Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy

State Senator Thomas M. McGee to run for mayor

ITEM FILE PHOTO
State Sen. Thomas M. McGee.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Ending months of speculation, Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Salem) will enter the race for mayor on Monday, The Item has learned.

A family friend familiar with the decision said McGee called elected officials and key supporters over the weekend to tell them he plans to pull papers in the City Clerk’s office on Monday to run for mayor.

McGee confirmed his intention to run, but declined comment.

Before his election to the Senate in 2002, McGee served four terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where he represented West Lynn and Nahant.

The race comes as the city’s fiscal year 2017 and 2018 budgets are in flux. Last week, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy asked her department heads to make cuts. Some managers may have to trim up to 8.5 percent in their personnel budgets, a measure that could lead to layoffs.

Kennedy and McGee were behind the measure that failed last week to build a pair of middle schools. Voters overwhelming rejected increasing their real estate taxes by $200 or more annually for the next 25 years to pay for them.

Kennedy declined comment on McGee’s entry into the race.


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

Lynn budget under the knife

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — On the heels of a bruising school election where voters overwhelmingly rejected a tax increase, the city faces the prospect of layoffs to erase a budget deficit.

Mayor Judith Flanagan has instructed department heads to level fund their fiscal year 2018 budget which begins on July 1. In addition, the email to senior managers asked them to “be creative” in absorbing a 5 percent retroactive raise to city employees and another 2 percent increase set to take effect this summer.

The city is short by $8 million — the combination of a $4 million deficit in the fiscal year 2017 budget and an additional $4 million in raises for 2018. Some departments face as much as 8.5 percent in cuts while others will have a much lower threshold.

“In order to maintain the current level of operation, the city must address the $4 million deficit from last year and up to $4 million in new salaries due to contract settlements,” said Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer. “To do so, the city needs to either find new revenue or reduce spending.”

Despite the cash crunch, the mayor insists Lynn is not in the midst of a financial crisis.

“To level fund the budget, accommodate the recent raises and increases in fixed costs, such as pensions and healthcare, we asked everyone to submit an initial budget with an 8 percent spending cut,” she said. “But this is just an initial step, we start at the bottom and build the budget up from there. I can’t speculate on layoffs right now, but we have some pretty big fixed costs that must be met.”

Still, it appears contract settlements with police, fire and other city employees has exacerbated the cash-strapped city’s ability to maintain its nearly $300 million budget without cuts. Some department heads say layoffs and service cutbacks may be inevitable. The schools will not be affected by the cuts.

Lynnfield’s Hashian gave beat for Boston

The $3.7 million payroll at the Department of Public Works must be trimmed by nearly $262,000, the potential loss of about three workers from the 50-person unit.

“Trying to do the same amount of work with less money is always a challenge,” said Andrew Hall, commissioner.

Hall said one of his workers is collecting worker’s compensation as a result of an injury on the job. If that person does not return to work, the city would not fill the position.

“I’m trying to avoid any layoffs,” he said. “It’s possible we could absorb work done by one of our contractors, but it may not be enough to avoid layoffs.”

In the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD), they are  looking at a $400,000 cut from its $6.8 million personnel budget or as many as eight positions from the department which employs 30 workers.  

Michael Donovan, ISD’s director, said his agency has three vacant positions that will go unfilled, there is the possibility of employees retiring, and there’s potential savings of up to $50,000 if the city defers scheduled improvements to city buildings.

“Even with those savings, I am looking at four more positions to trim,” he said. “If inspectors or clerical staff are laid off, it will impact the operations. This is serious. Our budget is so lean right now to cut back on personnel will lead to lower services.”

Police Chief Michael Mageary said it is too soon to say how the latest cuts will affect his department. Last year, they downsized to six patrol cars with two officers in each, down from six, one-person patrol cars and four, two-person cars.

“We are already running lean,” he said. “We have two officers less per division on the street right now.”

Cuts in the Personnel Department could lead to trimming one position, according to Joseph Driscoll, director. His $251,000 budget consists of three salaries and less than $5,000 in expenses.

“I understand the financial crisis the city is in,” said Driscoll. “I will do what the mayor and the chief financial officer ask me to do, as painful as it may be.”  

Fire Chief James McDonald said he’s hoping not to lay off anyone, but can’t guarantee it. He is looking at cutting $1.3 million from the department’s $16.6 million payroll.

“It will have a bad effect on us,” he said. “We do not have a lot of money to roll into payroll. There’s a chance a firefighter could be laid off.”

While McDonald has 17 unfilled firefighter jobs, he has been using some of that money to pay for overtime.

If the city lacks sufficient firefighters on a shift, he said they  can put that company out of service in what’s called a “brownout.” That’s where engines are removed from service when available staffing is thin.

“It’s Russian roulette,” he said. “We take them out for a day or night and hope nothing happens. That’s what happened in Holyoke on New Year’s Day. They had a fatal fire, there was a brownout and three people died.”


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

It’s all Greek in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy arrives with the Greek flag as Adam Varvounis, Giorgos Kopalidis and Paul Varvounis get ready to raise it.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The city raised a flag to Greek Independence Day Thursday afternoon.

In a small ceremony outside Lynn City Hall, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Rev. George Tsoukalas of St. George Greek Orthodox Church raised the Greek flag, where it will fly for the next week.

“I always said I would go to Greece and, during the Summer of 2016, I did,” said Kennedy. “It was more beautiful than I could have imagined.”

For Kennedy, raising the flag of different countries is a way to celebrate the diversity of the city.

“I like to show that there are so many different cultures in Lynn,” she said. “Everybody is a part of the fabric.”

The ceremony was held to commemorate Greek Independence Day, which is observed on March 25, the day the War of Greek Independence began in 1821. The holiday coincides with the Orthodox Church’s celebration of the annunciation to the Theotokos, when Mary was told she would bear the son of God by the Archangel Gabriel.

As the flag was lifted, attendees sang the Greek national anthem.

Swampscott gets look at plans for Machon

Students from the St. George Greek school wore fustanella, the traditional Greek formal dress for boys and men. The uniform became a symbol of rebellion during the revolution. The traditional dress for girls and women is red and white, said Lena Triantos, principal of the religious school.

Celebrations will continue at St. George Greek Orthodox Church on Saturday with the Feast of the Annunciation services at 9 a.m., divine liturgy at 9:30 a.m. and Doxology for the 25th of March at 10:30 a.m. Children will read poetry and sing traditional Greek songs, said Triantos. They will also sing the national anthems of Greece and the United States.

Following service on Sunday, the Greek School will present their Independence Day program of poems and songs to show their ethnic pride.


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

A bright future for Central Square

COURTESY PHOTO
The proposed lighted Central Square underpass.

By BILL BROTHERTON

LYNN — The future of the downtown may soon get brighter. A lot brighter, thanks to multi-colored LED lights under the railroad tracks, vibrant vintage neon art and murals that will cover entire windowless sides of buildings.

“Beyond Walls” is the name of a project adopted by a volunteer group of Lynn residents, business owners and public art enthusiasts working together to reinvigorate the city’s downtown. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, city leaders and Lynn’s State House delegation support the project.

MassDevelopment and Lynn’s Neighborhood Development Associates will announce today a new campaign through the civic crowdfunding platform Patronicity and the Commonwealth Places initiative. Beyond Walls will use funds raised from the campaign to install lighting in train underpasses and 12 neon artworks in the city’s business district, a sculpture that pays homage to Lynn’s industrial roots and 10 murals in the heart of Lynn’s Transformative Development Initiative District.

If the campaign reaches its crowdfunding goal of $50,000 by May 22 at midnight, the project will win a matching grant with funds from MassDevelopment’s Commonwealth Places program.

“This campaign to change the public perception of Lynn through colorful lighting, murals and public art will illuminate the city’s rich cultural history and spur new business and economic activities,” said MassDevelopment President and CEO Marty Jones.

Courtesy photo

Proposed neon artwork near Capitol Diner.

“Investing in this revitalization of Lynn’s Central Square is really the first step in bringing the city back to a position as a leader,” said Al Wilson, founder and executive director of Beyond Walls.

Wilson and Amanda Hill of RAW Art Works, associate director of the “Placemaking” group, said the mission is twofold: to use culture and art to improve the quality of life for the benefit of those who work or live in the city; and to have millennials view Lynn as a viable alternative to living in South Boston, Allston, Cambridge or other traditionally attractive neighborhoods for young professionals.

“Placemaking” is a multi-faceted approach to the planning, design and management of public spaces. It capitalizes on a local community’s assets, inspiration and potential, with the intention of creating public spaces that cater to and attract people.

“The goal is to increase the walkability of downtown Lynn,” said Wilson. “Placemaking uses arts and culture to put a place on the map. Right now, three underpasses (Central Square, Washington Street, Market Street) in downtown Lynn are not lit, and with darkness comes a fear of danger. The 189 bays under the Central Square underpass would be illuminated by LED lights.”

“This brings the community together. This project will make Lynn a destination,” added Hill.

A local benefactor has donated 12 neon artworks. Street artists will be selected to create 10 murals and the GE I-A, the first jet engine manufactured in Lynn, has been donated to the project and will likely be displayed in front of the viaducts on Mount Vernon Street, across from the LynnArts building.

Some of the world’s top mural artists, including Shepard Fairey, who created the Barack Obama “Hope Poster,” have expressed interest in using Lynn’s architecturally-exciting buildings as blank canvases, said Wilson. Fairey has his eye on 545 Washington St., which he saw during a visit to Lynn two years ago.

Wilson said he was inspired by Wynwood Walls in greater Miami that was once a run-down, neglected industrial section of the city and is now an arts and cultural mecca. “It is filled with cool cafes, restaurants and market-rate housing for millennials and empty-nesters,” he said.

Boston-based Payette architects sent its senior managers to tour the city, and, Wilson said, “They were blown away. They saw beauty in the architecture and tall buildings.” He called Payette’s Parke MacDowell an unsung hero to “Beyond Walls.” Payette and Cambridge-based lighting design firm LAM Partners have offered their services at no charge.

Wilson and Hill praised the enthusiasm and work of Charles Gaeta, the Neighborhood Development Associates executive director, who has been a receptive, supportive, mentoring partner.

“This will help change the perception of Lynn,” said Wilson. “I look at Lynn and it’s half-a-cup of coffee away from Boston, but it’s not on (millennials’) radar … yet.”

Saugus reservation on display in Melrose

The group, registered as a 501(c) 3 nonprofit, has 60 days to raise $50,000 in order to secure a match from the state agency MassDevelopment. The total cost of the project will be approximately $255,000, and Wilson is confident that amount will be reached. “For now, the focus is in raising the $50,000 in 60 days so we can get the state match,” he said. “I’m a believer in the Bernie (Sanders) method, where everyone gives $20, $30, or what they can … and it’s tax deductible.”

If an additional $30,000 can be raised above the $50,000 goal, the project will be expanded to include the installation of three more murals, five more vintage neon artworks and the potential lighting of the Washington Street underpass.

Installations would occur in June and July.

Learn more and donate at www.patronicity.com/ynn.


A “Beyond Walls” fundraising party will be held at Lynn Museum, 590 Washington St., Lynn, the evening of April 6, 6-10 p.m. Lynn-based Bent Water Brewing and Short Path Distillery of Everett will provide adult beverages, and several area restaurants (The Blue Ox, Eastern Harvest Foods/Lynn Meatland, Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, Brother’s Deli, Tacos Lupita) will provide food. There will be music and celebrity bartenders. A video of the project will be shown at 8 p.m.

Al Wilson, founder and executive director of “Beyond Walls,” said there is no admission charge to attend the party, but a tax-deductible donation of $20 or more is suggested. One hundred percent of donations will go toward project costs.


Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features editor. He can be reached at bbrotherton@itemlive.com.

 

Lynn says no; so what now?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Cathy Rowe posts early returns Tuesday night at Lynn City Hall.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — One day after a ballot question to build two middle schools lost in a landslide, proponents are reeling from the outcome.

“We knocked on doors and got great feedback from folks, so we were surprised and saddened by the outcome,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union. “I don’t know why there was such large opposition.”

In a special election on Tuesday, voters rejected two ballot questions that would have authorized a $188.5 million plan for a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second school to house 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the schools, managed to get the no vote out. They argued that the 44 acres near the proposed Parkland Avenue school site should be reserved exclusively for future burial grounds and open space.

At a meeting of the Pickering School Building Committee at City Hall on Wednesday, Lynn Stapleton, the school project manager, thanked the panel for their hard work and acknowledged the sadness in the room.

“It was an overwhelming no vote,” she said. “And the votes came from well beyond where the school was to be located. The outcome was really upsetting, but we will move on.”

Schools out in Lynn

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, said he plans to meet with the mayor in the coming weeks.  

“We want to give everyone time to consider the results,” he said.  “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site. And we ask the City Council to keep the 44 acres for the cemetery.”

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government authority that funds school construction projects, which agreed to fund a portion of the Lynn project, gives the city 10 days to explain why the vote failed and how the city wants to proceed. Under the agency’s rules, the city could withdraw or modify its plan and re-apply for funds by April 7 or meet next year’s April deadline.

One of the options is to build just one school, Stapleton said. Or the city could consider a phased option where construction begins on one school and then another. The other possibility is to simply add more classrooms at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. The city could also withdraw from the competitive funding process.

Given MSBA’s timelines, if the city decides to go forward with a new plan, nothing will happen until 2020.

Full results of Lynn school vote

But Stapleton suggested this was not the time to make any decisions.

“Emotions are a little raw right now,” she said. “Let’s think about it, schedule another meeting and see what we might come up with for alternatives. We don’t have lots of time. But if you think that you have any kind of plan that might conceivably work, I recommend that we submit it to the MSBA within 10 days and see if we can get them to work with us. Otherwise, your only other option is to withdraw from the program and submit next year and try to get back in.”

Following the meeting, Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was heartbroken for the school children and the city.

