Peter Capano

Council Marshalls plan for school

ITEM FILE PHOTO
The old Marshall Middle School.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The former Marshall Middle School could become a 100-unit senior housing building.

The city’s Request for Proposals Committee discussed proposing a zoning change for the neighborhood that encompasses the former middle school on Porter Street.

Clint Muche, Lynn’s deputy building commissioner, recommended changing the property to R3 zoning, which would allow for single- and double- family homes, row houses, and apartment houses. Special permits can be issued to allow assisted living facilities, mixed use, and hotels.

City Council President Darren Cyr said he would only make a recommendation after holding multiple informational meetings with residents who live in the neighborhood over the next few weeks.

“We first need to have those neighborhood meetings to make everybody aware of what we want to do with the site and explain the potential positive impact of the site,” Cyr said. “If the neighborhood is not on board, there’s no sense in going forward with the zoning. But they can look at an empty, dilapidated lot and building or we can try to rejuvenate it.”

Cyr said he envisions a minimum age requirement for the housing to be either 55 or 62 years.

The building has the potential for about 100 one-bedroom units. There are 150 existing parking spaces with room for additional parking and green space, he said.

King’s Beach Towers, a senior housing development on Eastern Avenue, has a waiting list of more than 300 people, said Cyr. About six years ago, the area was zoned R3 and an additional age-restricted housing complex was constructed across the street, which now has its own waiting list, said Cyr.

“We are trying to get the most from that property with the least amount of impact,” Cyr said.

The city’s Ordinance and Rules Committee discussed a plan on Tuesday night that would charge property owners an annual trash disposal fee that could raise as much as $2 million annually.

Under the proposal, the fee would apply to any unit that is not owner-occupied. For example, owners of a single-family home who live in the dwelling would be exempt. But landlords of two-, three-, four-, five- and six-family homes who live in the house would be charged for those units they do not live in. Out-of-town landlords would pay the most.
Owners of apartment buildings with more than six units are responsible for their own trash removal, so those commercial property owners would not be affected.

Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said the plan would not close the budget gap entirely but that it would bring in more revenue than other solutions.

“All the things out there in discussion will not substitute this — not even close,” said Caron. “I can say with confidence that if this doesn’t pass, there will have to be budget reductions.”

Councilors Buzzy Barton and Peter Capano argued that it was difficult to vote for something without knowing exactly how much money it will generate.

The City Council will hold a public hearing on the proposal to implement a trash fee in July.


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

Can we have nice things?

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
One Dollar Zone has opened on the Lynnway.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Another dollar store has opened on the Lynnway as the city solidifies its place for discount retailers.

“Those kind of stores expand to locations that cost nothing to open, where they don’t pay their workers much and the demographics fit,” said Michael Tesler, a marketing lecturer at Bentley University.  “Lynn has lots of newer immigrants without much money who prefer dollar stores to Target and Walmart.”

Lynn already has its share of discount retailers. There are three Family Dollar shops, two Dollar Tree stores, and One Dollar Zone has opened its second store at the former Sleepy’s on the Lynnway. That doesn’t include a number of other independent cut-rate shops such as J & M Dollar Store.

Where else can you get glassware, candy, cleaning supplies, snacks, toys, party supplies, stationery, crafts, books, automotive products, pet supplies and seasonal goods for just $1 each?

Tesler said the immediate prospects of attracting upscale shops to Lynn seems remote.  MarketStreet, the premium open-air shopping destination in Lynnfield which boasts more than 80 shops and restaurants, offers the kind of retail some would like to see in Lynn, including Victoria’s Secret, Williams-Sonoma and Lucky Brand Jeans.

“Lynn lost its way, it has an image problem and the downtown deteriorated,” Tesler said.  “When I was a kid, my mother’s favorite shopping trip was to Hoffman’s in the downtown, and there used to be a place called Roland’s for ice cream and that was a magnet. But those kinds of retail attractions are missing today.”

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Still, it’s not an impossible dream to transform Lynn’s waterfront. Consider Assembly Square, renamed Assembly Row, in Somerville.

“Assembly Square should be an inspiration for Lynn,” Tesler said. “At one time, the area was infested with rats and lacked  access to the Mystic River. Today, it’s a new neighborhood with waterfront apartments, outlet shopping, a new stop on the MBTA’s Orange Line and office space for Partners HealthCare.

“Lynn needs a real strong community effort like in Somerville,” he said.

Mark Browne, a Boston commercial real estate broker, said the city’s perception is that of dollar stores, check cashing shops, and feeding the kids with fast food for $5.

“It’s very challenging to change people’s view of a city,” he said.

Still, he said Lynn is not the only community with an underdeveloped waterfront.

“Look at Providence’s waterfront,” he said. “It’s lined with oil tanks and refineries.”  

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the Lynnway, said the proliferation of dollar stores does not fit his idea of what the neighborhood could be.

“This is absolutely not the kind of development we want to see there,” he said.

While he prefers more upscale shops, Capano said those businesses do not want to be in Lynn. But he’s not sure how to fix it.

“I’d rather see a Guitar Center,” said Capano about the California-based retailer that calls itself the world’s largest musical instrument chain. “But they haven’t chosen to come here.”

As Trahant steps down, others step up

It’s clear, he said, Lynn residents wants these stores and that’s why they’re growing.

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

More than a decade ago, the city collaborated with Sasaki Associates to create a master plan to guide development on the Lynnway. The Watertown-based planner determined the Lynnway waterfront could accommodate 4 million square feet of apartments and condominiums, 2 million square feet of retail, office, hotel and light manufacturing, 5,000 permanent jobs and generate $18 million in real estate tax revenues.

But so far, it’s still a dream. While three projects totaling $649 million are in the works that would bring waterfront apartments to the Lynnway, a shovel has yet to go into the ground.

And despite creation of the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development Team (LEAD) in late 2015, the high-powered working group intended to jumpstart development by aligning federal, state and local stakeholders, there’s little to show for its efforts.

Capano said he’s frustrated. But the city can’t do much if developers don’t come to the city with a proposal or if a landlord leases space to a dollar store.

“What do I say to the guy who has had empty building on the Lynnway for two years?” he asked. “For example, we don’t allow auto repair shops on the Lynnway, but we can’t stop one retailer and allow another. They would go to court and win.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development and Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn), reiterated there’s not much the city can do to prevent such stores from opening.

“If we could write legislation to restrict those stores, I would be the first to do it,” he said. “They cheapen what we’re trying to do. But they are allowed as of right.”

Jen Cookke, a professor at the MIT Center for Real Estate, disagrees that the city is powerless.  She said communities have a number of tools at their disposal to guide development.

“The city holds a lot of the cards, but it takes courage for city leaders to uphold the master plan,” she said.  “Officials have the ability to create incentives such as tax breaks if the owner brings a mixed-use development. You just need one outlier and others will follow. For a community that is innovative and has vision, the sky’s the limit.”


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

 

Community gathers to remember the fallen

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Kenneth J. Marrin, post commander 507 Lynn VFW 1993-1994 walks the parade.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — A little rain isn’t going to keep the city of Lynn from honoring the fallen.

Those were the words of Michael Sweeney, director of Lynn veterans services, at the second of two Memorial Day services in the city on Monday. He spoke at a rain-soaked outdoor ceremony in the Pine Grove Cemetery Sunken Garden, following a parade that started at Market Street and ended at the cemetery on Boston Street.

Sweeney stood at a podium in front of a field of 605 flags, representing the fallen from Lynn.

“There’s a flag for every person we’ve lost since World War I,” Sweeney said. “There’s 605 flags, each representing a person, a family, and a story, and that is what Memorial Day is about. It is not about parties. It certainly isn’t about sales at the store … The boots you see in front of us remind us that we’re still a country at war.”

Five pairs of the boots in front he pointed out represented Lynn’s five fallen service members lost since 9/11 — SPC Antonio Syrakos, LCpl Walter O’Haire, PO2 Andrew Clement, SPC Gabriel Palacios, and SPC Justin DeArco.

“In a day like today, we remember the fallen, but we also need to remember that we’re a country at war, whether people want to believe it or not,” Sweeney said.  

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she was curious as to the number of flags that were set up, which she thought must have been done deliberately.

“Knowing Mike Sweeney as I do, I was quite sure he would give us an explanation, and the explanation is that 605 Lynners went off to serve their country and 605 Lynners never had a chance to come back and enjoy civilian life again, and 605 families were left to grieve,” Kennedy said.

“So, Mike, thank you for honoring them. Thank you for all you do for our veterans and to everybody who’s here today, I appreciate that you know and will recognize the true meaning of Memorial Day.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) said putting together the flags and boots to represent what has been lost in the city was really powerful. He said that veterans and those that have served reflect that “uncommon valor was a common virtue.

“That’s what it’s all about — putting your lives on the line to make sure that your friends and family continue to live in the greatest country in the world, and I want to thank you for your service, thank all of the veterans here for their service, and make sure everybody here understands that, that we never forgot the sacrifice and struggle and commitment that people that have served this country have done,” McGee said. “And Memorial Day is the day to remember it.”

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Earlier in the day, the Polish Legion of American Veterans (P.L.A.V.), Post 56 & Auxiliary also hosted a Memorial Day ceremony, where names of the fallen from West Lynn who served in World War II and the Korean War were read. The remembrance was pushed inside from Breed Square, where the names appear on the monument, to the basement of St. Michael’s Hall.

“Everyone in this room knows war has a cost,” Sweeney said. “It hasn’t changed. In the last 100 years, the city of Lynn has given more than its share of blood and its young men and women. When we see that cost, it’s up to us to redouble our efforts to make sure that days like today are not forgotten, that we remember the fallen, that we remember their names, we say their names.”

Also honored at the ceremony was James DePhilippo, the event’s MC and former president of P.L.A.V. Post 56. Sweeney said for 30 years, DePhilippo has been a fixture of every event honoring veterans in Lynn.

Peter Capano, city councilor and chairman of the veterans committee, said the ceremony was about honoring those in Lynn “who have given their lives for our country so that all of us can enjoy the freedoms we have here today.

“I want to emphasize, as I do every year that it is because of the veterans that we enjoy so many of the freedoms in this country that others around the world just do not have — the right to vote, the freedom of assembly, religious freedom — all freedoms that are protected by the men and women of the armed forces, and today we honor those who have given the ultimate sacrifice in protecting those freedoms,” Capano said.

State Rep. Daniel Cahill (D-Lynn) asked those present to join him in a challenge.

“Every time a name is spoken today, or you drive by a memorial and you see a name on it, think of what that person would think about this country and this community, and what you are doing to make it better, and whether or not their sacrifice was truly worth it,” Cahill said.

“And if you feel, if there’s any inkling that you think, well, you know what, I can do more, then we have to do more because those folks did the ultimate. So, that’s something to think about and carry with you all year.”

A prepared statement from U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass) was also read, who said he couldn’t attend because he is in Southeast Asia traveling with members of the House Armed Services Committee to study the nuclear threat from North Korea and the rise of China.

Moulton said he served in Iraq with some of the best Americans he would ever meet, those who put their lives on the line for a better Iraq and a safer America. As he travels through Southeast Asia, specifically Vietnam and Korea, he said he “can’t help but reflect on the brave men and women who sacrificed everything here on behalf of our freedom.”

