Inside Stories

Council Meeting Recap: March 28, 2023

1. Law Department Update

2. Bad Bills

Every so often, Comcast skips my monthly bill, then sends me a “double bill” the following month. There’s no extra charge or late fee – so I’m not sure as to how they’re screwing me – but I’m certain it’s happening somehow. This has nothing to do with anything, other than allow me to transition to last night’s discussion on “bad bills.” Last night the School Department presented about $300K worth of invoices* that require Council approval – via a 2/3 vote – pursuant to M.G.L. ch. 44 sec. 64. Do it, and the School Department can pay the bills out of its budget. Do it not, and you run the risk of a lawsuit or 25 from the unpaid vendors.

Some of the highlights and reason(s) for non-payment were provided with the request:

  • Crest and Brazukinha Transportation – in the amounts of $14,865.00 and $110,204.00 respectively; contract not returned from law by the time services. The School Department was unable to wait for the contract as these were emergency services.
  • Brookes Publishing – $1,039.40 – Principal at the Cardinal School placed orders without purchase orders
  • Bay State Seating and CATV Solutions – in the amounts of $8,600 and $140,704.85 respectively; due to a slight miscommunication between auditing and the school department as to whether the PO could be closed.
  • CDW-Government – $2,672.31 – Clerk at the Stem never sent the invoice to accounts payable as per protocol.
  • Commonwealth Consulting – $1,247.50 – There was a data entry error on one of the line items for the Bartlett School Site Budget resulting in the school not having adequate funding to make the purchase. There was an emergency need for the purchase and the school placed the order prior to the transfer of funds.
  • Heggerty, Palos Sports and E2E Exchange – in the amounts of $1,250, $84.52 and $17,341.06 respectively; Accounts Payable reached out to the vendors for invoices at which time the vendors stated there weren’t any and the PO’s were closed.

These “bad bills” come before the council from time to time. The response is usually the same as what we saw last night. Most councilors who spoke on the topic gave the “I’m not mad, I’m disappointed” speech that parents give. New processes and procedures were demanded. Billie Jo Menzies-Turner, the CFO of the School Department noted that polices and procedures do change in an effort to avoid these bills. However, new issues constantly arise that are not caught by these procedures. In essence, each “bad bill” is a unique snowflake. The council opted to wait a week before the vote as some of the invoices were a bit vague. Ms. Turner indicated that more information would be provided.

3. Lowell Youth Baseball/Softball Parade

Do kids still play the national pastime? More should, right? Baseball and youth sports participation, in general, is on the decline – perhaps even more so in Lowell? I recently heard that Chelmsford (population 36K) has twice the recreational sports participation of Lowell (population 114K). That’s tragic. Lowell kids should be beating the bag out of Chelmsford kids (figuratively, of course – on fields, tracks, courts, and ice). To help reverse this trend and usher in a new era of city-wide collaboration, we now have a unified Lowell Youth Baseball and Softball League. The league is open to players and volunteers of all experience levels. Last I checked, registration was still open. It’s not free, but the “bang for your buck” factor is crazy good compared to most other activities or investments you can make:

To celebrate the new league and kickstart the season, the City Manager’s Office (in response to a Motion by Councilors Robinson, Gitschier and Jenness) has worked in conjunction with the league to coordinate an “Opening Day” ceremony/parade, which will be held Saturday, April 22nd (rain date April 29th):

The parade will begin at 12pm at the Tsongas Arena and continue along Arcand Drive, arriving at JFK Plaza. At the plaza, there will be music, food, and activities. Prior to the parade, there will be an Earth Day cleanup from 8:30am-11:30am with the Eco-Home Services, Lowell Canalwaters Cleaners and the Lowell Litter Krewe. The volunteers will work to clean the parade route and various locations in the downtown area, ending at JKF Plaza to participate in the activities.

Good stuff. Hopefully this is the start of a great yearly tradition. I’ll give the last word to Tanner Boyle:

“Hey, Chelmsford – you can take your baseball league, and your participation numbers, and shove them straight up your ass.”


4. Free Art

At the last meeting (or maybe it was 2 meetings ago) there was a vote to “accept accept a Gift from artist Kamil Peters and Do-It-Yourself Lowell of a sculpture entitled “Black Joy” to be displayed in a small park on the corner of Appleton and Gorham Streets.” The vote was delayed as there was no photograph(s) or other renderings of the sculpture. This information was provided for last night and we even got to hear from Mr. Peters himself as to the meaning behind the installation (summarized in the materials attached to the vote). It was pretty cool to hear the story behind the work.

5. The Rest:

  • A couple interesting motions generated some discussion – C. Robinson – Req. City Mgr. Explore The Feasibility Of Contracting Out The City Of Lowell’s Hiring Processes And Procedures; and C. Gitschier – Req. City Mgr. Look Into The Feasibility Of Removing The Recreation Department Form The Health Department Organizational Structure And Placing The Recreation Department Back Into The Organizational Structure Under DPW In The Parks Department. There was some debate as to whether these motions cross the line of the limits of Plan E – ie: telling the manager how to manage.
  • Not a meeting topic last night – but the city was recently added to the Parking Reform Network’s “Mandates Map” – the map tracks cities who are doing the right thing by eliminating or reducing parking mandates. Lowell joins the list for recently eliminating mandates in the Downtown Mixed Use (DMU) Zone. This was voted on by the Council at the February 14th meeting.
  • Quick update on new kiosks from the Parking Department – the City will take delivery of 60 new units next week, with an additional 80 or so to follow. They will be installing about 15-18 per day.
  • It’s the end of March, which means that we’re already through the first quarter of the council year. Here’s where we are on the Motion #s front:

By Councilor:

By Week:

3/14 Mtg. was cancelled due to snow.

1st Quarter of 2022 vs 1st Quarter of 2023:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *