Sunday Notes January 15th 2017

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A Motion on THIS WEDNESDAY’S SCHOOL COMMITTEE Meeting Agenda basically ask for an –
EXPLANATION OF WHY THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE DIDN’T KNOW??

7.I. [By Connie Martin]: Requesting that the Administration, including all members who are cited as School Committee Representatives, provide the Lowell School Committee with a complete report on the history and current status of the charge filed by the LSAA regarding parking for Central Administration LSAA union members. This report should include:

the legal language differentiating a “charge” vs a “grievance” and notification protocols required by each,
a timeline of past meetings with Union leadership and
all associated documents and minutes from those meetings

We will hopefully find out why did the Superintendent decided NOT TO INFORM THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE? and Why they as a body were kept in the dark.

I cannot see in the LSAA Contract or the Supt’s contract that there has to be written notification of a “Charge” but in the School Committee Policy (see above screen shot) item 2 seems pretty clear!! The Superintendent was by School Committee policy required to keep them informed and he instead did the opposite and hid it from them.

Which again makes you ask WHY WOULD YOU REWARD THAT ACTION WITH A CONTRACT?

Why isn’t Superintendent attending School Building Committee for LHS Meetings? In addition to not informing the School Committee about the Unfair Labor Charge if you look at the Minutes from the School Building Committee meetings you’ll notice that the Supt. attended the first meeting and none since.

He and Gary Frich are BOTH listed as members yet the Supt. hasn’t attended despite it being an MSBA directive!

Mayor Kennedy who is listed as a member has been at ZERO meetings and had his aide attend only 2 of them. Councilor Elliott aka the Fiscal watchdog is listed as a member but hasn’t attended any and former Supt. George Tsapatsaris has been at only 1.

If these people cannot attend meetings I’m sure there are members of the business community, teachers, bloggers and parents who would be happy to serve and have a voice and a vote.

school-building-committee-of-lhs-letter-msba-2-2

The MSBA regulations clearly require the establishment of a school building committee (“SBC”) in each municipality seeking such funding, as well as set forth the responsibilities and the membership of a SBC. The regulations require the town to make “a reasonable effort” to include representatives from each of the Select Board and the School Committee, the Town Manager, the Superintendent of Schools, the manager with responsibility for maintenance of the new facility, the school principal of the facility, a local budget official, and community members with experience in architecture, engineering and/or construction, among others.

Why 2 sets of Books?

One thing that has concerned me with this Superintendent is his understanding and handling of the fiscal part of the business. His CFO has little Mass municipal experience (as shown in the often postponed budget hearings and number of transfer corrections).

For years the city has “charged” the School Department over $200,000 for Auditor services as part of meeting their net school spending requirements. The Auditor works for the Council directly not the Manager or the School Superintendent.

A few years ago the auditing dept. set the school dept. up for School Based Budgeting and in the Council packet this week you can see the report generated from the MUNIS System which is the accounting software used here in the city, for this fiscal year up through December in that format.

budjet-example

pyne

If you look at the January 4th meeting packet of the School Committee you see a fiscal report only through November and in a completely different format. Why?

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school-dept-budget-report-nov

It seems to be a great waste of time to keep 2 sets of books and have to transfer numbers. Anyone understand why the School Dept. just doesn’t use the School based budget designed in the Munis system?

Definition of chameleon:a person who changes their opinions or behavior according to the situation.

August 2015 City Council Vote – 2015 / 501 – Loan Order-High School Feasibility Study ($2,000,000) Approved 9-0 M. Elliott noted amount is about 80% reimbursable.

October 2015 Candidates Forum: @SunGrantWelker: Mayor Elliott prioritizes new Lowell public safety complex over a new high school, calling it in “horrid condition.” #lowellpoli

It’s an Election year and Lowell’s favorite Chameleon aka the self proclaimed Fiscal Watchdog will according to many participants in the political bubble make a motion to NOT INVEST IN A NEW HIGH SCHOOL FOR LOWELL BECAUSE OF THE COST!!