He also acknowledged the men and women the country has lost in current conflicts — more than 6,700 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, including more than 130 from Massachusetts.

“The veterans and heroes that we remember today put serving their country — their countrymen, and our future — before themselves,” Moulton said in a statement. “They gave that last full measure of devotion so that we could have the rights and freedoms that we enjoy today.”


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

 

Warren campaigns on transportation promise

ITEM PHOTO BY JIM WILSON
City Councilor Peter Capano listens as Newton Mayor Setti Warren hold a news conference at the ferry terminal. 

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — With the harbor as a backdrop Friday, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Setti Warren promised to revitalize the city by reinstating ferry service and extending the Blue Line.

“There’s no reason why we can’t put ferry service back to Lynn,” he said. “It ran for two summers until it was cut. We need to restore it so people can get in and out of the city and expand transportation.”

The 46-year-old Newton mayor is one of three Democrats seeking the nomination for next year’s primary. Environmentalist Robert K. Massie and former Gov. Deval Patrick administration budget chief Jay Gonzalez are also in the race to unseat Gov. Charlie Baker, recently named the country’s most popular governor in a nationwide poll.

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 the Baker administration, which argued it didn’t generate enough riders to justify the $700,000 in state funds annually to operate it.

On the long awaited 4.5 mile Blue Line extension from Wonderland Station in Revere into Lynn, Warren said it’s a project that’s time has come.

“The Blue Line extension has been under discussion for more than four decades and we’ve got to make sure it happens,” he said. “When the transit line is extended, that will expand Lynn’s economy. A few miles away in Boston, there are cranes on the city’s skyline and we need to make sure that spreads to Lynn.”

Warren rides the Blue Line into Lynn

While Warren did not put a price tag on the projects which studies say could exceed $1 billion, the mayor said the cost to not do them is far greater.  

“I don’t know how much they will cost, but what’s the cost if we don’t do it?” he said. “The cost of not doing it is the loss of access to high-paying jobs, not getting cars off the highway and more congestion because that’s what’s happening right now.”

To pay for these and other transportation projects, Warren is not shy about calling for new taxes and closing loopholes in the state’s tax code.

Warren said if elected governor, he will examine $12 billion in state tax credits that are lost to the treasury. In addition, he favors the so-called millionaire’s tax.  If approved by voters next year, the proposal would amend the state constitution by imposing a 4 percent surtax on incomes over $1 million. It would raise nearly $2 billion annually and the money would be designated for schools and transportation.

Warren spoke at a sparsely attended news conference in the ferry parking lot terminal on the Blossom Street Extension. City Councilors Peter Capano and Jay Walsh happened to be at the site, scouting locations for summer concerts.

“This is a big part of fixing Lynn and getting things up and connecting people to our waterfront,” said Walsh.


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

A taxing decision for Lynn council

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Five surrounding communities have raised nearly $20 million since 2009 by adopting the local option meals tax and the City Council wants a share of it to keep layoffs at bay.

Some restaurant owners say they favor the tax because it will fund services at a time when the city is cash-strapped, while others are not so sure and some won’t say.

In a lopsided 10-1 vote last week, the panel opted to impose a .0075 percent tax on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax on meals. The new levy would add 75 cents to a $100 dinner bill, about 19 cents to a $25 meal and raise $700,000 annually for the city.

In 2009, the Legislature authorized communities to add the new fee on meals. While the sales tax goes to the general fund, the local option is given to the community to spend as it wishes. About half of the state’s cities and towns have adopted the change and have raised nearly $652 million.

Like other Massachusetts cities, Lynn has struggled to pay for schools and public safety. The Council said the time has come for the small increase that could do so much good.

“We are hurting financially, this will bring in some good revenue and the measure is long overdue,” said City Councilor-at-Large Buzzy Barton. “If I have breakfast at Brothers’ Deli, my $10 meal will only cost me another 8 cents.”

Robert Stilian, owner of the Old Tyme Italian Cuisine, said while no one is wild about a new tax, the amount is so small that it shouldn’t discourage anyone from eating out.

“At first I was quite upset, but I don’t think most people will even notice and I doubt it will have much of an impact on people’s decision to dine out,” he said.

Stilian noted that many other communities have adopted the tax.

“If it’s something that will benefit the city I understand why they’ve proposed it,” he said.  “For restaurant owners, unfortunately we have to pass on the cost to customers.”

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Taso Nikolakopoulos, owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood and a candidate for an at-large seat on the City Council, said he’s for it.

“Given the city’s financial crisis, I favor it,” he said.

George Markos, owner of Brothers’ Deli, said if the city adopts the new tax, he hopes they will use the money for public safety and schools.

“I will contribute to anything that is good for the city,” he said.  “But I would rather see the money spent on police, fire and schools because nothing is more important than safety and education.”

Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said the added revenue will reduce the chances of layoffs among city employees amid a budget crunch. He said Lynn is the only city in Essex County that has not opted to impose the additional tax.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said he favors the hike, and the sooner the better, as a way to restore cuts to the police and fire departments.

“We heard testimony from public safety officials at the last meeting of the necessity to fund police and fire,” he said. “I favor this.”

Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill said Lynn residents are already paying the tax when they eat out of town.

“Every other surrounding community has levied this tax upon us and we are just catching up,” he said. “We are under significant time constraints to implement this program to stave off layoffs in our police and fire departments.”

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But Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is expected to veto the plan, setting the stage for an override.

“I can’t in good conscience agree to impose a new tax on Lynn residents less than two months after voters resoundingly rejected a proposed tax increase for two new schools,” she said.  “I heard them loud and clear. To approve it is being tone deaf and not listening to what the voters clearly told us.”

Kennedy is not moved by the fact that the amount of the increase is so small.

“A tax is a tax,” she said. “We have to show the people of Lynn we are trying to live within our means as much as possible,”

Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi agreed and was the sole vote against the new tax.

“I am not inclined to support any tax,” he said. “In this instance, I was willing to support it if they designated the money towards public safety. But the city said they can’t do that and I can’t support it.

James Roumeliotis, owner of Superior Roast Beef, agrees. He  said while the city may be hurting for cash, he’s not sure diners should be asked to pay more.

“I’d rather not have it, people are already being taxed enough,” he said.

Not everyone was willing to discuss the possible change. Thomas Dill, owner of the Lazy Dog Sports Bar, did not return a call seeking comment. Chris Rossetti of the Rossetti Restaurant declined comment and chef Matt O’Neil of the Blue Ox did not respond to multiple requests for comment.


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

 

In Lynn, the emphasis is on the waterfront

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This shot of the master plan was on display during the first of four public hearings.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Picture this along the city’s waterfront: A drive-in movie theater, soccer fields, playgrounds, a bike path, kayak and roller skate rentals, and locally owned boutique shops.

These were among the suggestions that came from more than 100 residents who filled the City Council chamber Tuesday night to make their voices heard in the first of four public meetings designed to complete a waterfront Open Space Master Plan.

Hosted by the Lynn Economic Development & Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, and Brown, Richardson + Rowe, the Boston landscape architect firm, it was an opportunity for the team to hear ideas for locating potential new parks, public spaces and a promenade along the waterfront.

Kathy Wrynn encouraged a pedestrian overpass to link the non-waterside of the Lynnway to the waterfront.   

“Connection to the waterfront is key,” she said.

Rolf Flor said art must be an essential part of whatever is done along the water.

“We don’t just need green space,” he said. “Just look at the artwork that was done in the downtown. It’s lasted a long time and it’s become part of the city’s fabric.”

Joan LeBlanc, executive director of the Saugus River Watershed Council, said Lynn has an opportunity to become a blueprint for public access to water for the rest of Massachusetts.

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Isaac Simon Hodes, who said he was a member of Lynn United for Change but was representing himself as a longtime resident, cautioned against too much luxury housing on the water.

“If all the housing is for wealthy out-of-towners, the open space will be perceived as privatized,” he said.

Jonathan Feinberg, also of the New Lynn Coalition, said the waterfront needs to be a place for families and should include picnic tables, green space, and venues for social events.

Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said while his district is farthest from the ocean, he still remembers a time as a boy when he saw drive-in movies on the Lynnway.  He said he was thrilled to hear the suggestions of what can be done to activate the waterfront.

“It’s awesome where we’re headed and we still have a long way to go,” he said.

Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano, whose district includes the Lynnway, said while these ideas are years away, he had a suggestion to get something started this summer. He said the vacant Lynn ferry parcel and its parking lot be could be used now and until the ferry returns.

“We don’t have to wait,” he said. “We can do a drive-in movie theater right there, right now on city-owned land.”

State Sen. Thomas McGee, (D-Lynn) and candidate for mayor, said while he was encouraged by the crowd, everyone should reach out and invite others to the next meeting

“The more input the better,” he said. “Let’s make sure we reach out to other community groups and have a larger crowd next time.”


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

 

Rev. to shooter: You came to the wrong place

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
The Rev. Annie Belmer of Zion Baptist Church holds a photo of shooting victim Leonardo Clement. She is joined by Drew Russo, executive director of Lynn Musuem/LynnArts, middle, and Pastor David Urbina of East Coast International Church.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — A day after a double shooting in Central Square claimed one man’s life and left another man recovering in the hospital, residents gathered for a community vigil.

“This is our city and we stand here tonight to stand with those who have been impacted by violence and we stand here tonight to gather to say we’re against any violence as we move forward,” said Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn). “This is a great city. We love this city and we’re not going to stand by when these random acts of violence occur in our community. It does not reflect who we are. It doesn’t reflect on what this city is about. It doesn’t reflect on the great things that are happening in the city and it doesn’t reflect on the great people that live in the city of Lynn.”

Police are investigating after two men were shot in front of the LynnArts building at 25 Exchange St. on Sunday around 3 p.m.

The community vigil was organized by Lynn Museum/LynnArts, headed by executive director Drew Russo. Residents gathered in front of the LynnArts building on Monday night to light a candle for the victims, and stand against the senseless acts of violence in the community.

Police are seeking a male shooter who left the scene. Police have not identified a suspect and no arrests have been made, authorities said.

The Essex County District Attorney’s office identified the man killed as Leonardo Clement, 46, of Lynn. Clement was taken to Union Hospital where he was pronounced dead. Another victim, a 41-year-old man was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital and is expected to survive.

Both men attended Zion Baptist Church and East Coast International Church, according to the respective pastors, Rev. Annie Belmer and Rev. David Urbina. The pastors identified the second victim as Prince Belin.

Belmer said that her last memory of the men is on Easter, when they were both dressed up and happy, at the service at Zion Baptist Church. She said Clement was legally blind and was very involved in the community. She said he was a nice, meek and humble person.

Urbina said the men attended East Coast International Church as well. They came to the church’s service on Sunday, right before going to Zion, he added.

“I remember Lenny had a very gentle spirit,” Urbina said. “He was very docile, very kind.”

Urbina said he visited Belin at the hospital on Monday, and that he was recovering well. “He’s just a very lively, very happy person,” he said.

Urbina said his heart was broken because he knew the two men who were assaulted, and struggled to find the right words to describe how he felt after he heard the news come in. His spirit was disturbed and he couldn’t believe it, he said.

