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Council Passes $181.5 Million City Budget with Reservations

The City Council passed a nearly $181.5 million City Budget for Fiscal Year 2020 Monday night, but not without some dire warnings about the financial future of the City by a few of the councillors.

The $181,486,465 budget passed by an 8-3 vote, with Councillors Damali Vidot, Joe Perlatonda, and Robert Bishop voting against the 3.7 percent increase over the FY19 budget. The School Department’s $95.4 million commitment comprises the largest chunk of the budget.

The Council also approved the Water and Sewer Enterprise accounts for FY20, bringing total City appropriations to around $205 million, but the water and sewer accounts are paid through the water and sewer rates, not taxation.

Several attempts were made to cut money from the budget Monday night, but with the exception of a $1,300 cut in the Emergency Management department budget, none of those efforts garnered a majority.

Among those failed efforts was one by Vidot to cut salary lines in the police, fire, and planning budgets.

Vidot proposed the $80,000 cut to the planning budget, $50,000 to the police, and $100,000 to the fire last year as well, citing a top heavy administrative budgeting in the Police and Fire departments, and her displeasure with the way the Downtown Coordinator position in the Planning Department has panned out.

One of the biggest issues, Vidot said, is that the Downtown Coordinator has not been properly involved with the small, local businesses in the city.

“We have to think about the future of this city, and (the position) is leaving out a huge part of Chelsea,” said Vidot.

Perlatonda said he couldn’t agree with an effort to cut $80,000 from the planning budget when the Council didn’t take action to cut millions of dollars from the Department of Public Works budget.

Perlatonda made his own amendments looking for the cuts in the DPW budget, which would have effectively ended a request by City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to have the DPW oversee a new City Water and Sewer Department, rather than contracting for the services.

Those amendments also failed.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda also voted against the cuts to the planning budget, noting several recent city-wide events that have brought hundreds of people to the downtown area.

Vidot noted that her amendment was not a personal attack on anyone, but added that City events would more appropriately be funded in the Recreation Department budget.

In casting his vote against the overall $181.5 million, Bishop said the constant increases in City spending are unsustainable.

“Last year, I voted against the budget because it was unsustainable,” said Bishop. “This year, it is even more unsustainable … this can’t continue. It’s no surprise to everyone that I usually oppose certain spending.

“I’m against a lot of spending because I think it is not spent wisely,” he continued. “When is this going to end? I hope I am not around when the bottom falls out, because it is going to fall.”

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero voted for the budget, but said the City needs to seriously heed Bishop’s warning, noting that other large cities in Massachusetts such as Springfield and Lawrence have seen the economic bottom fall out.

“It can happen anywhere, … and then we will have to start laying people off,” said Recupero. “We only have 1.8 square miles in the city, how much can you grow in our city?

“I am going to vote for the budget because it is the right thing to do now, but like Mr. Bishop said, we have to beware of the future, because the future is not too far away,” he continued.

Perlatonda said that the budget is rising without the City doing enough to help its poorer residents through things like tax and water and sewer rate breaks.

“When is it going to end?” he said. “This budget needs to be stopped at some point.”

District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown said the councillors have gone through a long budget process with ample chance to make amendments or address their concerns to Ambrosino.

“I believe this budget is solid, well thought out, and well supported,” Brown said. “I know the investment we are making today is sound.”

Avellaneda voted to approve the budget, but said it is the first time he has ever given serious pause to voting in favor of a budget.

“What I have seen during the last year with the budget process is that I don’t think we are doing enough during budget season,” he said.

Avellaneda said there should have been more debate about, and more information provided about, the proposed change to the control of the Water and Sewer Department.

He also noted that the budget will have to be paid for in October, when the Council sets the City tax rate.

When that time comes around, Avellaneda said he will have questions for the City’s Assessing Department, which he said has been doing a “terrible job” capturing the true value of many larger properties in Chelsea.

“Across the board, there are many, many, many buildings, and these are large landlords, that are not paying their due in this community,” Avellaneda said.

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Chelsea Night Market Inaugural Event Planned for June 8

How much awesomeness can be contained within Luther Place?

The people of Chelsea will soon find out as the first of a series of five monthly events takes place downtown on Saturday, June 8, with the launch of the Chelsea Night Market.

Presented by the City of Chelsea through its downtown initiative called Chelsea Prospers and local events production company Jukebox, the Chelsea Night Market is an ambitious undertaking for a hidden corner of the downtown that’s beginning to awaken.

