James Lamanna

Marshalling a plan for former school building

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — City officials presented a plan to sell the former Thurgood Marshall Middle School on Porter Street on Thursday night, for a potential reuse that could include senior market-rate housing and a commercial component. But school officials opted to take no action.

City Council President Darren Cyr and James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, presented the option to the School Committee, requesting that the 19 Porter St. property be transferred to the Public Property Committee of the City Council to prepare a Request for Proposals (RFP) to solicit bids for its sale to a developer.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, chairwoman of the School Committee, said she was looking for the committee to make a motion to approve the transfer of the site, with a minimum asking price and timeline for when that sale could be complete. If those conditions weren’t met, the property would revert back to the School Committee.

School Committee members opted to set that minimum sales price at $4 million, and require the sale be completed within a year. The other condition set was that a School Committee member, John Ford, would sit on the RFP committee, the board responsible for preparing the document.

Ultimately, the School Committee opted to table a vote on the transfer of the property until their next meeting, upon a motion made by member Donna Coppola. Coppola said she wanted to take time to allow the committee’s attorney time to research the matter. Voting against the motion to table were Kennedy and Patricia Capano, vice-chair.

Cyr said the initial plan was to demolish the former Marshall Middle School, but a contractor reached out to city officials and wanted to buy it. His vision for the building wasn’t the vision the city had, but it let officials know there was interest in the property, Cyr said.

Lamanna said the cost to demolish the building is estimated at $2.2 million, which was part of the money bonded by the voters for the construction of the new Marshall Middle School, which opened last year on Brookline Street. If that money is not used for demolition, he said legally it could only be used for capital projects that could be bonded for 25 years, which would likely be for the construction of new buildings or additions on the school side. If the property is sold, he said the proceeds would go toward bondable projects more than five years. The proceeds would basically go into a reserve fund that would allow the city to plan ahead if, for example, a boiler in a building went.

Ford said he knows the issue is to sell the building and get some cash for the city in a cash drop situation, but he was hesitant about selling any more school property. He said there was some uncertainty about whether there would be any potential buyers, and he couldn’t see anybody paying big money for some place that’s going to cost lots of money to remediate.

Peabody lays off on initial job-cut fears

“We’re in a city where we’re land strapped,” Ford said. “We’re land poor. I don’t want to eliminate jobs on the city side. I don’t want to hurt anybody, but I really find myself in a position where it’s going to be hard for me to vote to give up any land.”

Kennedy was in favor of the transfer. For 25 years being in public life, she said she also disagreed with selling public land and felt that in most cases, it was better to bank that land.

“The reason why I’m capitulating on this particular piece of land, is that first of all it’s not big enough to build a new modern middle school, so that idea is right out,” Kennedy said. “So, it would only be usable for an elementary school or something of that size. It’s not appropriate for a police or a fire station or anything because it’s basically, it’s on a residential street.”

She said she was more comfortable letting go of this piece of land, because it wouldn’t even be appropriate for a new Cobbet or Tracy Elementary School, because it would be out of that general area of the city.

“And in light of the difficulties that we’re having making the budget come together in this year, it seems like a piece of land that may not be as valuable to the city as someplace that was located deeper into West Lynn,” Kennedy said.

Cyr said an RFP would potentially be to solicit bids for a mixed use, which would include senior market-rate apartments, as well as some commercial use, such as doctors’ offices that would cater to seniors. A small portion of those units, because of federal funding, could be allocated as affordable, he added. He said there is a true need for senior housing at marketable rate in Lynn.

Lamanna said the building was last assessed at $8 million. He said the Massachusetts School Building Authority funded the new Marshall Middle School because the assessment was that the old school on Porter Street was beyond repair. Cyr said it would cost upwards of $50 million to bring the former school up to today’s standards, for it to be restructured for a school use.

Cyr said he was a lot more hopeful after Thursday’s meeting that the transfer would be approved by the School Committee.


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

‘Bullied’ ISD retiree seeks cash from city

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  A former Inspectional Services Department (ISD) employee is seeking $150,000 from the city, alleging she was forced into early retirement after being bullied by management, The Item has learned.

In a letter to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy last month, Jane Webber wants her monthly retirement benefits increased from $1,031 to $2,030, or the one-time cash settlement. She retired last year as head clerk after nearly 15 years as a city employee.

“After being berated, mentally beaten down, harassed and bullied by ISD supervisors for many years, my client was forced to retire last summer at age 58,” according to the letter from MariElizabeth McKeon, a Clinton attorney representing Webber.

McKeon said that if Webber had been allowed to work until age 65, her monthly retirement payout would have been nearly $1,000 per month more.  If the mayor approves the request, it will cost the city about $300,000.

Nahant artwork spans three seas

In the letter, McKeon said the final straw in her client’s retirement came last August when Webber suffered a “severe anxiety attack.”

“In the midst of the attack, one of her supervisors, Michele Desmarais, informed Ms. Webber that if she left, she would be fired … Desmarais told Ms. Webber that she should go sit in her car for an hour and she would be fine.”

Absent a settlement, Webber said she may take her case to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and assert her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act because of alleged discrimination toward her age and hearing disability, the letter said.

McKeon said she has not received a response from the city and declined further comment. Webber did not return a call seeking comment.

Kennedy, ISD and James Lamanna, the city’s attorney declined comment.


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

 

Mayor, super make case for new schools

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks to a crowded room at Stadium Condominiums in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is taking no chances when it comes to passing a controversial ballot question to fund a pair of new middle schools.

On Wednesday night, the mayor and her City Hall team made the case for the $188.5 million project to more than three dozen seniors who packed the recreation room at the Stadium Condominiums.

“Right now, the library at Pickering consists of two rolling carts with books and there are no science labs,” Kennedy said. “When you contrast that with what we see at the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the kids are simply not getting the same educational experience.”

In a passionate plea, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child.

“Our beautiful new Marshall has cooking, sewing, wood shop, a TV studio, three-dimensional art rooms, music rooms and they should be available to everyone in Lynn,” she said.

Latham said there is lots of misinformation about the project. The city looked at more than a dozen sites, she said.

“We’ve heard people suggest a site on Federal Street near the fire station,” she said. “But it’s contaminated land and that is not a possibility. Magnolia Avenue has flood plains and an MWRA water line. Some have told us to use the Union Hospital site; we don’t own it.”  

The building committee also considered renovating the existing Pickering and that would cost $44 million without any state reimbursement, Latham said.

If approved by voters on March 14, the Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir that would house 652 students, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Residents will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

But Donald Castle, a Stadium unit owner and founder of the Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, urged the crowd to vote no.

“Your taxes will go up above and beyond the legal limit for 25 years,” he said. “The land should be preserved for a cemetery. We ask the city to protect our cemetery and protect our reservoir.”

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said the school will use about a dozen acres of the 44-acre site. The rest, he said, will be preserved for cemetery expansion. In addition, he said, the project will fund a $1 million road and bridge that the Cemetery Commission could not afford. Without the school, the land could not be accessed for new graveyards.

City Council President Darren Cyr said he favors construction of the two schools.

“No matter where kids live in Lynn, they should have the same opportunities as kids get in Swampscott, Marblehead and Lynnfield,” he said. “Every one of us has a chance to change kids’ lives and by voting yes on March 14, you will give those kids a chance that they will not get otherwise.”

School Committee member Lorraine Gately said a yes vote is essential for the city’s children.

“If we don’t support this, our future is larger class sizes and double sessions,” she said.

Moving on time in Lynn


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

2 missing words could cost city $9,000

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Assistant City Solicitor James Lamanna stands with both versions of the ballot.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Two missing words could cost the city as much as $9,000 after a typo was discovered on one of the ballot questions for the March 14 special election.

The hotly contested poll will ask voters to approve $188.5 million for the construction of a pair of middle schools to serve the city’s burgeoning school population.    

In the initial printing, Question 1 failed to include the words “be approved” following a description of the school building project that includes a new Pickering Middle School on Parkland Avenue near Pine Grove Cemetery and a new West Lynn Middle School on Commercial Street. Without those two words in the English and Spanish versions, it would be unclear whether the voter was in favor or opposed to the measure.

“No one caught the error, but the blame belongs to me,” said James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor. “I take full responsibility.”

The city received the new ballots on Monday. The cost to reprint them has been estimated at between $3,000 and $9,000.

Lamanna said he was contacted by the Secretary of State’s Election Division last week telling him they had received a number of calls reporting confusion over the ballot question.

About 200 ballots had been mailed to absentee voters before the error was spotted. A letter explaining the problem has been sent to those voters with a corrected ballot.  

Donald Castle, founder of the Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, said he saw a copy of the ballot question last week, noticed it lacked a verb and contacted the city and the Secretary of State’s office.

The group is opposed to the site for the Pickering Middle School on Parkland Avenue. They argue the land is for the expansion of Pine Grove Cemetery and the new road would impact the nearby reservoir.

Pickering in middle of ballot debate


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

Council makes a house call for school

COURTESY PHOTO
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pickering Middle School.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN There could be a happy ending after all for Janet Guanci and her ranch-style home on Parkland Avenue.

Facing the possibility of losing her 1,000-square-foot house to eminent domain for construction of a new middle school, the City Council is considering a plan to move the house 200 yards away.

Guanci, who bought the two-bedroom house in 2004 for $267,900, listened as the Public Property & Parks Committee unveiled the idea Tuesday night.

“We are trying to keep you in the same neighborhood because I know you like it there,” said Ward 2 Councilor William Trahant. “We’d like to keep you happy. All of us feel bad about the possibility of eminent domain and we are trying to work with you.”   

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said this is one option in a complicated process for a new middle school proposed for the neighborhood near Pine Grove Cemetery.

“We are trying to be creative,” said Lamanna. “Rather than demolish your home at 97 Parkland Ave., we could relocate it down toward the salt shed. The city is trying to give you as many options as possible.”

Moving the house at a cost of about $60,000 would be far less costly for the city than paying Guanci the appraised value of nearly $300,000, officials said.

“It’s something to think about,” Guanci told the panel. “It’s not our first choice, but I’ll think about it.”

Pickering in middle of ballot debate

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the council has not taken a vote to seize the property.

“We are exploring all options,” he said.

Following the meeting, Guanci told The Item this is the first time she’s heard of the option of moving her home farther down Parkland Avenue.

“This was a surprise,” she said. “I thought they were going to tell me they were considering a different route. It’s a good offer, but we need to take a look at it and give it more thought.” Guanci’s home would only be taken or moved by the city if voters agree to a controversial ballot question set for March 14. If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

The 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second 1,008 student-school would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. If voters reject the measure, the city could lose the state money.

Proponents say the city needs the two new schools to keep pace with school enrollment which has increased by 17 percent over the past five years.

But opponents say the land on Parkland Avenue belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery and should not be used for a school.


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

Lynn seeks middle ground on school project

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city said they have found a way to end the fighting over construction of a controversial middle school proposed near Pine Grove Cemetery, but opponents are standing firm.

Last week, the City Council asked the law department to prepare documents that would convey portions of the city-owned 40-acre site to the Pine Grove Cemetery Commision. Under the plan, the commission could use land not needed for the new school to expand the graveyard. The move was made to assuage school opponents who have insisted that the land was reserved for a graveyard. They have threatened court action if the school is approved.

“This should end all debate and any discussion of a taxpayer lawsuit,” said James Lamanna, city attorney.

But Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the school site, said it is not willing to compromise.  

At issue is a controversial proposal for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district. Proponents say the new schools are needed to accommodate a growing school population.

Swampscott school race draws contenders

In a special election on March 14, voters will be asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. Plans for the second school have no opposition.

If approved, homeowners would pay an estimated $75 million, or an average of $200 annually for the next 25 years on their real estate tax bills.

Lamanna said as many as 17 acres are needed for the new school. The rest, with the exception of four acres of wetlands, could be used to expand the cemetery, he said. The commission will consider the proposal on March 7.

One of the problems of enlarging the cemetery has been a $1 million project needed to build a new road and a bridge over wetlands to access the parcel, Lamanna said. While the commission lacks the funds to complete the project, the infrastructure would be built as part of the school project with most of the cost being reimbursed by the state.  

But the location of the proposed school, on what opponents insist has been designated by the city as cemetery land, has stirred debate. Opponents have argued that the Parkland Avenue property was intended for cemetery use, citing a city document from 1893.

On Saturday, they will plan to hold a fundraiser at Hibernian Hall on Federal Street to fight the proposal.

Donald Castle, one of the organizers of Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove, said they are not opposed to a new school, but to the site. He said the city’s latest plan to divide the parcel is wrong.

“It’s been cemetery land for 127 years and its wetlands with protected species,” he said. “It’s an inappropriate site.”


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

Showdown over Lynn school custodians

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE and THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN  — The school committee wants changes to be made to a Home Rule Petition that would transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff to the school department from the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD).

The move, engineered by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, is designed to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty. Under the revised rules, the city’s school custodians and maintenance staff are headed back to the school department. Earlier this week, the city council voted unanimously for the change.