“But there was also, the words of the people describing these events and these reports and the rumors, this overall sense of hopelessness, this overall sense of, well, this is just what happens in our city, and that began to disturb me even more,” Urbina said.

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Russo said he felt it was important “after violence visited our doorstep to pull people from the community together in consolation for the lives that were lost.” He said it was an opportunity to stand strong against the violence, console each other, and “move forward in the work that we’re all trying so hard to do to improve and make better the quality of life in this community, and the small part that we play in this downtown neighborhood in doing that through arts and culture.”

City Councilor Peter Capano said, “these senseless tragedies do not reflect on the work that’s being done down here,” and “this is our city. We’re going to take this city back.”

“One of the things, regardless of what goes on around us, what goes on in our city, what we do not expect, what we do not look for is violence, community violence to take place in our cultural district,” Belmer said. “This is a sanctuary in our city, so one thing that we will not tolerate here in the city of Lynn, and especially in the district where our young people come so that they can learn how to sing, they can learn how to dance, they learn art, they learn music.

“We will not have that cut off because parents are afraid to bring their children here. So, one thing that we will not have, we will not tolerate, is community violence. We will not tolerate that. What we want in our city is peace and we are going to do something about it. So, you really stepped in the wrong community. You came to the wrong place, because right now something is going to be done about it. It will not go unresolved. So, we want any and everybody that’s here to take that message back, that it will not take place in our city any longer.”


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

 

Opposition mounts to Munroe school site

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
KIPP Massachusetts has agreed to purchase this lot on Munroe Street for a 450-student high school.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Opposition to a new school in the downtown is mounting.

City Councilors Dianna Chakoutis and Peter Capano met with officials from KIPP Massachusetts, which operates the Academy Lynn Public Charter School, Thursday and let them know Munroe Street is the wrong place for their proposed $20 million high school.

“It’s not the right spot for a school,” said Capano. “It makes more sense to put something there that’s integrated into the downtown, such as a commercial or residential use.”

KIPP has signed an agreement to purchase a former parking lot on Munroe Street that has been used as a community garden. The grades 9 through 12 school would house 450 students.

The parcel is assessed at $211,000 and owned by Munroe Partners LLC, operated by Gordon Hall, president of The Hall Co.

Capano said Munroe Street gets congested at times and a school would exacerbate traffic problems.

“I know space is at a premium in Lynn, but they need to find an alternative,” he said.  “I will work with them.”

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Chakoutis said she organized the meeting with KIPP after receiving a handful of phone calls from constituents who wanted to know why workers were doing soil testing on the site.

“I just don’t think a school fits in the city’s arts and cultural district,” she said. “We will sit down with them again and hopefully there are some options they will consider.”

Clint Muche, the city’s deputy building commissioner who also attended the session, said the informal meeting was called to discuss plans for the 29,000-square-foot lot.  KIPP could build the school as a matter of right, he said.

“They wanted to explain how they would locate a school there that would not completely disrupt traffic,” he said.

Before anything moves forward, KIPP would be required to submit a formal plan to the Site Plan Review Committee.

While they did not present written plans, KIPP has commissioned a traffic study and discussed a scheme that would have students dropped off at the nearby MBTA garage where faculty would park.

“I wouldn’t prejudge anything,” Muche said.  “When they have plan, we will take a look.”

Caleb Dolan, the school’s executive director, could not be reached for comment.


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

 

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.

A lot of potential on Western Avenue

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

By THOMAS GRILLO

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Lynn board can’t zone in on housing conclusion

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A pair of controversial proposals that would have essentially prohibited multifamily construction in much of the city were tabled by the Planning Board Tuesday night.

Following a public hearing where a landlord, a commercial real estate broker and residents sparred over the merits of a major zoning change to limit new home construction to one- or two-family dwellings, the panel declined to take a position and referred the matter to the city council.

If approved, the proposals by City Councilors Peter Capano and Jay Walsh would require developers to seek council approval to build multifamily units in portions of Ward 5 and all of Ward 6 and 7. A second, stricter proposal would require Zoning Board of Appeals approval for multifamily construction in the city.

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John and Marilyn Marsello, residents of Fairmount Avenue, said a Saugus-based developer has approvals for two apartment buildings on their street that would contain 100 units. The new apartments would add more cars to an already congested area of the city with narrow streets.

“We never had any say on the construction of these units,” said John Marsello. “It’s not a bad thing for developers to come before the city and the neighborhood for approval before they tear down homes and build apartment buildings.”

Marilyn Marsello said these new properties will change the lives of families in what had been a neighborhood of single-family homes.

“It’s horrible,” she said.

But Christopher Bibby, president of Bibby Real Estate Corp., opposed the measure, noting it would hurt real estate values and chill construction of apartments at a time when demand is up.

Gordon Hall, president of The Hall Co., and chairman of the Lynn Business Partnership who also serves as a director of The Daily Item, said while he sympathized with the Marsellos, such sweeping zoning should be rejected.

“This is not the way to address zoning,” he said. “It’s like taking a machete to it.”

Hall recommended the city hire a planning director and city officials, the business community, and the neighborhoods work together for a better solution.

Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief, said he opposed both measures, noting that it would not only end construction of multifamily dwellings but make it difficult for owners of two- and three-family homes to make improvements.

Resident and activist Elisabeth L. Daley said the city should  consider the need for more housing and a way to keep neighborhoods from being overrun with high-rise properties.

“We need to find a balance,” she said.

The city council also tabled the plan and Capano noted discussions are underway to amend the proposals.

In other news, the council took no action on a plan supported by the city’s unions to amend the residency requirement. Under the proposal, employees who live in the city for 10 years would then be free to live anywhere.

Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer, said the city’s bond rating has been downgraded to A-3 with a negative outlook from A-1 by Moody’s Investors Service as a result of the city’s financial woes.

“Since our reserves are being depleted, Moody’s doesn’t expect us to produce a balanced operating budget,” he said.


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

Councilors look down on Lynn zoning

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Construction of apartment buildings in West Lynn, such as 130-unit St. Stephen’s Tower apartments on Pleasant Street, would require city council approval under a proposed zoning change.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If two city councilors get their way, construction of  apartment buildings in West Lynn will be a lot more difficult.

“We are trying to maintain the integrity of our neighborhood,” said Jay Walsh, Ward 7 city councilor. “We want some say in what gets built in a district that consists of mostly one- and two-family homes.”

On Tuesday, Nov. 29, the Planning Board will hold a public hearing to consider a controversial zoning change that would limit new home construction to one- or two-family dwellings. If approved, developers would be required to seek approval from the City Council for anything larger.

But the proposal is expected to face opposition from developers who say the plan would halt multi-family home building in West Lynn at a time when demand is strong and the city’s revitalization is underway.

“This idea would be bad for Lynn,” said Michael Procopio, co-owner of Procopio Enterprises Inc. “The city is in the midst of a renaissance, and part of that is due to good development. Changing the zoning would put a stop to that. It seems to be a little reactionary and a not-in-my-back-yard kind of thing.”

The Saugus-based company recently opened Needhams Landing, a 42-unit luxury waterfront apartment complex near the General Electric Co. River Works. They have approvals for two apartment buildings on Fairmont Avenue that would contain 100 units.

Walsh said the zoning, which dates back to the 1920s, when homes were needed to house GE workers, must be updated.  

“Given the real estate explosion in Lynn, developers are gobbling up parcels everywhere and building apartment buildings that don’t fit the neighborhood,” he said. “We just want to have a say in any new construction and these new buildings should certainly not be built as of right without input from neighbors.”

Peter Capano, Ward 6 city councilor, said the impetus for the zoning change stems from several big apartment projects in the neighborhood that have exacerbated congestion in a section of the city that has narrow streets where cars park on both sides.

“They are building 20- 30- and 40-unit apartment buildings by right and with it comes lots of traffic,” he said. “All we are saying is have zoning that would require developers to seek council approval.”

Capano insists the new zoning would not prohibit apartment buildings. Instead, he said developers would be asked to hold public meetings with the neighbors about their plans and perhaps be asked to complete traffic and other impact studies.

For example, Capano said conversations are underway to turn the shuttered St. Michael’s Church on Summer Street into apartments.

“They’re talking about as many as 40 units at the church,” he said. “We are not trying to stop all these projects necessarily, but neighbors should be able to ask questions about impacts.” Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief, said though he doesn’t have a vote on changing the zoning rules, he has questions for the two councilors who are proposing the amendments.

“If we’re going to limit multi-family construction in Wards 6 and 7, why just those wards?” he asked. “What about the rest of the city?”

Gordon Hall, president of The Hall Co., a Lynn real estate firm, and chairman of the Lynn Business Partnership, an association whose mission is to improve Lynn’s economy and quality of life, said his group was unaware of the proposal.

“We don’t know anything about it, but would like to learn more,” he said.

Nicholas Meninno, owner of Meninno Construction, whose Lynn firm typically lays the groundwork for commercial projects, said the city is smart to examine the zoning in West Lynn.

“It needs some revision and it’s reasonable for the city’s policy makers to review an apartment proposal and not just allow it by a matter of right,” he said. “I just hope they don’t go from a very unrestricted apartment zoning to something that’s overly restrictive. That would be a mistake in the other direction.”


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

GE hires 200 as helicopters take off

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN GE Aviation is hiring.

Two months after a local union hammered out an agreement with management to replace retirees with new hires, the city’s largest private employer has advertised for help.

“GE hasn’t hired like this in a long time,” said City Councilor Peter Capano, who is also the IUE-CWA Local 201 union president. “They are doing a significant amount of hiring and making a commitment to Lynn. We just want to keep this ball rolling and make sure GE’s future in the city is secure.”

In a weekend advertisement in The Item, GE is seeking warehouse workers, machinists and manufacturing associates.

The deal struck last summer between management and the union guaranteed 52 new hires. In addition, when an employee retires, the contract says that person will be replaced with a new worker. As many as 200 hires are expected to be added through next spring. GE offers an early retirement program for people age 60 with 10 years experience.

Richard Gorham, a GE spokesman, said most of the hires will manufacture and support the engine lines at the plant that include the F414, T700, CF34 and the company’s largest turboshaft engine, the GE38, used by the U.S. Marine Corps’ so-called heavy-lift helicopter.

“We are hoping to generate lots of good candidates,” he said.

This represents the first wave of hourly employee hiring that GE has done in several years. The new workers will start at a wage at or above the market rate for comparable jobs. Machinists will start at $23.50 per hour, down from $32 per hour for previous hires. But the contract provides new employees wage hikes annually for 10 years, when they would reach the top of the position’s salary rate.

“It’s certainly positive that we’re in a position to hire a good number of new production and manufacturing employees,” Gorham said in an email.

Last summer, GE shared more good news when the U.S. Army awarded them a $102 million contract to design its GE3000 engine to retool nearly 3,000 Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. The federal investment is expected to support more than 100 engineers, primarily at GE in Lynn.


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

Lynn plots pot plan

By Thomas Grillo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kennedy could not be reached for comment.

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


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

Pine Hill stuck in the middle

Pickering Middle School (Item file photo)

By Adam Swift

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

LWSC commissioner wades where he’s not wanted

By Thomas Grillo

LYNN — The executive director of the city’s Water & Sewer Commission wants his governing board to stop micromanaging the agency.

