Sunday Notes February 26th 2017

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Option 3 and Cawley should be the focus for a new or renovated LHS

In my view option 3 the expanded downtown site which requires the taking of 75 Arcand Drive along with the Cawley site are the two best options for a new LHS. Some will continue to dismiss the downtown but I think until all the information is assembled and shared both options including eminent domain must remain in play.

Ironically the City of Lowell at one point took that land by eminent domain then years later decided it was no longer needed and sold it for $25,000. Lowell City Councilor’s have taken land by eminent domain for bridges, for Kerouac park and other reasons that were viewed has being in the best interest of the city. A High School that will benefit thousands of families for the next 50 plus years certainly is in the best interest of the city.

New Concerns over renovations

Renovation of the Kirk St. building while always a concern , have taken on more of a concern when the former acting City of Lowell Health Dept. Director and longtime DPH advisor Jo-Ann Keegan publicly post on a Facebook thread that she feels there are numerous potential health concerns involving a renovation.

When someone who is a professional and who worked for the city expresses these type of concerns appointed and elected city officials need to pay attention.

Either do some testing during the April vacation of walls and ceilings or at the very least, arrange for her to speak to the entire building committee and let her specify her concerns so that they can be addressed to the parents and taxpayers. Jo-Ann Keegan is a highly respected professional and if she has concerns than the City that employed her needs to hear them and address them!

Why not move Dentist Office to New Garage in Hamilton Canal?

If you look at the Ed Early Garage on Appleton St. you’ll see the street level houses the Registry, Garcia Brogans and a dental office.

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There is a proposal for a new garage in the Hamilton Canal.

At 75 Arcand Dr there are several different businesses at this location: DRS Montminy, Incorporated, Kim Ansony DDS-Lowell Dentistry for Children, Becht Joseph DDS-Lowell Dentistry for Children, Watman Aaron.

Why not check with these individual businesses and see if they would be interested in moving into a spot in the Hamilton Canal that included reserved parking for employees and patients?

Pay for the land at Arcand, give the businesses office space in the proposed garage and pay their moving expenses. A possible win-win for two development projects.

Two Groups- Two Meetings at the end one united city! (hopefully)

The debate for where a new LHS should go has activated many people and my hope is more participation in municipal issues and elections. There are two meetings coming up and if you want to either learn more or get involved please attend.

Meeting Monday February 27@ 6:30 PM at Longmeadow Golf Club 165 Havilah St (off Andover St) for those interested in keeping LHS Downtown.

Rally supporting LHS at Cawley at Top Donut on Aiken on Saturday March 4th 9:00 – 11:00 am

Free advice to both groups, in order to reach the many families who will be directly affected by a move or if it stays, I would reach out to the CBA, CMAA, CTI, Boys Club, Girls Inc, Utec and Lower Highlands Neighborhood group to ask them to hold information nights where the City can send an unbiased representative to present the options and then representatives from each group can present their opinions on why the current or Cawley site is the best. I would also arrange to have translators on hand.

I keep hearing that this section of our community isn’t being heard from but I don’t see anyone trying to reach out and inform them.

Did Mayor AGAIN put foot in mouth?

According to a Facebook post Mayor Kennedy allegedly described the Cawley supporters as a small, but vocal minority from Belvidere, who are willing to sacrifice the children of other neighborhoods so that theirs can have a high school in their backyard.

First off I know firsthand after meeting with many people citywide the support for this site exist citywide. Take a ride and you will see signs all over the city or scroll Facebook.

Some could say you are being a NIMBY willing to sacrifice all students future to keep a High School out of your neighborhood.

I thought and hoped you would have learned to control your anger and contempt with people you disagree after you put your foot in your mouth on your inauguration speech. When you singled out Bill Samaras, Dan Rourke, Jim Milinazzo and John Leahy for qualities they had brought to the Council of the last term and then lumped Councilor’s Mercier, Elliott and Belanger together and thank them for also contributing because initially they supported Rodney for a 2nd term for Mayor.

Free advice from someone with a very public track record of foot in mouth comments, you said it in public apologize in public and try to learn from your mistakes. Dismissing the supporters of Cawley the way you did was an embarrassment to the entire City Council and to the many residents, Cawley supporters, taxpayers and voters who will not forget!

Independent Audit finds troubling issues with school finances.