The school committee, which did not have a vote in the transfer, was scheduled to hold a public comment session to hear from the employees and learn more about the change. But the meeting was canceled because of  last week’s snowstorm. Instead the discussion continued Thursday night, after the council vote. Kennedy said she would take all comments into consideration before signing off on council’s decision.

“I will take several days after this lands on my desk to decide if I’m going to sign it or not,” said Kennedy. “It has not been presented for a signature yet. By the city rules, I have 10 days once it is presented to me.”

Should Kennedy decide to veto the decision made by council, the panel would either make changes to the petition or drop it. But if she signs off, it moves on for approval from the legislature.

James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, said while the school committee can recommend to the city council that they rescind their vote from earlier this week to move custodian management to the school department from ISD, the council is under no obligation to reverse its vote. In addition, the school committee may ask Lynn’s Beacon Hill delegation to reject the home rule petition for the change, but they too are under no obligation to support it.

The controversy erupted in 2006, when former Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy shifted the custodians and maintenance staff from the school department to the city. The transfer came, officials said, because the schools were dirty and the janitors lacked supervision.

When ISD inherited the 166-employee unit in 2007, it included 120 permanent custodians, 20 substitute contract workers who filled in for absentees and 26 maintenance technicians for 26 schools.

ISD Director Michael Donovan said as a result of the switch, the custodians were held accountable, attendance and timekeeping policies were implemented, employees punched time cards, vacation rules were tightened and the city outsourced lots of maintenance project work.

Today, the department has 57 custodians and a dozen maintenance workers with a budget of $14 million.

While there’s agreement that ISD’s management of the custodians has worked well, Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said shifting the employees to the school department will add about $1 million to the city’s required school spending.

In a quirk in state law, while salaries for the custodians as city employees counts toward school spending, their health insurance premiums do not. By moving them, the city can add health insurance and reduce the deficit.

Caron and the mayor say moving the custodians to the school department will allow them to include those health care costs in the budget.

Richard Germano, vice president of AFSCME Local 1736 representing the workers, has said they are happy to go back to work for the school department. But because the petition calls for two custodians who clean City Hall to be transferred to the schools in addition to a supervisor position that has yet to be filled, Germano is concerned that the supervisor position was designed with a specific candidate in mind.

“That section is very offensive, as a taxpayer of this city,” he said. “The chief of inspectional services, I guarantee, will get this job. I guarantee it was put in there for him.”

Caron did not present the committee with any indication of the costs the transfer would pose to the school department because he said the numbers were not requested. School Business Administrator Kevin McHugh argued he sent an email to Donovan on Feb. 6 that has not been returned.

“This doesn’t feel correct,” said committee member Patricia Capano. “I feel that there are statements behind these statements that we are not aware of.”

Board members also shared concerns that the hiring process was in violation of state laws because the document does not indicate that veterans will have preference. The process outlined also requires three people to sign off on hiring a potential employee, rather than leaving the responsibility to the superintendent.

“When this comes to you (Kennedy), I would like to see it be sent back to the council to have them correct these things,” said committee member Donna Coppola.

“I share concerns about the costs,” said member Jared Nicholson. “I would appreciate seeing a breakdown. We spent a lot of time talking about the net school spending and this is entirely motivated by school spending. It was initiated by city council but everything in it is being implemented by the school department.”

Day without immigrants hits Lynn


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Council weeds out pot clinic locations

ITEM PHOTOS BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This building at 491 Lynnway is a chosen site for a pot dispensary.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — After more than a year of debate, officials have chosen a pair of medical marijuana treatment centers to open in the city.  

953 Western Ave. was chosen as a site for a pot dispensary.

Without any discussion, the city council chose the Newton-based Massachusetts Patient Foundation, which plans to operate a facility at 487-491 Lynnway. Councilors also approved a proposal by Old World Remedies of Marblehead, which is slated to open a shop at 953 Western Ave.

“We’ve held a series of neighborhood meetings and met with many residents over many weeks,” said Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano. “As a result of those discussions we have chosen those two sites.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she will abide by the wishes of the council as to the selection of the clinics and where they will be housed.

Last year, the city council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to Lynn. Under the ordinance, the treatment center district would include the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

Last fall James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, wrote the 19-page request for proposals for medical marijuana treatment centers. The city asked applicants who complied with the Department of Public Health’s regulations to apply. Applicants will be required to negotiate a host agreement that will provide the city with funds, guarantees of safety and assurances that the products will not be sold to minors. The city received applications from four applicants.

In other matters, the fight between the 11-member council and the mayor ended Tuesday night when the panel dropped its insistence that the city hire a deputy election commissioner. Last year councilors had argued the job was essential while the mayor said the job wasn’t needed.

The council also approved a measure to transfer management of the school’s janitors to the Lynn Public Schools from the city’s Inspectional Services Department. Under the change, the city will capture $1 million in additional school spending.

Lynnfield looks to limit marijuana sales


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

School committee freezes snow parking debate

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The School Committee voted to keep the city’s schoolyards open for emergency snow parking for the remainder of the year.

The panel will readdress the issue next year and make changes to its policy, depending on how the season goes.

The issue was raised earlier this month when parking during snow emergencies was limited to the city’s middle and high schools. In the past, parking has been allowed at some, but not all, elementary schools.

During Winter Storm Helena in early January, city councilors and members of the school committee heard from dozens of residents who were left without a place to park. A few councilors took a stand and opened the chains blocking off the lots.

During a school committee meeting following the storm, city attorney James Lamanna said in 2013 the school committee delegated its authority to determine which school lots are open and which are closed during a snow emergency to the city’s inspectional services director, Michael Donovan.

Donovan reminded committee members that vehicles were not removed from the lots the morning following many storms and, in 2015, the panel was displeased when schools could not open two days after a major snowfall.

“We felt that the need for the parking space overshadowed any potential problem,” said Committee Member John Ford. “Based on how it goes this year, we agreed to revisit it and see about next year. If it’s disastrous, we will have to come up with another plan or close the school yards again.”

Ford said city councilors are discussing a solution for next year that includes filing a parking application and using a car tag. Vehicle owners who violate the terms and leave their car in the lot after the designated parking hours will be ticketed, towed and have their parking privileges revoked.

The committee also voted on an updated job posting for a special education administrator  drafted by Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham.

Latham said she felt strongly that, though six candidates had been interviewed, they had not found the right fit for the job. Latham said none of the candidates had the district-wide experience in a large school system or strong curriculum background that she deemed necessary prerequisites.

The updated posting lists a salary starting at $111,000 with increments in accordance with the administrator’s contract, rather than listing a range of $115,000 to $128,000 based on education and experience.

A job description above the list of required qualifications was also removed from the listing.

Latham said she hopes to see the position filled by July 1.

