Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy

A city of two tales

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Hoana Cortez and Robert Miller stand April 17 at a vigil for the two men shot on Exchange Street.

To paraphrase Dickens, it was the best of times and the worst of times in Lynn this week.

The worst was first. An Easter Sunday shooting in Central Square that left one dead and another hospitalized.

Then came the best. Bookended by a Monday night vigil at the shooting site and Thursday night’s gathering at Zion Baptist Church to show solidarity for Prince Belin and remember the late Leonardo Clement, four unrelated events took place simultaneously Tuesday:

Friends of the late Wendy Meninno Hayes gathered to remember a woman who defined her life with charity and friendship; the city Humans Rights Commission hosted a City Hall forum entitled, “Focus on Asian Americans;” the committee behind the successful April 6 kickoff of “Beyond Walls” met to plan the next steps for a downtown revitalization effort that envisions murals and classic neon signs lighting up the city’s center by July; while experts who make a living out of reimagining cities converged on the Lynn Museum and let their imaginations roam free in the “Visions for Lynn” discussion.

One night in Lynn.

Perhaps the most startling was the Visions discussion. Designers and academics let their minds wander on a long leash and imagined the city’s waterfront becoming a sort of futuristic Venice with canals. They conceived a pedestrian-friendly wastewater treatment plant, the Lynnway Learning Lab — a futuristic high school with rooftop gardens — and a public safety facility doubling as a community gathering place.

Visions and Beyond Walls demonstrate the imagination that is the fuel propelling a new vision for downtown.

Beyond Walls hits $50K goal at fundraiser

All of this might sound like so much idle speculation by academics and hopeful residents — until state Housing and Economic Development Secretary Jay Ash’s perspective is factored into the equation.

Commenting in the Boston Globe’s Sunday Magazine on April 16, Ash called Lynn one of those “gritty blue-collar North Shore communities that are poised to move up a notch or two or three.”

Ash’s comments merit close examination, especially when they are spotlighted against the backdrop of Beyond Walls and Visions.

Lynn could be one of the ‘top spots to live’

The former Chelsea city manager knows what it takes to revive a city. As the state’s top development chief, Ash joined Gov. Charlie Baker, U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Mayor Judy Flanagan Kennedy, Lynn’s state delegation and city development officials in creating the LEAD (Lynn Economic Advancement Development) team in November, 2015, to bring federal, state, and local resources to bear on revitalizing Lynn.

His remarks to the Globe are proof positive he feels that commitment is ready to pay off.

By accenting all that is positive about their city, Lynn residents are drawing a map for success and they are narrowing the focus on the city’s problems. Lighting downtown and adorning it with murals and sculpture offers an opportunity to step back and ask, “OK, what needs to get fixed downtown?”

The answer may come in the form of public safety proposals, revamped zoning ideas or other innovations rivaling the ideas offered by the academics who gathered on Tuesday at the Lynn Museum.

During her life, Wendy Hayes helped provide the answer through the selfless charity she showed Lynn residents. A Saugus native with a brilliant smile who died last August, her legacy and memory lives on with friends who knew her as the co-owner with her husband, Rolly, of Rolly’s Tavern on the Square.  

Lynn’s diversity can also provide the answer. More than 10 percent of people who live in the city are of Vietnamese, Khmer and Laotian descent. They built businesses, bought homes and Tuesday’s commission meeting is a first step to giving them the chance to contribute positive ideas.

The great news about positive ideas is that they spur imaginations and generate additional ideas. The energy that filled downtown and the city this week is proof that only imagination defines the realm of possibility for Lynn.

Violent acts terrible but not random, mayor says

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn police close off Exchange Street while they investigate the scene of a double shooting April 16.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Despite the recent rash of violence in the city, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said Lynn is safe.

“It’s been terrible,” she said. “But these are not random acts of violence.”

Kennedy assured residents that police are working to solve these crimes and city dwellers should not be fearful.