At issue is a vote the five-member panel took last summer that required the department to replace chlorine gas that purifies the city’s drinking water with chemicals. The issue caught the attention of the city council two years ago who took a rare step of sending a letter to the commission noting safety hazard concerns around gas use at the waste water treatment facility.

David Ellis, one of the commissioners, introduced the idea without consulting the nine-member staff and managed to convince the other commissioners of the idea, according to Daniel O’Neill, executive director.  

“It’s insane,” he said. “Dave Ellis just created more work for us by changing our drinking water. He shouldn’t be making motions to change the chemical composition of the water.”

Ellis did not return a call seeking comment.

O’Neill insists no change was needed, that in 24 years the department never faced a safety violation. In addition, he said the state Department of Environmental Protection has praised its operation with awards in eight of the last 10 years.

Under the new program that is expected to be implemented next year at a cost of nearly $2 million, the gas will be replaced with  liquid sodium hypochlorite, the main ingredient in laundry bleach.
“The gas was safe and doing the job,” O’Neill said. “Now we’re worried about acids and PH balances under the new configuration. We have great water that we have been using more than 27 years. Now, we will have to add more acids and they aren’t the safest thing to handle either.”

Walter Proodian, a commissioner member, agreed.

While he did not recall his 2015 vote to switch from gas to chemicals in the drinking water, Proodian said decisions about such things should be up to the staff.

“We should leave everything up to the professionals that are running the plant, not Dave Ellis,” he said. “He doesn’t even know what he’s talking about. In my estimation, Mr. Ellis is not a professional and I will not go against staff recommendations.”

Wayne Lozzi, a former commissioner and Ward 1 city councilor, said he’s not surprised that Ellis is micromanaging the Water & Sewer Commission.

“It’s not David Ellis’ role as a commissioner to dictate what type of chemicals should be added to the city’s drinking water supply,” he said. “That’s meddling into staff affairs. When I was a commissioner, there were complaints that he was looking over the shoulder of employees and telling them he was their boss.”

The role of the commission, he said, is to have broad oversight, not day-to-day management of the operation. The commission’s role is to review staff reports and act on them, he added, not make policy.

“While they have broad power does not mean they should be setting policy on technical matters,” Lozzi said. “They can ask the engineers to examine the possibility of using chemicals and report back to us, not to bamboozle the other commissioners to do his bidding. I support Dan O’Neil as the executive director knowing what to do and how to do it. This is outrageous.”

Commissioners William Trahant and Richard Colucci were unavailable for comment.

Peter Capano, a commissioner and Ward 6 councilor, said it was news to him that O’Neill thought the commission was meddling.

“I have never been told we were micromanaging,” he said. “Over the last year we have been working well together especially with the staff.”

Ellis initially raised concerns about chlorine gas use in Water & Sewer facilities during an October 2013 commission meeting.

Chlorine gas used at the Commercial Street waste treatment plant poses “potential dangers,” including domestic terrorism, to plant workers and residents in surrounding neighborhoods, according to city councilors who wanted its use phased out.  

At the time, Council President Daniel Cahill and Capano said chlorine gas not only poses a danger to plant workers but also to “significant portions of Lynn and Nahant” in the event of an accident.


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

GE contract will create new jobs in Lynn

General Electrics logo.

By Gayla Cawley

LYNN — GE Aviation and its labor union struck an agreement on Tuesday that will lead to more hiring at the plant.

“It was a tough negotiation, but in the end we came to an agreement that protects the current members, benefits the community and ensures that GE will be here in the future,” said Peter Capano, city councilor and president of IUE-CWA Local 201.

Capano said the agreed upon market-base wage agreement will impact all new employees, but has no effect on current workers. Wages for new hires start off lower than what new employees were making with the previous contract, but higher than the local job market, he said. The contract is designed to give new hires wage hikes every year for 10 years, when they would reach the top of the position’s salary rate, he added.

The agreement, which kicked in on Thursday, also guarantees 52 new GE hires. Every time a person retires, the contract guarantees that person will be replaced with a new employee. A voluntary incentive program is also provided for people at age 60, Capano said. He said the union was looking for a new engine line, the GE38, which the contract supports.

The agreement assures the assembly and test of that engine will be done in Lynn when the program progresses to the full production mode, according to a GE Aviation spokesperson. Full production mode will begin in 2017, Capano said.

“We are pleased that IUE-CWA Local 201 membership voted to accept the market-based wage agreement,” said Will Danzinger, GE-Lynn area executive and general manager, in a statement. “This successful ratification is a significant step forward for our site and improves our ability to compete for work and to build a strong future for our plant. Perhaps most important is that this agreement proves that when we work together, we can redefine the opportunities and potential for GE Aviation in Lynn.”

The agreement positions GE for the future, in exchange for changes to their wage structure for future employees, according to U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton’s office.

“This agreement is further evidence that GE Lynn is positioning itself to to be both a job creator for our region and a leader within the field of engineering,” said Moulton in a statement. “I commend management and labor for coming together to find a solution that positions GE Lynn to be competitive nationwide, while at the same time growing jobs right here in Lynn. This kind of collaboration advances a long-term vision that centers on advanced opportunities for employees and economic development in our region.”


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

Shoe City Classic enters 24th year

COURTESY PHOTO
Simmie Anderson is the director of the Shoe City Classic basketball tournament in Lynn.

By STEVE KRAUSE

LYNN — The Shoe City Classic, a basketball tournament at Marian Gardens this weekend, promises to be an event that entire families can enjoy, says organizer Simmie Anderson of Lynn.

“I want everything around it to be almost bigger than the basketball,” Anderson said.

But if you like basketball, there will be plenty there to keep you interested. Now in its 24th year, the Shoe City Classic has expanded to 24 teams over three divisions: 22-and-under (college), 18-and-under (high school) and 14-and-under (middle).

Anderson said there are teams from New Hampshire, Brockton, New Bedford and Boston in addition to the ones that Lynn’s basketball players put together. Headlining the event is Antonio Anderson, who attended Lynn Tech and was on the University of Memphis team whose appearance in the 2008 national championship game was vacated over issues involving Derek Rose, who was a freshman on that squad.

Also scheduled to play are Tony Gallo (Tech), Dwight Brewington (English), Corey Bingham (Tech), Alvin Abreau (Classical), Jarell Byrd (Classical and English), Jasper Grassa (Classical) and Keandre Stanton (English).

Marian Gardens, which is on Anderson Way near Lynn Tech, will be outfitted by portable lights for the weekend.

Anderson has been involved with the tournament since 2005 and became its director in 2013.

“What makes me want to do this is the ‘Stop the Violence’ campaign in Lynn,” he said. “It’s something that brings all the neighborhoods together. We’ve been doing this for 24 years, without any incidents. We take pride in it, and I enjoy doing my part. And it keeps getting bigger and bigger.”

Anderson said who attend can expect to see “a lot of good, young talent that’s coming up. And, he said, family-type fun.

“We’re going to have bouncy houses for kids, things like that,” he said, “Just a fun, family atmosphere. If you have kids, just let them come and have a good time. Bring the lawn chairs and just enjoy yourselves.”

Anderson said that many basketball players who have moved to other parts of the state and country call and ask him when the tournament is so that they can come home and watch it.

Anderson singled out Ward 6 councilor Peter Capano and Lynn School Committeeman John Ford as two people who have worked with him to make the weekend happen.

“Without Pete, it would be impossible to do this,” said Anderson, “and the same for John Ford,” who, he said, helped secure the alternate site in case of rain, which is the Fecteau-Leary School on South Common Street.

The games begin Friday at 6 p.m. and will start at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, with the championship game slated for 8 p.m. Sunday.

Ex-councilor pushes Lynnway marijuana clinic

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The owner of the Lynnway Sportscenter hopes to roll a strike in an attempt to replace his bowling alley with the city’s first marijuana dispensary.

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

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

Crowley said he’s been approached by several companies seeking space in his building for a medical marijuana dispensary. After completing due diligence, he settled on New England Patient Network because, he said, they were the most qualified. If the city selects them, he said they will have an option to lease a portion of the building.

He declined to provide financial details of the lease.

The final determination of how much space the firm would need will come later, Crowley added.

“In theory, we could remove six lanes and there still would be eight or we could take out the whole 14 lanes,” he said. “It’s a longshot. I’m hopeful, but I don’t know how much of a chance we have.”      

Julius Sokol, New England Patient Network’s CEO, said he is in the final phase of approval in Lynn and has signed a host agreement with Deerfield. Sokol declined to reveal the details of the deal.

But Douglas Finn, interim Deerfield town administrator, said the three-year agreement with Sokol calls for a one-time payment of $50,000 and 2 percent of the gross annual revenues for the first two years, with an increase to 3 percent for the third year. Finn expects Deerfield could net about $100,000 annually.  

Sokol, a Marblehead resident, stressed his Lynn roots.

“I lived in Lynn for seven years, my grandparents lived on the Lynnway for 35 years and I own property in Lynn,” he said. “We want to be up and running in Lynn soon and want to figure out what we can do for the city.”

He insisted that his company will not grow marijuana in Lynn.

“The general concern is about people breaking in and stealing money, product, machinery, so we will take that element out of it and just sell retail in Lynn and manufacture in Deerfield,” he said.

The application for the Lynnway dispensary comes as the marijuana ordinance is in limbo at City Hall.

Last week, the City Council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to the city. Under the ordinance, the treatment center district would include the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues. But Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has threatened to veto the ordinance because she is opposed to an amendment giving the 11-member panel the power to decide how money received from the marijuana clinics would be spent.

The Singer brothers opened the 20-lane bowling alley in 1935. In 1972 it was purchased by longtime employee and candlepin bowling Hall of Famer Ron Crowley and lifelong friend Richie Rippon. In 1998, Crowley’s children took over the business. In 2000, they acquired a liquor license and transformed six lanes into a 2,500-square-foot sports bar and restaurant, according to the alley’s website.

Peter Capano, the Ward 6 city councilor who lives five minutes from the bowling alley, said his proposal, which was rejected by the City Council, would have opened the dispensary locations to the entire city.

“But the council decided to put them in a place that they feel is least invasive to the city without regard to those residential neighborhoods,” he said.


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

City Council approves Leahy on Lynnway

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The City Council ended months of debate and approved a controversial contractor’s yard for the Lynnway.

In an 8-3 vote on Tuesday night, the council gave the green light for Leahy Landscaping LLC to move its operation to the Lynnway from Sanderson Avenue. The company, owned by Matthew Leahy, will lease the land from owner Kenneth Carpi.

Before the vote, Councilor Peter Capano, whose Ward 6 district includes the proposed site, encouraged the council to support the plan.

“It’s not my vision for the waterfront, but it will do until something better comes along,” he said. “It’s way back from the street and not visible from the Lynnway.”

Carpi testified that the company will operate a clean facility and not have mountains of loam on the property.

But Councilor Wayne Lozzi urged the members to vote no.

“This is not what we want on the waterfront,” he said. “This is not a good idea.”

At-Large councilors Brian LaPierre and Buzzy Barton joined Lozzi in opposition.

Last month, the Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-1 to approve a variance to make the move possible.