Remembering America’s girl


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

Court saves Lynn $35 million

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The Massachusetts Appeals Court affirmed a lower court decision to dismiss a $35 million lawsuit against the city.

The unanimous ruling ends a nine-year battle between a former student and the school department. It began in 2008 when then 11-year-old Matthew Mumbauer, a student at the Brickett Elementary School, suffered a paralyzing spinal injury that left him a quadriplegic.

In 2011, his parents, James Mumbauer and Alyssa Cormier, filed suit in Essex Superior Court alleging Matthew was injured when he was pushed down a flight of stairs by another student. The complaint also alleged the staff of the elementary school was aware that their son had been the victim of frequent bullying by students and failed to take action.

But the city presented evidence that careful records had been kept of instances of bullying and not a single incident where Matthew had been a victim.

In his motion to dismiss the lawsuit, James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, argued that Debra Ruggiero, former Brickett principal,  documented reports of bullying in the school and said a review of those reports turned up no complaints or reports concerning Mumbauer.

In addition, the city argued that no one witnessed the alleged incident on the stairs and the boy never reported it to school authorities.

In 2015, Superior Court Justice Robert Tochka dismissed the case. While he did not minimize the harmful consequences of school bullying, he wrote that no facts were presented in court to prove Matthew was bullied.

“Nor are there any facts demonstrating that the Lynn School District or its employees failed to take appropriate action to remedy this bully, if it did exist,” Tochka wrote in the order.

Following the decision by Superior Court, the family appealed to the appellate court, which rejected the appeal last week.

Lamanna said the city is pleased with the most recent decision.

“The injuries were tragic, but we had reason to believe they did not happen in school, that it actually occurred at home,” he said. “Witnesses said Matthew and his brother were playing when the it happened. And there was absolutely no evidence that he was bullied.”

Susan Bochnak, the family’s attorney, did not return a call seeking comment.


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

New schools would cost $200 per household

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city council is set to put a question on the ballot in March that asks taxpayers to fund two new schools.

Voters will be asked to pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

The school committee voted last week to request the council take the action. Under the city charter, the 11-member council is obligated to put the question on the ballot, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million. A special election is expected to be held Tuesday, March 14.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Kane’s makes a tasty wager

Officials say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment. Today, there are about 16,000 students in the Lynn Public Schools. But it has been increasing at a rate of 3 percent, or 500 new students annually, according to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

“Enrollment continues to grow and we are out of space,” said Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee.

“If voters reject the bond, we could be at a point where we were many years ago when we offered only a half-day kindergarten. Public schools are everyone’s right and everyone’s tax responsibility.”

The other factor in play is the contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects. The department would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost. But if voters reject the bond authorization, the city stands to lose the state money.

The proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

But last month, the Pickering Middle School Building Committee reaffirmed its decision to locate the school off Parkland Avenue.


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

State to tutor Lynn on financial planning

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Help is on the way to balance the city’s budget.

Thanks to the state Department of Revenue, Lynn received a $75,000 grant to help City Hall create a five-year plan toward better fiscal responsibility.  

“DOR is obviously concerned about the city’s financial situation,” said Peter Caron, Lynn’s chief financial officer. “They believe we need long-range financial planning, which we lack.”

Under the terms of the Community Compact, PFM Group, the Philadelphia financial advisory services firm that specializes in working with municipalities, will provide the city with consultants and software early next year. By next spring, the city will be taught to develop a multi-year budget forecast model, create a capital planning framework and implement a high-level review of the city’s finance organization and operations.

Caron said DOR saw red flags based on the fact that the city’s reserves have plummeted and budgets have not been balanced.

What resolutions won’t you keep this year?

The other factor that contributed to the DOR’s assistance has been the city’s approval for two $4 million bonds over the last few years to pay to renovate parks. Such small projects should be paid for by the city budget instead of being financed over a decade.

The mayor and the city council use bonds because they don’t have the money in their budget to pay for such repairs, Caron said.

From DOR’s perspective, bonds should be limited to pricey capital projects such as replacing the boiler at the library and improvements to the Lynn Auditorium, Caron said.

“DOR sees us going down a road that is not sustainable and we need to implement financial planning,” he said.

The goal is to promote best practices in the financial areas of city operations and to do long-range financial planning so the city can identify resources going forward.

In addition, there should be planning for capital costs, so the city will not be caught off guard.

“We don’t get into a situation where we will suddenly need 30 new police cruisers,” said James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. “We will be much better off if we know today that within three- to-five years we may need new cruisers, a fire engine or playground equipment.”

For his part, Caron said he has tried to implement financial controls over the years, but has met resistance.

“It’s tough getting through to department heads who have been used to doing things a certain way,” Caron said. “But if I have a third party making recommendations, that could have an impact.”

DOR and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy did not respond to a request for comment.


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

Lynn on taxes: pay or lose

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Scofflaws take notice.

If the city gets its way, businesses who fail to pay their local taxes or have outstanding municipal fees or fines will lose their operating license.

Under the proposal that will be the subject of a public hearing next month, Lynn officials are seeking to revoke the license of any firm that is more than 60 days late in paying its personal property or real estate taxes.

“Our message is we will take their license away and force them to pay up or close,” said Ward 3 City Councilor Darren Cyr, chairman of the Ordinance Committee.

If the measure passes, any time a business applies for license renewal, the tax collector will provide information as to whether the establishment is up to date on their tax payments. If they are delinquent, the application will be denied until they pay. Typically, renewals come up on a yearly basis.

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said the way the ordinance is written now, establishments must be delinquent for a year before the city can take action.

“Cities now have the option to reduce that to two months and that’s what we’re seeking to do,” he said. “It’s not uncommon for businesses to be behind in taxes.”

Revere springs another leak

Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron, the city official behind the proposed change, said he did not know how many businesses owe back payments or how much is due.

The idea for the change started two years ago when the city seized the White Eagle Cafe on Summer Street for nonpayment of more than $20,000 in taxes, he said. Lynn ended up owning the bar.

“That’s when I said this is crazy, we have to pay closer attention to this,” Caron said. “Now, it’s more heavily enforced and the council’s Licensing Committee has been aggressive with applicants, telling them to go pay your bills, come back and we’ll consider renewing your license.”

Still, Caron said, this is not an attempt to generate new revenues. It’s a new tool because the one year period before the city could revoke a license has been ineffective, he said.

“One year of nonpayment is just too long a time period,” he said.  


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

Four firms propose medical-marijuana dispensaries in Lynn

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Four medical marijuana companies have filed plans to open a clinic in the city.

The applicants include New England Patient Network Inc. of East Boston, Marblehead-based Old World Remedies, NS AJO Holdings Inc. of Colorado and the Massachusetts Patient Foundation, which operates facilities out of state.