“I don’t think the vote was about the money, but I just don’t know,” she said. “I wish I knew.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she needs time to consider the vote.

“I need to figure out why they voted no,” she said.

Duncan, the union president, said the vote doesn’t resolve the need for more classroom space or the condition of school buildings.

“The Pickering’s roof was leaking significantly on election day from the melting snow,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to come up with a solution.”


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

Lynn moving forward with city planner job

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  Less than two weeks after Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy outlined the idea to hire a planner, the city has secured the cash to pay for the position.

On Tuesday, the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC) board of directors unanimously approved contributing $150,000 to fund the job for three years. The city’s nonprofit development bank has agreed to pay half the salary while the Department of Community Development offered up the other $150,000.  

Under the terms of the deal, the mayor in consultation with EDIC and Community Development will hire a planner at a salary between $75,000-100,000.

“Some people have called for having an entire planning department, which would be great, but I really don’t have the money to do anything like that,” said Kennedy.  “We will start small and simply get a planner who will centralize many of the functions that are going on already.”

The mayor said she hopes to have the job description written by month’s end and post the opening on a number of online job websites next month. She expects to hire someone by July 1.

“This person should have the biggest voice on any decision about planning, housing, economic and community development,” Kennedy said.  

The new hire will have a desk in the city’s Inspectional Services Department alongside the Planning Board and support staff.

James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director, said his office typically spends $150,000 annually on consultants. The new planner will be able to do some of those functions and save the agency money.   

“A planner would be a great help to us to fulfill our mission,” he said. “It’s a much-needed position and overdue. Hopefully it will be someone with a master’s degree in planning.”

Full results of Lynn school vote

Charles Gaeta, EDIC’s chairman, backed the concept.

“I am glad you are doing this,” he told the mayor. “I’m not sure one person can do it, but as time goes on, we will reap so many benefits by having this position. It will strengthen what we have, but the person must be somewhat independent.”

The employee will be a contractor worker who must abide by the city’s residency requirement, Kennedy said.

Lynn has been without a planner for more than two decades.

“Now’s the right time,” Kennedy said.


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

 

Schools out in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Judy Odiorre, Jeanne Melanson, and Marie Muise celebrate the “Vote No” victory at the Old Tyme Restaurant.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  Voters said no to a nearly $200 million proposal to build two middle schools Tuesday, rejecting the measure by a decisive margin.

The controversial ballot asked voters to green light construction of the schools while a second question sought approval to pay for them. The first vote failed 63 to 37 percent, the funding question lost 64 to 36 percent.

“I am really proud of my neighborhood grassroots group that stood up for what they believe in,” said Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, an advocacy organization founded to fight the ballot question. “The city, and in particular, the mayor and the superintendent, really need to reassess how they do business with taxpayers.”

Castle said the vote turned on the process, financing, the site that includes land that the founding fathers intended as cemetery expansion, as well as wetlands.

It was a spirited campaign where proponents and opponents took their case to Facebook and in dueling op-ed pieces.  The Item editorialized in favor of the project on Page 1 twice in the final weeks of the campaign.

Of the 8,539 votes cast on the first question, 3,189 were in favor while 5,350 were against. On the second question, of the 8,454 votes, 3,014 were in favor while 5,440 opposed. The no vote was nearly unanimous in every ward and precinct across the city.  

Full results of Lynn school vote

The vote is a setback for Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the superintendent, the Lynn Teachers Association and nearly all of the city’s elected officials who were in favor of the project.

“I’m disappointed for the students more than anything,” said Kennedy.  

As far as renovating the existing Pickering Middle School, Kennedy said that is not possible.

“We can’t afford it,” she said. “That would be $44 million out of the city’s budget … there is absolutely no way we can afford to renovate Pickering.”

Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was greatly disappointed that the vote to build two new middle schools failed.  

“The greatest investment a city can make is for the education of its children,” she said in an email.  “Apparently our residents are unable to make such a investment at this time. I will continue to work with the state and the city to examine possible solutions to our school needs.”

If approved, the city would have built a 652-student school near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second school would have housed 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street. In making the case for the new schools, Latham said 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. The new schools were needed to fix a problem of insufficient space and inadequate facilities.

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

City Council President Darren Cyr, an enthusiastic supporter of the new schools,  said he was extremely disappointed in the vote.

“I feel sorry for the kids in our city,” he said. “They are the losers. There are no winners.”


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

Lynn school election snowed out

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lynn City Clerk Janet Rowe, left, and election coordinator Mary Jules help Tim and Deborah Potter cast absentee ballots.

By THOMAS GRILLO

SALEM — As a late season blizzard threatens to shut down the Bay State with more than a foot of snow, today’s high stakes election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed.

Essex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat issued the ruling on Monday in response to a request from the city. Less than three hours later, in an emergency meeting, the City Council moved the election to next Tuesday, March 21.

Lauriat approved a request by Richard Vitali, the city’s assistant city solicitor, to delay the special election. While the city had hoped the judge would approve the March 21 date, Lauriat declined.

“The City Council set the date of the first vote, they should set the new one,” Lauriat said from the bench.

That set in motion a swift response from City Hall to call for an emergency council meeting

“I’m glad,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “I wanted to make sure we got into court today because it’s becoming more and more evident that it would be a real public safety hazard to have people attempting to go out to vote in a storm like this.”

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, property owners will be responsible for $91.4 million of the total $188.5 million project cost. School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall calculations. If those monies are not used, officials said it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million. City officials say the average homeowner would pay from $200-$275 a year extra on their real estate tax bill for the next 25 years.

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the ballot question, said his group will spend the extra week before the election to convince residents to vote no.

“The fight continues,” he said. “We will keep organizing to oppose this.”

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

In a filing to the city on campaign spending, Two Schools for Lynn, the group organized to support the project, reported they raised $11,055 from Jan. 31 through Feb. 24. Much of the cash, $5,000, came from the Lynn Teachers Association. Public officials also made donations. City Councilor and state Rep. Daniel Cahill contributed $500, the mayor wrote a check for $200, City Councilor Brian LaPierre gave $450 and City Councilor Buzzy Barton donated $200.

The group opposing the ballot initiative, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, failed to file on time. Castle said the report was in the mail and estimated the group raised about $7,000.


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

School vote moved to Tuesday, March 21

LYNN — Under the looming possibility of more than a foot of snow Tuesday, the special election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed a week to Tuesday, March 21.

The decision was made during an emergency meeting by the City Council.

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

Lynn voters being put to the test

(Left) ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This sign is on the corner of Lynnfield Street and Kernwood Dr.
(Right) PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pat Burke (adult standing) and Mia Duncan (with sign), of Lynn, at the “Get the Vote Out Rally” for the March 14 vote for two new schools. The meeting was held at the Lynn Teachers Union on Western Avenue.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN After months of campaigning, it all comes down to a vote on Tuesday.

The March 14 special election has pit Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove which opposes the $188.5 million project to build a pair of middle schools against 2 Schools for Lynn, which includes parents, teachers and city officials who say the more than 100-year-old Pickering Middle School should be replaced.

As a powerful nor’easter threatens to shut down the region on Tuesday with more than a foot of snow, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is considering postponing the election. The city solicitor’s office will consult with the election division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State this morning and make a decision by 5 p.m.

On Friday, Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said if the city wants to reschedule the vote due to inclement weather, they would have to appear before a judge this morning to make the request.

If approved by voters, the Pickering on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery that would house 652 students. A larger second school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Property owners 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 paid for by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

Voters will be asked two questions: whether the city should borrow the money to build the schools and a second question on whether taxpayers are willing to exempt the plan from Proposition 2 ½.

On one side are the proponents who say every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child. They point to the gleaming Thurgood Marshall Middle School that opened last year which offers its students an ideal place to learn with lots of natural light, studios for art, music and television production, science labs and all the modern tools to learn home economics.

On the opposing side are some Pine Hill residents who say when they purchased their homes they expected their nearest neighbors to be in the graveyard, not school children and the traffic that comes with it. They say Parkland is not only the wrong site, but the project is too expensive and the city must protect the nearby reservoir.

Gary Welch, a member of the opposition, said he favors a plan that would build the West Lynn school first at the McManus site, move the Pickering students to the new facility, demolish the current Pickering School and build the new school at the Pickering site.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham has been equally passionate in noting the building committee examined more than a dozen sites and concluded Parkland Avenue makes the most sense.

While people have suggested a parcel on Federal Street near the fire station, it is contaminated land, while another site at Magnolia Avenue is in a floodplain and has a water line, Latham said. The other location suggested at Union Hospital is not owned by the city and would exacerbate traffic on Lynnfield Street.

At press time, each group was planning to hold events on the weekend before the vote.

The 2 Schools for Lynn group scheduled a “Get Out the Vote Rally” on Saturday at the  Lynn Teachers Union. Among those expected to attend were state Rep. and City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, Rep. Brendan Crighton, City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi, School Committee members Maria Carrasco, John Ford, Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson.

Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove planned a walk-through of the Parkland Avenue site on Sunday at B Street Place and Basse Road.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.


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

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with the Item at her office.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy won’t say whether she will seek a third term this fall, but the city’s chief executive is sure acting like a candidate.

In a wide ranging interview with The Item this week, the mayor laid out her goals for 2017.

At the top of her list is winning Tuesday’s vote for construction of two new middle schools. The special election on March 14 asks homeowners to approve a property tax increase for 25 years for the $188.5 million project that would build a school on Parkland Avenue and a second in West Lynn.

“Next week will give us an indication of whether we will be able to move forward with providing our students with the same kind of education they receive at the new Marshall Middle School,” she said.  “I just hope there is no confusion that voters need to vote yes on both questions in order for it to pass. If you favor the new schools, vote yes for both or it will fail.”

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

While the mayor is optimistic that voters will approve the ballot initiative, she is considering Plan B should the vote fail.

‘We would go back to the Massachusetts School Building Authority and start over,” said the mayor, referring to the quasi-independent government agency that funds a portion of school construction projects. “And hope that within a few years we could turn the vote around.”

While opponents of the school site on Parkland Avenue say a better alternative is to renovate the Pickering Middle School, the mayor said the city lacks the $44.2 million it would take to gut the 90,000-square-foot facility and install new systems, classrooms, gym, cafeteria and labs.

“We simply can’t afford it out of the city budget,” she said.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Also in the planning stages is a marketing staffer for the Lynn Auditorium, the city’s 2,100-seat concert hall, that would be paid for by ticket sales.

“We could reach more people and expand if we had someone to do marketing,” she said.

Kennedy is also planning to spend $400,000 for a study to replace Engine 9 on Tower Hill and Engine 7 on Pine Hill with a fire safety building in West Lynn at a cost of $15-20 million.

“Those buildings are 100 years old and continuing to show signs of aging,” she said.  “We would build one facility and perhaps move dispatch into the new station and save on rent.”

The mayor also plans to seek $100,000 in grants to restore the Angell Memorial Fountain at Broad and Nahant streets. Built in the early 1900s  in memory of George T. Angell, the founder of Boston’s Angell Memorial Hospital, the fountain once served as a horse trough.

In addition, the mayor said summer job applications for teens are available at the personnel office in City Hall. Selection for the 120 jobs will be done by lottery.

While no one has declared their candidacy for mayor, local political observers say Kennedy will run. State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre have said they are exploring the possibility of running. McGee recently held a fundraiser in Boston and may have been the person behind a citywide poll on the race.

Kennedy and LaPierre said they had nothing to do with the poll. But a McGee spokeswoman did not respond when asked the question.


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

A great plan for Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with The Item in her office at Lynn City Hall.

We support Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy in her decision announced on Tuesday to hire a city planner.

Hiring a planner will allow city officials to replace the blunt instrument they are now using to craft Lynn’s development policy with a laser capable of precisely defining city objectives. To his credit, Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corporation (EDIC) Executive Director James M. Cowdell advised Kennedy on the value of hiring a planner.

Cowdell has played a major role since Kennedy took office in 2010 in propelling the city’s development goals forward. His fingerprints are on the progress made downtown and on the waterfront.

But Cowdell heads a local agency with a specific mandate just as veteran Lynn Housing Authority and Neighborhood Development Executive Director Charles Gaeta has a mandate for his agency and Community Development Director James Marsh has one for his office.

The exact parameters for the planning job are still to be defined, but we urge Kennedy to make sure the planning office is an autonomous city department. For her part, the mayor has made it clear the planner will be a different breed of cat than the city’s three directors.

Successful planners in other communities demonstrate an ability to understand the big picture when it comes to their community’s growth and development objectives. They also understand the tiny mosaic pieces that compose that picture.

A strong Lynn planner will have relationships with the agencies overseen by Gaeta, Marsh and Cowdell and he or she will also need to build deep community relationships.

Kennedy plans to hire a city planner

Former Planner Kevin R. Geaney, in a 1983 Item interview, discussed the relationship between planning professionals and local appointed and elected officials. The single word defining that relationship, in Geaney’s view, is “consensus.”

With that watchword in mind, a city planner can be viewed as a gatekeeper — someone who is an initial point of contact for a developer or business with a relocation or expansion plan. A skilled planner can assess how a development vision or business idea fits into the city’s overall development plan and also assess how a proposal conforms with or clashes with local zoning code and ordinances.

Lynn has benefited from the shared expertise and vision provided during Kennedy’s tenure by Gaeta, Cowdell and Marsh. But progress has been tempered by the lack of a single professional serving as a point person for someone viewing Lynn’s potential for the first time.

As Kennedy begins to define the planner’s job description, we invite her to research how communities such as Salem and Saugus, Boston and Somerville, have used planners and how they define the planner’s role.

The end result of that research is the successful hiring of a planner who can bring a laser focus to the task of enhancing Lynn’s future.

Kennedy plans to hire a city planner

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with The Item in her office at Lynn City Hall.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Starting this summer, Lynn will no longer be the state’s largest municipality without a city planner.  