Last year, GreenRoots took the lead in the block’s transformation by creating a colorful mural with Chelsea artist and one of the state’s top muralists Silvia López Chavez on the Chelsea Walk.

That pedestrian walkway provides the entrance to the next phase of the effort with activation of the space through the Chelsea Night Market.

Edwardo Chacon of Jukebox said, “Vendors are still being accepted for future markets and there’s always room for more artists and performers to join in. Our priority is to engage as much local talent as possible. We’re excited by all the energy growing around the market and the new connections we’re making. This is going to be epic.”

Here, in the large parking lot on Cherry Street behind the businesses on Broadway between Fourth and Fifth Streets, event visitors every month will find the area transformed with activity and something new to discover on each visit.

More than a dozen booths will feature local businesses, artists, merchants and community groups. Merchandise includes both new, vintage, thrift and handcrafted items.

Jack’s Men’s Shop will highlight emerging brands for men’s fashion, while Allen’s Cut Rate features a selection of high-quality fragrances. You’ll find hand-crafted jewelry by Beaded Inspiration and Sacred Soul Fire. Over at the booths for Dandelion District and High Energy Vintage there’s a variety of vintage items including old school video games, nicnacks and clothing.

At Jukebox’s booth, show off your local pride with swag that shouts your love of all things 02150. Among the offerings are T-shirts and totes emblazoned with Chelsea. All proceeds are dedicated to supporting the next projects to improve Luther Place.

A variety of other tents will feature community groups and artists.

Test your aim with Archery Games Boston, show off what you’re proud of with the Chelsea LGBTQ Coalition, and play around with the team from the Phoenix Charter Academy Chelsea.

Several local restaurants are on board with menus of street food as well.

Get a sandwich hot off the grill from the chefs of Broadway House of Pizza, nibble savory Chinese food from Chung Wah, or sink your teeth into an empanada from Pan y Café.

On the main stage a variety of performers will entertain the crowd.

MC for the night is comedian and actor Chase Abel. Host of the podcast “Ready Set Blow” with Randy V, he’s a regular at Boston’s top clubs.

Among them is a band headed by Bengisu and Tuzcu.

It’s impossible to describe their mix of Turkish-funk-rock, but it will definitely get a groove going.

DJ Tempo Sauve’s upbeat house electronica is gathering a strong following, and he’ll keep the energy going throughout the night. There’s a rumor some comedians from the recent show at Tu Casa may stop by too.

The performance highlight, however, undoubtedly will be the crew from the Boston Circus Guild. They’ll be roaming among the crowd to show off their amazing skills and costumes and then at 9:30 p.m., will take the stage for a 20-minute fire performance that will top off the night.

Serving as a backdrop to the main stage and to provide a tangible reminder of the market through the summer, the wall of 456 Broadway will serve as space for temporary mini murals with new designs appearing each month by local artists.

The Chelsea Night Market team is grateful for the support of the Chelsea Record as a media sponsor helping them to spread the word about the upcoming event and to highlight the new happenings of downtown Chelsea.

For additional information check out the Chelsea Night Market’s website at www.chelseanightmarket.com, the facebook event at https://www.facebook.com/events/529915294079626/ or contact at Mimi Graney, at mgraney@chelseama.gov

Future dates include:

•July 13 (raindate 7/20)

•August 10 (raindate 8/17)

•September 21 (raindate 9/28)

•October 5 (raindate 10/12)

CITY OF CHELSEA, MA

Department of Planning and Development

City Hall, 500 Broadway, Room 301 · Chelsea, MA 02150

Phone: 617.555.1708 · Fax: 617.658.6725 · Email: deptemail@chelseama.gov

CITY OF CHELSEA, MA

Department of Planning and Development

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Councillors Want Guarantee on Soundproofing for Massport Money

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero doesn’t like some of the noise he is hearing about a proposed Massport-funded soundproofing program.

Earlier this spring, Recupero and Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda proposed that the City use $300,000 of the $600,000 annual Massport mitigation payment to help provide soundproof windows for residents who deal with the whoosh of jets traveling to and from Logan Airport.

But a letter from City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to the City Council states it might not be that easy to automatically earmark those funds for a soundproofing program.

“I am not opposed to creating some local grant program, operated through our Planning Department, to provide funding for soundproofing to residents adversely impacted by airport related noise,” Ambrosino stated. “Deciding who should qualify for such grants, and how to prioritize areas of the City, might be a bit challenging. But, I feel with some time, we can work out those details together in collaboration with the City Council.”