The public will be able to hear presentations by the bidders and ask questions at a city council hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 13. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and the council have said the city will accommodate one or two clinics.

Alan Rothenberg, a Marblehead entrepreneur who has launched a dozen companies, founded Old World Remedies and plans to open a shop at 953 Western Ave. Under the terms of the application, all profits would be donated to Trouble the Dog, a local nonprofit that benefits children, he said.

“I’ve always been conscious of my community,” he said. “I will personally meet with anyone who has concerns.”

NS AJO Holdings Inc., which has a clinic in Colorado,  plans to open a facility at 1069 Western Ave.

Company CEO Aidan O’Donovan, said if approved, he plans to move to Massachusetts.

“We want a presence on the North Shore, an area that is underserved,” he said.  “We think the clinic would be mutually beneficial in a city that is struggling financially.”

Daniel Ross Karten, COO of the Massachusetts Patient Foundation, said he did not know his clinic location and his attorney declined to provide the address.

The New England Patient Network Inc. of East Boston has joined with former City Councilor Paul Crowley, trustee of the Lynnway Sportscenter, a 12,000-square-foot facility at 497 Lynnway, to change the use of the center to a medical marijuana clinic.

One original applicant is no longer in contention. Patrick McGrath, owner of the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market, told the city council last summer that he wanted to own and operate one of the clinics at his property at 491 Lynnway, has since changed his mind.

“I have a lot on my plate and decided not to proceed,” he said.  In September, James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, wrote the 19-page request for proposals for medical marijuana treatment centers. The city asked applicants who complied with the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) regulations to submit an application. Applicants will be required to negotiate a host agreement that will provide the city with funds, guarantees of safety and assurances that the products will not be sold to minors.

Earlier this year, the city council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to the city. Under the ordinance, the treatment center district would include the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana in 2012. Marijuana for recreational use was approved in by ballot in November’s elections.


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

Lynn plots pot plan

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — After nearly a year of debate, officials are set to invite medical marijuana treatment centers to open their doors in the city.  

Prospective clinic entrepreneurs have until Tuesday, Nov. 22 to answer the city’s request for proposals. The public will have an opportunity to hear presentations by the bidders and ask questions at a city council hearing scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 29.

Last summer, the city council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to Lynn. Under the controversial ordinance, the treatment center zoning district includes the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

So far, two potential operators have made it clear to Lynn officials that they intend to apply. Former City Councilor Paul Crowley, trustee of the Lynnway Sportscenter, a 12,000-square-foot facility at 497 Lynnway, has filed an application with the Inspectional Services Department to change the use of the center to a medical marijuana clinic.

Under the terms of the application, the 81-year-old candlepin bowling alley would become a pot dispensary operated by the New England Patient Network Inc. The East Boston-based company is seeking approval from the state Department of Public Health for a retail shop in Lynn and another in the western Massachusetts community of Deerfield.

Also, Patrick McGrath, owner of the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market, told the council he wants to be the owner and operator of one of the clinics at his property at 491 Lynnway. He’s already invested $100,000 in licensing fees and intends, if he is granted permission, to employ 20 people at the dispensary, he said.

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said based on the number of inquiries he’s received, the city expects as many as a dozen firms to respond to the RFP.

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the RFPs come on the heels of a series of public hearings on where the clinics should be located.

“We heard from the public and tried to zone them in the proper places,” he said. “Now, it’s time to let the process take shape.”

Peter Capano, the Ward 6 city councilor who lives in the neighborhood behind the Lynnway, made unsuccessful attempts to keep the dispensary locations off the Lynnway.

The council has appealed to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to select a representative of the panel to work with the mayor on a so-called host agreement, LaPierre said. The RFP calls for negotiations between the mayor and the applicant. Typically, the deal calls for an amount of cash to be paid to the city to operate the facility.

“We haven’t heard from the mayor on this yet,” he said.

Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

In Deerfield, for example, the town and New England Patient Network Inc. signed a three-year agreement that calls for a one-time payment of $50,000 and 2 percent of the gross annual revenues for the first two years, with an increase to 3 percent for the third year. Deerfield expects to net about $100,000 annually.  


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

Mayor stands ground on school sites

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The city’s School Building Committee overwhelmingly approved construction of two schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Under the $183 million proposal, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Friday morning vote reaffirmed the decision made by the committee in August. It came in the wake of questions raised about the Parkland Avenue site earlier this week. City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week suggesting the land belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery.

Ward 5 City Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, whose district includes the proposed site, was the sole vote against the project Friday. Prior to the roll call, she spoke against the plan while Pine Hill residents looked on.

Resident Brian Field said the land that the city plans to use for the school on Parkland Avenue was intended to be a cemetery.  

But Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief who is also a member of the building committee, told the panel the plan is the best option for the city.

“No matter where you put a public facility, no one wants it,” he said. “What is best for the city may not be the best for one section of the city.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy acknowledged that the committee is faced with a series of bad options. She said a proposal to build the school on Magnolia Avenue near Pickering  has its own set of problems.

While officials have said it would cost taxpayers $800,000 to move the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe on the property to make way for the school, the mayor said it would probably cost much more.

“I suspect that the pipe is not in good condition, it’s been down there a long time and soil conditions are not optimal for its preservation,” she said. “I’m afraid when we begin our obligation to reroute the water to Swampscott and Marblehead, we will find it to be far more expensive and time-consuming than we’re thinking of right now.”

In addition, she said a new school in that section of the city would exacerbate traffic problems in an already congested area. She also noted that the Gallagher Park option won’t work because it would be a tight fit in a heavily populated neighborhood.  

Next week, the building committee will make its case to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government that funds public schools. If approved, the agency would contribute $114.5 million towards the two schools or 62.5 percent of the cost.

If approved by the MSBA and taxpayers, it would add $163 annually to the real estate tax bill for 25 years.  


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

Pine Hill stuck in the middle

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Adam Swift

 

LYNN — Residents in the Pine Hill neighborhood are firmly against building a new school near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, as well as a second potential site at Gallagher Park.

Nearly 100 members of the Pine Hill Civic Association and assorted concerned neighbors met at the Hibernian Hall Thursday night to discuss the evolving nature of plans to replace the deteriorating Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue.

“This is our little slice of paradise living in Pine Hill,” said neighborhood resident Don Castle. “We don’t want anyone changing or disrupting our neighborhood with a big school.”

While the residents, as well as three city councilors who attended the meeting, are firmly against the building of a new middle school at either the Parkland Avenue or Gallagher sites, the whole issue could be a moot point by late this morning.