“People in our community should not worry about their safety because these victims and perpetrators are known to one another. One may be attributed to road rage.”

The most recent incident occurred on Easter Sunday when two men were shot in front of the LynnArts building, leaving one dead and the second hospitalized.  The man killed in Sunday afternoon’s double shooting in Central Square has been identified as Leonardo Clement, 46, of Lynn.

Rev. to shooter: You came to the wrong place

Also this month, two men were charged with raping and beating a man, leaving the victim critically injured. The Lynn resident underwent surgery for his injuries at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Lynn residents Darrin Stephens, 50, and John Michelin, 31, were charged with aggravated rape and assault and battery with a baseball bat in a Chase Street apartment, police said.

Documents detail scene of sexual attack

Last month, a New Hampshire man was charged with murder in the fatal shooting of a 24-year-old pizza deliveryman. Brian Brito, 21, of Manchester, N.H., pleaded not guilty to murder during his arraignment at Lynn District Court. Brito is accused of killing Mohammadreza Sina Zangiband, an employee of Atha’s Famous Roast Beef.

Police say road rage may have spurred shooting

Also in March, Tomas Barillas, 20, of Lynn, was held without bail following his arraignment on a murder charge in connection a stabbing death of Jason Arias-Amador, 20, of Boston.

Evidence seized from murder suspect’s phone

On Monday night, a community vigil was organized by Lynn Museum/LynnArts where residents lit candles for the victims and stood against violence.


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

 

Consider the progress we’ve made, Kennedy says

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Donna Coppola, left, and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy have a word during Kennedy’s re-election kickoff.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy kicked off her campaign for a third term Wednesday night at a crowded fundraiser in the Porthole Restaurant.

Kennedy, a Republican, will face state Sen. Thomas McGee in what is expected to be a hotly contested race.  Last month the Lynn Democrat, who has served in the state Senate since 2002, announced his intention to seek the corner office.  

In mentioning McGee in her remarks, Kennedy said the two of them have been in public life for more than two decades and each of them have records that should be scrutinized.

“I hope all of you will base your vote in this election, not on personalities, not on political parties, not on family connections, but on who has done the most to bring improvements to our great city,” she said.

Kennedy became mayor in 2009 when she beat Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by 27 votes of the more than 16,000 ballots cast. In 2013, she bested Timothy Phelan by a 59 to 41 percent margin.

The mayor reminded the crowd what Lynn was like in 2010, the year she took office. She said Sluice, Flax and Goldfish ponds were infested with invasive weeds, several parks lacked lights for night games, there were few options for seniors to save on their real estate taxes, the General Electric Factory of the Future site had been vacant for more than 10 years, the Thurgood Marshall Middle School was in need of replacing, the Lynn Auditorium had just three shows a year, the downtown was filled with litter, and if teens wanted a summer job, they needed help from an elected official.

“Today, the ponds are clean, Barry Park and Wyoma Baseball Field have lights, there’s a nightly street sweeping schedule in the downtown, we implemented a way for income-eligible seniors to work off $600 from their property tax bills, there’s a lottery for summer jobs, the Lynn Auditorium is air conditioned and booked, the Factory of the Future is the new home for Market Basket, and we built a new middle school,” she said. “I ask for your support as we continue this progress for the next four years.”

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

The event attracted many of the city’s elected officials and candidates for office, as well as supporters.

Elaine Letowski, an insurance writer who moved to Lynn in 2003, said she attended the event because she strongly backs Kennedy.

“She’s good for our city, she says no when you have to say no,” she said. “We don’t have enough money for everything. She’s working on the budget, makes good decisions, keeps our taxes down, and is making Lynn a better place to live.”

Eileen Spencer, a real estate broker at Annmarie Jonah Realtors, said Kennedy has helped revitalize the downtown.

“Judy has done a phenomenal job for the city,” she said. “What I like most of all is what’s she’s done to improve the Lynn Auditorium and that is bringing business to the downtown.”

