Sunday Notes – A great compromise needs to be considered, More Traffic Info, Best Politician

A great compromise needs to be considered

Only in Lowell do you need the Lowell Zoning Board, Lowell Conservation Commission, Tewksbury Conservation Commission and Chelmsford Conservation Commission’s approval to build a new High school. What’s the matter, we couldn’t find a way to include Dracut? I forgot the Lowell Board of Parks had a say already and possibly the Cemetery Commission may need to weigh in!

Now some residents of Centralville are concerned that the Rez on Beacon St. (which is being used to keep the Cawley option viable because it is now being designated open space or a passive park for article 97 purposes)that their neighborhood is going to be impacted with the creation of ball fields. In all likelihood that won’t happen but given the chaos that has existed in this project the concern is understandable. The residents of South Lowell/ Plain St. / Gorham St will now also be affected with the creation of new ball fields and increased traffic.

How many more neighborhoods are going to be impacted and how many more disputes and how much greater a division is this City Administration and City Council going to allow before this absurdity stops? The present School Committee has shown ZERO leadership on this project and the Council has allowed the politics of the project to divide them and the city neighborhoods.

City Councilor John Leahy’s motion asking to see if the Hamilton Canal could possibly be the site for the High School would give the city a brand new building while also keeping it downtown. That would give both sides what they are interested in. It is worth at least exploring.

Allowing the MSBA / Skanska / Perkins Eastman to conduct the same test they did on the current two sites and the Building Committee to look at the Hamilton Canal and seriously consider that option, may give the city the best possible opportunity to build a state of the art school, possibly keep it in the downtown and start to heal the great divide in this city.

If this project implodes and we end up with nothing, remember those so negative and unwilling to even consider a compromise. It’s not to late in the process. It may turn out for one reason or another that the school won’t fit or the councilor’s don’t want to give up the so far unobtainable dream of developing a business district but at least they fairly with an open mind looked at this option.

In my view Councilor Leahy see’s the wide division that has developed in this city pitting neighbor against neighbor and friend against friend and see’s now that two more neighborhoods are being impacted and are about to get involved which will widen and worsen the division. He has offered a way to possibly make many people if not happy at least satisfied.

Unlike some who feed the divide and like to complain, Councilor Leahy is trying to figure a way to unite the city on a project that all of Lowell should have been supportive and united on but instead has exposed the ugly political infighting and created the greatest division in this city of my lifetime.

Councilor Leahy is at least trying to make things work for both sides and for that he should be commended not criticized!

The remaining councilor’s need to be open and willing to at least properly vet this idea for the good of the community.

Budget considerations

The School Dept has already expressed concern about the current budget and funding needs. The possibility to build new in the downtown without the need for eminent domain is a positive. Keeping the High School downtown leaves the opportunity to keep using the LRTA and if people are truly concerned with the 1400 students who currently walk the city/ school could purchase these students 10 month bus passes at a cost of $280,000 which is much less than the $3.6 million to do just High School busing and would eliminate the need to rezone the entire city, change starting times for middle or elementary schools and risk having to eliminate the STEM Academy.

Congratulations to Supt. Khelfaoui who not only successfully fought against the reduction of $851,160.00 in cash this year from the City . Based on his ability to push back he had the city pick up the cost of 3 resource officers previously covered by the School District (That would be a $263,594 Savings) and had the following positions and line item transferred back to the city: The Heating Maintenance,Energy Management Systems and LHS HVAC Techs, two Plumbing positions and the Bld repair and maintenance line item that all were in the 2016/2017 Lowell Public School budget (that totals $429,256 in savings) the two combine total $692,850.

I have NOT heard anyone say the 3 Resource Officers or the other positions the Supt. pushed to city were not being funded or would be eliminated so the Supt. apparently got the Manager to change the current Memorandum of Understanding for Maintenance of Effort.

After the pleading on Tuesday night, at the School Committee meeting Wednesday night, came the news that the city was providing an additional $257,000. That brings the total additional money from the city to $949,850.00 in addition to the $18,005,691 committed by the Manager.

