will be no small undertaking” getting tax bills out by January, even if the council votes on Dec. 21, but it can happen.
8:30: Clancy adds that banks require that commercial loans be given for residential buildings when they contain 5 units or more. He and Palmieri request that city admin look at changing the classification of 5 unit residential buildings to commercial. He wants a report on this, to see if this would significantly drop the commercial rate “therefore bridging the gap” between the residential/commercial rate. The issue is it would have to be done on the state level. “Certainly it would be a gain for commercial properties that are taxed at the highest rate, and not much of a bane for those taxed at the residential rate.” He says if “the world of banking” says 5 units or more equals commercial, then the city should look into it.
8:34: Palmieri says this has been looked at. “There’s no silver bullet here. Someone has to pay.” “This might be the starting point to discuss something that has long needed to be discussed on the council floor along with our brothers and sisters in the state delegation.”
8:37: Rushton: “I kind of want to say hallelujah.” He wants to know if 4 units “is in play” too, or if the cut off is 5 and up. “I’m sensing a seismic shift on the willingness of the council to address the widening gap between the commercial and residential rates.” He says the vote to split the rate 25 years ago was the “worst economic vote.” He applauds Clancy and Palmieri.
8:39: Lukes congratulates Auburn for hiring Julie Jacobson as their new town manager.
8:40: M.O’Brien asks for an executive session for next Tuesday “for matters concerning litigation.” Clancy asks if this “pertains to the big story the other day.” M.O’Brien doesn’t get into details. Clancy wants a report specifically about what can be talked about so they don’t tread into a conversation they shouldn’t. Lukes points out this could wade into personel matters. (If you haven’t been reading the news, they’re hinting at the recent ruling by a Superior Court Judge regarding the reinstatement of WPD officer David Rawlston.)