The mayor’s fundraiser comes one day after a team of consultants told officials that without corrective action, the city’s budget is projected to have an $8.6 million deficit in 2017 and in each of the next five years.

The PFM Group, based out of Philadelphia, provided a grim prescription to City Hall: No raises for city employees, freeze hiring, contract EMS services to a private company, and eliminate 35 city jobs.

Kennedy did not ignore the city’s financial troubles in her speech.

“I want to be real, not everything is rosy and, of course, we have some difficulties, such as balancing the budget,” she said. “But I’ve been quietly looking to officials at the federal level … and I expect to return to Washington in the coming months to meet with the new Trump administration to see what I can do for my city.”


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

 

Survey: Lynn should confront finance issues

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A team of consultants told the city what they already knew: Confronting Lynn’s fiscal challenges will hurt.

In a stark report presented to the City Council Tuesday, a Philadelphia financial advisory services firm that specializes in advising municipalities, said the city should not issue raises after union contracts expire, freeze hiring, contract EMS services to a private company, and eliminate 35 city jobs.  

“Lynn now faces a critical moment,” said The PFM Group in the 18-page survey. “Absent corrective action, the city’s general fund is projected to have an $8.6 million deficit in 2017 and in each of the next five years … the longer it takes Lynn to confront its fiscal challenges, the harder and more painful it will become to implement viable solutions.”

Vieen Leung, a PFM senior managing consultant and one of the study’s authors, said to close the gap the city should consider increasing fees annually, raise taxes and implement a local meals tax.

“The deficits are real and they are daunting,” she told the Council.

Leung also said the city lacks long-term planning for capital improvements. Lynn must figure out a way to determine a city building’s life expectancy and how to fund new construction.

“The city has underinvested in its infrastructure over the last decade,” she said.

The team also recommended the city control employee pay and benefits and increase the amount city workers pay for health insurance.      

A day for optimism

Last winter, the state Department of Revenue provided Lynn with a $75,000 grant to hire PFM and help City Hall create a five-year plan toward better fiscal responsibility.

A team of three municipal finance experts combed through the city’s books over the last few months and presented the council with an outline of how to get the city back on track.

PFM said while revenues are projected to grow at an annual rate of 2.9 percent annually driven largely by property taxes and state aid, operating expenditures are expected to swell by 3.2 percent.

In at least one exception to the no-new-hire rule, PFM recommends the city hire a full-time chief financial officer (CFO) and potentially a city manager.

Today, Peter Caron, the city’s CFO, spends half of his time managing the city’s finances and the other half as head of assessing.

“While this arrangement has allowed the city to save salary costs, CFO duties should not be held by an employee who already leads one or more other departments,” the report said.

In a brief interview on Tuesday, Lynn Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she questioned some of the recommendations on how to close the budget gap.

“Some of the assumptions they used are completely unrealistic to implement, such as no wage increases through 2022,” she said.


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

 

‘No one deserves to be sexually assaulted’

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Every 98 seconds someone is sexually assaulted in the United States.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Now in its 15th year,  it is held to educate the public about sexual violence and how to prevent it.

At City Hall on Friday, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy called attention to sexual violence as a critical public health issue.

“I am a mother of an 18-year-old daughter and a 21-year-old son,” she said. “It’s important for them to understand what a healthy relationship is.”

Lt. Marie Hanlon, a 31-year veteran of the Lynn Police Department, encourages victims to report the crime and seek medical attention immediately.

“No one deserves to be sexually assaulted,” she said. “With the variety of services offered in our community, we should promote safety and encourage everyone to speak out against sexual violence.”

High school students sample life at NSCC

Brittny Maravelias, a 23-year-old teen health adviser at Girls Inc. of Lynn, knows more about this issue than most. As an eighth-grader at Pickering Middle School, she dated someone who became her abuser.