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. of Lynn, has opposed the yard, calling it a “horrible use.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy echoed those sentiments in a letter to the ZBA opposing the contractor’s yard. She said the city invested $4 million to relocate power lines, which hugged the coast and precluded development. She also cited the Beacon site, dormant for nearly 30 years, as moving forward with a project that will create 355 apartments. She wrote that the city is working with the state on a $79 million project at a nearby lot owned by Joseph O’Donnell.

“All of these projects have one thing in common,” Kennedy wrote. “They fit into the master waterfront plan and our vision. Allowing a landscaping company to locate in that area with 50 large vehicles and piles of loam does not fit into our vision and will hurt our efforts of encouraging millions of dollars to be invested.”


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

Thinking big is right up Demakes’ Alley

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
The chimney at 175 Alley St. in Lynn is being taken down one small section at a time.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

A wrecking ball is demolishing the former Atlantic Coast Seafood Market behind the Lynnway to make way for the city’s latest business or apartment complex.

Two years ago, the 175-189 Alley Street LLC, an entity managed by Thomas Demakes paid $1 million for the 2-acre parcel that included a one-story brick building.

Demakes, president of Old Neighborhood Quality Foods, a family-owned company that started in 1914, said he is still studying the market to determine what will work best for the site.

“I’m trying to clean up that section of the neighborhood,” he said.

Originally, he thought it was a good location for a warehouse, but Alley Street is too narrow to accommodate tractor trailers.

Now, Demakes is considering business condominiums similar to the project at the nearby former Lynn Lumber site on Commercial Street.

Lynn Business Park RT and the Nicholas Mennino Trust bought the 84,000-square-foot Commercial Street lot in 2014 for $1.4 million. They used a portion of the land for a series of business storefronts including the Beantown Barbell Club and Safe & Secure Limousine across from Bent Water Brewing Co.

“Nick did a good job over there,” he said. “But I’m not 100 percent sure what I’ll do because I have real estate people checking out the market to see what will work and what the City Council wants.”

One possibility is apartments, he said.

“Market rate housing is also something we’re considering,” Demakes said. “My kids have been critical of me because I get involved in these projects more to help the city than to make money on the project. I’m trying to do both.”

James Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp., said the 53,034-square-foot facility had been mostly vacant for years. Given the property’s uniqueness, Cowdell said the best alternative was to demolish it and start anew.  

Peter Capano, the Ward 6 City Councilor, said he likes the idea of a handsome one-story structure for business condominiums. He said it would be a good fit for the neighborhood
“The people in this neighborhood would favor it,” he said. “Tom will do it right with landscaping and make it look really nice.”


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

Is the Lynnway the ugliest street in America?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
One sign that may impact the perception of the Lynnway is the Starbucks sign. Good luck finding it in the photo above.

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — For as long as anyone can remember, the Lynnway has been packed with car dealerships, fast-food restaurants, discount shops, billboards and hundreds of garish signs.

“When you drive up the Lynnway, you see every mistake that has been made over the last 75 years,” said James M. Cowdell, executive director of the Economic Development & Industrial Corp. (EDIC/Lynn).  

“Why is it ugly? It happened. A place opened and an ugly sign went up. Another place opened, another ugly sign went up. Now it’s a splattering of ugly signs that blend … and the one sign that should stand out, Starbucks, gets blended in with the ugliness. What message does that send as we are trying to change our image?”

As developers propose to transform portions of the Lynnway into a neighborhood for waterfront apartments and amenities that rival Boston’s Seaport District, some say it’s the right time for Lynn.

“It will change, someone will go first,” said Charles Morneau, who along with Joseph O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge, could be among the first when they break ground on a 17-acre site on the water side of the Lynnway adjacent to the General Edwards Bridge. They expect to start construction next spring on a $69 million luxury-apartment project that would include 250 units in a wood-frame, three-story building.

“The timing is right because the key political people have lined up behind it and are pushing to get things done,” Morneau said. He is referring to the Lynn Economic Advancement and Development (LEAD) Team, a panel that includes U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash, Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, Environmental Secretary Matthew Beaton, Cowdell and others who can cut through the bureaucracy and make things happen.

“That whole corridor in Lynn can really turn around and be an attraction,” Morneau said. “It’s in the right location, just miles from Boston and there’s ocean, nothing better.”

Change is coming to the Lynnway. A pair of residential developments will bookend the Lynnway. Earlier this month, Louis Minicucci Jr. and Arthur Pappathanasi closed a $2.5 million purchase of the former Beacon Chevrolet site. When completed, the $80 million waterfront residential project will include 355 apartments on the 14-acre site on the northern end of the stretch with rents expected to be in the $2,000 range. At the other end of the stretch is O’Donnell’s $69 million project on a 17-acre waterfront site that would include 250 units in a wood frame, three-story building.

City Council President and state Rep. Daniel F. Cahill said the Lynnway is slowly changing and the transformation will take time. A decade ago, $6 million was spent to move the power lines off the ocean side as the first major step to spur development.

“We are still in the infrastructure phase,” he said. “The only reason we are talking about massive residential projects is because the path has been cleared for large scale development on the waterfront side. You won’t see much change to the Lynnway’s facade until a few developments break ground in the next few years.”

On signs, Cahill said it’s an issue that ignites controversy. Some say signs should be whatever businesses want. Others insist that the only way to clean up the city’s gateway is for a strict ordinance to control the size, height, color and lettering of signs.

While the City Council amended sign rules in 1993 to limit their size and height and ban flashing ones, any business can seek permission to override the regulation and nearly all have been successful in doing so. The rest have been grandfathered.

One marquee that may impact the perception of the city is Starbucks. Ironically, it’s easily missed because, while it’s so small compared to others, it’s larger than sign rules allow.

But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to a Starbucks sign.

The arrival of a Starbucks has benefits beyond easy access to an espresso macchiato, decaf cappuccino or caffe latte. Between 1997 and 2014, homes within a quarter-mile of a Starbucks increased in value by 96 percent, on average, compared with 65 percent for all U.S. homes, based on a comparison by Zillow, the Seattle-based online real estate company.

When Starbucks arrived in Chelsea when Ash was city manager, he called it the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

“Starbucks came to us for a special permit to erect the sign because there are restrictions in that section of the Lynnway,” Cahill said. “It was a symbolic event because for years Starbucks said they were not interested in locating in Lynn and they finally came so we approved it.”

Peter Capano, the Ward 6 city councilor whose district includes the Lynnway, said everyone agrees the highway’s aesthetics need to be improved.

“We are looking at a proposal for changes on the Lynnway,” he said.

A study is being done by the state’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR) and the Department of Transportation that will offer ideas to improve it, he said. Public hearings will be held and a report is expected to be issued later this year.

Patrick McGrath, who owns the Lynnway Mart Indoor Mall & Flea Market that attracts thousands of buyers and sellers, has been seeking a developer to build on his 8.5-acre prime waterfront parcel.

“I don’t know what to say, the Lynnway is what it is,” he said. “I hope to have my site developed and it starts there. Hopefully, Joe O’Donnell’s site next door gets developed. Unfortunately,  we’ll always have the Creamery, the car wash and car lots. They’re not going anywhere, at least in my lifetime. I would like to see it all developed.”

One reason why the Lynnway looks the way it does is that officials have been reluctant to implement firm regulations because it is a major source of real estate taxes for the city. Peter Caron, the city’s assessing director, reports that 183 Lynnway businesses that employ hundreds of Lynn residents contribute $6,017,000 to the city’s coffers annually.  

Not every Lynnway business is a blight. Consider the handsome Solomon Metals Corp. property. Once the home of Harrison Dispatch, a former trucking terminal for General Electric Co., Steven Solomon has maintained the grass, shrubs, trees and added chains from the U.S.S. Wasp and later purchased a pair of bells to add to the front display.

“Even though we are in the scrap metal business, we take seriously the idea that we should put a positive face out front and be good neighbors,” said Solomon, whose family has owned the building since 1974.

The other good looking commercial site is the Clock Tower Business Center. The 305,000-square-foot office building is surrounded by a wrought iron fence, and its grounds are covered with green and trees.

One community, Framingham, has tackled the issue of landscaping and signs with success.

Susan Bernstein, a former Framingham Planning Board member, was part of the effort in the 1990s to remake Route 9. Her goal, along with fellow members, was to turn the road filled with unattractive signs and too little green space into a tree-lined boulevard. Twenty years later there’s been enormous improvements made, say planners.

The panel started with landscaping and implemented strict regulations on the number of trees and shrubs that must be planted on commercial lots.

“There was a great sensitivity towards changing the ambiance of Route 9,” she said. “When businesses came before us, we required lots of trees, and over time, as you can see, they mature and you start to get an improvement.”

Framingham required one tree for every three parking spaces,  or one every 27 feet. The rules called for trees with a two- to three-inch truck.

“We were specific about the type of trees, and it’s tedious work,” she said. “But developers prefer to spend as little as possible.”

As a result, hundreds of trees have been planted in the last two decades along the road, in parking lots and in front of buildings.

Later, the panel devised a bylaw to reduce the size of signs. At one time, there were few limits and signs rose to 35 feet. Today, the limit in most parts of the road is 20 feet.

“If you look at communities that have good signs, that says more about them than almost anything as you enter,” she said. “When you drive through communities with 40-foot signs you see that it demonstrates an image of a schlocky town.”

Bernstein, a real estate agent, said a community’s image greatly influences property values.

But how to get it done is another matter, she said.

“There has to be the political will on the various boards to do it,” she said. “It’s not easy.”


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

Lynn states case for new middle schools

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Gene Raymond of Raymond Designs explains the pros and cons of each potential site.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The city is considering building two new schools to replace Pickering Middle School.

Architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Lynn Stapleton, the project manager, and city officials discussed options for the new facilities with residents Wednesday night.

Construction is expected to start next spring and take more than two years to complete.

Raymond and Stapleton worked on the $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School project.

This is the first in a series of public forums on building options and potential school locations.

The city is working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which has authorized construction of a facility equipped to hold up to 1,660 students.

Stapleton said the team is considering a two-school solution, with a total capacity of 1,600 students. The plan would alleviate overcrowding at Breed Middle School and prepare the city to educate an influx of students in coming years, she said.

Breed has 1,300 students and is designed to hold about 900, Stapleton said.

The larger capacity would accommodate about 1,000 more people in the district, and take students from Breed, Raymond said.

“One thousand, six hundred students would probably make it the largest middle school in the commonwealth,” he said. “Putting that all in one neighborhood in the city is really going to stress whatever neighborhood that is.”

Raymond also said that renovating the existing Pickering building would be “impossible and a tremendous waste of the city’s efforts and money.”

The designers are considering a dozen locations citywide, each with different permitting timelines and feasibility, he said.

Sites such as Gallagher Park and Magnolia Park were among contenders. But any open space taken for the project must be replaced elsewhere in the city, he said.

Union Hospital was considered. But the site was quickly rejected because of opposition to it’s closure, and Raymond described Barry Park as a “bathtub” during a storm.

Wetlands and traffic implications were also factors for many of the sites.

The team concluded that two “least impactful” sites are McManus Park and what they call a “reservoir site” on Parkland Avenue.

