- Focus on Personnel & Maintenance Issues
New councilors dominated the discussion on issues of maintenance, personnel and the relationship between the two. Motions on building HVAC systems, the LHS project, catch basin cleaning, and pools all touched on the city’s recruitment, hiring, training and retention of qualified personnel.
However, the motion garnering the most attention was filed by C. Robinson and C. Gitschier:
Req. City Mgr. Provide Council With A Detailed Response On The City’s Current Policy, Practice And Procedures Regarding Hiring Of New Employees and/or Promotional Appointments.
Why it matters: Maintenance is always an issue – the question will be whether this council will be willing to accept the up-front investment cost to focus on hiring, training and equipment as a preventative measure. Moreover, whether the City will be able to compete for qualified workers in the current job market.
In addition, in July of 2021, a report was published by CliftonLarsonAllen (CLA) relative to a diversity, equity and inclusion assessment for the City (available athttps://www.lowellma.gov/AgendaCenter/ViewFile/Item/16864?fileID=32466)
A key finding, referenced last night, is found on page 14:
The purpose of the motion and how it relates to the CLA report is self-evident.
2. NEW BUSINESS
Vote authorized CM to enter into a lease with Hot Pot District, LLC for property at 135 Middlesex Street – former site of Garcia Brogans.
Why it matters: New business is almost always good. A new business with Lowell roots entering a city owned building, in an up-and-coming area is even better.
3. AFFORDABLE HOUSING
Was hoping to hear more about C. Nuon’s Motion to Explore Affordable Housing Trust but the matter was referred to sub-committee without discussion.
Why it matters: The cost of housing affects every aspect of our lives. The City’s Master Plan seeks “an abundance of affordable housing for rent or purchase,” and “strives to maintain the relative affordability of housing in Lowell compared to other communities in the region.” An affordable housing trust fund could help meet that objective. Looking forward to more details in the future.
4. Lowell High Project
Motion by C. Gitschier for frequent updates on the project.
Why it matters: The phased renovation and expansion of Lowell High is it the most expensive school building project in Massachusetts history. Phase 1 is underway and, per the City Manager, appears to be on budget and on schedule. However, Lowell will not be immune to price increases and supply chain issues that have intensified due to the pandemic. As the MSBA has entered into an agreement partially fund the project at a fixed price point, there is concern that the scope of the project could be cut as it enters later phases. The discussion on this motion came full circle to touch on maintenance of the school, once complete.
5. American Rescue Plan Act Funding
The City’s receipt of ARPA funds came up multiple times during discussion. A motion by C. Drinkwater and C. Nuon sought a plan to use a portion of the funding to make improvements to city parks. A second motion by the same councilors sought an update as to community input for funding suggestions. Potential use of this funding was also invoked for items such as enterprise fund deficits and an additional street-sweeper.
Why it matters: In May 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury launched the Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Fund, established by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 to provide $350 billion in emergency funding for state and local governments to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.
The City of Lowell is expected to receive two separate funding allocations totaling $75,977,314. The city will have to set priorities for the best use of these funds. I would expect vigorous debate during this term.