“It took me nearly two years to leave and another two years to figure out what happened to me was actually abuse,” she said. “It was the beginning of a long and and difficult journey to healing.” While she is encouraged that youngsters are more aware of sexual violence, it is often not a conversion between youth and adults.

“These conversations need to be started at an early age,” she said. “As much as we’d like to think these cases are rare, unfortunately they are not.”


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

Kennedy expected to announce third run

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan is pictured in this March file photo.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who is expected to announce her candidacy for a third term next Wednesday night, can expect a spirited campaign this year with the entry of state Sen. Thomas McGee.

The 61-year-old Lynn Democrat declared his intention last month. Without mentioning the Republican mayor by name, McGee said he will make a difference for the city.

James Smith, a Boston attorney who served as a Lynn state representative, said it will be a close race.

“She is not perceived as a big spender and taxes are relatively affordable,” he said. “But the mayor has a very strong challenger in McGee. He’s not your average opponent. He has built up lots of loyalty. This is a very good race.”

If the election were held today, Smith said it would be a toss-up.

“The shelf life of a Lynn mayor can be very short, but I’m not sure hers is over,” he said. “She doesn’t have huge negatives, which mayors tend to build up because it’s the nature of the job. You can’t please everybody and sometimes you can’t please anybody. It’s a very tough job.”

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

Former Mayor Edward J. “Chip” Clancy Jr., who lost to Kennedy in 2009 by fewer than three dozen votes out of more than 16,000 cast, said he’d put his money on McGee.

“I think McGee, the Democrat wins,” he said. “Look at the referendum on building two new schools that lost; all the no-voters will turn out against her.”

Former Mayor Albert DiVirgilio said it’s too soon to handicap the race.  

“Competition is great and that’s what’s missing in this country,” he said.


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

 

Protect-Preserve needs to produce

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Don Castle motions at the “no-vote” victory party in this March file photo.

The founder of the “no new schools” movement pledged following the March 21 referendum vote to reach out and work with school officials.

Almost three weeks have passed and that conversation between Donald Castle and the officials he wants to speak with has yet to take place.

Mr. Castle and his Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove campaign defeated the city’s request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a middle school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field.

Give Mr. Castle credit; he tapped into voter anger over taxes and tallied a 64 percent to 36 percent win.

He told The Item’s editorial board before the March 21 special election that he opposed construction of the Parkland Avenue school because the city’s forefathers wanted the 44-acre site to be reserved to expand the Pine Grove Cemetery.

He argued that the parcel is too close to Breeds Pond Reservoir, the buildings were too expensive, and the process failed to be inclusive.

Insisting his group is not anti-education or anti-new schools, Mr. Castle said he would reach out to city officials after the school vote and say, “We want to work with you.”

He kept up that refrain the day after the election, saying, “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site.”

Schools out in Lynn

Mr. Castle and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a school construction supporter, each say they made post-election efforts to reach out and meet, but missed each other’s post-election calls. Castle got a chance to state his case last week during the Pickering Middle School Building Committee meeting. Kennedy made a motion to suspend the rules and allow Mr. Castle to speak.

He declined.

“It was a bag job,” he said following the meeting, “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”

Sorry, Mr. Castle, you can’t have it both ways. Protect-Preserve won a stunning election victory. But the middle-school enrollment tidal wave threat still looms.

Maybe Mr. Castle wants to hold on to that no new-schools anger and see if it converts into a possible City Council bid.

Maybe he got tongue tied when the opportunity came to actually present city decision makers with his school construction suggestions.

Or maybe it’s time for Mr. Castle and Protect-Preserve to make good on his pre-election statement and offer specific and positive ideas for solving the city’s school space crunch.

Unless they never had any ideas to begin with.

School spending ‘thorn in our side,’ mayor says

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Five months after the state threatened to withhold millions in school funds, the city is on the hook again as they face a spending shortfall, The Item has learned.