The Pickering Middle School Building Committee is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. this morning, with discussion centered on the Parkland site.

The building committee was set to focus on legal documents identified by the city law department tracing historic ownership of land proposed for the school construction.

In August, the building committee approved constructing two middle schools to replace Pickering. One school would house 652 students at the Parkland site, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), which would fund a portion of the project, has to approve the potential middle school sites.

City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week suggesting that the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission obtained a loan and purchased the land where the new school could be constructed.

Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis, Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano and Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre all reiterated on Thursday night that they are against seeing a new school built at either the Parkland or Gallagher locations.

Castle also brought forward the possibility of a taxpayer initiative legal action against the city to intercede against the taking of the Parkland Avenue land, if that option does move forward.

“I thought Parkland Avenue was off the table, and that’s a move in the right direction,” said LaPierre. “I want a new middle school, and it would be great to have two new middle schools.”

LaPierre said he wants to see a new school at McManus Field, and possibly a smaller school on Magnolia Avenue near the current Pickering School.

A drawback to the Magnolia site is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. Relocating the pipe could cost as much as $800,000, according to city officials.


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

Lynn middle-school plan under further review

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy will call a meeting to discuss legal questions that have arisen regarding a proposed middle school off Parkland Avenue.

The meeting will focus in part on legal documents identified by the city law department tracing historic ownership of land proposed for the school construction.

In August, a city building committee approved constructing two middle schools to replace Pickering, located on Conomo Avenue. One school would house 652 students near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The Massachusetts School Building Authority has to approve the potential Pickering sites.

“I am in receipt of a letter from the Law Department that warrants the re-examination of the selection of the site off of Parkland Avenue for a new middle school,” Kennedy said in a statement Tuesday. “While the city attorneys expressed an opinion that the city can legally construct a school on this property, they did so with the admonition that potential litigation could delay the project by at least two years. In response to the communication, I will be convening a meeting of the Pickering Building Committee as soon as possible to present this new information and engage the committee in a thoughtful discussion about how we should proceed.”

City attorney James Lamanna said the law department became aware of documents from 1893 last week.

In a letter to the mayor, city Solicitor Michael Barry said the documents suggest that in 1893, the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission obtained a loan and purchased the land where the proposed Pickering Middle School would potentially be constructed on the Reservoir site. He said the documents have not been filed at the Essex County Registry of Deeds, but appear in an 1893 report of the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission to the mayor and City Council.

Kennedy, who was not available for an interview Tuesday, said in her statement that she was aware that the building committee selected the Parkland Avenue site after a “lengthy and thorough process that weighed the pros and cons of all realistic options.”

“As mayor, I have been consistently reluctant to sign onto policies and rulings that would likely be overturned in court. In this instance, the issue of time is of major consideration,” she said in the statement. “It is not my preference to have this project delayed by any significant period of time. We have more than 3,100 students in middle school this year and that number is projected to rise by as much as 25 percent in the next several years. The simple fact is that we need the amount and caliber of space suitable to meet their educational needs.

“It is no secret that the city is land-poor when it comes to the amount of area needed to construct new schools,” Kennedy continued. “I have an obligation to bring the information from the law department to the committee and allow it to reconsider the selection of the site. I would stress that this action should not be construed as my advocating the elimination of the Parkland Avenue site from consideration.

“I simply want to present the building committee with the pertinent information, consult with the experts who have already done extensive research and fact-finding, and work toward making a decision that will best serve the students and educators who deserve quality space in which to teach and learn,” she said.

Another site the committee has looked at is Magnolia Avenue near the current Pickering site.

A drawback to the Magnolia site, Lamanna said, is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. He said the pipe would have to be relocated, as the school could not be built on top of it. Moving the pipe could cost the city $500,000 to $800,000, he added, and said that the city can’t take any action that would interfere with water provided to another community.

School Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said she was aware of the impending Pickering Building Committee meeting.

“I feel confident that the building committee will continue to work very hard to analyze all the data it has available in order to come to the best solution possible,” Latham said in an email.

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

 

Lynn seeks prescriptions for marijuana dispensaries

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — City Councilors and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy are set to invite marijuana dispensaries to the city as early as next month.

James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, presented a 19-page draft request for proposals for medical marijuana treatment centers Tuesday for the council to consider.

The city plans to invite applicants who have complied with the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) regulations and have been invited to submit an application to the state. Applicants will be required to negotiate a host agreement that will provide the city with funds, guarantees of safety and assurances that the products will not be sold to minors. The council will take up the matter at its next meeting on Oct. 11.

While no one has applied to the state’s Department of Public Health for approval, a handful of dispensary proponents have notified city officials that they tend to apply.  

Landlord Patrick McGrath, who owns the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market, told the council earlier this year that he intends to be the owner and operator of one of the clinics at his property at 491 Lynnway. He’s already invested $100,000 in licensing fees and intends, if he is granted permission, to employ 20 people at the dispensary, he said.

Former City Councilor Paul Crowley, trustee of the 12,000-square-foot Lynnway Sportscenter facility at 497 Lynnway, has filed an application with the Inspectional Services Department to change the use of the center to a medical marijuana clinic.

At a previous meeting, the city council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to the city. Under the ordinance, the treatment center district would include the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

Massachusetts voters legalized medical marijuana in 2012. In November, a ballot question will ask voters to legalize non-medical marijuana. Question 4 would legalize and create a commission to regulate marijuana in Massachusetts. Today, marijuana is only permitted for medicinal purposes. If approved, individuals at least 21 years old would be able to use, grow and possess pot.

The measure stipulates that individuals could possess less than 10 ounces of marijuana inside their homes and under one ounce in public. They could also grow up to six marijuana plants in their homes.

In other business before the council Tuesday, a group of neighbors urged councilors to oppose a 24-hour-a-day operation for a proposed Taco Bell at the Lynngate Shopping Plaza.

The eatery is planning to build a 2,500-square-foot restaurant on a portion of the parking lot in the shopping center at Boston and Stetson streets. Taco Bell is seeking approval from the Licensing Commission for special approval for the extended hours.

Residents who live behind the plaza say the late night hours will exacerbate traffic problems on Boston Street and disturb the neighborhood at all hours.

“You can count the number of fast food places we have within a quarter of a mile from Primo’s all the way down to Atha’s, enough is enough already,” said James Ferragamo, who lives nearby. “How many restaurants does Lynn need?”

Michael Rose, marketing coach for Charter Foods, the firm that franchises more than 200 Taco Bell, Long John Silver’s and KFC locations, said the Tennessee-based company has 24-hour operations in other regions of the country. Typically, he said, the restaurant closes at 11 p.m. and only the drive-thru is open all night. He promised to work with the neighbors.

