CEO of Opportunity Communities Ann Houston (former CEO of TND), Joe Rettman of NEI Interiors Construction, and Rafael Mares, executive director of TND, during the Nov. 13 40th anniversary Raising the Roof fundraiser for TND. The power-packed event took place at the Mystic Brewery in Chelsea and marked the organization’s 40th birthday.
Members of the Chelsea High School Class of 2019 are a step closer to getting their wish of an outdoor graduation on the new high school field.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is requesting the City Council approve spending $170,000 from the City’s Stabilization Account to buy a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
“This removable, plastic covering will allow for greater use of the field for non-sporting events, including allowing for an outdoor graduation for the Chelsea High School Class of 2019,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The city is in the midst of a $3 million-plus upgrade of Veterans Field at Chelsea High School. The first phase of the project, replacement of the artificial turf and the new track, is scheduled for completion this fall, according to Ambrosino. A second phase involving lighting and restrooms will continue in the spring.
The new turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if certain uses occur on the field, including large static crowds, spiked heels, or chairs with four legs. The City Manager said these restrictions would all but eliminate the use of the surface for any non-sporting events.
“One method for eliminating this problem is to purchase a removable, protective surface for the turf, which is how the problem is handled in many large artificial turf stadiums across the country,” Ambrosino stated. “However, we did not budget for such a protective surface in this project.”
At the request of the school, Ambrosino is asking the Council to approve the additional funding through the School Capital Stabilization Account, which Ambrosino said was specifically established for these types of School Department capital expenditures.
At its Monday night meeting, the council voted to take up the issue in its Finance Subcommittee.
The request from the City Manager was good news for Chelsea High Senior Manuel Teshe, who addressed the Council earlier this month about senior class fundraising efforts to secure an outdoor graduation.
“Mr. Tom Ambrosino made me feel like people were listening to us after all the work we did,” said Teshe. “We felt alone, and now we appreciate the chance that the City is even considering it.”
Prior to hearing from Ambrosino, Councillors Ray Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, and Yamir Rodriguez introduced an order asking the City Manager to explore the purchase of an event decking system. After hearing about Ambrosino’s request to use the stabilization funds for the purchase, Avellaneda withdrew the order.
A proposed $6,000 per year pay cut for City Councillors was handily defeated Monday night.
District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop proposed slashing councilors’ salaries from $14,000 to $8,000 annually as a way to begin a wider budget belt tightening across all City departments.
“The councillors all work very hard for the stipend they are given,” said Bishop. “This is not to indicate that we are not working hard. It’s not easy, and the job has become more demanding than it was 20 to 30 years ago.”
Rather, Bishop said the salary cut was needed as part of the Council taking a hard look at the City’s financial situation.
“The tax rate just goes up and up, and there is only one solution,” he said. “We have to cut the budget. Where do we start?”
While Bishop said there should be cuts across the board in all departments, the Council should start the process in its own chambers.
District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda argued that cutting the Council pay so drastically could limit the pool of candidates for office, noting the long hours, travel, and constituent services each councillor puts into the job.
Perlatonda said that councillors in Malden make $17,500 per year, and in neighboring Revere, the City Council salary is set at $18,000 per year and councillors there are eligible for health insurance and other benefits.
Councillors in Chelsea do not get any additional benefits.
The salary cut was defeated by a 9-2 vote, with only Council President Damali Vidot voting alongside Bishop.
In other Council business Monday night, several orders introduced by District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero were sent to committee for further discussion.
One order introduced by Recupero and District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez asked City Manager Tom Ambrosino to implement a policy where any company that does work in the city remove any equipment that is moveable and has rubber tires after work hours.
Recupero said that many parking spaces are lost in the city as large construction vehicles remain parked on city streets overnight.
“There’s no need to have all these big dump trucks in all these areas,” he said. “They are taking very precious parking spaces away from the people.”
Several councillors said they understood Recupero’s sentiment with the order, but felt it was too broadly written and could have a larger impact than he intended, if passed.
“I love to support anything that improves the lives of residents, but this is so broad,” said District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia. She said that if a more defined, revised version of the order came back before the Council, she would be happy to support it.
Bishop did attempt an amendment to the order on the floor, but Vidot and several other councillors said they were uncomfortable with the process of making policy on the fly. Councillor-At-large Leo Robinson moved to send the order to committee to get a better handle on costs and impacts of Recupero’s proposal.
The majority of the Council also recommended further study of another order introduced by Recupero. Recupero asked that when the City Manager hires new employees, that he implement the same procedures used to prove residential tax exemptions.
Several councillors pointed out that the order as proposed by Recupero was too limiting, since the residential tax exemption only applies to homeowners and not renters.
The Chelsea Collaborative hosted its annual Thanksgiving Dinner last Thursday at its headquarters at 318 Broadway.
Collaborative President Gladys Vega and her staff welcomed members of the community, who enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner and desserts. There was also a cotton candy station for children.
A large group of staff members and volunteers, led by Board President Rosalba Medina, helped serve the many food items to the guests in attendance.
But this year the celebration was a little different as the Collaborative announced the launch of the Immigrant Justice Bond Fund, in conjunction with EECO organization and the Episcopal City Mission that includes the St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea.
The fund is being set up to assist family members with people in detention centers to pay bonds established by immigration judges, with the purpose of reuniting them with their loved ones.
The Collaborative works hard with relatives who have come to its offices for assistance in locating their loved ones who have been detained by immigration agents. During the effort to locate and to be able to acquire the pro-bono services of lawyers, the Collaborative is faced with the obstacle of not having the necessary funds to help people out of detention.
It is for this reason that the Collaborative has joined forces with ECCO and Episcopal City Mission to find financial alternatives to pay bond. Chelsea Collaborative is honored to now be an organization that can count on these funds and get mothers and fathers out of detention centers.
Once the funds are used, payment agreements will be established so that these funds can always be available to other people in detention. After being released, people will be connected with legal and social resources to establish an individual plan for each family.
During the speaking program, Vega stated that the Collaborative was ready to assist residents with the agency’s many services and programs, and also to direct them to the appropriate groups for legal advice.
Yessenia Alfaro, deputy director at the Collaborative, felt the event, that drew a large turnout on a night that the first snowstorm of the season was approaching, was a huge success.
“It’s a blessing that so many people came here to tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and we’re grateful for our partnership with the ECCO organization and Episcopal City Mission in launching this important fund,” said Alfaro.
Several residents thanked Gladys Vega for her outstanding leadership of the Collaborative and the agency’s continuing diligence in helping all members of the community.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said this week that the City has negotiated three Host Community Agreements (HCA) with marijuana operators looking to establish dispensaries in the City.
Ambrosino said all three HCAs are identical and are really a formality for the dispensaries, which include the one at the former King Arthur’s, the one on Eastern Avenue and the one on Webster Avenue at Chelsea Commons. He said the City’s policy is they would negotiate an HCA with any entity that had gotten through the process and wanted to proceed to state approval.
“My guess is that it’s another year or so before any of them are set up,” he said. “It’s my understanding that all of the enterprises with HCAs here are not very close to being approved by the state Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).”
The HCAs are the next step after the community meeting, which all three have completed. To go before the CCC, an entity must have an HCA in place, and Ambrosino said the law is clear towards what can be in those agreements.
In Chelsea’s case, the City has asked for 3 percent of gross revenues from the sales of marijuana products. Those payments will come annually and will be in addition to the 3 percent local sales tax already approved. The first 3 percent mitigation payment would come 14 months after the dispensary opens.
A second monetary piece in the agreements includes two, $30,000 payments over two years to the City’s non-profits that have an anti-drug focus.
An important aside, Ambrosino said, is that the HCA doesn’t mean the City has agreed to support the license of any entity.
“My signing off on these is not a substantive decision on them,” he said. “I’m just giving them the chance to move forward and you have to have these in place to move forward. We’ll make the substantive decisions on these proposals not behind closed doors in a negotiation, but rather at the Zoning Board and Planning Board in a public as part of a process.”
Before any of the three dispensaries could open their doors, they would need state approval from the CCC. Then they would have to come back to Chelsea and get a special permit after visiting the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and the Planning Board. If that permit is achieved, they would then have to get a license to operate from the Chelsea License Commission.
Only then could an establishment open for business.
The cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal has once-again decreased and is at its lowest cost since 2010, according to the 33rd annual American Farm Bureau Federation’s (AFBF) Thanksgiving dinner survey.
The AFBF reported late last week that it had found the average cost of a traditional Thanksgiving meal for 10 to be at $48.90 nationwide, which figures to be less than $5 per person. It was a 22-cent decrease from last year’s low of $49.12. This year’s new low has put the cost of the traditional meal at the lowest cost since 2010.
After adjusting for inflation, the cost of this year’s Thanksgiving dinner is $19.37, the most affordable in more than a decade.
“Since 2015, the average cost of Thanksgiving dinner has declined steadily and is now at the lowest level since 2010,” said AFBF Chief Economist Dr. John Newton.
A total of 166 volunteer shoppers checked prices at grocery stores in 37 states for this year’s survey. Farm Bureau volunteer shoppers are asked to look for the best possible prices, without taking advantage of special promotional coupons or purchase deals, such as spending $50 and receiving a free turkey. Shoppers with an eye for bargains in all areas of the country should be able to purchase individual menu items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages.
The shopping list for Farm Bureau’s informal survey includes turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a veggie tray, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and coffee and milk, all in quantities sufficient to serve a family of 10 with plenty for leftovers.
The chief driver of the lowering costs is the most common item – the turkey. AFBF research showed that retail turkey prices are at the lowest costs since 2014, mostly because they are in abundant supply.
The average cost for a 16-pound turkey this year is $21.71, which is down 3 percent per pound from last year.
“Thanks to an ample supply, turkey remains affordable for consumers, which helps keep the overall cost of the dinner reasonably priced as well,” Newton said.
AFBF also highlighted other foods that showed large decreases as well. They included:
Gallon of milk, $2.92;
3-pound bag of sweet potatoes, $3.39;
one-pound bag of green peas, $1.47;
one dozen rolls, $2.25.