On Thursday, the Department of Education is expected to tell Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy that following a review of the city’s finances, school spending is off by about $826,000. As a result, the state may withhold that amount from Lynn’s $11 million monthly allocation of Chapter 70 school payments in June.

Peter Caron, Lynn’s chief financial officer, said the city is again working to get school spending back on track.

“It’s challenging,” he said. “We are trying to guess how much money we will spend on schools, but the state doesn’t do the accounting until six months after the fiscal year is over. It all goes back to the health insurance; we don’t know in May how much we will spend on it. It’s a crap shoot.”

Kennedy said she expects the school spending issue to be resolved, but she’s not sure how.

“Overall, net school spending has been a thorn in our side for a number of years,” she said. “When you increase the number of students in the schools by nearly 20 percent over the last six years, it causes problems on how to pay for it.”

Harbormaster files lawsuit to save job

Lynn is the fifth largest district in the Bay State with more than 16,000 students.

“Until we can slow the increase in school population or look to possible federal assistance, we will not be able to meet the threshold spending for the foreseeable future,” she said.

The city’s finances came into focus last year when the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education told the mayor that the city’s contribution to school funding was short by $7.5 million and the state threatened to withhold its $11 million November payment in school funds until City Hall came up with more cash.

Since then, the school deficit has been reduced to less than $1 million and the state money was released to the city.

John J. Sullivan, DOE’s associate commissioner, declined to comment until the letter is issued to the mayor.


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

 

Lynn fire stations burned by budget cuts

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
A woman passes by the front entrance to the Hollingsworth Street station.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN For the first time since the city settled the firefighters’ contract, several stations have temporarily gone dark because of budget constraints and more cuts are expected.

On Monday, Engine 1 on Hollingsworth Street in the Highlands neighborhood was shuttered, Ladder 4 in the Broadway station was out of service Saturday, while the safety officer’s post at the Fayette Street station went unmanned Sunday night.

“When anything is out of service the city is not as adequately protected as if everything was in service,” said William Murray, deputy chief. “But it all comes down to money. The only easy way to save cash is to take engines out of service.”

This is the first of what could be many brownouts. Starting today, the department expects to shutter two shifts per day at least until June 30, the end of the fiscal year, according to Chief James McDonald.

The Fire Department must cut $1.3 million from the department’s $16.6 million payroll. One way to do that, without laying off a firefighter, is to trim the overtime budget, Murray said.

Swampscott zones in on housing

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said the brownouts stem from the firefighter’s $2.2 million arbitration award to fund retroactive raises and increased pay for this year.

“The money had to come from somewhere,” she said. “We transferred a lot of money from other accounts, but some of the money must come from overtime accounts to keep our budget in shape for the remaining three months of this fiscal year.”

The $2.5 million deal was settled in February 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.

Ward 4 City Councilor Richard Colucci said the city has to find some way to pay for fire protection.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “It’s the only fire truck in the Highlands and it’s never been closed in recent memory. I plan to discuss this with the chief.”  


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

 

Lynn stands tall for Vietnam veterans

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Vietnam veterans Bud Klasner, Marty Robichaud, and Ross Gilchrisc watch as Walter Gutherie accepts an award.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Forty-four years after the last United States combat troops departed Vietnam, a small crowd gathered at City Hall to honor about two dozen local Vietnam War veterans.

“I get misty-eyed,” said Marty Robichaud, who served in the U.S. Army in Vietnam for a year. “Vietnam vets were not treated well. We were treated like crap. It was a lousy war, but hate the war, not the warrior.”

He was sent to war to be a truck driver in transportation convoys but five months later, the then-21-year-old became a gunner. Robichaud is a member of the Vietnam Veterans of America, a national nonprofit corporation that works to promote and support a full range of issues important to all veterans and change the public perception of Vietnam veterans.

City Councilor Peter Capano read a proclamation from Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, dubbing Wednesday Vietnam Veterans’ Day in the city of Lynn.

