Bennett Street

Two-percent increase on tap

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Breeds Pond Reservoir, one of four water supplies in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A water rate hike is on tap.

Next month, the city’s Water & Sewer Commission is expected to approve a 2 percent increase costing the average user $14 more per year.

“For the last two years there’s been no increases,” said Daniel O’Neill, the commission’s executive director. “But we have to pay for a mandated $106 million project and ratepayers are our only source of money.”

Subject to commission approval, Lynn’s water rates on July 1 will rise to $10.18 per 100 cubic feet or 748 gallons, up from $9.98 per 100 cubic feet. The average customer uses about 7,000 cubic feet of water annually and the cost will rise to $712, up from $698. If a family uses 8,000 cubic feet, the price will increase to $814 from $798.

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The new rate will result in an annual collection of about $700,000. The construction project had its roots in 1976, when the Environmental Protection Agency alleged the commission was in violation of the Clean Water Act by allowing waste from sewer systems to flow into the Atlantic.

Under an order from the U.S. District Court, the commission is required to end so-called combined sewer overflows (CSOs) in four locations. The CSOs have been identified at Summer Street in West Lynn, two across from North Shore Community College. In West Lynn, contractors will install new out-flow pipes at Bennett and Alley streets.

When there’s rain or snow, the waste sometimes exceeds the capacity in the sewer lines and makes its way into the sea,  streets and basements.

The city’s water supply comes from the Ipswich and Saugus rivers. From there, it’s pumped or flows into the city’s four reservoirs: Breeds, Birch, Walden, and Hawkes totaling 3.8 billion gallons of water.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

A glimpse into the future

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Construction slowed traffic last week on the Lynnway.

The good news is that the sewer pipe repair project that snarled the Lynnway for most of last week is over and done with. The bad news is that the traffic slowdowns, the stop-and-start crawls through a single traffic lane, could become a semi-common occurrence locally over the next 10 years.

Last week’s sewer line repair ensured Nahant can continue to send its sewage to the Water and Sewer Commission’s Commercial Street extension waste treatment complex. The repairs represented an immediate fix that needed to be done. But Water and Sewer is weighing the pros and cons of a much larger project, one that involves spending $100 million-plus to end partially treated sewage discharges into the ocean.

Federal environmental officials want the discharges stopped and they want to see detailed plans for ending the overflows. Combined storm sewer overflow work (CSO) dates back, planning-wise, almost 40 years with significant work undertaken in East Lynn in the 1990s.

Simply defined, the work is aimed at ending or, at least, reducing occasions when water runoff from heavy rains overwhelms the Commercial Street extension treatment plants and sends partially-treated sewage into the ocean. Creating a new pipe network exclusively for rainwater prevents discharges but it also represents a costly, inconvenient nuisance for city residents.

Water and Sewer officials have already estimated rates could double over the next 10 years. Homeowners now paying between $600 and $1,000 annually for water and sewer service could pay double those amounts late into the next decade.

Wallet lost, and found

Water and Sewer commissioners and City Council members have argued back and forth about the need for more CSO work and how much work should be done. They point out that Lynn is well ahead of many other communities when it comes to providing clean quality water and efficiently-treated sewage.

The city’s rates, by contrast, are lower than ones paid by many residents in communities served by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. But with federal regulatory attention focused on the city, Water and Sewer probably cannot avoid spending significant amounts of money on added CSO projects.

Proposals for new work center on West Lynn, specifically Bennett and Oakville streets, and the waterfront where, depending on the plan under discussion, projects ranging in description from massive to small-scale, are proposed for the Lynnway.

If federal pressure grows for CSO work to be done locally, it will fall to someone in elected office to define the scope of work required and build political consensus around the project required to get the work done.

Crucial to the consensus-building will be the realization that putting pipes under city streets means traffic slowdowns, inconvenience, frayed tempers and economic disruptions. If CSO work has to get done, it will get done, but Lynn residents deserve to be told what they will have to endure before the pain begins.

Hands-on education at Connery tree planting

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Hoda Britel is framed by one of the two new trees.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Arbor Day tree planting at Connery Elementary School kicked off Lynn’s participation in the Greening the Gateway Cities Program.

The program is administered by the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR). The program targets the state’s gateway cities, including Lynn, or more specifically a section of the downtown and West Lynn, by providing free trees to residents and other partners.

Two dogwood trees were planted during the Arbor Day celebration at Connery School on Thursday, helped along by eager students. The school is within the area benefited by the program.

Fifth grader Ariana Camilo said she was looking forward to the trees growing nice and strong.

“I like it because it helps me breathe,” Camilo said.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy joined in the tree planting.

“What this means to me is it’s a great chance to show these kids the importance that trees play in our lives, in all of our lives,” Kennedy said. “It gives them a chance to really care for and nurture a growing, living thing, and it gives them pride to be able to look back in many years from now and say: I helped to make that tree the beautiful thing that it has become.”

School deputy superintendent Patrick Tutwiler said the excitement the planting generated underscores how hands-on environmental studies is every bit as important as reading, writing and arithmetic.