The Supt. ended up with $98,690 more than the Managers recommended cut of $851,160.00 in cash. Add that to the State Senate’s Ch. 70 projection of $144,667,633 and the projected school dept. budget is approx. $163,623,174 or $5,177.942 more than last year.

The Superintendent this month also received a 4 year contract with a 10% guaranteed raise not tied to any job performance evaluation and amendment language with the contract that gives him strong standing.

For a guy who claims he doesn’t care about the politics, he seems to be the best politician in Lowell.

He didn’t have to make cuts or reductions, is hiring 22+ new Para’s, his budget has gone up over $5,000,000, he has more job security than any elected official, the City Manager, Police or Fire Chief,City Auditor, City Clerk and every Dept. Head and has a school committee who seem to believe that they work for him despite the Education Reform Act that shows he is suppose to answer to them. His 3 Asst. Supt’s have receive salary increase also, one received $19,756 increase in two years – one $10,416.00 in one year and the other a $5,000 a year raise.

Meanwhile the City dept.’s had to deal with reductions and the city is using $2,000,000 in reserves to balance their budget while talking about a 5% – 7.5% tax increase to build a new or renovated High School!

More comprehensive Traffic study!
May Traffic Analysis with images

On the LHS Project Website the city maintains is this more comprehensive Traffic analysis with some updated diagrams of the High School at each location.

Some information I found interesting in this report – 6.1 Downtown Site

Lowell High School is currently ‘functioning’ with a large existing student and staff population. The proposed increase in the student and staff population is relatively small in comparison to the existing populations.

The unsignalized and signalized intersection capacity analysis shows that the proposed Lowell High School under build conditions will continue to operate at equivalent levels of services and similar delays as experienced under no-build conditions during both the school A.M. and school P.M. peak hours.

The sight distance at the proposed school driveway on Arcand Drive should be addressed once an alternative is chosen to ensure the minimum sight distance required is achieved. There are no existing unsafe conditions in the vicinity of the development that might be worsened by the design alternatives proposed for the existing school campus.

6.2 Cawley Site
Similar to the Downtown site, the proposed high school at the Cawley site should anticipate a school peak of traffic twice a day, every school day for the duration of the school year. During the afternoon dismissal, it is anticipated that there will be a higher concentration of exiting vehicles for approximately 15 to 30 minute period of time.

The Cawley site requires the City to develop a city school busing program for the general high school population. The City has indicated that they would implement a preferred school bus route, which would require buses to use Route 38 and Village Street to access the Cawley site. The number of vehicle trips generated by this site is largely dependent on how students travel to and from the school (i.e. the number that utilize the new busing program, the number that drive and park on-site, and the number that receive rides from family/friends).

The Cawley site requires the City to consider investing in intersection improvements as well as sidewalk and other pedestrian improvements to the surrounding roadways. The signalized intersection capacity analysis shows that the Rogers Street, Douglas Road, and Phoenix Avenue and Main Street and Clark Road intersections require improvements, such as the retiming or adjustment of the signal timings.

The addition of turn lanes at the Rogers Street, Douglas Road, and Phoenix Avenue intersection could be investigated to help improve the overall operations at this intersection under build conditions. The intersections of Andover Street and Douglas Road and Roger Street and Village Street do not meet traffic signal warrants.

Although a traffic signal warrant analysis was not requested for the intersection of Andover Street and Clark Road, preliminary findings suggest that this intersection may meet warrants for signalization. Additional traffic data is required for a complete analysis. Since Roger Street (Route 38) is a State highway, any traffic signal installation or improvements would need to be reviewed and approved by MassDOT. It appears that Andover Street (Route 133) is under the City’s jurisdiction.

Based upon the analyses, traffic operations on the surrounding roadways and intersections in the vicinity of the Cawley site will experience significant change with the proposed school during the A.M.arrival and the P.M. dismissal. No reduction in safety will occur due to the proposed school.

Ever Changing images of Cawley

January 2017

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