Flooding in the McManus Field neighborhood is ocean flooding, rather than rainfall, Raymond said.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said regardless of where the flooding comes from, it’s a problem in the neighborhood when it rains. He suggested developers coordinate with Lynn Water & Sewer Commission to resolve the problem before construction begins.

Resident Brian Field expressed concerns that the Parkland Avenue parcel is controlled by the Cemetery Commission and will need to be used for a cemetery expansion of the Pine Grove Cemetery within the next decade.

Michael Donovan, building commissioner, said city attorneys completed research to  determine the property is city-owned.

“These two are probably the most viable options,” Raymond said. “They’re both not jammed up against neighborhoods.”

He also had a plan for getting to each of the schools to avoid nearby Wyoma Square, which is often a bottleneck. Cars traveling from the north would follow Lynnfield Street to Averill Road. From the south, they would travel on Richardson Road, he said.

Those who hadn’t had the opportunity to see the new Marshall Middle School, got a first look through a slideshow presented by Superintendent Catherine Latham. The presentation highlighted aspects of Marshall that will be seen in the new school or schools.

Latham expects the new school will feature a cluster system, much like the one at Marshall. The children are separated into separate clusters of about 120 students. The clusters are color-coded and have all of the primary classes in one area of the building.

“We will be doing the same for Pickering,” she said.

The new school will also have the same electives offered at Marshall, including sewing, directing, and art classes, Latham said.

“These subjects make students want to go to school,” she said.

The next forum is scheduled for June 22.


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

Preference preferred for vets in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Lynn firefighters who are also veterans, from left,  Joe Roussin, U.S. Army, two years a firefighter; Andrew Scanlon, National Guard, two years a firefighter; and Jesse Affonco, U.S. Marine Corps, six years a firefighter. 

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — City officials prefer to hire veterans for public safety jobs but legislation filed by Gov. Charlie Baker would give communities more flexibility in applying veterans preference rules.

Included in Baker’s 1,000-page Municipal Modernization Bill  is a provision allowing municipalities to exempt positions from Civil Service rules by vote of the governing body or executive, rather than through special legislation, as is currently required.

Under civil service rules, if a vet attains a score of 70 percent or higher on their civil service exam, they go to the top of hiring lists, with disabled veterans having top priority, according to the Department of Veterans’ Services.

Fire Chief James McDonald said half of his hires are vets, while Police Chief Kevin Coppinger said most of his new employees have been veterans.

While the chiefs value the role veterans play in public safety roles, they differ in the importance of the veteran status of a job applicant.

“I’m a non-veteran and I fully support the veterans’ preference as it is right now,” McDonald said.  

The hiring split is 60 percent veterans and 40 percent non-veterans, which McDonald said is fair. Finding a good match for the department is more a matter of qualification and personal character, he said.

“Are veterans head and shoulders above everybody else as far as their personality and their capabilities? Not really,” he said. “We have a lot of non-veterans that are just as qualified at doing the job.”

Coppinger said there should be a conversation about changing the regulation that gives a preference to vets. Regardless of race, veteran status, education and several other factors, he said the most important thing is hiring the person who is most qualified.

“People are holding police to a higher standard,” Coppinger said. “We have some great police officers who are veterans. We need the best qualified officers, regardless of all other things. They may be the veterans.”

The municipal modernization bill first went to the Joint Committee on Public Service for review. The committee then established a special commission to study the impact of the Civil Service exemption on veterans’ preference.

Rep. Donald Wong (R-Saugus) expects the bill will see revisions.

There are more than 300 cities and towns in Massachusetts and at least 11 give veterans preference, he said.

“I, myself, don’t support it,” he said. “If you have two candidates for a position with the same score on a civil service exam and one is a veteran, it’s only fair to hire the veteran.”

The Lynn City Council unanimously approved a resolution earlier this month, telling Baker and the Legislature to keep the veterans’ preference..

“We just want to put Lynn on record as being opposed to any attempts to eliminate veterans’ preference by the state or the Massachusetts Municipal Association,” said Peter Capano, the Lynn city councilor behind the resolution. “We want to support our veterans, not only on Memorial Day and Veterans Day, but all throughout the year,” he said.

Mike Sweeney, director of Lynn’s Department of Veterans Services, said many city vets appreciate the council’s quick response to ensure Lynn is opposed to the change.

“The commitment that we make to veterans needs to go beyond parades,” Sweeney said. “Civil Service was originally intended to help veterans get into these jobs.”

When people come home from serving in the military, he said, they’ve had less of an opportunity to further their education and complete training that would better their chances at getting jobs.

“It’s about leveling the playing field,” Sweeney said. “This isn’t charity that’s being bestowed upon veterans. When they spend that time away in the military, they’re giving up opportunities that their peers don’t have to give up.”


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

Water rates stable (for now)

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Ratepayers will not see an increase over the next year thanks to the Water & Sewer Commission’s cost control efforts and debt refinancing.

But the commission’s chairman warned an expensive project on the horizon could hike rates as early as next year.

William Trahant Sr. and four fellow commissioners continue to examine how to meet federal mandates to reduce or eliminate partially treated sewage discharges into the ocean from the city’s waste treatment plant.

With estimates to end the discharges through a project called Combined Sewer Overflow approaching $130 million, Trahant said rates could rise next year.

“We should be able to hold this year, maybe next, but what is coming up in the future?” Trahant asked.

Commission CEO David Travers on Friday said he and other commission executives will recommend the five commissioners do not increase the current $9.98 per 100 cubic feet rate for water and sewer service when they discuss Water and Sewer spending in May and June.

“We’re looking to hold the line on rates,” Travers said.

Rates increased 2.5 percent from $9.74 per 100 cubic feet last spring. The average Lynn resident spends $699 annually for about 7,000 cubic feet of water. A family of four using 10,000 cubic feet pays about $1,000 a year for water and sewer.

Travers said the commission has succeeded over the last year in keeping major costs, including health insurance, pensions and worker’s compensation, stable without significant increases. He said capital debt financing for major projects undertaken by the commission also saved money.

Previous debt refinancing helped reduce the amount of interest Water & Sewer pays to finance expensive improvement projects, even though the commission spent or plans to spend $9 million on three projects during the last year and into this year.

Those improvements include a new cover for the Parkland Avenue reservoir, switching chlorine treatment systems at the Parkland Avenue water plant and on Commercial Street from chlorine gas to liquid chlorine and upgrade the waste treatment plant incinerator.

Water & Sewer has spent millions of dollars since the 1990s creating a separate storm drain and sewer pipe network to comply with federal orders reducing ocean discharges. Commissioners were divided last year over how much should be spent on CSO work, with David Ellis and Peter Capano advocating for CSO plans encompassing a solution to end West Lynn street flooding.

Former commissioner Wayne Lozzi urged the commission to adopt a relatively inexpensive CSO solution, but he left the commission this year. Travers said CSO planning will involve discussions with federal officials.

“We’re still waiting to enter into negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency on what the next phase will be,” he said.

Officials will review the budget for the upcoming year with commissioners on May 6 and a public rate hearing is scheduled for June 8.


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

Council to plant marijuana rules

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Medical marijuana clinics could be coming to the city.

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

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

The proposal comes as a group of local, state and federal officials led by Jay Ash, the governor’s Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, have committed to finding resources that can revitalize the city and spur development on vacant and underused parcels, including the city’s waterfront on the Lynnway.

At least one councilor is uncomfortable with the idea of locating the centers on the city’s gateway.

“It’s not a good idea to have it on the Lynnway because of all the stuff that’s going on,” said City Councilor Richard Colucci

Among the projects in the pipeline include a proposed $90 million mixed-use development by Minco Development Corp. that will include 348 one- and two-bedroom apartments at the former Beacon Chevrolet site. Joseph O’Donnell, founder of Boston Culinary Group and Belmont Capital in Cambridge, is developing the 17-acre former hotel site on the Lynnway into apartments.

“I don’t know why they’re all restricted to one area,” said City Councilor Peter Capano, whose ward includes the proposed district. “I would prefer that if we had to do it, that there would be more options than just the ones that are right there.”

Darren Cyr, City Council vice-president, said the locations were selected because they are not in a neighborhood. While he is opposed to making medicinal marijuana legal, he said by establishing areas where it can be sold, it provides the city with control.

Several proposals are being floated for potential treatment centers on the Lynnway. But no one has filed an application for a dispensary with the Inspectional Services Department (ISD).

City Council President Dan Cahill said the current medical marijuana ordinance is unenforceable because it bans dispensaries.

Former Attorney General Martha Coakley issued an advisory opinion that municipalities were not allowed to restrict medical marijuana clinics because they were approved by voters in 2012.

“If we don’t try to create some type of overlay district somewhere, a potential dispensary lease agreement could be for anywhere in the city,” Cahill said.

Without the new district, companies seeking to open a clinic could ask for a variance from the Zoning Board of Appeals, be denied, challenge it in court and win, Cahill said.

“If we don’t site these things properly, they’ll go anywhere, and we’ll see infinite amounts of them.”

Any proposed medical marijuana treatment center would also have to obtain an annual operating permit from ISD.

While the zoning change will be discussed at a public hearing next month, Cahill said the process is just starting.

“This is going to take weeks and months,” he said. “At the end of the day, either we zone this in a way we can control this. Or, they will be everywhere and we will not be able to control them.”


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

 

West Lynn railbed draws inspiration

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Jeremy Cheam, of RAW Art Works in Lynn, works on the mural that is headed for Neptune Court.

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Nine teen artists are working to restore pride in the city, one mural at a time.

The teens involved in the Good 2 Go program at Raw Art Works are creating a piece to be displayed at Neptune Court, along the route of the former Saugus Branch Railroad.

Big names, including City Councilor Peter Capano, Sen. Thomas McGee and Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), support transforming the retired railroad into a continuation of the Northern Strand Community Trail bike path.

The project would be aligned with the Complete Streets Initiative adopted by the Lynn City Council last year. The policy formalizes a commitment by the city to have streets that are accessible and safe for all users. It could also mean additional state transportation money for the city.

Stephen Winslow, president of Bike to Sea, the organization working to extend the Northern Strand Community Trail from the Charles River to the Lynn waterfront, said the project fits the mission of the initiative. The trail is unique to each community it passes through.  

“Traditionally, we’re trying to make the canvas for other people to paint,” he said.

Raw Art Works is an organization that works to get children and teens involved with art and keep them off the streets.

The Good 2 Go artists, who specialize in public art, worked closely with Lisa Wallace, a Neptune Street Court resident and founder of the One Community, One Voice community group, to devise a design for the art. Wallace received a grant from the Lynn Cultural Council to fund the project.

The artists worked together to come up with a locomotive theme, showcasing the history of the tracks and other iconic elements of the city.

“This is the first piece that will start an initiative to bring back our neighborhoods,” said Wallace. “The path is going to be a big part of our neighborhoods, not just a bike trail. It will service the community and connect us right to the waterfront.”

City Councilor Peter Capano said the city neighborhoods feel isolated and the path would provide access to the new Market Basket and the waterfront.

“It will provide access to what’s going on with the rest of the city,” he said. “There has been a lot of neighborhood discussion. People want this. We tend to focus so much on attracting people here when the people who are here haven’t taken advantage of what the city has to offer.”