“Arbor Day is about 140 year tradition,” Tutwiler said. “They’re taking part in history.”

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The grant Lynn received through the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the program totals $1.5 million over three years, according to Andrew Hall, city Department of Public Works commissioner. During that time frame, he said 2,400 trees will be planted during fall and spring.

“The whole point of this is to increase tree canopy in areas where there is a marked lack of tree canopy,” said Hall.

The environmental and energy-efficiency initiative is designed to reduce household energy by planting trees ranging from six to 10-feet tall with the goal of adding 5 to 10 percent of tree canopy cover in targeted neighborhoods. Trees are planted by local crews and those from DCR.

The additional tree canopy is meant to have a larger benefit over an entire neighborhood by lowering wind speeds and temperature, in addition to providing direct shading.

The majority of trees planted through the program will be on private property. Those living in the targeted area can request trees through the DCR. A property visit will be scheduled by the agency to determine the best location for the trees. Residents and other partners must agree to a two-year watering program to ensure the trees’ survival.

The area in Lynn that will be part of the program includes Washington Street from the Lynnway to Western Avenue; Boston Street from Western Avenue to Summer Street; Summer Street from Boston to Western Avenue; Minot Street from Western to Bennett Street; Bennett Street to Commercial Street; and the Lynnway from Commercial to Washington.

The program targets areas with a small tree canopy, older housing stock, higher wind speeds and a larger rental population.

“We are very excited to be part of the Greening the Gateway Cities Program,” Kennedy said in a separate statement. “To be able to save energy while beautifying neighborhoods in the city is a win-win.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

 

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Edward Calnan of the Pickering School Building Committee, Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham make the case for new schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If voters reject the ballot initiative on Tuesday to build a pair of new middle schools, students face the possibility of split sessions, according to the superintendent.

“If we don’t build these schools, our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will be in double sessions in a very short period of time, possibly within two years,” said Dr. Catherine Latham.

Today, 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix.

“Our schools cannot sustain that many students,” she said. Under double sessions, one group of students would attend classes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. while the next group would arrive at 1 p.m. and go until 5:30 p.m., she said.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Latham, Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Department director, Edward Calnan, member of the Pickering Middle School Building Committee, and Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee, made the case for the $188.5 million project.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second one to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The new schools will add an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

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Calnan said they explored more than a dozen potential sites, but they were dropped due to a variety of issues. Some were in a flood zone or marsh land, others had hazardous waste that precluded school construction. A site at Magnolia Street would boost building costs by as much as $800,000 to move a water pipe that serves Swampscott and Marblehead, officials said.

A vacant parcel on Rockdale Avenue and Verona Street was examined, but the committee found the tight residential neighborhood was difficult to access and is privately-owned. They also looked at General Electric Co. properties on Bennett Street and on Elmwood Avenue. But those were rejected because of environmental concerns, they said.

Latham said all of the city’s middle school students should have the same experience as those attending the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Last spring, the 181,847-square-foot school opened for more than 1,000 students. The three buildings are divided by clusters, each distinguished by a different color. In addition to an outdoor courtyard, lots of natural light, the soundproof classrooms block any hint of the commuter rail trains that run past the rear of the school and the sounds of musical instruments from several music classes.  

In addition, there are suites for special education and art. The school boasts computer rooms complete with Apple computers. It contains home economics rooms, a woodworking shop, a television production studio and a health center.

Iarrobino, who serves as the liaison between the schools and the School Committee, said any discussion of school must include a link to the local economy.

“If folks are contemplating opening a business in Lynn, the first thing they will ask about is where will their employees attend school and what are the schools like,” he said. “We have an obligation to them and they have a right to the best quality education that is available to them, not just in the suburbs, but right here in an urban district.”  


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Bennett Street Tire and Glass

SPONSORED BY BENNETT STREET TIRE AND GLASS.

60 Bennett Street, Lynn.   Phone number:  (781) 598-1613

Bennett Street Tire and Glass was opened in 1979.  The owner, Gary Janice and his staff specialize in replacement tires, wheel alignments, tire balancing and auto glass repair.  Bennett Street Tire and Glass is known to help customers keep their cars running for many years with their affordable auto repair.   Conveniently located at     60 Bennett St., in Lynn, Bennett Street Tire and Glass serves the surrounding communities of Revere, Swampscott, Salem, Marblehead and Lynnfield, as well.   Bennett Street Tire and Glass carries products from top national brands such as MICHELIN®, BFGoodrich® and Uniroyal® tires, Interstate Batteries® and Pittsburgh Glass Works® that keep your vehicle running smoothly and looking good.  Stop in anytime during the shop’s hours, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, or Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or contact them online.  

 

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Water and Sewer needs to map out CSO solution

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Nick Costantino of the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission clears dirt away from a 60 to 80 year old service box in front of 19 Tucker Street in Lynn.

It’s great news for ratepayers that the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission (LWSC) is planning to hold the line on increasing bills this year.

A family of four pays $1,000 for water and sewer service, making Lynn less expensive than the amount paid by ratepayers in Massachusetts Water Resources Authority communities.