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has proposed to fill the planning position that has been vacant for nearly 25 years.

“I’ve wanted to get a planner for a long, long time and now’s the right time,” she said. “A planner will update zoning citywide and determine land usage as we plot the city’s future.”

The job, which is expected to cost up to $100,000 annually, comes as a recent study by RKG Associates Inc. in Boston called on the city to improve planning, regulatory and zoning functions by creating a planning office led by a professional to institute permitting that is transparent, streamlined and fair. Other consultants have called for the establishment of a centralized planning division that would lead the city’s redevelopment efforts.

Kennedy said the impetus to create the job followed a conversation with James M. Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC), the city’s development bank. The two discussed how the city once employed a grant writer that was paid for by EDIC and the city’s Department of Community Development.

“We thought maybe we could do that for the planner,” she said.

Kennedy has asked EDIC and the Community Development office to each come up with 50 percent of the salary.

Cowdell said the addition of a planner to City Hall is a positive step that he supports.

When he was hired in 1987, Cowdell said there was a full planning department. Since it disbanded in 1990, the city has  spent money on consultants to fill the void.

“The department dissolved when the planning director retired and the agency’s functions were integrated into other departments,” he said. “It makes sense to hire a planner. It will be a welcome addition to the city.”

While the job description has not been written, the new hire will be responsible to determine land use, he said.

“Our zoning ordinances are outdated and the planner will take that on as a project,” he said.

New era begins for Lynn police

Jason Denoncourt, economic development director for U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), praised the city for the decision.

“A planner is an essential piece of the puzzle,” he said. “It’s great they are considering it and smart planning will pay for itself.”

Gordon R. Hall, president of The Hall Co., and chairman of the Lynn Business Partnership who also serves as a director of The Daily Item, said, “This is something we’ve wanted for the city for a long time; we applaud the decision by the mayor.”

James Marsh, community development director, said he welcomes the chance to add to his team and fill the planning role in-house.

“Whether it’s assisting us in laying out public space around a new development, participating in design review or working on transportation concepts, we will lean on a city planner from day one.”


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

New era begins for Lynn police

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Michael A. Magerary, with his wife, Lisa, is sworn in as Lynn Police Chief.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — As family, friends and fellow police officers looked on, Deputy Chief Michael Mageary was sworn in as the city’s top cop Tuesday.

The mayor’s office was packed for the 10-minute ceremony as the 54-year-old chief, who has been on the force since 1986, was administered the oath by City Clerk Janet Rowe.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy was all smiles as she hugged and congratulated the city’s newest chief.

“There’s no better person, coach, or police officer that you could ask for the city of Lynn than to have Mike as our new chief,” she said.

Following thunderous applause, Mageary thanked the mayor, Deputy Chief Leonard Desmarais, his parents, Skip and Arlene, for the example they set, his “wonderful” wife Lisa and their children Jennifer and Brendan for the sacrifices they’ve made. He also commended the men and women of the Lynn Police Department.

“I’ve always been proud to be a cop, but more importantly I’ve been proud to be a Lynn cop and it’s because of the work that you do every day,” he told the crowd of officers. “I know it’s a very difficult job and I hoping that together that we can make your job safer and less difficult. I will do the best I can and I ask for your help.”

Saugus dad, daughter booted from train

Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger, the former chief, said Mageary is the right person for the job.

“The city will be in very good hands with Chief Mageary,” he said. “He came up through the ranks and worked with me for several years as deputy chief. He’s very reliable, very trustworthy and very smart. He has what it takes.”

Earlier this year, MMA Consulting Group Inc., a Plymouth-based company, chose Mageary over three others following an Assessment Center comprised of an expert panel that interviewed the candidates, asked their responses to real-life situations, graded them and recommended the top candidate to the mayor.

“Honestly, I never expected to get this far,” Mageary told The Item following the event. “It wasn’t a goal, it just kind of happened.”


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

4.6% tax increase would pay for schools

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  If the controversial ballot question passes on March 14 to build a pair of middle schools, tax bills will increase.

In its simplest form, every property owner will see their real estate taxes rise by 4.6 percent, according to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

“We can provide all these numbers for what an average single- or multi-family homeowner would pay,” he said. “But the easiest way to figure out what your new tax bill will be is to multiply it by 4.6 percent.”

In the special election scheduled for next week, voters will be asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the Pine Grove 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.

If approved, property owners will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall cost. If those monies are not used, it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million.

The city said the average single-family home is assessed at $273,600 and generates a real estate tax bill of $4,268. A yes vote would boost the amount due to just under $200 more per year for 25 years.

The average two-family homeowner pays $5,604. The school project would add $257 to the bill. For owners of three-family homes the average tax bill is $5,862, the additional tax would be about $269.

Commercial taxpayers will also be hit with the increase. For example, Boston Gas Co. has property valued at $65 million and pays about $2 million in taxes. It would see an increase of $92,000.

Taxpayers will still receive just one bill, four times a year, Caron said.

To offset the increase among seniors, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has proposed to boost the real estate tax exemption to income-eligible seniors by $200 and reduce the eligibility age to 65, from 70.

Caron said if the ballot initiative gets a yes vote, homeowners will not see the increase in their statements until July of 2018.

Construction of the school off Parkland Avenue has generated opposition from neighbors who argue the land should be preserved to expand the cemetery. In addition, opponents insist it will exacerbate traffic problems while others say they can’t afford to pay more taxes.

Proponents say the dilapidated Pickering Middle School must be replaced and a second middle school is needed to house a growing school population.


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

Lynn mayor offers tax cuts to seniors

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Trying to head off opposition to a $188.5 million school construction project, City Hall is offering more tax relief for seniors.

Under a plan proposed by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to offset the cost of building two new middle schools, the city plans to boost the real estate tax exemption to seniors by $200 and reduce the eligibility age to 65, from 70.

“We believe adopting these options will provide the necessary relief to seniors who would be most affected by a tax increase,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I have spoken to many seniors who are supportive of the new schools’ proposal, but understandably concerned about the impact on their taxes. Hopefully, this will make them feel more comfortable about a ‘yes’ vote.”

On Tuesday, March 14, voters will be asked to approve a tax hike to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million of the project cost. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, said it will contribute $97.1 million.

School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall cost. If those monies are not used, it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million.

The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years.

If voters reject the tax hike, the increased tax exemption would be dropped.

Kennedy said she’s heard the concerns of seniors who are worried about a $200 tax increase if voters approve two new schools. The mayor asked the Board of Assessors to explore options for providing additional tax relief.

The tax exemption is available to income-eligible seniors. A couple can earn no more than $29,804 and have assets of less than $45,974, not including a home and car. A single senior can earn up to $23,792 with assets no more than $42,908.

Today, about 100 seniors receive the $500 deduction, according to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

Caron said most seniors who receive the exemption have homes valued around or under the average single-family value of $273,600. As a result, he said, the $200 additional exemption would mitigate the tax increase required to pay for the city’s share of the school building project.

“We have made a concerted effort to answer questions and address concerns related to the new schools,” Kennedy said. “It is critical that we build these schools in order to have the space required for the 20 percent increase in enrollment we will see in the next two years.”

Gary Welch, a member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the location of the Parkland Avenue school, declined comment. Donald Castle, a founding member of the group, could not be reached for comment.


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

Committee to study custodian calculations

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has signed off on a plan to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff to the school department from City Hall.

“Overall, this move accomplishes my intention of putting the custodians back to the school department where we will capture $1 million in healthcare costs toward net school spending,” said Kennedy.

The next step is approval of a home rule petition by lawmakers on Beacon Hill, typically a formality.

Kennedy’s signature caps a drama that unfolded last month, when the School Committee rejected the mayor’s request to move accountability of the school custodians from the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) to the schools by a 6-1 vote. Only the mayor, chairwoman of the committee, voted for it.

While the school committee can recommend to the Lynn delegation on Beacon Hill to reject the change, they are powerless to stop it on their own.

“The schools are never, ever affected the way the city side is,” said the mayor at a school committee meeting Thursday, calling it an accounting move to increase flexibility within the city budget and avoid layoffs.

“The city does not pocket any money whatsoever because the city pays all of the health insurance,” said Kennedy.

Other committee members expressed hesitation out of fear that the transfer will have unanticipated consequences on the school budget.

“We don’t have numbers,” said committee member Maria Carrasco.

Restaurant owner announces city council bid

Member Patricia Capano asked attorney John C. Mihos whether the committee could stop or rewrite the petition if it was found to be unfavorable.

Mihos said the next avenue of action would be to request the state legislature not move it forward at the state level.

Capano successfully made a motion asking the committee to write to the state delegation, ensuring their awareness that the vote on the Home Rule Petition was lopsided.  

The movement of custodians, which was approved by the City Council last month, has been controversial. In 2006, then-Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy shifted the janitors and maintenance staff from the school department to the city. The transfer came, he said at the time, because the schools were dirty and the janitors lacked supervision.

It was Michael Donovan, ISD’s director, who took the added responsibility of monitoring the workers.

When he 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.

Changes were implemented, Donovan said, that required more accountability. They instituted attendance and timekeeping policies, employees punched time cards, vacation rules were tightened, staff was moved and lots of maintenance project work was outsourced.

Today, the streamlined department has 57 custodians, a dozen maintenance workers and the afternoon staff is outsourced with a budget of $14 million.

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

Kennedy said she hopes the change will take place by July 1. But City Councilor and state Rep. Daniel Cahill, who supports the change, said it could be months until the Legislature acts.


Item staffer Leah Dearborn contributed to this story. 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.

Golden age for the silver screens

PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE LYNN MUSEUM
Beden Hardware at 95 Munroe St. was once Theatre Comique.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — With the 89th Academy Awards approaching, The Item is reeling back the history of the theatre in the city.

According to the Lynn Museum’s records, 24 theatres existed in the city between the turn of the century and the 1970s. Director Drew Russo said the last to close the curtain was the E.M. Loew’s Open Air Theater on the Lynnway in 1977.

The drive-up style cinema was opened in July 1937, just four years after the very first of its kind was launched in Camden, N.J.

“The theatre was once the primary source of entertainment — it got our grandparents through the great depression,” Russo said. “We had up to six theatres in the city at one time yet we haven’t had a movie theatre here in 40 years.”

Cinemas began dropping off in the early 1950s. The last freestanding theater closed in 1972. The Capital Theatre, originally called the Central Square Theatre, ran x-rated movies in the last years of its reign. It was located on Union Street near where the Capital Diner sits today.

The Strand Theatre opened at 287 Union St. in 1915 and showed Lynn’s first talking full length movie, “The Lion and the Mouse,” in August of 1928. In 1929, it was transformed into Warner Theater and in 1967, to E.M. Loew’s Theatre until it closed in 1971.

The vacant lot near Cal’s News, the neighborhood hub of lottery ticket sales, was once Olympia. The theatre drew crowds from 1908 to 1952. While touring the country, Helen Keller stopped to speak at Olympia.

Beden Hardware at 95 Munroe St. was once Theatre Comique. The name was  changed to The Mark Comique in 1908 and then The New Comique in 1940. It closed in 1943 and was razed in 1946, though remnants of the building’s facade and staging could seen decades later.

One street over was The Gem, Lynn’s only burlesque house, at 133 Oxford St.

Dreamland at 16 Andrew St. was condemned in 1929 and turned into a service station in 1934. The Lynn Auditorium was at 21 Andrew St.

Paramount Theatre at 169 Union St. opened in 1931 and closed in 1964. It shared the iconic design of many cinemas constructed in the 1930s and was nearly identical to Chicago’s Gateway Theatre.

An exhibit at the Lynn Museum showcases a row of seats comparable to what would be found in that era, and a car speaker from the Open Air Theatre that was donated by Jamie Marsh, the city’s community development director.

“We found it in the stage room at the auditorium (at City Hall),” he said. “I initially thought it was some sort of intercom system but it was one of the speakers that you would roll down your window and put on your door for the Open Air Theatre.”

Marsh said he and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy share a vision of making Lynn more of a destination for entertainment. Over the past year, The Lynn Auditorium has hosted about a dozen musicians, drawing in crowds of 2,000 on a regular basis, he said.

But the city was known for more than just its entertainment facilities. Stars have emerged from the city of sin, some collecting up to four Oscars.

Actor Walter Brennan won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor four times; In 1937 for his role in “Come and Get It,” 1939 for “Kentucky,” 1941 for “The Westerner” and 1942 “Sergeant York.”

Another Lynn native, Estelle Parsons, won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Blanche Barrow in Bonnie and Clyde in 1967. She was also nominated for Best Supporting Role in “Rachel, Rachel” in 1968.

While Telly Savalas was born in Long Island, N.Y., he later moved to Lynn and went to Lynn Public Schools. He was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 1963 for his role in “Birdman of Alcatraz” but sadly, did not win. But he did champion the Cobbett Junior High School spelling bee in 1934. He didn’t receive his award until a 1991 Boston Herald article highlighted the oversight.


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

Dominican pride flies high in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Frances Martinez leads the crowd in the Pledge of Allegiance at Lynn City Hall.

LYNN — The Dominican Republic’s Independence Day isn’t until Monday, but that didn’t stop an early celebration in the city Friday.

More than 100 people, including Dominican natives, their families and officials packed the City Hall lobby to hear rousing speeches, enjoy dances by the Cultura Latina Dance Academy and see the raising of the Latin American country’s red, white and blue flag on City Hall Square.

Perhaps the biggest applause was reserved for Maria Carrasco, a member of the School Committee who immigrated to the U.S. from the Dominican Republic in 1982. She was introduced by Frances Martinez, president and CEO of the North Shore Latino Business Association, as “one of our own.”

“This means so much to us because we are free, we can rise and we are proud,” Carrasco said. ”We were able to fight for what we believe, but at the same time we are united, we don’t look to to the past, we just look ahead.”