“As we walk around today, let us try to remember the freedoms we have in this country  whether it’s the freedom of religion, freedom of the press — they don’t come without a price,” said Capano.

Setting an example in Revere

Mike Sweeney, director of the Lynn Veterans’ Council, read the names of fallen military members, followed by a moment of silence.

“Reading those names every year, like Peter (Capano) said, freedom isn’t free. That’s what he means,” said Sweeney. “This audience, many of them know these names.”

Sue Ann Wood is the Gold Star mom of Lcpl. Mathew Puckett, who was killed in action while serving in the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq on Sept. 13, 2004.

“This is important to me,” said Wood. “I have so many friends who are Vietnam vets. If they can’t be here, I want to be here for them.”

Veterans from the Essex County Detachment fired a 21-gun salute from the front steps of City Hall. Cpl. Lee Coddens, a Marine Corps veteran, played taps on the bugle.


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

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is pictured at a discussion on schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — No new schools will be built in the city anytime soon.

That was the decision of a city panel Tuesday that orchestrated a plan for construction of two middle schools to ease overcrowding and replace a dilapidated facility.

Following last Tuesday’s special election where voters resoundingly rejected a request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field, the Pickering School Building Committee withdrew its application for state funding.

In addition to taking itself out of consideration for funds, Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager for the school proposal, said Lynn had a number of options. They included a plan to split the project into two and build one school first and then a second; build one school and renovate the Pickering Middle School; or build one school and use Pickering as an elementary school.

But the panel seemed in no mood to consider them.

Before the vote to end the city’s bid for school dollars, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy invited Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, the grassroots organization that campaigned against the schools, to speak to the committee. The mayor said he had an alternative plan. But he declined.

School Committeewoman Donna Coppola voiced concern about where new students would be placed.

“We have kids coming in that will not have seats,” she said.

Edward Calnan said the committee did their job and despite the vote against the schools, the members should be proud of the work they did.

“We were told we needed to provide space for 1,600 students and that’s what we did,” he said. “We did an exhaustive search for sites in the city and came up with the best ones that were the least expensive to make the project viable.”

Off and running in Lynn

Kennedy said it’s clear the voters have no appetite for more taxes and she will honor their wishes.

“The people spoke loud and clear,” she said. “The problem was the price tag and I’m just ready to drop the whole thing. They say insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. That’s what we would be doing if we did anything but drop it.”

With that, the 16-member group voted unanimously to tell the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the  quasi-independent government authority created to help pay for the construction of public schools, that Lynn won’t be seeking funds.

At the close of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham choked back tears as she expressed her disappointment in the failure of the vote for the new schools.

“Our new Thurgood Marshall Middle School is a model for the entire state and I was hoping that just viewing that could carry an equalized opportunity for all our students,” she said. “But it was not to be.” 

In an interview following the meeting, Castle defended his position not to speak to the committee.

“It was a bag job,” he said. “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”


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

Mayor: All departments should be level funded

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Chief financial officer Peter Caron appeared before the City Council’s Budget Committee Tuesday night to explain how the city found itself $8 million in the hole.

“The fiscal year 2017 budget was about $4 million out of balance because expenditures exceeded projected revenues,” he said. “That budget did not reflect pay raises. So we started the fiscal year 2018 budget with a structural deficit in that expenditures exceeded revenues.”

The bottom line, he said, was that to fully fund all city positions with raises would be a 7 to 8.5 percent increase in payroll line items.

“We are not in a position to do that,” Caron said. “So, the mayor has asked all departments be level funded. We are encouraging managers to be creative and we’re looking for suggestions. Once we get those budgets, we’ll see how the department heads will address their shortfalls.”

Hallmark Health: We’ll ‘work with’ Malden

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi wanted to know why Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy failed to anticipate the pay hikes and figure out how to pay for them.

Earlier this year, firefighters won a new four-year contract with a 9.5 percent raise, costing $2.5 million. Last summer, the police received $2.2 million over four years.