But before everyone turns the tap and lifts a glass to salute everyone in LWSC headquarters on Parkland Avenue, it might be a good idea to look to the horizon where the specter of combined sewer overflow costs continue to trouble the commission.

For more than 20 years, the commission has run hot and cold on the need to eliminate partially treated wastewater discharges into the ocean. In the 1990s, millions were spent on burying a pipe network under our streets designed to reduce the amount of rainwater surging through the sewerage system and overwhelming the Commercial Street treatment complex with wastewater.

In 2004, the commission fired contractor USFilter Corp. and entered into a 10-year period of inactivity regarding combined sewer overflow (CSO). In 2013, commissioners started paying attention again to the overflow problem with various arguments for and against the necessity for more CSO work.

One argument insisted the real problem is unresolved West Lynn flooding, especially around Bennett Street. Another argument centered on concerns about federal environmental officials taking a close look at Lynn CSO efforts and concluding that the city must further reduce, even end ocean discharges.

At stake in these arguments is the scope of CSO. In other words, how much of the ratepayers’ money must be spent on solving the problem? Before he left the commission, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi argued that a small-scale project could solve the problem. But the latest number to circulate for a CSO solution is $130 million.

That’s a big number and how it translates into rate increases remains to be seen. A big factor in cost could be the federal timetable for reducing or ending ocean discharges. The commissioners, including two councilors and three mayoral appointees, must work with top LWSC executives to get a definitive answer from federal officials and determine the best way to fix the problem.

Once they have the answers, the commissioners should hold a hearing in City Hall and give the public a clear and informative look at how much the CSO solution will cost and detail any remedial project. It’s time to come up with a solution.

Student may make the grade in Lynn School Committee

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — School Committee members are embracing a plan to have a student representative sitting next to them during meetings in the Bennett Street administration building by the beginning of the next school year.

Having a student voice on the seven-member committee is not a new idea, said committee veteran Patricia Capano, but it is a valuable one.

“The simplest reason to do it is to provide communication between us and the schools,” said Capano.

Committee member Jared Nicholson urged adding student representation during the Jan. 28 committee meeting. Nicholson and Capano said state law already provides a mechanism for giving the committee a student voice.

Five-member student advisory committees outlined in the law allow students elected from each high school to be advisory committee members. The committees are charged with electing in June an advisory committee chairperson who “shall be an ex-officio, nonvoting member of the school committee.”

Committee member John Ford said a student representative could provide a two-way street between the committee and school administrators and students.

“It gives us a student perspective. There could be issues where students have a different slant. I’ve found out from Student Government Day that they are pretty outspoken,” Ford said.

Capano credited former Committee member Charlie Gallo with strengthening the committee’s dialogue with student government representatives at local schools and said a student representative will enhance that communication.

“It can be a catalyst for change,” she said.

Committee member Lorraine Gately said committee participation is an opportunity for the student representative to learn about the municipal government process during committee meetings.

“I think it would be an excellent experience,” she said.

A veteran teacher, Gately said students are aware of concerns and needs in schools “probably more than anyone else.

“They are well aware of how schools are run. I think that student input would be great,” she said.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Time to get a student view on local schools

Here’s to the Lynn School Committee for moving forward with a plan to bring a student representative into its Bennett Street administration building meetings.

The idea has a number of benefits and new committee member Jared Nicholson, an energetic supporter of the idea, and his committee colleagues are quick to point them out. First of all, placing an “ex-officio” non voting student on the seven-member committee is an exercise in democracy that will not be lost on students.

Under state law, a five-member student advisory committee representing local public high schools, is required to meet at least every other month during the school year with their adult counterparts. This advisory body’s last major responsibility prior to the end of an academic year is to pick the student representative who will bring student concerns to the School Committee.

Adults run schools and elected school committee members map out the policies for school operations, but students know what their peers think and they know what is “really going on” in a school.

It’s easy to say teenagers are too busy with mobile devices, homework, sports and social lives to want to participate in essential democratic exercises like picking someone to be their voice on Bennett Street, but that viewpoint is narrow and stereotypical.

Leaders emerge from every walk of life but young leaders must be nurtured and encouraged to grow and take risks. Local high schools already embrace this belief by participating in Posse scholarships. Posse sends high school students who emerge from a rigorous leadership testing process off to college with their tuition paid and surrounded by fellow Posse leaders.

The scholars are more than likely to be the same students who seek election in their schools to the student advisory committee and take an interest in becoming student representative to the School Committee.

It won’t take a great leap of imagination for a student representative sitting in the committee’s Bennett Street meeting room to glance at Nicholson and say, “I can follow in those footsteps,” and then look at older and more veteran committee members and follow the examples they set.

In return, committee members can look at local schools through the eyes of a student representative. The view may not always be a rosy one. As Committee member John Ford said last week, students can be “pretty outspoken” about successes and shortcomings in local schools.

But how else will elected school officials get an honest view on teenage substance abuse, sexual relationships and other challenges as well as student achievement if they are not listening to and speaking with students?