On Feb. 27, 1844, independence was declared from Haiti, the culmination of a movement led by Juan Pablo Duarte, then in exile, the hero of Dominican independence, and one of its founding fathers, according to welcome-dominican-republic.com.

Martinez, who is also a member of the Dominican Flag Committee, said while she was born in the U.S., she is proud of her parents’ country and culture.   

“This celebration is very important to us,” she said. “As a member of the first generation in the U.S. from the Dominican Republic, I want my children and my grandchildren to understand that just because we are here in the U.S. we cannot forget our backgrounds.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy spoke to the crowd in Spanish, which brought cheers.

“I welcome everyone and thank you for attending the flag raising ceremony,” she said. “I wish you a happy Independence Day. Long live the Dominican Republic.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) hailed the crowd and congratulated them.

“The Dominican community is a strong and vibrant part of the city of Lynn,” he said. “I’m glad to be here with all of you to celebrate your Independence Day.”  

Jose Manuel Encarnacion capped off the hour-long event when he said “Keep that fire in your heart for Dominican independence.”

Former Lynn Item building up for auction


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

Jolene Kelly leaves LynnArts

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jolene Kelly accepts praise from Lynn Museum Director Drew Russo at her goodbye party.

By STEVE KRAUSE

LYNN — Jolene Kelly only worked as operations manager for LynnArts for three years. But judging from the response from people who stopped by the Exchange Street building to say their goodbyes, she touched a lot of lives positively.

Kelly will be leaving next month to go to Wyoming, where her husband, Ken Coder, will be working at Laramie County Community College. Her departure will leave a tremendous void, friends and co-workers say.

“Aside from the absolute dedication to everything that went on at LynnArts, Jolene is the sparkle of the downtown area,” said Drew Russo, director of the Lynn Museum, which encompasses LynnArts. “She was such a vital part of the downtown community, and she added so much to it.”

Though Kelly worked officially for LynnArts, she was known just as much for what she did outside the building — such as walking dogs, getting to know people from all walks of life (including some of the homeless people in the downtown area), and, last month, helping to organize a clothing drive after a large apartment building on West Baltimore Street.

“The downtown area is in every fiber of her being,” said Russo. “Sometimes, it amazes me that she didn’t grow up in Lynn because she seems to be such a large part of it.”

For her part, Kelly, who did everything from supervising building maintenance to planning and scheduling exhibits, isn’t one to take credit.

“I like to think I do what needs to be done,” she said after accepting citations from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn City Councilor Brian LaPierre and State Rep. Brendan Crighton.

She’s a firm believer that nothing gets done without lots of help. For example, she says she’s indebted to Joe Scanlon and Steve Babbitt of the Lynn Museum and the Friends of Lynn Woods for their help during the winter of 2015.

“So many things went wrong with the building,” she said. “And they were invaluable.”

Kelly has lived in many places, “but Lynn is one of the few places that I really consider home,” she said.

City plays Quincy in Manchester film

Annette Sykes, chairwoman of the Curatorial Committee at the museum, worked closely with Kelly and called her “a very inviting person who creates a true sense of community. She brings people together, and that’s a true gift.”

And Yetti Frankel, a longtime artist in residence at LynnArts, said Kelly was “a character in her own way, and she really cares about the people in the building.”

Haley Sullivan will serve as interim operations director when Kelly leaves.


Steve Krause can be reached at skrause@itemlive.com.

Baker fundraiser tops the menu at Porthole

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Gov. Charlie Baker is interviewed at the entrance to the Porthole Restaurant.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The 2018 governor’s race is 20 months away and Gov. Charlie Baker hasn’t even said if he will seek a second term.

But that didn’t stop the popular Republican from holding a fundraiser at the Porthole Restaurant Tuesday night with a few dozen supporters including fellow GOP Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

“I support the governor,” said Kennedy. “I endorsed him the first time around and I think he’s done a good job for the commonwealth keeping an eye on the finances. I support him for reelection.”

The Item was invited to the event by the Mass GOP. But the party’s finance consultant stopped a reporter at the door saying it was private. Participants paid $250, $500 or $1,000 to chat with the governor and enjoy appetizers.

Saugus staking out a Hilltop vision

“This is in my backyard,” Baker said before going in, referencing his Swampscott address. “There will be people in there that I’ve known a lot longer than just my life in politics, so we will spend some time talking about the commonwealth, the success we’ve had improving the economy and some of the initiatives we’ve been pursuing on the opioid epidemic.”

Baker declined to say whether he is planning to run for reelection.

“Karyn (Lt. Gov. Polito) and I have talked about having this conversation at some point this year, but we haven’t had it yet,” he said. “There’s enough stuff … that we have to follow through on, like dealing with the MBTA or the opioid epidemic. We’ve made lots of progress on the Department of Children & Families and we have tons of work to do there. And then there’s a question of what would we want a second term to be about.  We were clear when we got into this … that we wanted to focus on strong communities, a strong economy and strong schools, and bring that fix-it mentality to state government. For the most part we’ve been reasonably successful.”

But not everyone agrees. So far, at least two Democrats have expressed interest in the governor’s job.

Jay Gonzalez, the former budget chief for former Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick, has said he plans to challenge the popular incumbent.

He said the Bay State needs a governor who will stand up to Republican President Donald Trump and defend the state’s values. He said the governor too often sits on the political sidelines.

“There are too many people in our state, families, working families, who are still struggling to get ahead,” Gonzalez told WBZ. “There are too many people who need a governor who’s going to stand up and make sure they know that every single person in the state is included and is welcome and that the governor’s going to be there to fight for them. Right now I don’t think we have a governor that’s doing that.”

The other potential challenger is Newton Mayor Setti Warren. In a recent interview with The Item, the Democrat said he will back a tax on millionaires to help pay for needed school, transit and housing initiatives. He said fellow Democrats are too timid to call for more taxes.

“We have economic growth, but people are struggling,” he said. “There is a case to be made that we can do better.”

If he runs, Setti said his focus would be on on improving schools, housing and transportation with cash from a new 4 percent tax on residents whose income exceeds $1 million. The question on whether to impose the tax is expected to be on the November ballot.

The other person being talked about is Attorney General Maura Healey. The Democrat trounced her Republican opponent John Miller in 2014 with nearly 62 percent of the vote. But on Tuesday she tried to squash persistent chatter that she may run for governor next year, saying that the role of attorney general has never been more important.

“I’m running for reelection,” Healey said on WGBH’s Boston Public Radio on Tuesday. “It’s never been as important as it is now to do my job and do my job well. Certainly we have our hands full, so that’s what I’m focused on.”

Whoever takes on Baker, it won’t be easy. In a recent survey by WBUR, Baker was more popular than liberal Democrat Sen. Elizabeth Warren. Only 44 percent said Warren deserves reelection while 51 percent view her favorably.

In contrast, Baker’s favorability rating is 59 percent — 8 points better than Warren. Even more striking is that only 29 percent of poll respondents think someone else should get a chance at the governor’s office, the survey said.

If he does decide to run, Baker has amassed a $4.7 million war chest, according to his most recent report with the Massachusetts Office of Campaign and Political Finance. That doesn’t include his take on the Porthole fundraiser.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, who attended the event, praised Baker for creating the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team with the mayor whose mission is to cut through the bureaucracy and jumpstart construction on the Lynnway.

“We have major projects in the pipeline. The governor lives next door to us in Swampscott, and we are hoping for continued good things in Lynn,” he said.

Material from the Associated Press and State House News was used in this report.


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

Mayor weighs custodian transfer

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy will take the rest of the week to decide whether to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff from City Hall to the school department.

In a drama that unfolded last week, the School Committee rejected the mayor’s request to move accountability of the school custodians from the Inspectional Services Department (ISD) to the schools by a 6-1 vote. Only the mayor, chairwoman of the committee, voted for it.

The change, which requires approval from the mayor, City Council and the Legislature, was Kennedy’s idea as a way to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty. But the mayor said she needs to review the Home Rule Petition in its entirety before she makes a decision.

“I plan to take most, if not all of this week, to read through the complicated nine-page document,” she said. “I am fully committed to the move, but I want to make sure nothing has been inserted to the home rule petition before I sign it.”

The draft of the change was straightforward, the mayor said, as simple as shifting the management to the schools. But there are other questions as to who will do the hiring, scheduling and disciplining, she said.

“The devil is in the details,” she said. “I’ve heard the School Committee making comments about hiring as many as seven new people and I need to read the amendments to see how they got that number.”

A review of the document found two positions created under the new ordinance, a supervisor of school custodian and ground services and an assistant.

“My intention is to get the custodians over to the school side so there’s a net zero impact on the budgeting and not spend another dime to do the same job ISD has been doing for years,” she said.

There has been some talk by School Committee members to end the practice of privatizing afternoon janitor services that cost the city $1.5 million. If schools hire their own workers, the cost would soar to $2.8 million in salary and benefits for 40 custodians.

“I am a member of the School Committee as well, and I don’t want to see teachers laid off in order to make room for 40 new custodians.” Kennedy said. “That would be a bad move financially, I want to provide direct services to kids.”

The move was approved by the City Council last week. If the mayor fails to sign it, she could send it back to the council for amendments. While the School Committee would be asked to reconsider any changes, officially they do not have a say in the move. They can only recommend to the Lynn delegation on Beacon Hill not to support the change.

Showdown over Lynn school custodians


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

CFO accuses school committee of ‘fuzzy math’

By THOMAS GRILLO and BRIDGET TURCOTTE 

LYNN  — One day after the School Committee overwhelmingly rejected a move to transfer management of the school’s maintenance staff from Inspectional Services to the school department because of the costs, the city’s chief financial officer blasted the panel’s fuzzy math.

“There was a lot of bad information spewed by the School Committee Thursday night,” said Peter Caron. “If the schools take over custodial operations as they exist today, the only cost to them is $1 million in health insurance. All the other talk about it costing another million here and another million there is baloney.”

The controversy began last month when in an attempt to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy engineered a plan to transfer supervision of school custodians from City Hall to the school department. Earlier this week, the city council voted unanimously for the change.

But in a 6-1 vote Thursday, the School Committee rejected the home rule petition that would make the transfer a reality. The panel asked the city’s Beacon Hill delegation to deep six the proposal when it reaches the State House. Only the mayor, chairman of the school committee, voted for the change.

“There are far too too many questions for us to support this change,” said Patricia Capano, a School Committee member. “We still don’t know what it will cost us, we want answers. Can we afford it without depleting our budget? It would be shortsighted.”

Showdown over Lynn school custodians

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn), who also serves as a City Councilor at-Large, supported the measure at the council meeting.

“I hopes the issues get resolved in a way that benefits everyone in the city,” he said.

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said he will wait to see the home rule petition arrives on Beacon Hill before he makes a decision on how to vote.

Sen. Thomas M. McGee (D-Lynn), through a spokeswoman, did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Michael Donovan, ISD director, said half of his $14 million budget pays the salaries for 57 custodians, a dozen maintenance workers as well as for supplies and maintenance.

Caron insists that portion of ISD’s budget, or $7 million, would go to the schools, and it will not cost the School Committee a dime more to do the same job.

Still, Capano said she has no idea what it costs for the afternoon shift of custodians that are privatized. She wanted to know how much it would be for the schools to hire their own custodial staff.

“We want to make an intelligent comparison if it would benefit the citizens of Lynn to have 40 new employees, but can we afford it?” she said.

Donovan said the cost of the private company for the p.m. shift is $1.5 million. But it would increase to $2.8 million in salary and benefits if the schools hire their own workers.

But Caron insists such an added expenditure is unnecessary.

“If they choose to fire the private company and hire new custodians, that’s on them,” he said. “But if they continue to use the private afternoon service, I would take the cash out of ISD’s budget and put it into the school budget. The net result is zero extra costs for the schools.”

Technically, the School Committee has no say in the transfer. They can only make a recommendation.

The mayor has until Thursday to decide whether to sign the home rule petition request and send it along to the State House.

Kennedy could not immediately be reached for comment.

Despite the custodian transfer, the city is still dealing with other school spending issues. Caron reported a clerical error that resulted in a significant underfunding to the schools of about $1.6 million.  He anticipates a similar shortfall next year.

The health insurance portion of the net school formula was miscalculated using a head-count method, he said which only includes individual health insurance plans, not the added costs of covering families.

“I’ve recommended to the mayor that the city seriously consider moving away from a self-insured plan to a premium-based plan,” he said. “We would know what the cost would be for each employee every year. We would know exactly how much money we would expect for insurance costs for the coming year.”

Of the $8.9 million in debt the city is committed to repaying in a four year period, Caron said. About $900,000 has been repaid, leaving two years to repay $8 million, he added.


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

A ferry good chance of service returning

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Ferry service was halted by the state last summer.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN A private consulting firm was confident Tuesday that ferry service could return to the city’s waterfront. But a timetable and a way to pay for it remain uncertain.

“There’s hope,” state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “It was positive in terms of a number of things we can do to continue the progress on getting a year-round ferry service out of Lynn.”

Lynn officials met with the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) staff as STV, a national consulting firm with offices in Boston, unveiled the “Lynn-Boston Water Transit Sustainability Analysis.” The presentation focused on what it would take to relaunch the ferry service to the Hub and its two-year history.

The ferry from the Blossom Street Ferry Terminal in Lynn to Boston’s Seaport operated a pilot program in 2014 and 2015. But the service was decommissioned last summer by Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration, which argued it didn’t generate enough riders to justify the $700,000 in state funds annually to operate it.

The 90-minute meeting, which was closed to the press and the public, was shrouded in secrecy. MassDOT declined to allow Astrid Glynn, the agency’s transit administrator who hosted the session, to talk with The Item. A spokeswoman would not answer questions about the study’s cost or why the meeting was private. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was instructed by Glynn to allow the agency to issue a press release instead of granting an interview.