Projects like this create more pride for the community, Wallace said.

“They’ll feel more connected with the city,” she said. “There are buildings along there that have been tagged (with graffiti). If it’s good graffiti, (vandals) don’t touch it. People have respect for it.”

People won’t destroy what they’ve helped to create. You don’t need to have a lot of money to make something nice. Clean goes a long way.”

The artists have been working on the mural for more than a month, said Bruce Orr, director of the Good 2 Go program.

“This feels like it’s going to be a good way of renovating Lynn to make it more beautiful,” said 18-year-old Raymond Carela, who has been involved with Raw Art Works for four years.

Joshua Bonifaz, 17, who has been involved with the program for two years and has worked on three other murals, said, “Lynn is filled up with a whole bunch of different people with different causes. Art can be manipulated in a way we can help amplify their messages.”

The mural will also feature a blank section that children can fill in with paint. The section was designed by 16-year-old Austin Jagodynski.

“We wanted something that the kids could do so they feel like they’re a part of the project too,” Jagodynski said. “It has a train track design, which is keeping with the theme.”

The mural is expected to take three more weeks to complete.


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

Bikes provide path to economic health

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Lisa Wallace, a Lynn resident, talks about the need for a bike path, with help from Stephen Winslow, president of Bike to the Sea.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

SAUGUS — A bike trail is bringing history to Saugus, coffee and beer to Everett, and hopes to bring a solution to poverty to Lynn.

Bike to the Sea, a non-profit organization that promotes safe bicycling, held an All Community Meeting at the Saugus Public Library Friday to review the progress of the Northern Strand Community Trail. Though its goal is to provide an outlet for alternative forms of transportation in communities north of Boston, the trail also represents the culture of each of the communities it runs through.

The major barrier for ending poverty is not drugs, not unemployment, but transportation, according to Richard Fries, executive director of Massachusetts Bicycle Coalition (MassBike), an organization that promotes bicycling.

The trail, which has been in the works since 1993, currently runs 7.5 miles through Malden, Revere, and Saugus to the Lynn line. The goal is for the path to extend from the Charles River to the Lynn waterfront.

The trail is part of the East Coast Greenway, which is proposed to extend from Maine to Florida and has been supported by the Rails to Trails Conservancy, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit whose mission is to transform unused rail corridors into vibrant public places.

Seventy-two percent of 18-year-olds lack a driver’s license, 17 percent of college students travel by bicycle and 65 percent of the state’s population does not drive, said Fries.

Boston has the highest number of people using alternative methods of transportation, such as biking and walking. It’s also twelfth on the list of cities with the most bikers, he said.

When looking at these statistics, Fries said he wonders why we are designing 100 percent of our transportation to cater to drivers.

Though the project has seen much progress, it’s still not complete. Designed to provide an alternative path for transportation free of vehicles, the trail serves a slightly different purpose in each of its communities.

The Everett and Malden sections of the trail are paved, while the Revere and Saugus sections are composed of compacted, recycled asphalt.

The Saugus section of the trail crosses over a historical trade trestle. Pedestrians regularly sight an Osprey nest on the trail before extending their journey 10 minutes to arrive at Saugus Iron Works.

A brewery and a coffee shop have sprouted along the Everett portion of the trail.

In Revere, a neighborhood cleanup group helped to eliminate trash and graffiti from a Route One overpass the trail extends beneath. Officials would like to see a bike lane installed, which would extend access directly to Revere Beach. They would also like to see the path paved, but regulations protecting the Rumney Marsh as an area of critical environmental concern is a roadblock.

“We would spend more money getting permission to do it,” said Stephen Winslow, president of Bike to Sea.

Paving the trail has made all the difference in Malden, said Mayor Gary Christenson, who called the trail the single most important project he’s worked on in his career.

“We utilized city bonding to pave it in its second year and the project took off,” he said.

In addition to being used by bicyclists, Christenson said, the path is used by families, pedestrians, rollerbladers and dog walkers. The path provides the city with additional transportation, recreational, and health and wellness benefits, he added.

Lynn residents have been traveling the path of the former Saugus Branch Railroad for several years, but don’t have a bike path.

“There’s an opportunity here for Lynn,” said Sen. Thomas McGee. “Lynn could become a transportation hub and bikes are a part of that. Lynn is a very hazardous place to be biking.”

The project is aligned with the Complete Streets initiative, adopted by Lynn City Council last year. The policy formalizes a commitment by the city to have streets that are accessible and safe for all users. It could also mean additional state transportation funding for the city.

Councilors Jay Walsh and Peter Capano support the project, as well as Rep. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Joseph Mulligan of MassDevelopment, and Gordy Hall, president of The Hall Co. and a director of The Daily Item.

Neptune Street Court resident Lisa Wallace has worked extensively to create an environment suitable for an extension of the trail. Wallace said the most important aspect is making sure neighbors feel connected with the path, which will be in a different way than in other communities.

“These are low-income residents, not avid bicyclists.” Wallace said. “Some of your bikes cost more than our cars. You have to build the neighborhoods first.”

Wallace said she believes residents will be interested in using the trail to get back and forth to work or to the downtown area.

“The neighborhoods feel disconnected from downtown,” she said. “I believe creating a community path will be the key to connecting all of it. The path goes from Saugus and can run all the way to the waterfront development.”

The path could create an opportunity for more jobs and for children to experience community service, Wallace added.

Many of the things discussed today relate to our efforts to make Lynn a safer and better place for everyone to walk, bike, and drive,” Crighton said.


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

Union Hospital affected by new legislation

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Healthcare workers testified on Beacon Hill Tuesday in favor of pricing reforms that they say will lower the costs for community hospitals and reduce insurance premiums for consumers.

Proponents say the state’s hospital reimbursement system is unfair because large medical centers, such as Partners HealthCare, receive up to 500 percent more in payments for the same services provided by smaller hospitals, such as Union Hospital.

“It’s time we finally bring greater transparency and fairness to the financing and funding of Massachusetts hospitals,” said Tyrek D. Lee, executive vice-president of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, in a statement. “Excessive payments paid to a few hospitals creates a vicious cycle that drives down wages for community hospital workers and puts local services at risk. We need to take action now, so that we can ensure the state’s remaining community hospitals have an opportunity to survive and thrive.”

The measure, and a ballot question in November, would require private health insurers to negotiate new contracts with larger hospitals, obligating them to lower their costs and bring greater fairness to healthcare providers, according to the union and the Campaign for Fair Care, an advocacy group whose mission is to lower healthcare costs for all. They argue that the state’s present system is unfair, threatens community hospitals, drives down wages and increases costs.

Lee said the bill would provide a “level playing field,” because larger networks are able to negotiate higher insurance rates than some of the smaller hospitals. For instance, he said Union Hospital receives lower reimbursement rates than Massachusetts General Hospital.

If the legislation is approved, the union estimates that North Shore Medical Center, including Union and Salem Hospital, could receive an additional $702,455 annually in reimbursements, following renegotiations with insurance providers.

Lee said the bill is about protecting community hospitals and the services they provide. He said access to services is key, and there have been “a lot of closures and consolidations over the years due to how these community hospitals are being reimbursed.”

North Adams Regional Hospital and Quincy Medical Center are cited as hospitals that have been forced out of business.

In a letter to the Joint Committee on Health Care Financing — the panel that is considering the reforms — City Council President Dan Cahill, Councilors-at-Large Buzzy Barton and Brian LaPierre, and councilors Peter Capano, Dianna Chakoutis, Richard Colucci and Darren Cyr urged lawmakers to “strongly consider” the proposed hospital pricing system reforms outlined in the bill and ballot question.

The councilors wrote that the large, wealthy hospitals continue to demand an oversized share of medical payments, causing community hospitals to struggle for the necessary funding to maintain jobs, invest in facility upgrades and continue to provide quality care.

“In Lynn, we are seeing tangible effects of what unfair hospital compensation can do, as Partners HealthCare is moving forward in its attempt to reduce services at the only full service hospital in the city,” the councilors wrote in their letter. “Partners has filed plans to proceed with the expansion and renovation of NSMC-Salem, which includes the relocation of 48 medical/surgical beds and 38 inpatient psychiatric beds from Union Hospital in Lynn to the company’s Salem branch — effectively shuttering Union Hospital.”

But not everyone is in favor of the legislation.

Representatives from Mass Hospital Association (MHA) testified against the bill and ballot question.

“We have a diverse board that has examined the issue and has unanimously voted to oppose the ballot initiative,” said Tim Gens, executive vice-president at Mass Hospital Association, a trade group that represents hospitals statewide.

If approved by voters, the ballot initiative would require insurance companies to limit provider reimbursement to no more than 20 percent above or 10 percent below the average price for that service.

“The ballot proposal that’s been put forward by the union won’t work,” Gens said. “It creates more problems than it claims to resolve. It’s not workable. It does not align with the reform system that we’ve been developing in Massachusetts. We don’t believe that a political campaign is the best way to establish sound public policy regarding this issue.”

Rich Copp, vice-president of communications with Partners HealthCare, said Partners is aligned with MHA, and is also opposed to the ballot initiative.


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

Councilors: Mayor calls shots on city negotiations

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — Despite acknowledging Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s status as the sole voice at the bargaining table, City Councilors said they stand ready to voice views about ongoing city labor union negotiations.

Seven out of 11 councilors are active or retired union members and last November’s city elections sent two active union members  City Councilor at large Brian LaPierre and Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh to the council.

Along with ward councilors Wayne Lozzi, Darren Cyr and Peter Capano; and Councilors at large Hong Net and Buzzy Barton, they form a council majority voice for organized labor. But councilors differ on how loud they will raise their voices when it comes to offering opinions on city bargaining.

“It is well-settled through the (city) charter that the mayor has sole discretion over contract negotiations. At the end of the day, the decision is made by the mayor,” said Council President Dan Cahill.

Kennedy and Lynn Police Association and International Association of Firefighters Local 739 members have exchanged bargaining proposals and Kennedy said she and Cahill have discussed the importance of her voice being the only one heard during bargaining.

“I told him how difficult it would be to have 12 voices at the table,” she said.

Capano and Walsh said the council has taken a consistent pro-labor stance, passing resolutions in support of billboard painters, caregivers and Logan Airport workers.

“The council has always sided with working people,” Capano said.

The two are top union officers representing International Union of Electrical Workers Local 201 at the General Electric River Works plant. Net, Cyr and Lozzi are state union members. Barton is a former Local 739 union officer and LaPierre is an American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts organizer.

Councilor Richard Colucci acknowledged strong union support on the council but said it does not equate to council interference in city bargaining. But Colucci said councilors monitor bargaining progress and pay increased attention when negotiations become protracted.

“We want her to get a contract as soon as she can,” he said.

LaPierre agreed.

“We have to get employees under agreement and not languishing. This will be under the microscope as we go forward,” he said.

Without interfering in bargaining, Lozzi said councilors can urge speedy resolution to negotiations. Ultimately, councilors will vote on a budget that will provide money to pay costs associated with city bargaining.

“It’s up to the mayor to negotiate contracts. I don’t know how loud a voice we can have. The only time we do is when it comes time for the budget,” Cyr said.