“These raises were anticipated,” Lozzi said. “When you settle a contract, it calls for pay raises in a certain time frame with retroactive pay.”

Lozzi asked what assurances the city has if department heads overspend and ask for supplemental cash later.

Caron said, “There is no additional money for supplement budgets.”


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

Off and running in Lynn

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
State Sen. Thomas McGee, with his wife Maria, signs his nomination papers as election coordinator Mary Jules watches.

State Sen. Thomas M. McGee’s decision to take out nomination papers Monday and declare his candidacy for mayor kicks off the 2017 municipal election season in Lynn.

It would be easy to call the matchup between Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and McGee a Lynn mayors race for the ages. But doing so might prompt Kennedy to point out how she essentially ran a write-in campaign in 2009 to defeat two-term mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr.

She beat Clancy only after a recount, but Kennedy received electoral vindication in 2013 by soundly trouncing former City Council President Timothy Phelan, a popular councilor who made the Council Chamber a stage for his agenda during the 2013 campaign season.

The late Patrick J. McManus also did his share to make Lynn political history. In his first run for mayor, McManus took on not only Mayor Albert V. DiVirgilio, but another popular local political figure, John L. O’Brien Jr.  McManus won the election and the only political hiccup he faced during his 10 years as mayor came when he finished second in the 1993 preliminary election behind former Councilor Joseph Scanlon III. McManus went on to beat Scanlon in the final.

McGee hasn’t run a tough, knock-down campaign since 2002 when he won election to succeed Clancy in the Senate. But the 61-year-old Pine Hill resident combines a quiet deliberative manner with an outspoken passion for the the city of Lynn. McGee will surround himself in the coming weeks with smart, experienced campaigners.

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

Like Kennedy, he supported the failed proposal to build two new local middle schools. But McGee and Kennedy kept fairly quiet in the weeks leading up to the March 21 special election that saw the school proposal and a proposed property tax debt exclusion get squashed by the voters.

Both candidates will examine the school vote with a practiced eye and calculate its political ramifications. The strong “no” vote sent a message about city finances and voter anger over a city demand for additional taxes to build new schools.

It also prompted a negative reaction to the city’s newest arrivals. More than one “no” voter took to social media to oppose building new schools and provide educational opportunities for immigrants. Kennedy and McGee are both above this sort of rhetoric, but that does not mean they will not be asked to address it during the mayoral campaign.

McGee in his first comments as candidate for mayor took the smart approach in analyzing the school vote. Now is the time, he said, for the city to “step back and take a deep breath” and then begin a dialogue over “what new schools mean to the community.”

Kennedy, meanwhile, is wrestling with the realities of what it means to be mayor by asking city department heads to make across-the-board cuts.

City finances, schools and a host of other issues, including development, will be on the agenda when McGee and Kennedy face off in campaign debates. Long before the first debate is scheduled, people who like both candidates and have relationships with them will have to pick someone to support or declare themselves neutral. Let the campaign begin.

Weighing in on possible Kennedy v. McGee race

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
Basil Manias speaks about the mayoral race; “McGee will win,” he predict.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNNFor now, most of the city’s elected officials are not ready to take sides on what is expected to be one of the most contentious mayor’s races in recent memory.

On Monday, state Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) announced plans to seek the corner office in November.

Political observers say the race would pit popular Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who has often been underestimated, against McGee, whose family name is legendary.

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the senator has strong leadership skills and the ability to bring people together. “Right now that’s paramount,” he said. “He is very well-respected and will be a formidable candidate for mayor.”

Still, LaPierre stopped short of an endorsement.

“I have to focus on what I think is an extreme issue with the city budget and that’s where a lot of my energy will go right now,” he said. “I’m not entering into the McGee/Kennedy race.”

Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton said his choice is simple.

“I’m choosing Buzzy Barton for councilor-at-large,” he said. “I have to worry about my own election.”