In a statement, MassDOT said: “We had a productive discussion of some of the variables surrounding future seasonal ferry options from Lynn to Boston and why they would benefit people on the North Shore. MassDOT used a PowerPoint presentation that contains information which is part of the internal deliberative process and will be able to provide a copy of this at a future date.”

The Item obtained a copy of the report which outlined how ferry service could be viable if the city owned the vessel; received more riders from new waterfront residents; partnered with another North Shore community; developed new revenue from terminal parking fees; received contributions from waterfront developers; raised fares; and made connections to harbor cruises and trips to Cape Cod for leisure travelers.

On the plus side, last spring the Federal Transit Administration awarded a $4.5 million grant to the city of Lynn for the purchase a new 149-passenger vessel to support the service. But the grant comes with strings. The city must contribute a 20 percent match, or $900,000 to build the ship at a time when the city is struggling to fill a budget gap.

In its analysis of the pilot project, STV found that while the ferry could accommodate 250 passengers, it attracted fewer than 100 per trip, only 5 percent of riders paid full fare and fares covered just 4 percent of operating costs. In conclusion, the report said fare-paying ridership was too low and costs were too  high.

Still, McGee saw a bright side. He said owning the vessel, which would take up to three years to build, will reduce operating costs to less than $500,000. He said if the city follows the consultant’s recommendations, they could get closer to covering 65 percent of operating costs.

“We are trying to get to the point where the subsidy is more like what’s happening in other communities, like Hingham which have been operating since 1978 and their subsidy is about 35 percent,” he said. “That’s the best return of any mode of transportation. The commuter rail is subsidized at 50 percent.”

McGee said he has been exploring sharing the ferry service with the University of Massachusetts/Boston, who along with the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum, are hoping students and visitors will use it.

“The report reinforces what we all think is untapped potential,” he said.  

State Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn) said construction of more than 300 apartments at the former Beacon Chevrolet site that is expected to break ground later this year, will add more riders.

“These market rate apartments will be 200 yards away from the ferry,” he said. “Lots of pieces that could come together in the next few years will make the ferry a success.”

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) said the consultants provided a roadmap on how to make the ferry profitable.

Still, James Cowdell, executive director of the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said he has been working on the ferry for a decade.

“I want the ferry in the water today and I think the long-term prognosis for the ferry is good,” he said. “But in the short-term, the prognosis is not good.”

What happened to the ferry?


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

Library lights shine on in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Bill Conway, chairman of building trustees, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Theresa Hurley, chief librarian and others stand with the newly-restored lights.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Two restored renaissance-style lamps that were stolen from the front walkway of the Lynn Public Library once again shine light on the city.

The lights were turned on for the first time during a ceremony Tuesday night.

They were originally added to the front walkway shortly after it was built in 1900. They have been unused since the late 1980s when thieves attached a chain to the 800-pound light poles and to their pickup truck and tried to steal them.

Jamie Marsh, the city’s community development director, said they didn’t get far. With sparks flying, police stopped the burglars on North Common Street, near the library. Since then, the lamps have been hidden away in the library’s basement.

One needed to be repaired and library trustees feared if they reinstalled them, it would happen again. But about six years ago, the trustees picked up the project.

Newstamp Lighting Corp. of North Easton did the restoration work and the lamps were installed by Coviello Electric of North Reading. The total cost of the project was about $21,000, said Marsh.

The lamps complement the community development projects that are ongoing at The Lynn Common. Two months ago antique lighting and benches were added to the Small Common, Marsh said.

“It’s part of the history of Lynn,” he said. “They just complement the area so well.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy noted the lights added a “nice warm glow to the library.”

“It looks like the long lost prodigal children have returned to the library,” she said.

Shedding light on the library


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

Lynn firefighters settle on contract

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — It took nearly five months of arbitration, but city firefighters won a new four-year contract that calls for a 9.5 percent raise, sources told The Item.

The $2.5 million deal was settled late Wednesday by the Joint Labor-Management Committee, a quasi-public agency that negotiates collective bargaining disputes between municipalities and public employees. Under the terms of the agreement, the firefighters will receive a retroactive 2 percent raise for each of fiscal years 2015 and 2016, a 2.5 percent hike for 2017, another 2 percent for 2018 and on June 30, 2018 they will collect another 1 percent.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy had offered firefighters 8 percent last year, similar to the police contract that was settled last summer. But Lynn Firefighters Local 739 sought a 10 percent increase over the the life of the four-year contract.

While the firefighters got less than they asked for, they received a better deal than the $2.2 million four-year police contract that was settled in August.

The 8 percent retroactive police agreement provided a 1 percent boost for 2014, a 2 percent increase for 2015, 2016 and 2017 and a 1 percent raise for 2018.

Kennedy declined to comment.

“I am still crunching the numbers and reviewing the decision,” she said.

Arbitration rules do not allow the mayor to reject the settlement.

The city council is expected to take up the matter next month. The panel is free to deny the deal and send the parties back to arbitration, but it is unlikely the 11-member board will do so, say observers.

The decision is likely to put more stress on an already tight city budget.

Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said it’s unclear how these raises will be funded. The mayor has 30 days to submit the contract to the city council for their approval.

None of the leadership of either union were willing to talk about the new contract. Michael O’Connor, the firefighter’s union president, did not return a call seeking comment. Vice President Mario Lopez and former president Matthew Reddy also declined to comment.

Lt. William Sharpe, president of the Lynn Police Association, could not be reached for comment.

Photos: Snowstorm smacks North Shore


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

Battle lines drawn in Lynn

The two sides supporting or opposing a March 14 debt exclusion vote tied to plans to build two middle schools have drawn up their forces and prepared to march.

Those opposed to the two-school proposal include angry residents facing eminent domain property takings near the proposed new Pickering Middle School site and other foes quick to jump on a soap box and vent their opposition.

Middle school construction supporters unveiled their efforts on Wednesday under the “Two Schools for Lynn” banner. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is obviously part of the school construction initiative and she boiled down the argument in favor of construction to a succinct sentence on Wednesday: “We are already squeezing students into every possible classroom space.”

Mayor and teachers in union for new schools

Both sides have a two-front battle to wage and not much time to carry the fight to Lynn’s voters. The election is five weeks away and voters will be asked when they step into the polling place to  approve building a new Pickering and a “West Lynn Middle School.” They will also be asked to shoulder a payment plan for the new schools that will land squarely on the shoulders of property taxpayers.

Lynn, like most municipalities, uses a borrowing method combining short-term and long-term bond financing to pay for schools. City budget makers look for favorable interest rates and then calculate how expensive projects like new schools can be mixed into the city’s bonded indebtedness.

As debts are paid off on prior projects dating back years, even decades, new debt for newer projects is calculated and mixed into the financing stream. The city budget includes a line item every year to cover interest costs associated with bonded indebtedness.

This formula represents the traditional method for using tax dollars to pay for city projects. The formula gets a new twist this year with voters approving or voting down a debt exclusion allowing the city to raise the money needed to pay for the $188 million school project.

An estimated 60 percent of the construction price tag is supposed to be reimbursed by the state. But initial calculations indicate a debt exclusion will cost the average homeowner and taxpayer $5,000 over the next 25 years or $200 a year in property tax payments directly dedicated to building the two middle schools.

Is the expense worth it? Only the taxpayer staring at a ballot on March 14 will be able to answer that question.

Debt exclusion opponents and supporters agree the city needs new schools. But opponents offer arguments ranging from potential water quality risks to increased traffic in arguing against building a new Pickering off Parkland Avenue. Missing from their argument is any objection to turning part of McManus Field into a school site.

Supporters face a daunting challenge in their bid to convince local voters to approve spending more tax dollars on schools. Plenty of people will say, “Hey, I don’t have kids. It doesn’t affect me.” Others will agree with opponents and declare, “I don’t want it in my neighborhood.”

Chances are good the March 14 vote will attract people opposed to building a new Pickering and people who really believe it makes sense for every taxpayer to dig deep into a pocket or purse for the extra money to build new schools.

The winners and losers only have to wait a few weeks to weigh in with their verdict.

Mayor and teachers in union for new schools

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy explains how the school funding works. 

By BETHANY DOANE

LYNN — More than three dozen educators and parents gathered at the Knights of Pythias Tuesday night to support construction of a pair of middle schools.

The group, which calls itself  “Two Schools for Lynn,” is advocating a yes vote on next month’s ballot question. If approved, homeowners will pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their real estate tax bills. The two schools would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

“I spent 40 years in the Lynn schools and we owe it to Lynn teachers and school children to get this vote through,” said Bart Conlon, former director of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Proponents say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment and and modernize students’ educational experiences.

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. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

“We are already squeezing students into every possible classroom space,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who also attended the session. “We need the space that the new schools would allow  and our students need modernity in their school experience.”

The new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School, which opened last year, features natural light, air conditioning, a state-of-the-art security system, and other amenities that cater to middle school student’s needs, the mayor said.

“An address shouldn’t prevent a child from an equitable learning experience,” Kennedy said. “We must have schools in urban core, where all the largest number of middle school children live.”

If construction of two new middle schools fails to win voter approval, the city will go to the end of the line for state funding, she said.

Lynn’s schools are the fifth largest in the state, with more than 16,000 students. Student population has swelled by 17 percent in the past five years.

Mary Ann Duncan, a Lynn guidance counselor,  said overcrowding is becoming a major issue.

“We want to make sure we have a yes vote on March 14,” she said.

Still, 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.

Home Depot nails down learning cafe


Thomas Grillo contributed to this report and can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn Tech building self haven for teens

PHOTOS BY SCOTT EISEN
Teenagers grab slices of pizza at the teen drop-in center.

By BETHANY DOANE

LYNN Teenagers have a space to play sports, hang out and see friendly faces every weekend through Lynn’s teen drop-in center.

“It keeps us out of trouble and it’s something to do on the weekends,” said Tyshawi Menter, 17.

Menter, a student at Lynn English High School, said he’s been going to the drop-in center regularly since middle school. “I came by myself tonight, but I know pretty much everyone; we all get along and have fun playing together,” he said.

Lynn residents ages 13-18 can play basketball, soccer, volleyball and football, eat free pizza and enjoy occasional visits from local businesses and guest speakers from 6-9 p.m. every Saturday until March 25 at the Lynn Tech Field House, 80 Neptune Blvd.

In the summertime, the drop-in is relocated to an air-conditioned facility, and the night changes from Friday to Saturday, depending on the season.

“It’s important to keep this program as a constant place for teens in the community to turn from at-risk behavior and street violence, and to show that the city cares,” said Lynn Police Lt. Peter Holey, who joined the program in 2006.

When teens arrive, they fill out a form with contact information and are checked for weapons and illegal substances by Lynn police officers. The officers, Parks & Recreation employees and other community members staff each event.

“I think they enjoy knowing they can come here and be safe while doing different activities and hanging out,” Holey said.

One percent of kids in Lynn are causing problems, Holey said; the rest deserve the community’s time and effort. “They’re all good kids here,” he said. “They respect that it’s a safe space and they want to keep it that way.”

Mayor and teachers in union for new schools

Once in awhile, a game gets a little physical, and other kids will step in and say, “Calm down,” Holey said. “There’s a sense of community. If a volleyball goes into the basketball court, someone throws it back and vice versa,” he said. “They all look out for each other.”

It’s a place where you could find a friend, even if you don’t like sports, said Vanessa Paul, a 15-year-old cheerleader and basketball player at Lynn English. “Rivalries from other schools are friends here,” she said. “When you join a game, it doesn’t depend on age or height; whoever wants to play, plays.”

In a recent city survey, teens requested for the drop-in to be on Friday and Saturday nights, said Lisa Nerich of the Parks & Recreation Department, whose been with the drop-in since Day 1.

“We’d have it on both nights if the budget allowed it,” she said.

Nerich said the program has been running for 15 years, averaging more than 100 teenagers and hitting a high of 200 last February.

The program is sponsored by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn Parks & Recreation Department (a division of the Department of Public Works), Lynn Police Department, Department of Community Development and the Shannon Grant program.

Pizza delivery from the Lido Cafe and water bottles are paid for by Catholic Charities.

Contact Holey at peholey@lynnpolice.org or Neric at lnerich@lynnma.gov to learn more, or to donate money or services.

Yafreisis Ruiz tries to pass the ball around Nia Sams while playing basketball with friends at the teen drop-in center.

Nia Sams plays basketball with a group of friends at the teen drop-in center.

Teens play a game of pickup-soccer at the teen drop-in center.

Teens play a game of pickup-basketball at the teen drop-in center.

Wallace Reed goes for a dunk at the teen drop-in center.

Jassel Ramirez practices his shooting skills at the teen drop-in center.

h at lnerich@lynnma.gov to learn more, or to donate money or services.

Lynn police officers check bags of teens entering the drop-in center.

Steven Portorreal goes for a dunk at the teen drop-in center.

Teens play a game of pickup-soccer at the teen drop-in center.

Teens play a game of pickup-soccer at the teen drop-in center.

Teens play a game of pickup-soccer at the teen drop-in center.

Nia Sams plays basketball with a group of friends at the teen drop-in center.

Rebecca Alerte dribbles the ball while playing basketball with friends at the teen drop-in center.

Teens play various games across multiple courts at the teen drop-in center.

Yafreisis Ruiz motions to a teammate while playing basketball at the teen drop-in center.

Teens play basketball at the teen drop-in center.

Lynn marina nets $1M from state

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
More than $1 million in federal funds made it possible to replace storm-ravaged docks B, C, D and E seen here at Lynn’s Seaport Marina, as well as install new wide cement docks, some new steel pilings and slender electrical boxes.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN – The city has been reimbursed $1.3 million in federal money for repairs to the Seaport Landing Marina.

The cash, from the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Federal Disaster Aid Program, enabled the city to repair the marina damaged by a February 2013 winter storm.

Former Gov. Deval Patrick declared a state of emergency for Massachusetts as the blizzard approached, threatening the state with heavy snow and damaging winds. The declaration and one by the White House allowed for the federal dollars.