Jack Griffin, a resident of the nearby 162-unit Stadium Condominiums on Locust Street, pleaded with the Licensing Committee to reject the plan.   

“I am opposed to the 24-hour for the drive-thru,” he said. “Our community is a very beautifully-maintained operation. A Taco Bell is not a good fit.”  

The council has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Oct. 11 and could take a vote on that night.


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

Guilty plea in Lynn cable case

File Photo

By Thor Jourgensen

LYNN — A Superior Court plea Wednesday strikes a major legal blow against a former community television provider’s bid to lay claim to local cable channels, said a city attorney.

John F. Chapman of Lynn pleaded guilty to one count of passing a false check and was sentenced to two years probation.

Chapman acknowledged the guilty plea during an interview on Thursday. He noted the court “threw out” the other charges originally filed against him.

“We wanted to end it,” he said. “It had gone on for a year and a half and cost me $50,000 in legal fees.”

In 2014, Chapman had faced charges of bribery, forgery, identity theft, larceny, false entry in corporate books with intent to defraud and passing false checks.

The indictments cited Chapman’s connection to Lynn Community Access and Media Inc. (LynnCAM), a former Western Avenue television studio that provided residents with access to equipment and programs.

The indictments charged Chapman with soliciting bribes in exchange for electrical work for LynnCAM and stealing $20,970 worth of property from the studio, and making fraudulent entries in the corporate books and on corporate financial statements, vendor invoices and tax returns.

James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, said Chapman’s plea upholds city allegations that LynnCAM directors and Chapman mismanaged Verizon and Comcast payments intended for use in programming production.

“This validates our contention there has been financial mismanagement,” Lamanna said.

Chapman’s plea clears the way for the state Attorney General’s office to “go full force to secure restitution on behalf of ratepayers,” he added.

The case against Chapman triggered charges filed by the city and legal action by the attorney general.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy ordered Verizon and Comcast to stop payments to LynnCAM in 2015. She named board members to a new successor cable access provider dubbed Lynn Community Television.

Working out of a City Hall office, Community TV is expanding programming and cable shows aired on local channels.

LynnCAM’s directors continue to insist the mayor had no right to stop payments and assert their status as the local cable access provider.

Attempts to reach Attorney General’s spokeswoman Emalie Gainey Thursday were unsuccessful.


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

Lynn council: Still have issues to weed out

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn City Hall

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Nothing was decided on potential sites for medical marijuana dispensaries in the city Tuesday night.

The Planning Board and Ordinance and Rules Committee tabled the discussion, while the City Council continued its hearing until May 24.

City Council Vice-President Darren Cyr said the council must gather more information before making a decision.

Officials are considering amending Lynn’s zoning bylaws that would clear the way for the controversial clinics.

If approved by City Hall, the treatment center district would include portions of 453-543 Lynnway, across from the ocean, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

City Councilor Peter Capano, whose ward includes the proposed district, questioned why the locations were chosen for potential clinics.

“I just don’t know, why not the whole Lynnway?” he said. “Why not the other side of the Lynnway?”

James Lamanna, city attorney, said those interested in operating the facilities want to be near public transportation. He added that most people want to keep the clinics away from the waterfront.

“There was concern that if the city did not take action, someone could go anywhere in the city,” Lamanna said. “Something needed to be in place.”

He said those interested in opening a clinic, with the way the current ordinance is written, could have their application denied, challenge it in court and win. Lamanna said a benefit of the way the amendment is written is that it only allows for two dispensaries.

Capano also questioned if the clinics are mandated to give money to the city. Lamanna said the city would enter into a host agreement with the operators, where Lynn gets up to three percent of the gross profits. The amendment recommends that a portion of the profits go towards public safety.

Lamanna said the measure would allow the clinics to dispense and grow marijuana. But the few people he’s spoken to about opening one have told him that they plan to grow outside of Lynn.

Lisa Wallace, of 12 Neptune St. Court, said she opposes a dispensary in her neighborhood. She is a 15-year recovering addict and the area is not stable enough the handle the clinics.

“Don’t set it up to fail by putting it in an area that already has so much stacked against it,” she said.

Wallace said there are already two methadone clinics nearby and in that low income neighborhood, people often have to decide whether they feed their children that day or if they sell their prescription. She would prefer to see a dispensary on the Boston Street corridor.

David Zeller, whose insurance agency is at 370 Lynnway, said if a facility opens, it would be one of the biggest money makers in the city.

“Let the business decide where it should go, not the politicians,” he said.

When the City Council completes its public hearing, they will have 90 days to make a decision on the zoning change.

“Whatever decision we make, it’s going to have an impact on the city for many years to come,” Cyr said.


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

Councilors talk polling places, pot

Item file photo 
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Despite the controversies associated with medical marijuana dispensaries, the mayor and city councilors launched a discussion on a possible medical marijuana overlay district in the city.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the proposed overlay district gives the city control over where a medical marijuana dispensary would be located. It would allow officials to work with police on the best site.

She has met with representatives for three or four dispensaries during the last six months and said she was impressed by their presentations.

“Most, if not all, are being run by very competent individuals,” she said. “All the proposals are very thought out.”

The mayor plans to work with councilors to determine if the city will submit a letter of support or so-called “letter of non- opposition” for a specific clinic.

The mayor said she is closely examining security proposals submitted by dispensaries.

“These are very often all-cash businesses,” she said.

Before a city council meeting Tuesday night, the Ordinance and Rules Committee discussed a potential amendment to the city’s zone ordinance that would create the district. It could include 453-543 Lynnway, two sites on Commercial Street and along Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

“I know this is a hot topic,” said Councilor Darren Cyr. “I’m opposed to pot dispensaries opening up in any part of the city. But, I’m also a realist. I think it’s important that we come up with some sort of plan.”

James Lamanna, a city attorney, said without declaring a district, there is the potential for a dispensary to be opened anywhere.

“If no place is designated, they can go anywhere after a court hearing,” he said. “I’m very confident we would not be able to defend those orders.”

Councilor Peter Capano expressed concerns about the locations and questioned whether alternative sites might be better suited for a dispensary.

“I’m not sure it would be good for residential neighborhoods or not,” Capano said. “I’ve heard that people don’t want them near residential neighborhoods. These are all near residential neighborhoods.”

Dan Cahill, city council president, said there would be an opportunity to make amendments throughout the public hearing process, which will begin May 3 at City Hall. At that time, councilors will hear from the public safety, economic development and several departments.

City councilors also discussed a change to polling places for the November presidential election, in anticipation of record voter turnout.

There are many voters who come out on presidential election years to cast votes, City Clerk Mary Audley said.