State Rep. and City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, who works closely with McGee on Beacon Hill, said the race will be one to watch. But he didn’t choose sides.

“It appears this year’s municipal election will be more active than any recent race,” he said.

Councilor-at-Large Hong Net said he has not made up his mind.

“I don’t know yet to be honest,” he said. “I have to think about it and hear where the candidates stand on the issues.”

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano said it’s too early to choose.

“What’s the rush?” he asked. “Let it settle in with everyone for a bit.”

But state Rep. Brendan Crighton (D- Lynn), who served on McGee’s staff for nearly a decade, said he’s backing his former boss.

“We really need new leadership in the city of Lynn,” he said. “I believe that Tom’s leadership abilities, his vision for the city and his proven track record make him a great candidate for mayor. We have lots of issues that need a strong, hard-working chief executive who can follow through.”

At local restaurants and coffee shops, the talk was all about the race.

James Welsh, a Stop & Shop retiree who was sipping a beer at the Lazy Dog Sports Bar, said while McGee’s name is well-known, Kennedy is popular and has a stronger base of support.

“She seems very well-established and can hold her own,” he said. “I put my money on Kennedy.”

At the Dunkin’ Donuts on Boston Street, Basil Manias, Richard Wall and Theodore Paragios, three old friends, were drinking coffee and talking politics.

“The mayor is doing a fine job, but Tom has a good chance because his father was House Speaker years ago, everyone knows that name,” said Manias. “She’s popular, but with his family name, McGee will win.”   

Wall said while Kennedy is doing a great job, the McGee name goes a long way. But he wasn’t so sure the Democrat would win.

“It would be a close race,” he said.

Paragios, the former owner of Brothers Auto Repair, praised McGee and Kennedy and said they were both once customers of his shop.

“They are both good and I like them both,” he said. “I can’t decide.”


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

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
Election coordinator Mary Jules greets state Sen. Thomas McGee and his wife, Maria, prior to McGee pulling his nomination papers.

By THOMAS GRILLO and THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — The city’s worst kept secret that state Sen. Thomas McGee would seek the corner office became official Monday, when the Lynn Democrat pulled his nomination papers from the City Clerk’s office.

“I am excited to … start a discussion on where we can go and build a vision,” McGee said. “I think I can make a difference for the city.”

McGee is expected to face Republican Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy next fall in what would be a no-holds-barred race to lead the city for the next four years.

McGee, 61, was elected to represent West Lynn and Nahant in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1994. After serving four terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2002 in a district that includes Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott.  

He said his years in the Legislature has made him a unifier who can help bring this city together. In addition to “building consensus,” he said his legislative service has been marked by honing budget crafting skills and pursuing initiatives. He said economic growth and neighborhoods will be the focus of the campaign.

McGee called last week’s school referendum that sought taxpayer support for a pair of new middle schools “polarizing.” He said it’s time to take a deep breath and start a new conversation about the need for new schools.

“It means engaging people,” he said. “We need to talk about what new schools mean to the community.”

Benny Coviello: ‘The mayor of Stop & Shop’

McGee supported the ballot question that sought approval for a 652-student school to be built on Parkland Avenue and a  second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The $188.5 million project cost would have been offset by a minimum contribution of $97.1 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. But voters rejected the measure by a wide margin.

He is the son of legendary state Rep. Thomas W. McGee who served in the Massachusetts House for nearly three decades and as speaker for 10 of those years.

Kennedy became the city’s first female mayor in 2009, when as city councilor-at-large, she unseated incumbent Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by a few dozen votes. She won re-election 2013 when she soundly defeated Timothy Phelan.

The mayor declined to be interviewed.

In a statement she said “I’m looking forward to running on my record. I’m sure the campaign will offer voters a choice between two very different types of elected officials. May the best woman win.”


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

Photo by Mark Lorenz

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-Lynn) 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.

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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.

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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.”

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