The Fiscal watchdog who when Mayor supported the project, the study and voted so on the Council floor will now say the cost is to high for the taxpayers and turn his and the cities back on 70% – 75% reimbursement from the State.

The next time Lowell has a chance to get $$ for a new High School will be long after Councilor Elliott is retired collecting his Federal and State taxpayer retirement dollars and a new LHS no longer will be his concern.

In Dracut in 2009 political payback, Political Grandstanding and political fighting cost the town over three million dollars in State funding to build elderly housing. To this day they have yet to be able to build and cannot get State money to help them.

Lowell cannot let the Fiscal Watchdog neuter this project in an election year by pandering to the anywhere but Belvidere and No Where but Downtown minority.

Councilor Rita Mercier was correct Tuesday night when she stated we cannot let this opportunity pass us by.

Can’t do it as a School Committeeman, will try has a Councilor?

If you believe the rumbling in the bubble Steve Gendron will NOT run for re-election for School Committee but instead will run for Council. He is pushing hard to keep LHS downtown including appearing before the Council last week to both misstate the fact that it would cost $1,000,000 a year for busing (State Law doesn’t require busing to ANY High School) while at the same time offering a threat that residents would move out of the neighborhood. Neglecting again to mention that to move out you first have to sell meaning others move in. If you look at the meeting minutes of the building committee you see he’s the person who brings up taking the dentist office by eminent domain. It seems Gendron has his own agenda. and it’s not what is best for the students but what’s best for Steve! He’s failing to keep it downtown but as a Councilor who has a say in financial matters maybe he can force his will that way.

Mary Burns is definitely NOT running for any municipal office she confirmed yesterday. Rumors abound about a strong woman from a powerful Lowell family running for Council. The Sheehy’s (Molly & Maria) have supposedly stated neither are running.

NO CHANCE AT EMINENT DOMAIN !

Remember the outrage when UMass Lowell bought the Perkins building and took it OFF the tax rolls?

“Our taxpayers feel like they’re being robbed, and I can’t blame them,” Councilor Rita Mercier said

Councilor Rodney Elliott said, “It just continues to erode the tax base of the city … unfortunately, it’s just more of the burden on businesses and homeowners.”

So how would it look if the City Council voted to use City taxpayers money to force out the dentist offices and the nighttime parking for Cobblestones, taking a taxable building off the books? Especially in an Election Year??

There is ZERO chance that this ever hits the Council Floor let alone force the Council to have to publicly vote on it.

Final 3 Presentation with Options
Here is the presentation of the final 3 locations which includes options for the existing site.
final-3-with-options

The City is required by Law to Post Agenda’s – Meeting Minutes and other information that relates to the proposed new/renovated LHS. The delay in doing so was that the city was in the process of releasing a new City of Lowell Website and this page wasn’t ready to go.

It is UP now and has information including the above presentation and meeting minutes and will be updated as more information become known. Here are a few interesting (at least to me) notes from the minutes posted on-line

August 11 20163.3 Opportunities and Constraints
D. Guarriello noted that the existing property is located in downtown Lowell. Their presentation to the committee included three possible renovations of the existing buildings. R. Bell discussed the options and which each would focus on.

Option 1 would focus on developing the western side of the canal.
Option 2 would take a closer look at the 1980s building and build less.
Option 3 would become a hybrid of options 1 and 2.

The Designers proposed a learnings common,which would create a new heart and hub of the school in the current field house. They also discussed adding outdoor space for extracurricular activities and educational use. R. Bell discussed changing the education model from STEM to STEAM (science, technology,engineering, art, and mathematics). He also mentioned the house model that is a tool used by the firm to show what clients think about the project.