The polling places for Wards 3 and 4 are at Lynn English High School and the Lynn Museum. But councilors fear both locations might lack adequate parking.

Ward 4 voters living in the neighborhoods near Union, Essex, and Ocean Streets voted at North Shore Community College until construction began at the college. The Ward 4 polling place was moved to the Lynn Museum.

City councilors voted to change the polling place for Ward 3 from Lynn English High School to the new Marshall Middle School on Brookline Street, which opened this past Monday.

Audley said she will gather information about the other polling places for the council to review and vote on any additional changes in the coming weeks. Locations for Wards 1, 2 and 4 are currently in question.

“Its very difficult to please everybody,” Audley said. “I’ll do some research and (come up with) a breakdown of what is feasible to do.”


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.

Board planning to uphold city’s Lynnway vision

ITEM FILE PHOTO
City Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan

By Gayla Cawley

Item Staff

LYNN —A battle between two city boards is the first salvo over the future of the city’s waterfront.

On Tuesday night, the Planning Board voted to appeal the Zoning Board of Appeals’ (ZBA) approval for a contractor’s yard on the Lynnway because the project fails to meet the city’s vision for the district.

“A contractor’s yard is definitely not what we want on the water side of the Lynnway,” said James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. “We’re trying to attract multi-million dollar investments and this would hurt our efforts.”

Last month, the ZBA granted the petition for the contractor’s yard with a stipulation that its use be limited to Leahy Landscaping LLC. The company, owned by Matthew Leahy, would lease the land at 732R Lynnway from owner Kenneth Carpi.

In response, the Planning Board unanimously voted to file a lawsuit.

“This just flies in the face of what the city has done since 2007 in regards to the waterfront,” said Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services director.

James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, said the Planning Board vote authorizes the city to file a lawsuit challenging the ZBA variance and names the panel and the landlords as defendants in that lawsuit.

The deadline to appeal the ZBA decision is April 13. Lamanna said municipal lawsuits can take up to two years to resolve.

“While this litigation is pending, another tenant could be found that would be allowed to go there that would be acceptable to the city,” Lamanna said.

The ZBA’s stipulation to limit the use of the yard to Leahy was unlawful, Lamanna noted. He said the variance for the contractor’s yard is good for any business that wants to operate there, and cannot be limited to one business.

Cowdell at the EDIC said he would like to negotiate with Carpi and convince him to support the city’s concept for the waterfront that would include a mix of apartments, hotels and retail. He also plans work with Leahy to find him another location for the  contractor’s yard.

Carpi’s lawyer, Thomas Demakis, said Leahy’s business has outgrown its current location and needs to expand. He told the board that the property is barely visible on the Lynnway, that Leahy would display plants, trees and shrubs in front of the property for people to see driving by looking to purchase, according to minutes from the ZBA meeting

Demakis declined comment on the Planning Board’s action.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano sent a letter to Kathryn Brown, chairperson of the ZBA, in favor of moving the petition to the Lynn City Council for approval.

“I realize there are concerns about the use of this property because it is right in the middle of the Waterfront Master Plan and we all have high expectations for its use down the road,” Capano wrote. “My concern is that Mr. Carpi is paying $200,000 worth of taxes each year on the property and is one of the biggest investors in the city. I think he should be able to offset some of his expenses by leasing his property until something bigger and better and more suited to the vision of the waterfront master plan comes along.”

In order to have a contractor’s yard, Lamanna said a variance was needed from the ZBA. But Carpi and Leahy also must obtain a special permit from the City Council. At Tuesday’s meeting, the council voted to set a public hearing for Leahy Landscaping, but a date was not determined.

But by filing the lawsuit before next Wednesday, Lamanna said the variance from the ZBA is on hold until the court rules and the contractor’s yard cannot operate during that time.


 

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

Cable TV picture is no clearer in Lynn

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Webb Primason and Rick Khana wait for proceedings to begin at LynnCAM.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — It has everything Lynn Community Television needs to expand its five month-old operation, but an ongoing legal battle keeps the now-closed Lynn Community Access and Media, Inc. studios and offices off limits to city.

The LynnCAM property was scheduled to be sold at foreclosure auction last Thursday but a Peabody attorney filed bankruptcy paperwork on behalf of LynnCAM’s former board of directors before Community Television or any other potential buyer could submit a bid. The auction is now scheduled for July.

Created by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy last October, Community Television broadcasts city events and municipal meetings on Verizon channels 37 and 38 and Comcast channels 3 and 22. It is currently operated by three former LynnCAM employees out of a City Hall meeting room.

City Hall’s access to a fiber network connection allows Community Television to broadcast live, but the public access provider’s five-member board appointed by Kennedy would like to find a new, larger location

LynnCAM’s Western Avenue location has a fiber connection but there is no love lost between Kennedy, city officials and the former LynnCAM directors after the mayor denounced them as a “rogue board” last September.

She made that statement after former LynnCAM board of directors President Robert Sewell and board attorney Emmanuel Papanickolas told two dozen LynnCAM members at a raucous meeting that an election to choose new board members would not be held.

That declaration was the last straw for Kennedy who had previously stated she was “extremely frustrated” by prolonged city efforts to obtain detailed financial records from LynnCAM. She followed up that remark by authorizing city officials to direct Verizon and Comcast to make public cable access payments to the city instead of LynnCAM and ordered LynnCAM to submit any bills it needed paid to the city for review.

Kennedy’s directive was set against the backdrop of state Attorney General Maura Healey filing  a 2015 court complaint alleging LynnCAM board members were “responsible for misappropriation of charitable funds.”

The city has filed its own complaints in the last year against LynnCAM with Papanickolas, on the LynnCAM’s board’s behalf, filing counter complaints. Papanickolas restated the board’s position last Thursday, saying the city continues to hold $850,000 belonging to LynnCAM in escrow.

“It’s LynnCAM’s money,” he said.

City Comptroller Stephen Spencer and city attorney James Lamanna challenged that claim.

“I don’t know where that is coming from,” Spencer said.

Lamanna said two judges have ruled LynnCAM is “not entitled to additional monies.”

“We are confident we will prevail at trial,” Lamanna said.

Spencer said $191,000 set aside by the city to pay LynnCAM bills last year remains in a city account.

“It’s staying right where it is,” he said.

After the city last September submitted a formal filing for a new cable access corporation with the state, Kennedy named attorneys Michael Marks and Michael Cerulli, former Council presidents Robert Tucker and Richard Coppinger and Fire Department veteran Joseph Carritte as Community Television’s new directors.

Tucker last Thursday said Community Television has slowly expanded its operations, but needs studio space with a fiber network connection.

“We’re trying to find a new home. There’s a limited number of opportunities,” he said.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com