Dubbed “Nemo” by the Weather Channel, the storm dropped two feet of snow in the region and did lots of wind damage.

Fixes to the 165-slip marina included replacement of the B, C, D and E docks and the installation of wide cement docks, steel pilings and slender electrical boxes. They are expected to fare better in future storms.

“The 2013 blizzard did a number on the marina,” said James Marsh the city’s community development director,  whose office owns and manages the facility. “We’ve been seeking the federal money ever since.”

More work must still be done, Marsh said.  About $1.6 million is needed to repair the main gangway and A dock. But the federal money only comes once the city has completed the work and it is unclear when the repairs will commence.

“We are slowly piecing the marina back together,” Marsh said. “We are excited about the federal money, anything helps.”

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) said the federal dollars to refurbish the marina will support efforts to stimulate economic opportunity in the city.

“Lynn’s waterfront is integral to our Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) team’s work to create jobs and spur development,” Moulton said in a statement.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the waterfront has long been at the heart of the city’s master plan for redevelopment. “This will bring us one step closer in transforming one of the more underutilized areas of our city into an area of economic growth and opportunity,” Kennedy said in a statement. “Lynn is thrilled to receive this critical funding from FEMA to repair the marina.”

Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said it’s another example of the continued collaboration with federal agencies resulting in much need needed resources to improve the city.

Peabody mayor seeks ban on pot sales


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

 

Mageary to be named police chief in Lynn

ITEM FILE PHOTO

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city has a new police chief, The Item has learned.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy confirmed that Deputy Chief Michael Mageary will be get the post vacated by Kevin Coppinger.

The mayor said Mageary was the top scorer in an Assessment Center review of four candidates for the $100,000 a year assignment. The other officers seeking the job included Acting Chief Leonard Desmarais and Capts. Mark O’Toole and Michael Vail.

MMA Consulting Group Inc., a Plymouth-based company, provides an Assessment Center comprised of an expert panel that interviews the candidates, asks their responses to real-life situations, grades them and recommends the top candidate to the mayor.

“Today, I received the MMA Consulting Group’s report on the police chief assessment center results,” she said. “I am pleased to announce that Deputy Chief Michael A. Mageary…will be assuming the duties of chief shortly.”

Mageary could not immediately be reached for comment.

Repeal of Affordable Care Act lamented in Lynn


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

$1M in revenue is the ticket in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Parking attendant Colleen Fitzgerald issues a parking ticket to a car on Exchange Street.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city is on track to earn more than $1 million in parking revenues for the sixth consecutive year.

The newest data from Lynn’s comptroller revealed the city has earned nearly $600,000 for the first seven months of fiscal year 2017 which began in July. The biggest amount, $307,185, came from parking fines.

While this year’s revenues are healthy, they are expected to be slightly lower than the $1.2 million that was raised last year, according to Robert Stilian, the city’s acting parking director.

“We collected a fortune in tickets last winter because we were hit with so many snow storms,” he said. “Unfortunately, it’s public safety and we have to clear the streets.”

Lynn’s Parking Department could generate more cash, Stilian said, if it were fully staffed.   

“I am shorthanded,” he said. “With retirements, I’ve lost my boss, an administrative assistant, a head clerk and we are down two meter people because of illness. If you don’t have the staff, you can’t tag.”

A city hiring freeze has put those jobs on hold as the mayor deals with a budget shortfall.

The crunch comes as resident complaints of trucks parked in front of their homes has increased and businesses gripe about parkers who abuse a 15-minute limit, Stilian said.

The city has municipal parking lots on Andrew, Buffum and Ellis streets as well as in Wyoma Square. Parking costs $1 per hour, $5 per day and between $45 and $50 per month.

Lynn has about 200 meters citywide, down from 700 in the 1990s when they were removed from the downtown at the urging of then-City Councilor James Cowdell.

At the time, he argued the downtown would be more welcoming without the threat of parking fines.

Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, said anything Lynn can do to encourage people to come to the downtown is a good thing.

“If someone gets a ticket for a parking violation, they are probably not coming back,” he said. “That was my thinking back then and it still makes sense today.”

In 2015, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy launched a probe into the Parking Department’s towing records. She alleged city financial oversight rules had not been followed after $12,000 in cash was found in the department’s safe with records dating back to 2012. At the time, she leveled criticism at former director Louis Fenton, who was placed on paid administrative leave and later retired.

An audit was conducted that year by Andover-based accountants Melanson Heath, who recommended a series of fixes for the department to strengthen controls.

Stephen Spencer, the city’s comptroller, said in the wake of the audit there is a timely settlement of cash records.

“There was no malfeasance and everything was accounted for,” he said. “It’s just that the reconciliation wasn’t done as timely as possible. Bob made that a priority and he deserves all the credit for staying on top of it.”

Police spending stretched in Lynn


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

Police spending stretched in Lynn

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN There are fewer police officers on the street as the department deals with a $567,000 budget shortfall.

Acting Chief Leonard Desmarais acknowledged he is not filling absences when cops are out sick or take personal time. As a result, as much as 15 percent of the force may not be on the streets during a shift.

“We’re just another department trying to deal with the city’s budget issues,” said Desmarais. “Like most municipal budgets, most of the money is in payroll and the only way to reduce a shortfall of that size is to reduce overtime.”

Before the cuts, a typical shift included a lieutenant in the station, three sergeants as supervisors and 14 patrol officers on the street for a total of 18 crime fighters. Officers are usually deployed in four two-man cars and six one-man cruisers.

But because of the deficit, the chief was forced to trim payroll. Under the new plan, Desmarais said if only two sergeants and a dozen officers report to work, he does not hire replacements.

“That’s a significant savings,” he said. “If everyone shows up for work, we do a regular deployment. But if someone is out for a personal day, sick or on vacation, we will only have up to 12 officers instead of the usual 14.”

In the interest of officers’ safety, the chief said, instead of having a mix of one and two officers in cruisers, they are deploying six two-man cars.

“There are six routes citywide and so we have a two-man car on each route,” he said.  

Despite trimming overtime, Desmarais and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy insist the city is safe.

“The whole city is still covered,” Desmarais said. “There’s still a two-man car for every route, there are still supervisors on the street and a lieutenant in the house.”

Kennedy said she has confidence in the decision.

“I am assured by the acting chief that the city will maintain adequate coverage with this move,” she said. “They will save on overtime or back-to-back shifts while continuing to keep the city safe.”

Desmarais was one of four candidates who recently took the test to serve as permanent chief to replace former chief Kevin Coppinger, who was elected last year as Essex County Sheriff. Results are expected in a week. The other candidates included Deputy Chief Michael Mageary and Capts. Mark O’Toole and Michael Vail.

The budget problems began last year when the police contract was settled that called for a more than $3 million wage hike over four years.

“We had to fund part of it out of our budget which led to a $1 million deficit,” Desmarais said.

Last summer, as the city’s chief financial officer revealed City Hall faced a $4.2 million deficit, Coppinger told the city council that the department disbanded several units, including the Warrant Task Force that consisted of a sergeant and three patrolmen, the Traffic Safety Unit, which included two enforcement officers, four members of the Community Liaison Team, a traffic investigator and a special investigations detective. None of the dozen officers were laid off, rather they were reassigned to patrol. But he said the city will be deprived of valuable services that the public depends on.

Lynn mayor gets a new helping hand


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

Lynn mayor gets a new helping hand

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROUKRE
Outgoing Chief of Staff Jamie Cerulli gives papers to her replacement John Krol as Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy oversees.

LYNN  Ten months before what could be a knock-down, drag- out fight for the corner office, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has hired a new chief of staff.

John Krol, 38, a city license commissioner, replaces Jamie Cerulli in the high profile assignment.

“This is a dream job,” he said. “The mayor is a good friend whom I believe in … I’m thrilled to have a chance to work for her and the city.”

The lifelong Lynn resident is a graduate of Lynn Vocational Technical High School and North Shore Community College. He is chairman of the 80-member Lynn Republican Committee and ran unsuccessfully for school committee twice. Kennedy started out with a list of a dozen candidates to fill the $70,000 job, narrowed it to three and interviewed one person, she said. When she attended Donald Trump’s inauguration nearly two weeks ago, she ran into Krol, a fellow Republican. They had dinner and the two discussed the job. The mayor said she became convinced he was the perfect candidate.

“John has all the right qualities,” she said. “I am very comfortable with him, he has common sense, I trust him, I believe in him, his intuition, loyalty, his ability to run an office, and to be stern when he has to be and unfailingly pleasant at other times.”

Cerulli, who has been Kennedy’s chief of staff since 2011, has accepted a position as Inspectional Services Department coordinator.

“It’s going to be hard to replace somebody as talented as Jamie,” Kennedy said. “But I’m confident John will pick up all the nuances of the job quickly.”

Krol arrives at City Hall in an election year. While Kennedy has not yet declared her candidacy, she is expected to seek a third term. At least two other candidates have expressed interest in the office including Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre. If the matchup is between Kennedy and McGee, it could be a brawl pitting the popular mayor against the well-known senator whose family name is legend in the city.  

Until recently, Krol worked as an accounts manager at MCR Technologies in Wakefield.  

“The mayor has told me my biggest challenge will be being mean,” he said with a laugh. “I told the mayor, I don’t know about mean, but I can be stern.”

Miguel Funez, a fellow licensing commissioner, said Krol is smart and a good fit for the job.

“The mayor has made a great choice,” he said. “I wish him the best in the new job.”

Discussing the Trump administration


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

Lynn school custodians back where they began

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Janitor Don Dube cleans the lunchroom at the Drewicz Elementary school in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A 10-year-old decision to transfer management of the school’s janitors to the city’s Inspectional Services Department (ISD) is about to be reversed.

In a move by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy designed to capture $1 million in additional school spending and avoid a state penalty, the city’s school janitors and maintenance staff are headed back to the school department.

The controversy erupted in 2006, when former Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy, shifted the janitors 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.

“The schools weren’t as clean as they are today, I can tell you that from personal experience,” said Michael Donovan, ISD director who took the added responsibility of monitoring the workers.

When Donovan 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.

“Since then, we changed the culture,” he said. “People were held accountable, we instituted attendance and timekeeping policies. Employees punched time cards, we tightened vacation rules, moved people if they were not working and outsourced lots of maintenance project work.”

The change also resulted in more of the maintenance crew doing more jobs, Donovan said.  The job descriptions that once consisted of specialized assignments such as painters, glaziers, master carpenters and cabinetmakers were changed to “maintenance craftsmen” so they could do any job as needed, he said.

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 janitors 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 janitors 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.

Last fall, the state Department of Education threatened to withhold $11 million in school funds until City Hall boosted its net school spending. In a letter to the mayor, the state said a review of the city’s end financial report discovered Lynn was in violation of state law.

“Your plan stated that in fiscal year 2016 through 2019 the city would appropriate $2.2 million in addition to each year’s net school spending requirement … the city did not even meet the fiscal year net school spending requirement and you have not budgeted sufficiently to meet the city’s obligation in fiscal year 2017,”  the state’s letter said.

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

“The net school spending issue is a major factor in making this change,” Caron said.  ‘Going forward that money will start counting toward schools.”

While Donovan said he agreed to the change, he expressed concern about what will happen to the schools when they are no longer under ISD’s command.

“My fear is they will be dirty again because there will be no accountability for the employees,” he said.

But Kennedy disagrees.

“It will depend on who the superintendent hires to oversee the custodians,” she said. “Mike has been a good manager and if the superintendent hires the proper candidate, they will be able to run as tight a ship as Mike has.”

Richard Germano, vice president of AFSCME Local 1736 representing the workers, disagreed that the schools were not well-maintained when they were under school department management.

“You can go to any company and find some guys work at one pace, while others work at another pace, you won’t have perfect employees anywhere,” he said. “But we are happy to go back to work for the school department.”

School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham declined to comment on the merits of taking on the janitorial staff.

“That’s a policy decision,” she said. “It’s up to the School Committee, the mayor and the City Council. I’ll work with whatever they decide.”

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the switch to the schools has a good chance of passage when it comes to the City Council for a public hearing and a vote on Feb. 14. If approved, the measure will be sent to Beacon Hill lawmakers for final approval.

 

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

 

LaPierre crosses the line

Lynn City Councilor at large Brian LaPierre knows how to represent unions. He knows how to win elections and, if Tuesday’s council committee meeting is any indication, he knows how to time travel.

For a few minutes during the discussion on spending money to build new public middle schools Tuesday evening, LaPierre took the council and its audience back to the 1950s when U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy carved up reputations under the guise of asking important, intelligent questions.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and School Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham sat mere feet away from LaPierre as he directed these words to city attorney James Lamanna:

“There has been a rumor going around that somehow, some way, if you pass a bond of this nature, that the mayor or superintendent benefit monetarily (from) a bond like this. That is what people are asking. Does anyone in the city benefit from this bond being passed?”

In reply, Lamanna said Lynn students will benefit from the bond’s passage. “No salary increase will occur as a result of this bond.”

Reached by phone on Thursday, LaPierre said he subsequently apologized to Kennedy and Latham for his question. When asked to explain his “People are asking” remark, the councilor said three people brought the question to his attention. “I do regret asking it. I’m trying to close the books on it,” he said.

LaPierre probably could have asked a dozen probing and pertinent questions about the middle school project during Tuesday’s meeting. But the one that made the final cut for his choice of questions sounded like long-dead Joe McCarthy could have written it himself.

LaPierre is an educated and popular man capable of summarizing his position on issues and stating that position clearly. So why did he sling mud in the direction of two people who have all but staked their reputations on the construction of new middle schools?

Is there any reasonable-minded person, including Brian LaPierre, who thinks even for a minute that Judy Kennedy and Cathie Latham would approach their fellow Lynn residents with a tax-increase proposal that included a boost in their salaries?