Some items did show an increase, however, including Massachusetts’ own contribution to the Thanksgiving table – the cranberry. Other items on the increase included pumpkin pie mix and cubed bread, among other things.
Those increased prices were as follows:
12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries was $2.65;
30-ounce can of pumpkin pie mix was $3.33;
14-ounce package of cubed bread stuffing was $2.87;
two nine-inch pie shells came in at $2.47;
one-pound veggie tray was $.75.
A group of miscellaneous items including coffee and ingredients necessary to prepare the meal (butter, evaporated milk, onions, eggs, sugar and flour) was also up slightly, to $3.01.
There was no change in price for a half-pint of whipping cream at $2.08.
To provide information on the increasingly changing Thanksgiving meal, AFBF looked in at hams and other new additions. Adding a four-pound bone-in ham, five pounds of Russet potatoes, and one pound of frozen green beans added about $1 per person to the overall cost.
“Adding these foods to the classic Thanksgiving menu increased the overall cost slightly, to $61.72 or about $6 per person,” said Newton.
AFBF also surveyed the price of a traditional Thanksgiving meal available from popular food delivery services. This revealed that the convenience of food delivery does have a larger price tag.
A 16-pound turkey was nearly 50 percent more expensive at nearly $2 per pound when purchased from a food delivery service. Nearly every individual item was more expensive compared to the do-it-yourself average and the total cost of the dinner was about 60 percent higher at about $8 per person.
The AFBF Thanksgiving dinner survey was first conducted in 1986, and the menu has not changed since that time for reliable comparison year to year. While AFBF does not make any scientific claims about the data, it is an informal gauge of price trends around the nation.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) announced the Beacon Street off-ramp to Chelsea will be re-opened to all vehicular traffic on Monday, November 19. As a result, the direction of traffic on Chestnut Street between 3rd and 4th Street will return to its usual one-way direction, heading south.
The ramp has been repaired and rehabilitated as part of the Tobin Bridge Repair Project. For more information and to sign up for monthly look-ahead emails, please visit the project website: www.mass.gov/tobin-bridge-repair-project.
Fernanda Lopez helped hang the paper kites created by Chelsea residents and community groups during the first Dia De Muerto, or All Souls Day, as part of Chelsea Prospers. The event displayed kites made by residents before the event, a tradition that is tied to the Sumpango Kite Festival in Guatemala and Ecuador.
When Chelsea art teacher Demetrius Fuller focuses on the community he has taught in since 1999, he has come to
Demetrius Fuller and Chris Miranda are currently painting a mural on Cherry Street and Everett Avenue. The title of the piece is ‘Chelsea Right Now’ and hopes to get viewers to think about the present community.
focus on the here and now.
And in a new mural he is painting on Cherry Street off of Everett Avenue, he has proclaimed everyone to see ‘Chelsea Right Now.’
While many focus on what Chelsea was, or lament about what it might become, he said very few, including himself, stop to enjoy what it is right now – which is pretty wonderful.
“It’s a mural for Chelsea,” he said. “That’s why we call it ‘Chelsea Right Now.’ Everyone is always talking about Chelsea in the future or what Chelsea used to be, or what it might not be tomorrow, but we just don’t stop to see there is a tremendous beauty in Chelsea present. This mural is about right now and captures what Chelsea is right now.”
The mural is funded by a Cultural Council grant and Fuller said he has not really ever done a mural. As a director of the art department in the Chelsea Schools, he has done painting in the schools and also for backgrounds at the Apollinaire Theatre, but never on a brick building. Known mostly for his teaching and his puppet show theatre productions, he said he needed help.
That’s why he brought his friend, Chris Miranda, in from Pittsburgh. The two of them have been working on the mural since Oct. 22, and it’s garnered a lot of attention.
Miranda said so many people comment on it that he has to sometimes ignore them so he can get his work done.
“I love the comments,” he said. “I’ve been enjoying getting to know this really wonderful City of Chelsea. It has so much character. So many people come up to me when I’m painting. All of them are excited, and sometimes there are so many that I have to just get back to work and let them watch me.”
Fuller said he often has students or parents stop to encourage him, which he enjoys.
“I do really like seeing the kids while I’m painting and for them to see me outside of school,” he said. “That’s good because many of them think the teacher lives at the school. I’m attempting to make something beautiful for the City of Chelsea and I think people appreciate that.”
The mural is still in the detail stages, but one can clearly see the figure of a woman coming out into the sunlight – something that Fuller said he has observed in the Cherry Street alley many times. He said the sun actually comes right through the alley at certain times and makes everything light.
With the Chelsea Square fountain in the background and the Bellingham Square clock – along with several other things – the mural features the women in a “here and now” moment stepping into the sun. As a reference point for the woman, Councilor Judith Garcia posed for the artists to get a sense of how things should look at the “right moment.”
That idea of the sun shining on Chelsea at a particular moment played into the Chelsea Right Now theme, Fuller said.
He said he hopes the mural, when finished, can serve as a reminder for everyone to not miss the great community that exists now for worries of the future or laments for the past.
“It’s like the City sat down for me to paint its portrait,” he said.