October 2016 2.3 Preliminary Evaluation of Alternatives
B. Martin stressed how important the website will be to the project. The site will enable the community to understand how the project will be managed and developed. M. McGovern stated that the City is currently in the process of updating the City’s webpage. There will be a button designated for the school project on the City’s site that will directly link users to the school project website. The website is an opportunity to post documents, studies and information.It can be used as a public flier from the beginning to the end of the process. The site will visually allow users to get an overview of the project dashboard.

DEC 1st 2016 – 5.1 Base Repair
The base repair scope summary projections exclude Coburn Hall. The base repair for electrical system is $26 M that would include new power and security systems throughout the buildings. The 620 sq. ft. requirement is for the projected enrollment of 35,000 students. The four comparisons are based on the square footage and design enrollment numbers.

The cost per dollar of square footage is greater than $1,000. S.Gendron asked if the options don’t match the OMR, can the City used eminent domain and take a building to utilize space on the other side of the canal. The projected repair is based on the assumption of $250M, which seems high but is due to the location. Tight urban spaces with little room to expand make it harder to keep the temporary class rooms on site.

A.Base Repair w/ Small Addition (Bold mine)
The base option would not meet educational goals, only repair and maintenance goals. Based on the evaluation of existing conditions, the cost is estimated to be $231.8M to repair the buildings. S. Gendron asked if the feasibility study is looking into accessing properties.

M. Williams stated that it was being looked into but there is no final decision, it would only be used as a last resort. K. Murphy noted that it would not always be beneficial, for example, the assessed damages from Kerouac Park estimated at $600,000 cost the City $3.5 M.
The MSBA does not cover un-eligible costs such as acquiring property. M. Williams also noted that the option of eminent domain may stall the project and that a City owned property would allow the project to move forward faster.

Existing HS Location
The existing site is in close proximity to services, transportation and parking. The site is also already owned by the City. There are potential environmental issues with construction on the existing site. The site is also limited in space.

Cawley Stadium
The site has 31 usable acres, which is large enough for the project and is city owned. The location does not have close proximity to services and transportation. J. Drown noted that the maximum site cost that the MSBA reimburses is up to 8%. This would include bringing in utilities, parking and lighting. 6 acres are required for parking alone for seniors and staff. The design team noted that they. could build around the football field. M. McGovern discussed the criteria.

There may be a large debate with the general public regarding moving the high school out of the down town area. He noted that a public discussion should be set up. The December 8 meeting can be used to provide the public with the top three sites selected by the SBC.

South Common Park
The site is in close proximity to services and transportation. There are land use restrictions and the usable acreage is 2.3 acres. Approximately $1M in grant funding has been invested into this park to improve the space. Appealing to the legislature may be easier said than done. The OPM has had an experience with this in Westfield where the project was held for 5 years.

R. Underwood stated that the project may shrink and that the reimbursement may as well. B. Martin asked what the next step would be. R. Underwood asked if the change in perception is
what we would want to do. B. Martin noted that the neighborhoods want the High School to be downtown. It was also noted by the design team that the land is dedicated in deed as park land.

Vote
M. Vaughn noted that the PDP due diligence requires the SBC to select the top
three sites. He suggested that the SBC vote on the possible locations.

R. Healy motioned that the SBC endorse the three most favorable sites: Existing
HS location, Cawley Stadium, and Wang MS/ LeBlanc Park for more
information. Seconded by G. Frisch. All in favor, so voted.

Interesting to note the Attendees for that meeting all voted in FAVOR of the TOP 3 per the notes above.

So what or who reached out to Steve Gendron to change his mind and try to reopen the South Common spot between the Dec.6th meeting when he voted in favor of the top 3 locations and trying at the Jan. 4th meeting to reopen the South Common location?

1. – Attendance
Attendees: Kevin Murphy, Conor Baldwin, Robert Healy, Mike Vaughn, Brian Martin, Gary
Frisch, Richard Underwood, Lisa DeMeo, Steve Gendron.
Also in attendance: Mike McGovern, Rodney Conley
From Skanska: Mary Ann Williams, Jim Dowd
From Perkins Eastman: Alicia Caritano, Robert Bell

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