But Ambrosino said the funding proposed by the Council is problematic, since the annual mitigation payment cannot be directly used for a specific program. The payment is considered a payment in lieu of taxes by the state’s revenue department, making it a general revenue source that is deposited into the City’s general fund.

“If the Council desires to depend upon this Massport payment to help fund a soundproofing program at the level of $300,000 annually, it must appropriate the $300,000 separately,” Ambrosino stated. “It can do that either in an annual Budget line item, or as an isolated appropriation from a source such as Stabilization or Free Cash.”

Ambrosino recommended the City commit to appropriating $300,000 for the soundproofing program from Free Cash whenever it is available, rather than making it a permanent part of the budget.

“I can see what the City Manager is saying, but this money comes to us direct from Massport, we get it all the time, so why do we have to wait and put it in free cash?” Recupero asked. “What kind of guarantee can the City Manager give us? I want the City Manager to give us some kind of guarantee that the money will be used for that purpose, not all of it, but a piece of it.”

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Thousands Report to Work at Encore Boston Harbor

Monday marked the biggest day to date for Encore Boston Harbor and its crew of 4,800 employees as they reported to work at the resort site for the first time, and existing employees and the executive team moved into offices at the Encore tower.

After many job fairs, interviews, discussions and trainings, approximately 4,800 active employees were brought on board at the new Encore Boston Harbor resort casino site on Monday, June 3 – the first day that work began in earnest at the $2.2 billion resort, which opens June 23.

It also marked the first day for existing workers and the executive to move out of their long-time offices at Station Landing and into offices at the resort tower.

From shuttle drivers to blackjack dealers to employee cafeteria chefs to Encore President Bob DeSalvio, most everyone with a job to do at Encore was on site Monday.

“On Monday, we were able to move into the resort,” said President Bob DeSalvio. “We now have 4,800 incredibly excited and enthusiastic employees preparing to receive our guests. This is truly a magical time in the building, as employees embark on new careers that positively impact not only their lives but also their families. I’m seeing a lot of smiling faces this week.”

Employees have been busy getting acclimated to their jobs for the past few weeks, training in massive conferences off-site in local venues and in Boston function halls. Monday marked the first day they could begin training onsite, getting their uniforms from the state-of-the-art clothing check system.

To date, Encore representatives said they have brought on 4,800 employees, but they are not yet finished.

They still have offers out to another 700 employees, and are looking to employee another 300 employees. That number includes dealers and others throughout the organization.

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Sun-Shining Moment CHS Graduation Heads Outdoors for 2019

The story of the Chelsea High Class of 2019 won’t be complete with just a rundown of what happened in the hallways of the high school.

In fact, it’s what this class did at City Hall, on social media and in rooms with powerful decision makers that will define the 312 seniors who will walk across the stage on Sunday to collect their diplomas and celebrate a journey concluded.

Workers on Monday began cobbling together more than 20,000 hard plastic squares over the new Chelsea Stadium turf field to protect it for the first outdoor graduation in many years. The new situation was a hard-fought win for the Class of 2019, and will likely define them for years to come, school officials said. Graduation takes place at 1 p.m. on Sunday, June 9.

That story starts and ends with having graduation under what (hopefully) will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.

will be bright blue skies and sunshine – as the class celebrates their year-long fight to get graduation back outdoors and open up the celebration to many more family members.

Principal Alexander Mathews said the class is very accomplished academically, socially and athletically, but it has taken an extra step of moving outside the school and advocating in the community.

“It’s a class that more than any I’ve seen is driven to show leadership in a way that feels organized and professional,” he said. “I’ve been really, really impressed with what I’ve seen at Chelsea High this year – even in the face of discord among the adults at times…They remained calm and serious even when so much was happening around them. It’s a very community-minded ethic in the group. They are genuinely of a belief that what they’re doing is best for the community and not necessarily their families only. They believe they are doing this for the future of the other classes behind them. That’s pretty impressive in a teenaged mind.”

The Class of 2019 decided early on that they wanted to be able to graduate outside, and it wasn’t just to get some sun.

In fact, since the graduation moved into the indoor gym, many family members have been excluded from the ceremony due to space reasons. With larger classes and larger families, many parents found they had to go and watch the graduation on a telecast in the cafeteria.

Students in the Class of 2019 didn’t think it was right and fought back against that.