Kennedy’s political future rests in part on how voters view the debt exclusion question. Latham is the architect and prime mover of the plan to get Marshall Middle School built. Her effort to repeat that success on behalf of Lynn’s students and future generations of students did not deserve to be tainted by LaPierre’s tawdry questioning.

Brian LaPierre is certainly aware of how much money Kennedy and the superintendent earn. Yet he publicly posed a question on Tuesday that sounded like, “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”

LaPierre made sure Lamanna and anyone else listening knew he had researched the City Charter in an attempt to answer his own question. That statement was, at best, a clumsy effort by LaPierre to distance himself from the question. The notion that LaPierre — a man skilled in reading detailed labor contracts — does not have a working knowledge — if not a detailed knowledge — of the charter is preposterous.

LaPierre did himself a disservice as an elected city official and as a Lynn resident with his brief but pointed interrogation on Tuesday. In addition to the mayor and the superintendent, he also owes city residents an apology and, assuming he is running for reelection, he will have to wait until the fall to find out if they accept it.

Lynn council costs out middle school plan

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Voters will be asked to fund two new schools during a special election on March 14.

The City Council unanimously approved putting a question on the ballot asking voters to approve the $188 million project, which would be for the construction of two schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Voters will also see a question asking if the project should be allowed to be exempt from Proposition 2 1/2, which places limits on the amount a community can raise through property taxes.

Voters would be responsible for an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills. The Massachusetts School Building Authority would reimburse about 60 percent of the funds, or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

Real deal: $7.5M sale in Lynn

In a previous interview with The Item, City Attorney James Lamanna said under the city charter, the council was required to put the question on the ballot. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million.

If voters approve the funding, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off 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.

Officials in favor of the project, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham, spoke about the need for new facilities to keep up with increasing enrollment.

Kennedy said there has been a 17 percent increase in the student population over the past five years. Latham added there are more than 16,000 students in Lynn Public Schools, making it the fifth largest district in the state.

Kennedy said she couldn’t emphasize enough the education inequity occurring at the middle school level, after the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School opened. She said it wasn’t right that students in the Pickering district have to go to a school of inferior quality, or that students in the Breed district are squeezed into a school that is overcrowded.

“The only way the city can bear the $200 million approximated price tag of these two schools is to do this as a debt exclusion,” Kennedy said. “I can’t emphasize enough how much we need to have these modern middle schools in the city of Lynn.”

Latham said if the schools aren’t approved, the district would be in dire need of more classroom space. There might need to be a return to half-day kindergarten, she added.

Donald Castle, president of Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove Cemetery, said the land on Parkland Avenue belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery. The city’s law department became aware of documents from 1893 in the fall suggesting that the land belongs to the cemetery.

“We’re not against the schools,” he said. “We’re against the site.”

Lamanna said it’s the opinion of the law department that the city owns the land, and would prevail in court if challenged.

Following the unanimous vote, city councilors weighed in on the potential schools. City Council President Darren Cyr said building two new schools to replace 100-year-old buildings was about providing students with the same opportunities kids in neighboring communities have.

“If we don’t build these new schools, we could have as many as 40 to 50 kids in a classroom,” Cyr said.

City Councilor Dan Cahill said Lynn can’t be a community of folks who don’t invest in their youth. “If we don’t make this investment, I’m really afraid of what’s going to happen in the city of Lynn,” he said.

In other news, a public hearing was set down for Feb. 14, regarding moving 57 custodians from city employment to the jurisdiction of the school department.

Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department director, said the move was to meet the net school spending requirement. When they worked for the city, he said, their health insurance didn’t work toward net school spending. If the move is passed, their benefits would be going toward that.

Donovan said the custodians are working for inspectional services now, which cleans school buildings. They would just have a different employer in the school department.

“The school will be paying for them if this proposal passes,” Donovan said.


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

 

Lynn students draw the line on fire safety

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Student Leakhana Ngeth and art teacher Angeliki Russell react during the Lynn Fire Department safety recognition awards ceremony.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Lynn students are doing their part to extinguish a burning problem in the city.

The Lynn Fire Department and Lynn Public Schools collaborate annually to hold a poster contest with a fire safety theme. This year’s competition was focused on the importance of checking your fire alarms and changing them every decade.

Every year, far too many people are injured or killed as a result of a fire that could have been prevented, said Deputy Fire Chief Stephen Archer.

“Many of these injuries and deaths could have been prevented by having working smoke detectors,” he said.

Out of more than 5,000 entries, nine were declared contest winners; three elementary, three middle and three high school students. The three first-place posters have been transformed into billboards and are on display in Wyoma Square.

“The project is good because it gets (the kids) thinking about how important it is to make sure their smoke detectors are working,” said Sarah Gilberg, a Lynn English High School senior who took third place. “A fire can really destroy everything.”

Soleil Chea, a fourth-grader at Brickett Elementary School and second-place winner, said her interest in art grew when she was in the first grade and her favorite style is abstract.

“It’s pretty honoring to be on a billboard,” Chea said. “It was really fun. It’s important because if you don’t check your alarms it can be very dangerous.”

Lynnfield looks to limit marijuana sales

The competition is a continuation of a project first funded three years ago by a federal grant. More than $295,000 from the U.S. Fire Administration allowed firefighters to install about 5,000 smoke alarms in 1,700 homes

Earlier this year, Dean Foods, also known as Garelick Farms Lynn, made a $10,000 donation to further the initiative, which is spearheaded by Lt. Israel Gonzalez from the Fire Prevention Division.

The money funded the purchase and installation of about 100 alarms in the homes of Lynn Public School students. It also pays for firefighters to visit the children’s homes and talk to families about fire safety and prevention, cooking safety, electrical hazards and other common fire causes like candles and dryers.

The average two-family home should have seven detectors, and single-family homes should have three to four smoke detectors, he said. Many low-income households lack the devices all together, and others have alarms that have far exceeded their 10-year expected lifespan. Recent models have a built-in battery that can’t be changed out, to help ensure the devices are replaced often.

“I’m so pleased,” said Gonzalez. “We get to see so many entries. The fire prevention message is getting into students’ homes.”

State Fire Marshal Peter J. Ostroskey commended the fire department, public schools and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedys office for their collaboration on the project.

“To put forward such an important message is such a great thing,” Ostroskey said. “It’s a great thing for the students and it’s a great thing that they bring that message home and spread the word.”

Each of the nine winners were presented with a citation from the Fire Marshal’s office, another from the city and a new iPad.


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

Helping dollars make sense in Lynn

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — City officials entered into a community compact with the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on Tuesday, a program designed to strengthen the partnership between local and state government.

“The idea of getting some technical assistance on our capital long-range planning was a really intriguing possibility to pursue,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “And after speaking with the CFO, Peter Caron, and understanding that we would be getting financial assistance to obtain the technical planning expertise, it seemed like a no-brainer to accept the offer from the commonwealth. So, with that, we contacted the governor’s office and arranged to become … the 254th community to sign onto the compact.”

Kennedy said there are two places where the compact will be especially helpful to city government. She said the city is in desperate need of modernizing its IT (Information Technology) department, which consists of only two employees. She said Caron also serves as head of that department, and would like to see that change, as IT and financial expertise don’t always go hand in hand.

Figueroa for stronger community connections

Through the compact, which city officials signed onto with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito at City Hall, Lynn will work with the commonwealth to implement three financial management best practices. The city will work to develop and use a long-range planning/forecasting model, prepare a capital improvement plan, and review and evaluate financial management structure to improve efficiency.

Also on hand for the signing was Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Mass) and state Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus).

Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said Lynn secured a $75,000 grant through the consulting group hired by the commonwealth, PFM (Public Financial Management), to pay for the three best practices.

The mayor also spoke about the importance of long-term planning. Kennedy said the city is currently operating five schools that are more than 100 years old. She said officials have recently replaced one of the middle schools and have applied to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) for a second middle school. But because of the large student population growth, she said the MSBA told officials that they would either need to build the largest middle school in the commonwealth or build two schools.

“So, this has obviously put some strains on our ability to focus on and capitalize (on) our long-term plans,” Kennedy said. “So, we are going out for a debt exclusion to the public on March 14 to try to fund those two middle schools.”

Polito said the compact program is not an unfunded mandate, but a funded, best practices voluntary program. She said the program grew out of conversations with municipal leaders on how state government can be a better, more reliable partner. Through the compact, she said, municipalities can apply to programs for IT grants, complete streets and for regionalization and efficiency.

“Every single compact is unique because you, as municipal leaders, decide what you want to work on,” Polito said. “In this case, the mayor and your CFO will talk about the best practices and why you’ve chosen them, but certainly around financial planning, capital planning, financial management.

“You’re at a point in time where the expertise from our office and others through the grant that we will provide you can really professionalize and update the policies that you want in place, as your city continues to grow, both population-wise, because I know you’re stretched out in your schools, and economic-wise, because you’re really starting to develop your economy here in a more meaningful way,” she continued. “So, this is like reset, and laying a solid foundation for you to then continue to build on in municipal government.”


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

Lynn officials shop New York for a song

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — If Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy gets her wish, Barry Manilow, Huey Lewis and the News and a soul jam by the Chi-Lites, the Manhattans and the Stylistics will come to the Lynn Memorial Auditorium.   

Kennedy, James Marsh, the city’s community development director, and Henry Ryan, who helps book acts for the 2,200-seat hall, attended the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in New York last weekend. The goal was to meet with as many performers’ agents as possible.

“We went band shopping,” said Kennedy. “We’re looking for acts to bring to the Lynn Auditorium for this year and next. We would like to get away from doing just classic rock which has been our wheelhouse.”

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Their mission was to find country and other acts. While no deals have been signed yet, they are considering the Oak Ridge Boys and Hank Williams Jr. But they also talked with agents for indie-rockers Mumford & Sons and Death Cab for Cutie to see if there might be possibilities to break in some newer acts.

The trio joined more than 45,000 people from around the globe to access thousands of artists of all disciplines and genres.

Kennedy said when she was elected eight years ago, the city booked just three shows a year, acts such as Peter Paul & Mary and the Doodlebops, a children’s show, not major attractions.

“I am the mayor that took the auditorium to becoming a major regional venue,” she said. “I brought in air conditioning so we could sustain it and go year round with it, brought in a professional bartending and security service and signed a contract with Ticketmaster so we would have a bigger presence.”

The goal, she said, is not just to make money, it’s to bring people to Lynn.

“The income is secondary,” Kennedy said. “We want to attract people to eat at a downtown restaurant and have a drink after the show so people will get an improved perception of Lynn.”

She credited Jamie Marsh, who also books the acts, with being responsible for renovations to the auditorium. She said Henry Ryan, who had been working as a City Hall custodian, was put to work also booking acts because he had experience arranging shows in Argentina.

“It was a great 24 hours and we should see some great results,” Kennedy said.


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

Locals set for Grand Old Trump party

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Alexander “Sandy” Tennant and Sara Appiah prepare for Tennant’s trip to Donald Trump’s inauguration.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

Several North Shore residents are eagerly anticipating attending President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration next week, while others will be protesting by participating in the Boston Women’s March.

Trump is scheduled to be sworn in on Friday, Jan. 20 as the 45th president of the United States. The afternoon ceremony will be followed by an inaugural parade and ball. Other inaugural events are scheduled during the week.

Alexander “Sandy” Tennant, a Swampscott resident and former executive director of the MassGOP, said next week will be his fourth or fifth inauguration. He said it’s great to go down, meet different people from around the country and see those new people heading up government.

Tennant said he wasn’t originally a Trump supporter, but as the field of Republican presidential candidates whittled down, he changed his mind. For his first few months in office, Tennant said he wants to see Trump focus on helping out veterans and improving education.

“I feel the way the majority of Americans do,” Tennant said. “We need a change of direction and Washington just hasn’t been working. Donald Trump certainly appears to be the man to go in and shake things up.”

Moulton faults Trump for delaying VA pick

The Boston Women’s March for America is expected to be an anti-Trump protest, held the day after the new president is sworn in. It’s a sister march for those unable to make the Women’s March on Washington, which is scheduled for the same day. Thousands of people are expected to march in solidarity with communities most affected by the hate, intolerance and acts of violence being perpetuated across the nation, according to a description of the event.

State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) said she’s planning on joining the march in Boston. She won’t be attending the inauguration, but did say she attended when President Barack Obama was sworn in eight years ago. At the time, she said, her daughters were in their early teens, and over the years, her girls have been able to take many things for granted that Obama promoted, such as women’s equality and fairness.

“We were all able to rest assured that the fate of the nation was in good, capable hands, in spite of all of the divisiveness and racism that he encountered,” Ehrlich said.

But, Ehrlich said the pendulum is about to shift the other way. She said someone’s been elected as the next president who has made fun of a disabled reporter, joked about grabbing a woman’s genitals, and ridiculed people for their sex, race and religion.

“There are really basically two reasons why I’m marching,” Ehrlich said. “First, is to stand united in opposition to the hatred and bigotry which has permeated the political sphere in the run-up to the election. The second reason is to feel the energy from the crowd from those who, like me, have chosen to stand up and object.

“His presidency so far, thankfully hasn’t started yet,” she continued. “Considering that it hasn’t started yet, I would say that our nation is in for a wild ride. He’s taken aim at the nation’s intelligence community and the media, both of which we need for a functioning democracy. I think his appointments, for the most part, they leave much to be desired.”

President Obama says goodbye in tearful speech

Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and her guest will be attending the inauguration thanks to Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), who called and asked if the mayor wanted to attend.

“I am absolutely excited,” Kennedy said. “I have never been to a presidential inauguration before. I voted for Trump because the country needed an entirely new direction, that government was getting stale on the national level and somebody had to come in and blow it up.”

Amy Carnevale, a Marblehead resident who serves on the Republican State Committee, is also heading to the inauguration next week. She was a delegate for Trump at the Republican National Convention.

“I’m really excited,” Carnevale said. “I think the inauguration of a new president is a historic moment no matter who the president is. I’m really excited just to be there for it and to play a small part in it that day.”

