1. Farewell Manager Donoghue
After four years, Eileen Donoghue’s contract as City Manager will expire on Monday, April 11. Accordingly, last night was her last council meeting. Following a 10-0 vote to appoint City Clerk Michael Geary as Acting City Manager (Councilor Mercier was not in attendance), each councilor present thanked the CM for her years of service and praised her for a job well done.
I echo the praise heaped on Manager Donoghue and her team. If you read this website, you are likely one of the oddballs that follows the ins and outs of the Council and administration on a regular basis. What you will have seen over the last four years is consistent and effective leadership. The Manager and her team are always well-prepared and well-versed on any given topic. The information and level of detail provided in motion responses is usually excellent. Manager Donoghue’s style is remarkably understated, as credit for her accomplishments is almost always deflected onto others. However, last night provided an opportunity to review and appreciate some of her achievements:
- Navigated the Covid-19 pandemic – providing vital public health services and saving local businesses
- Construction of the LHS project underway
- Continued development of the Hamilton Canal District
- Start of and near completion of Lord Overpass redesign
- Highest free cash reserves in over 20 years
- Over $170 million invested in capital projects
- Net school spending exceeded every year of tenure
- Applied for and received MSBA approval for accelerated school repairs totaling $13 million
- Acre Crossing development project
- Highest level of certification for Lowell Police by MPAC
- Oversaw the implementation of legal cannabis sales
- Oversaw establishment and first round of spending of CPA funds
- Oversaw establishment and implementation of district representation
In light of this partial list, it’s sad to see her go. As I wrote previously, I would have liked to have seen another year – but all things must pass and it’s time to move on. Hopefully, Manager Golden finds that he is set up for success and is able to continue and build upon the positive momentum.
2. Everything Else
There’s not much to add on the rest of the meeting. I missed most of the discussion on the Fiscal Year 2023 Preliminary Budget Proposal – but the link is embedded, if you like punishment.
Arguably, the most interesting event was an executive session held smack-dab in the middle of the meeting:
” To Consider And Discuss Ongoing Negotiations Relative To LeLacheur Baseball Stadium Pursuant To The Provisions Of Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 30A Sect. 21(6) (For The “Possible Purchase, Exchange, Lease, Or Value Of Real Property;”) Public Discussion Of Which May Have A Detrimental Effect On The Negotiating Position Of The City.”
UMass President Marty Meehan was present, presumably to give an update on the recent Request for Proposals (RFP) for the planned East Campus mixed use development project. Obviously, LeLacheur Park would factor heavily into future development of this area, and obviously the return of minor league baseball would be needed to make the park an enterprise worth spending money on. The question is whether the city is willing to spend this money. It’s debatable as to whether the park is an asset or a liability and whether we would get a good return on the investment. I’m looking forward to more details on this in the future.
The other event of note was discussion on a motion response pertaining to the Smith Baker Center. The City twice tried to work out a deal with the Coalition for a Better Acre (CBA) that would have transformed the building to a community center. However, due to questions surrounding the cost of repairs and lack of detailed timeline and plan for the building’s use, the deals fell through.
However, there may be signs of hope. Christine McCall of the Department of Planning and Development (DPD) was present to remind the council that the Upper Merrimack Street area was approved as a Transformative Development Initiative (TDI) district. As per the Mass Development website, “TDI works to concentrate economic development activities, resources, and investments within designated neighborhood areas, known as “TDI Districts,” to create a critical mass of activity that inspires investments by local residents, entrepreneurs, and businesses, as well as additional private development.”
As such, there may an opportunity to work with MassDevelopment, and other partners to find funding for a new use for the historic property. Finally, the City Manager noted that the building would be eligible for use of ARPA funds.