I went on and on ad nauseam about this transfer and lack of questioning by this school committee. The independent Auditors hired by the city seem to agree.

SCHOOL INDIRECT CHARGES

The School Department transferred approximately $1.0 million from the Milk and Lunch revolving fund to account for indirect charges originally charged to the general fund budget. Normally any indirect charge transfers anticipated are incorporated as part of the formal budget process. This gives the City Council all necessary information to make an informed decision regarding the approval of appropriations. In this case, the $1.0 million transfer was not approved in the formal budget. This is significant because had the transfer been part of the budget the City Council may have reduced the School’s appropriation request by the amount of the anticipated indirect cost transfer. The transfer was determined after year end and had the impact of increasing the School’s available appropriation by the $1.0 million charged to the Milk and Lunch revolving fund.

Recommendation
We recommend that all anticipated indirect allocation inter-fund transfers be part of the original budget cycle to allow the City Council the opportunity to make budget decisions with all applicable information.

Now we also find out in the audit report that grants are going to waste and being returned because this school committee doesn’t follow-up on fiscal issues and we are returning money that is meant for Lowell students.

SCHOOL GRANT MANAGEMENT
School Grant Management
Current Year Comment
The Lowell Public Schools receive significant federal education grant funds. We noted during 2016 that the City returned approximately $508 thousand of federal funds that were not spent during the grant year to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Although these funds can generally be re-applied for in subsequent periods the City is at risk for having future funds under the programs reduced because current year funds have not used.

Recommendation
We recommend that management evaluate these programs to determine the underlying reason for the return of funds and develop a plan to maximize the benefits that these programs provide.

Hopefully the next school committee meeting will include a motion asking the Superintendent for a detailed explanation of why over half a million dollars was returned.

Is it several grants that we didn’t use all of? Is it a couple large grants that we received and didn’t need to use? Had we met our desired expectations that had us apply for the grants originally?

I give Connie Martin credit for asking about grants even though she hasn’t been responded to. Connie asked about grants for this school year in June and had to ask again in October and looking through agenda’s since, I cannot find that she has received an answer to this.

by Connie Martin]: Requesting that the Administration provide the committee with the individual grant budgets for all grants that are expected to be expended during the 2016-2017 school year as previously requested at the June 1, 2016 meeting of the Lowell School Committee.

How much grant money are we not spending this year? Why does it take 8 months and two motions to get an answer and why hasn’t one been given?

Jackie Dougherty’s motion deserves an answer but question should be directed to Superintendent! who is supposed to answer to the School Committee

6.I. [By Jacqueline Doherty]:
Request the City Manager to provide the Committee with a report that details the City’s Maintenance of Effort Agreement for the last year related to expenditures on the schools.

The School Dept should know this information. Former Deputy Superintendent in charge of finance Jay Lang provided the previous school committee with this report because of a motion from either Kim Scott or Kristen Ross Sitcawich I believe.

City of Lowell NSS (FY11 – FY15)

Also in this week’s City Council Packet is the compliance report submitted by the school department and verified by the State’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for Net School Spending. The certified FY16 numbers show that The City of Lowell exceeded its net school spending requirement in FY16 by $9,144,725.

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So why doesn’t the present administration know these numbers Jackie is asking for? They submit the report to DESE and why does a school committee member not have the confidence to ask the person who report directly to the School Committee for this information?

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One thought on “Sunday Notes February 26th 2017

  1. jerryflynn

    Gerry, Thank you for your informative updates and while you make great points for both points of view, I find it ironic that you state: “Meeting Monday February 27@ 6:30 PM at Longmeadow Golf Club 165 Havilah St (off Andover St) for those interested in keeping LHS Downtown.” The irony is they aren’t meeting to keep LHS Downtown, but rather OUT OF BELVIDERE!

    Just look at the recent comments by his royal jackass – “Old Foot in the Mouth” Kennedy, who continues to represent his residential constituency, instead of the entire city as its elected/appointed Mayor. There is and will always continue to be the “us against them” mentality in this city as a result of those who believe that know what is best for all of us. The continuation of class is nothing new – but rather the delineation of the Mill owners who resided high above the hill looking down on the poor peasants. Unfortunately, for the haves, the have nots have gotten educated and realize that there is power in numbers. Have a great day & keep up the good work, you will be an exemplary figure on the Lowell School Committee.

    Reply

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