Carnevale said she’s most excited about seeing the peaceful transfer of power to a new president, which she called a testament to the country’s democracy after a bitterly fought election

For Trump’s first few months, Carnevale said she wants to see Trump focus on how he can improve the economy for all Americans. She said working Americans have too often felt left behind during Obama’s presidency. She also thinks healthcare should be a focus, adding that the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, has been anything but affordable for most families.

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) said he’s chartered a train car, and so far, about 68 people from Massachusetts are joining him for the march in Washington. He said the energy and response to the Trump election from the people in the state has been extraordinary. A recent rally in Peabody, he said, drew more than 500 people, who wanted to do something and stand up for the values that were “under assault” from Trump.

Moulton said Trump is “assaulting” some of the fundamental tenets of the country’s democracy, with his “cronies” threatening a reporter for asking a question at the president-elect’s press conference on Wednesday, undermining the First Amendment of the Constitution.

Moulton said in politics, people are going to disagree with those on the other side. He said he disagreed with former President George W. Bush a lot, including on the Iraq War. But, he said he didn’t see Bush trying to undermine the country’s democracy like he views Trump is.

“That’s why this is so serious,” Moulton said. “We’ll show Trump that Americans are going to stand up for our democracy, for our Constitution, for the rule of law.”

Robert Tucker, a member of the Lynn Democratic City Committee and former president of the Lynn City Council, said he’s attending the march in Boston. He said it’s important for Americans to be heard and to watch the incoming administration closely, as what he’s seen so far with Trump has been troubling.

“I want this march to proclaim the rights of women, LGBTQIA and immigrants,” Tucker said. “We can’t let the positive gains we have achieved be destroyed over the next four years. Our nation is facing the prospect of reversing the rights of women and LGBTQIA that we have worked so hard to achieve.

“I want this march to proudly proclaim that America is a nation of immigrants and support the rights of immigrants to achieve their goal of becoming a citizen no matter where they come from or the color of their skin. We need to start on the local and state level to make sure our voices against discrimination are heard in Washington.”


Thomas Grillo contributed to this report. Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

A lot of potential on Western Avenue

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This former gas station at 870 Western Ave. is a brownfield site. The city has applied for a $200G grant to clean it up.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — More than 20 years after a Western Avenue gas station closed and left a blighted lot behind, the city is hoping it will be the next location for much needed housing.

Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC), the city’s nonprofit development bank, has applied for a $200,000 Environmental Protection Agency grant to clean up the so-called brownfield site and make it safe for homes. Brownfields are abandoned contaminated commercial sites.

The saga began in 1988 when the Lynn J. Robert Corp. of Peabody and Jerome Sousa of North Hampton, N.H., acquired the 12,288-square-foot lot at no cost, according to the Southern Essex County Registry of Deeds. In 2012, the city seized the abandoned station for nonpayment of $2,296 in real estate taxes.

Swampscott residents see red over Greenwood

In 2015, the city sold the property to the EDIC for $1. Last year, EDIC made two attempts to sell the parcel, but failed to receive any worthwhile bids, including a marijuana dispensary, according to James Cowdell, EDIC’s executive director.

Cowdell then contacted Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the shuttered gas station covered in graffiti. He suggested housing made the most sense for the visible site.

“Would I like to see a pot dispensary or housing?” asked Capano. “I’d rather see housing, but I wouldn’t mind retail either. If there were other options, I would be open to them as well. We would like to see the site improved.”

Since then, the EDIC has spent about $55,000 assessing and cleaning the contaminated site that has an oil tank in the ground.

Despite the progress, the highest cleanup standards are required if brownfields are to be used as housing, Cowdell said. As a result, EDIC is seeking the EPA’s help to defray the costs.

“It’s a small but very visible lot and 20,000 cars pass by this blighted property right now,” Cowdell said. The EPA grant would finish the clean up and make it ready to meet residential standards.”

If the city is successful in getting the funding and completes the job, they would sell the parcel to a developer who will determine what kind of housing fits.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she is excited at the prospect of cleaning one of the city’s brownfields.

“This would give us one more piece of land that we can put to productive use,” she said.


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

Coppinger pins on a new badge

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Newly sworn-in Essex County Sheriff Kevin Coppinger poses with Sheriff Peter Koutoujian of Middlesex County at Lynn Auditorium.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — With pomp and circumstance that featured bagpipes of the Irish American Police Officers Association Pipes & Drum band, Lawrence High School Girls Ensemble and St. Mary’s High School Dance Team, Kevin Coppinger was sworn in as sheriff.

“This night is finally here,” said Coppinger as his wife Beth and sons Sean and Kevin looked on. “I never knew this was going to happen way back when we started this campaign. It’s been quite a trip and I am deeply honored and humbled.”

More than 1,400 people packed the Lynn Auditorium Wednesday night as Lynn’s police chief took on the new role of Essex County Sheriff.

Coppinger spent much of his speech thanking the many people who, he said, helped him prepare for his new role: the men and women of the Lynn Police Department where he has served as chief. He praised his fellow police chiefs whose support, guidance and friendship made him a better police officer, chief and leader, he said.

He also thanked the residents of Lynn who for more than 30 years educated him about the issues facing Lynn, he said.

“Domestic violence, intolerance, elder and domestic abuse, child neglect, property crimes, drug addiction and gun violence, these are the issues we face today,” he said. “Lynn taught me the lessons about the value and power of community, friendship, determination and perseverance. I have listened and I have learned.”

Coppinger ready to don sheriff’s badge

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy started the evening by reminding Coppinger that on Jan. 4, 2010, the two of them started their management careers together.

“Kevin had been police chief for four days and he walked the new mayor down the aisle for her inauguration,” she said. “It has been a pleasure to have served with him. There’s a tinge of sadness because I am losing one of my really great department heads. Lynn was fortunate to have his services for seven years and now Essex County will be proud to have his services for the foreseeable future.”

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito said a key ingredient to making a strong community is keeping it safe. The public should never take for granted those men and women who work hard to keep neighborhoods safe.

“To the men and women who choose to wear the uniform and choose careers in public safety, we are grateful to all of you and your families for giving you the support you need to have such a career,” she said.

A heart as big as a city

Essex County District Attorney Jonathan Blodgett said he has known Coppinger for more than 20 years and he will continue the excellence of the Essex County sheriff’s office.

“Kevin believes in collaboration,” he said. “He deserves our prayers and he will continue the tradition he started at the Lynn Police Department of thinking outside the box.”

Coppinger said his first order of business will be to conduct an audit of the financial structure of the sheriff’s office, a similar audit on the treatment of inmates and rehabilitation programs, and he plans to expand the role of working with the courts to assist drug addicts.

“I am excited to get started,” he said.   


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

Lynn lends hand to W. Baltimore fire victims

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lisa Wallace hands donations for the victims of the fire at 22 W. Baltimore St. to Mike Sweeney on Monday outside of LynnArts.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN They lined Exchange Street in SUVs, pickup trucks, late model cars and jalopies.

Hundreds of Good Samaritans arrived in droves at LynnArts Monday with bags of clothes, shoes, coats, diapers, toys, gift certificates and cash in response to a plea of support from the nonprofit and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to help the dozens of families displaced by the New Year’s Day fire on West Baltimore Street.

W. Baltimore fire victims describe fear, disbelief

“Lynn is very unique,” said Lisa Wallace, founder of One Community One Voice, an advocacy group whose mission is to bring neighbors together. “We are diverse but united, especially when there’s a crisis. We come together and we’ll fix it.”  

Wallace and dozens of others including City Councilor and state Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) and Lynn Museum Executive Director Drew Russo, helped sort the donations that came nonstop for most of the day in several massive LynnArts rooms. Rachel and Mark Grigway drove up to the front door to donate bags of baby clothes and blankets.

“We felt terrible for the victims,” said Rachel Grigway. “We would want people to help us if this ever happened to our family.”

Lynn fire drives out 60

Kandi Prentiss, a Lynn Girl Scouts troop leader, came with her children to deliver toys, clothes and games. The Prentiss family, like dozens of others, stayed to help organize the massive number of donations.

“Our Girl Scout troop had done a diaper drive earlier this year and we planned to donate them to the Lynn Shelter,” she said. “But when the fire happened, we decided to deliver them here. We want to help others and that’s what we teach our Girl Scouts.”

Gov. Charlie Baker and his wife, Lauren, came to LynnArts armed with several giant bags filled with coats, shoes, shirts and pants.

“We saw the news and it was clear that the fire devastated the homes of all those people,” said the governor. “Lauren does lots of work with the Red Cross, so we are familiar with what happens after a fire. It was clear to us that those folks would be looking for what we would describe as basics and that’s pretty much what we have here.”

Early Sunday, firefighters fought the five-alarm blaze in the four-story apartment building. The 24-unit property displaced 65 residents. None of the residents were injured. They were first brought to City Hall and later taken to Lynn Classical High School. By day’s end, all of the occupants were expected to be united with family members or in a hotel.


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

HELP OUT: Volunteers are needed to help sort donations Tuesday and Wednesday at LynnArts. Contact Jolene Kelly at jolenelynnarts@gmail.com or (781) 581-6200.

For those who would like to donate items, Centerboard will open their space tomorrow at 16 City Hall Square from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

A GoFundMe has been set up by Jaime Figueroa at https://www.gofundme.com/west-baltimore-st-fire-victims; Figueroa says 100 percent of the proceeds will go to the families.

eisen_firedonations4_010217Scott Eisen
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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.

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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.

Residents could get burned by false alarms

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Crying wolf could get more expensive.

If the city gets its way, it will cost more when your alarm brings firefighters and there’s no fire.

Under the amended ordinance that will be considered at a public hearing on Tuesday, Jan. 10 at City Hall, fines for false alarms will be increased for the first time in seven years.

If approved by the city council, the first two false alarms are forgiven. But a third will cost home and commercial property owners $100, up from $50. And it increases from there with $200 for the fourth, up from $150, and $300 for five or more.

“It makes sense, the people who have malfunctioning fire alarms should be held accountable,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “Any time firefighters or police respond to an emergency, they run the risk of accidents and could be tying first responders up on a nonsense call when something important could be going on.”

Officials hope that the fines will encourage home and building owners and managers to improve the maintenance of their fire alarm systems.

Peabody fire leaves 10 homeless

In 2014, the most recent data available, fire departments in the U.S. responded to nearly 2.5 million false alarms, five times the number of structure fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association. That’s up from nearly 900,000 false alarms in 1980.

About one-third of these alarms are caused by problems in the fire alarm system itself.

Many of these were triggered by commercial monitored connections, including apartment buildings, hotels and dormitories, NFPA said. The share of alarms coming from occupancies with automatic fire alarms has increased as these systems have become more common.

Unwanted alarms have also taken an increasing toll on the nation’s fire service in the form of fuel costs, apparatus wear and tear, risk of collision and injury during response, and a growing complacency when responding to automatic alarms, NFPA said.

Lynn District Fire Chief Stephen Archer referred questions about the ordinance to Lt. Israel Gonzalez in the fire prevention division, who said he was unaware of the proposal.

Kennedy did not know how many false alarms occur in Lynn or how much money is lost annually by them.

“It’s difficult to quantify,” she said. “But nothing positive comes out of responding to a false alarm.”


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

Kennedy in command

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy sat in the City Council Chamber Tuesday night surrounded by councilors and in the course of a 105-minute discussion showed she is in command of her facts and the city’s financial situation.

After the talking stopped and Kennedy left the chamber where she once served as councilor at large, one observer described her presentation on city spending as “a masterful performance.”

Kennedy appeared Tuesday at the invitation of councilors, including a few who were ready to grill her on city spending and fiscal management. Flanked by city Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron, Kennedy sat at a table facing councilors with Council President Dan Cahill’s podium towering above her.

She took control of the potentially testy exchange immediately, obtaining Cahill’s permission to deliver a statement that, in a nutshell, explained she is not responsible for the city’s current fiscal challenges but she intends to fix them.

Lynn mayor, council crunch the numbers

She recited a list of solutions for erasing a $1.8 million budget deficit and declared municipal employees will not be laid off and Lynn taxpayers will not see a tax increase through the remainder of the fiscal year ending on June 30.

Kennedy fielded a few questions from councilors following her remarks, but her decisive stance Tuesday made Kennedy — a mayor who is an irritation to some people and a mystery to others — look very mayoral.

Lynn’s mayors, especially recent ones, have a history of being curious creatures and Kennedy is no exception. The late Patrick J. McManus could, by turns, be eccentric and engaging. Former Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr. prized loyalty and was equally skilled in displays of charm and stony silences.

Kennedy is a mayor who enjoys herself at Veterans Memorial Auditorium concerts and sometimes shows up at a meeting after the proceedings have begun. But she is also a city leader who makes her way effortlessly through Lynn’s diverse collection of ethnicities and neighborhoods.

She is an elected official who has often departed from the political playbook to win public office. She launched her political career 25 years ago as a write-in school committee candidate and wrestled the mayorship away from Clancy with a similarly unorthodox run for mayor.

She crushed former council colleague Timothy Phelan in the 2013 mayoral election even though Phelan enjoyed local name recognition and knew his way around politics.

Judy Kennedy, simply put, is not your average mayor and not your average politician. Once-friendly relations between Kennedy and Cahill grew chilly this year. Contentious discussions over building two new middle schools and possibly overriding the state’s tax limitation law to help bail the city out of a financial hole didn’t help matters.

But Tuesday night saw Kennedy talking tough and frank about putting the city’s financial house in good order. She talked to councilors in language any Lynn resident watching the council meeting could appreciate. She said she will keep an eye on city fuel costs and even city expenditures under $25.

Kennedy served the city well on Tuesday by offering solutions to resolving prolonged concerns over city spending. The council will be equally well served by working closely with her to keep the city pointed in the right direction, financially speaking.