“In some cases, relatives traveled hundreds or thousands of miles to be there, but weren’t able to be with the family in the gym,” said Mathews.

It seemed like an attainable goal, but then they ran into the red tape of consumer affairs.

That came in the form of the warranty of the brand new turf field at the Stadium where graduation would take place. That warranty would be void, City officials learned, if the graduation were held on the field without and protections in place.

And those protections cost nearly $200,000.

School officials and City officials seemingly told the class members that it was a good effort, but couldn’t be done.

Leaders like President Jocelyn Poste and activist Manuel Teshe would not take ‘no’ for an answer. They began to fundraise and attend City Council meetings to speak in favor of finding a solution to their predicament.

After a lot head scratching, City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Supt. Mary Bourque, the School Committee and the Council found a solution, but it cost $175,000. Students advocated that the expense was well worth it so that families could be together on what was a very big day.

And the City agreed.

This week, workers have been cobbling together 25,000 hard plastic pieces over the new turf field that will protect it on graduation and preserve the warranty as well.

“I think these students have realized the connection between their growing academic skills and their ability to influence policy and important decisions around the city,” he said. “Seeing that connection is really motivating for students.”

And those students, in what is another one of the largest classes in several years (last year had a record 344), will take the academic and advocacy lessons they have learned this year to a number of great colleges, universities and workplaces.

Students will be attending schools such as Dartmouth College, Tufts University, Boston University, Suffolk University and others. There are also several full-ride Posse Foundation Scholars attending schools such as Bucknell University, Denison College, Union College, and Centre University in Kentucky.

Graduation will take place on Sunday, June 9, outdoors at the new Chelsea Memorial Stadium at 1 p.m. – rain or shine.

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Encore Debuted Neighborhood Runner Shuttle Monday in Chelsea, Everett

The new shuttle service throughout Chelsea and Everett has launched, and dubbed the Neighborhood Runner, the service began operating on Monday, June 3.

“We started service on Monday, June 3, at 5 a.m.,” said Jim Folk, director of Transportation for Encore Boston Harbor. “Now, it is running 24/7, 365 days a year. It starts its route at the Chelsea Market Basket every 20 minutes on the 20…I really think it’s going to be a successful route. It’s great for our employees and guests, and it’s great for Everett because it gives them a new connection to the Silver Line for the airport, Seaport and even South Station.”

The new Neighborhood Runner stops at Market Basket (Chelsea), then goes through Everett to Everett Square (outside Braza’s), then to the GE site on Air Force Road, and finally to the Encore resort.

Employees reported to the resort on Monday, and Folk said the Runner has become popular already with the new employees looking to get to work from the neighborhoods, or to catch transit lines that run near the new stops.

“Believe it or not, we have picked up some passengers even though we haven’t advertised the Runner yet to the public,” Folk said. “Our employees are aware of it and many are actually taking it to and from the resort. We had a good amount of people on Monday that used it. We expect more and more people as time goes on. I think it will really be successful.”

The 26-passenger Runner is made by Grech, and has a lot of extras.

The interior has leather seating and large cupholders, along with plenty of space. It is 100 percent ADA compliant and also has video screens for entertainment.

Folk said right now they are sticking to the four stops on the route, but he said they aren’t ruling out expanding the stops in Everett and Chelsea once the resort opens.

“We think it’s a great, great alternative for the folks in Everett and our employees and guests coming to Encore,” he said.

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U.S. Citizen Extradited from Brazil to Face Wire Fraud Charges

A U.S. citizen appeared last week in federal court in Boston after being extradited from Brazil in connection with a $2 million wire fraud scheme.

Christopher Morris, 48, formerly of Lowell and Chelsea, was extradited from Brazil and arrived in Boston last week. Morris was detained following an initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge M. Page Kelley. In November 2014, Morris was indicted on four counts of wire fraud and 12 counts of unlawful monetary transactions. Since 2013, Morris had been living in Uruguay and Brazil.