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

City Council to give raise request an inspection

Michael Donovan

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — City Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan said he wants to continue doing his job even if city councilors decide not to increase his $153,000 a year salary.

“It will go where it goes with the council. I will still be here whether I get it or not,” Donovan said.

Because Donovan is seeking to boost his current department base pay from $122,400 to $140,000, the request requires a change in a city ordinance and council approval. Councilors have scheduled the proposed change for a public hearing, but they have not set a date for the hearing.

Donovan currently earns significantly more than his base salary because, under the city educational incentive, he is entitled, as an advance degree holder, to a 25 percent income boost on top of his base pay.

He is not the only department head who gets incentive pay under city ordinance. Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron, Public Works Commissioner Andrew Hall and Acting Parking Director Robert Stilian are also entitled to receive incentive pay along with other city department heads.

Donovan said he is overdue for a raise. Hired to run Inspectional Services in 2004, he said the department expanded, beginning in 2006, with city custodians and street light maintenance. The 40-person workforce Donovan said he initially supervised now totals 120 workers.

“I’m seeking compensation for those duties. With more work I expect more pay. That’s the American Way,” he said.

Donovan has received cost of living adjustments mirroring ones received by the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3147, a city union.

An officer in another city union, AFSCME Local 1736 representing 64 DPW employees, told councilors, during a Tuesday council committee meeting, that Donovan doesn’t deserve a raise. Richard Germano, 1736 vice president and city plumbing foreman, painted a grim picture of relations between the director and DPW union workers.

“We’re beaten like dogs by this man. I don’t understand why Mr. Donovan can receive a raise such as this,” said Germano.

Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr came to Donovan’s defense during the meeting.

“I work almost on a daily basis with Mike Donovan. He works hard. He is an asset to the city,” Cyr said.

Councilors Buzzy Barton and Peter Capano raised concerns about a Donovan-specific raise.

“There’s a lot of workers that are deserving,” Capano said.

Donovan said ISD has reduced street lighting costs and other utility expenses by millions of dollars during his directorship.

“I think I’ve proved myself,” he said.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com

Council may make itself heard in emerging city labor talks

City councilors have always been passive third-party spectators to negotiations between sitting mayors and city unions, but there is mounting evidence indicating the current council is poised to weigh in on bargaining talks.

Several councilors got an ugly glimpse Tuesday night into existing city-labor relations when Richard Germano, a city union vice president, claimed, in a public meeting, that Public Works employees are “beaten like dogs” by city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan.

The topic at hand, during the meeting, was a proposed raise for Donovan and at least one councilor quickly praised the ISD chief for hard work and accountability. Other councilors adopted a more skeptical tone and, by the end of the evening, councilors made it pretty clear the verdict is decidedly out on changing a city ordinance to grant Donovan’s request.

Most councilors think Donovan does a good job, but labor has a louder voice on the current council in the wake of last November’s city elections. Veteran teachers union member Brian LaPierre swept into office with a councilor at large win and Ward 7 Councilor Jay Walsh is a rank-and-file labor leader at the River Works, along with Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano. Add to that contingent retired firefighter and one-time labor leader Buzzy Barton.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy calls the shots on negotiations with city unions, including police, firefighters and teachers, and a half decade in office has highlighted her negotiating skills.

She quickly unraveled personality and leadership problems hamstringing the fire department by working with fire union leaders in 2010. She followed up that success by sorting out city residency law disagreements to the satisfaction of union leaders.

Make no mistake about it, city unions have sounded death knells for Kennedy’s predecessors. Former mayors Albert V. DiVirgilio and Edward J. Clancy know the price tag that comes with battling the firefighter’s union. The late Patrick J. McManus called the firefighters allies and Kennedy has taken a similar stance.

Unlike McManus, who saw federal public safety money pour into city coffers during the Clinton administration, Kennedy must make tough decisions when it comes to union negotiations and price tags associated with them.

Her success in resolving the vexing net school spending problems means the city must dedicate millions of dollars to meeting state educational spending demands. An annual city budget surplus, called free cash, will help her make that end meet, but where will it leave the mayor when she needs to dig into the city budget to pay union contract price tags?

Kennedy is flirting with a 2017 run for another mayoral term. Nailing down city contracts could be an important benchmark along the way to election success.

City land eyed for new YMCA

ITEM FILE PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Salamata Bah and other kids got to practice some yoga at Kids Day held at the Lynn YMCA.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — City Councilors take the first steps tonight to potentially set aside land that could become the site for a new, 21st-century Lynn YMCA.

The Council Public Property and Parks Committee is taking an initial look at how a 35,000 square of Wheeler Street and a large adjacent traffic island could be used as a YMCA expansion site.

“They want to expand their building out onto that property,” said city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan.

Donovan and Council President Dan Cahill said YMCA use of city land is a request requiring a multi-step review and approval process. The exact location of the Wheeler Street land must be detailed in an advertised request for proposal inviting a variety of different uses for the land.

Donovan said Planning Board approval is required in addition to a council review.

Cahill said he has joined Councilors at large Buzzy Barton and Hong Net, Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano and Ward 5 Councilor Dianna Chakoutis in discussions with YMCA officials about a possible expansion and construction plan.

He said a chief concern in the discussions for city officials is ensuring the city will retain control over the Wheeler Street land, possibly through a long term lease.

“We’re concerned about losing future rights,” he said.

YMCA Metro North President Bruce Macdonald called the YMCA’s construction plans “very conceptual right now,” but said the organization has conducted surveys over the last five years to assess the organization’s future needs.

“There is a real strong appetite for a new Y in Lynn,” Macdonald said.

The longtime Lynn institution offers extensive, year-round programs at its Lynn location, as well as fitness programs and maintains a residence in a multi-floor building.

Macdonald said the YMCA’s goal “over the next two or three years” is to build a facility to replace the existing 87,000 square foot YMCA built in 1973.

The new YMCA would have larger recreational and fitness facilities and an expanded youth-oriented complex incorporating part of the existing building with a children’s development component oriented, Macdonald said, to science, technology, engineering and mathematics development.

Macdonald said the YMCA’s surveys have identified the current Wheeler Street site as a popular location for the organization.

Cahill called tonight’s committee discussion a “first step in a long process” that will be punctuated by public hearings with the YMCA taking responsibility for financing the cost of a new facility.

“We’re talking about a new YMCA people can enjoy for many years,” he said.


 

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

A perfect marriage between city, YMCA

The YMCA would like to build a 21st-century complex in the city’s center and proponents want to use part of Wheeler Street for the construction site.

The idea is exciting and forward-thinking and City Councilors Dan Cahill, Hong Net, Dianna Chakoutis and Peter Capano deserve credit for methodically discussing it with Y officials. After the proposal gets its first public airing tonight, councilors and other city officials will move into the details involved in using public land to help a major local institution serve future generations of Lynn residents.

There is precedent for altering the use of public land for a use envisioned to be locally beneficial. The sale of the city’s three branch libraries more than 10 years ago took expensive city assets off taxpayer rolls and put the branches into private hands for business and tax-generation purposes.

Allowing the YMCA to use part of Wheeler Street and a large adjacent traffic island is a perfect opportunity for city leaders and residents to identify expand ways the YMCA can help solve city problems the organization is already tackling.

With expanded recreational facilities, a new YMCA could potentially offer more opportunities to help local seniors improve their health and place local youth on a productive fitness track.

A new facility focused on child development could — as YMCA Metro North President Bruce Macdonald suggested — offer a powered-up focus on increased science and technology training, designed to build on successes in these achievement areas already exhibited in local schools.

The YMCA has a long history in Lynn and a commitment to the organization is reflected in local memberships that, in some cases, exceed 50 years’ worth of allegiance to the organization.

Giving the YMCA an opportunity to build on city property is a perfect potential opportunity to marry city needs with YMCA goals. As with any marriage, making this one work will involve plenty of conversation.

City residents must articulate the most pressing needs they feel Lynn faces. YMCA leaders must pinpoint the ways a new and expanded YMCA can help meet those opportunities. Opportunity rarely knocks but, when it does, the reverberation can echo down decades and across generations.

GE lays off 59 at River Works

LYNN — Fifty-nine General Electric River Works engineers were given layoff notices Thursday in a move a company spokesman described as the first layoffs announced at the West Lynn aviation engine manufacturer in more than a decade.

Richard Gorham said the laid off engineers received 60 day notices that include company offers to help them find new jobs. According to Gorham,the layoffs are “due to the cycle of engineering work” and said layoffs, also announced on Thursday, of more than 200 engineers at a GE Ohio plant, overshadow the River Works reduction.
“Five years ago, there was an unprecedented level of new engineers, but the work moves on. We are trying to minimize the impact,” Gorham said.

International Union of Electrical Workers Local 201 President Peter Capano confirmed that the engineers are non-bargaining unit employees and said: “The company says they are working to bring work into Lynn. We’re trying to remain hopeful.”

Gorham said the engineers are among 800 who work at the plant. The River Works’ total employment is about 2,800 workers.

Stage set for Lynn inauguration

Item Photo By OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy’s Chief of Staff Jamie Cerulli walks across the stage at the Lynn Auditorium with a poinsettia for Monday’s inauguration ceremony. 

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — The City Council and School Committee inauguration ceremony next Monday night will be a homegrown affair featuring elected officials and a local judge, musician and pastor.

Scheduled to start at 7 p.m. in Veterans Memorial Auditorium, the evening’s formalities will be presided over by Council President Daniel Cahill and represent the first time two new councilors and two new committee members take the oath of office.

Cahill took the oath of office as a committee member in 2004 and was first sworn in as a councilor in 2008.

“No matter how many inaugurations you participate in, each is very special. It’s an honor to be elected by the voters,” he said.

Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson won committee seats in November and join Patricia Capano, Maria Carrasco, Donna Coppola and John Ford on the board. Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy serves as committee chairman.

Councilors-elect Brian LaPierre (at-large) and John “Jay” Walsh Jr. (Ward 7) join Cahill and councilors Buzzy Barton, Peter Capano, Dianna Chakoutis, Richard Colucci, Darren Cyr, Wayne Lozzi, Hong Net and William Trahant Jr.

Escorted into the auditorium by Lynn police and firefighter honor guards, the elected officials will take seats on the auditorium stage and watch as the English High School Marine Junior Reserve Officers Training Corps cadets present the colors.

Local musician MaryBeth Maes will sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” followed by an invocation delivered by East Coast International Church Pastor Kurt Lange. Following a performance by the Mak’n Step squad and dance team, Lynn District Court Judge James Lamothe will administer oaths of office to councilors and committee members.

Although Cahill will be the evening’s master of ceremonies, Kennedy will deliver the inaugural address. The evening will conclude with a performance by the Angkor Dance Troupe, with councilors meeting after the inauguration to pick a president, vice president and Water and Sewer Commission representative.

Cahill is seeking another term as president, but the other two leadership seats are up for grabs with Council Vice President Rick Ford’s decision not to seek reelection last year and Ward 1 Councilor Wayne Lozzi declaring he does not intend to seek another term representing the council on Water and Sewer.

“I’m proud that in 12 years we helped hold (water and sewer) rates down,” Lozzi said.

School Committee members will also meet following inaugural ceremonies.


 

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