The indictment alleges that Morris, an accounting professional, participated in a wire fraud scheme targeting his employer, PBS Distribution (PBSd), a media distribution business with operations in Allston and elsewhere. Morris’ position gave him access to U.S. mail addressed to PBSd’s accounting department, including checks payable to PBSd. According to the indictment, beginning as early as January 2008 and continuing through September 2012, Morris took more than $2 million in checks under the guise of depositing them into PBSd’s bank accounts, but he instead endorsed them to himself and deposited them into a personal bank account. Morris allegedly used his access to PBSd’s accounting system to conceal the theft by, among other steps, fraudulently causing credits to be issued to the accounts of customers whose checks he stole, and by causing PBSd’s general ledger to be altered to show that the same customers had made payments. It is further alleged that Morris spent the proceeds of the scheme on a lavish lifestyle that included year-long apartment rentals in New York City’s Greenwich Village and Tribeca neighborhoods; the down payment, purchase and upkeep of a waterfront condominium in Chelsea; and luxury clothing, dining and travel, including a $16,000 two-week South American cruise.

The charge of wire fraud provides for a sentence of no greater than 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000 on each count. The government expects to move to dismiss the charges of unlawful monetary transactions under the Rule of Specialty, a doctrine of international law that permits prosecution upon extradition only as to charges authorized by the extraditing nation.

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East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and South End Community Health Center Announce Intent to Merge

This week, in one of the first mergers of its kind in Massachusetts, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) and South End Community Health Center (SECHC) announced their intent to merge after signing a definitive merger agreement.

Pending federal and state regulatory approvals, SECHC will become a part of EBNHC with Manny Lopes remaining as president and CEO. The merger will add SECHC’s 180-plus employees and 19,000 patients to the largest community health center in Massachusetts and one of the largest in the country. SECHC will continue to provide comprehensive health care services in the South End.

“As SECHC celebrates 50 years of service to the South End, we also look to the future. Our number one goal is to strengthen high-quality care for this community in an increasingly complex and volatile health care system that favors economies of scale,” said Bill Walczak, CEO and president of SECHC. “We have strategically considered many pathways to achieving this goal over the past several years and are delighted to have reached an agreement with EBNHC that positions community-based care to thrive.”

Manny Lopes, president and CEO of EBNHC, added, “Our organizations have shared a common mission for decades and there is a lot we can learn from one another. As health centers, it is our duty to innovate and grow in financially sustainable ways to ensure we are preserving and advancing affordable, accessible, high-quality care in communities that need it most. We believe that welcoming SECHC into our organization will benefit patients, staff, and our communities.”

Post-merger, EBNHC will support approximately 1,200 employees and more than 100,000 patients per year with an operating budget of $165 million, providing high-quality services and programs in neighborhoods on both sides of Boston Harbor.

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) has been a vital part of its community for more than 40 years, providing easily accessible, high-quality health care to all who live and work in East Boston and the surrounding communities of Chelsea, Revere, Everett, and Winthrop. EBNHC supports more than 1,000 employees and handles 300,000 visits per year – more than any other ambulatory care center in New England.

South End Community Health Center (SECHC) is a comprehensive health care organization for all residents of the South End and surrounding communities. Founded in 1969, SECHC is committed to providing the highest quality, coordinated health care that is both culturally and linguistically sensitive to every patient, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, and/or income. SECHC’s multi-cultural and highly trained staff of 180-plus serves more than 19,000 patients with an operating budget of $16.5 million.

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Iconic Chelsea Soldiers’ Home Water Tower Comes Down

By Seth Daniel and Katy Rogers

For more than a few Chelsea residents, the Soldiers’ Home red and white checkers water tower defined home.

It was something they saw from planes, looked at in the rearview mirror when headed over the Mystic/Tobin Bridge, and could see from nearly every corner of the city.

Now, it’s only a memory.

The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home water tower came down on Wednesday afternoon, May 29, about 1 p.m. after many months of waiting for the right conditions to knock down the tower so as to make way for the $199 million state-of-the-art veterans hospital and living center.

Both could not exist in tandem, and after a long and passionate discussion last year about the tower, the community conceded to let the tower go.

About 9 a.m. on Wednesday, the demolition crew moved in to prepare a 200 foot perimeter at Malone Park for the tower to fall onto. That took several hours, but then about 12:30, work began on the legs. One leg on the north side was sawn off, and then the tower was simply pushed over.

It came down with a huge thud, but remained mostly intact.

The company that took it down also had most recently taken down the water tower at the Weymouth Air Station on the South Shore.

Many people from the community gathered to watch the tower come down, and television crews from the Boston media were out in force with cameras and helicopters. Afterward, Superintendent of the Chelsea Soldiers Home Cheryl Lussier Poppe addressed the media, explaining that the tower removal will allow for improvements and construction to the new veterans home that will replace the aging Quigley Hospital.

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