Council Passes Plastic Bag Ban, to Go into Effect December 2019

Council Passes Plastic Bag Ban, to Go into Effect December 2019

When Chelsea residents go shopping for the holidays next year, they will have to either bring their own bags or pay a dime for a heavy-duty plastic bag.

Monday night, the City Council approved an anticipated single-use plastic bag ban in the city. The ban goes into effect one year from the Dec. 17 vote.

The proposal has been discussed in committee and meetings on the ban have been held with local businesses, but the issue was not listed on Monday night’s agenda.

District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez made the motion to take the ban out of conference committee and have it voted on by the full Council. Lopez noted that single-use plastic bags are bad for the environment and are also a constant source of litter around the city.

“This is a great idea and it is in our power to do it,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I think small businesses will be able to adjust to the change.”

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he initially had some mixed feelings about the proposed ban, but said he was swayed by Sunday night’s ‘60 Minutes’ segment on the environmental dangers of plastic.

“I think plastic will kill us all if we keep going the way we are going,” said Bishop. While Bishop said plastic bags are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the dangers of plastic, banning plastic bags is a start.

District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda voted for the ban, but said he did have some concerns about the cost to consumers and businesses. While single-use plastic bags will be banned, consumers will be able to purchase sturdier, multi-use plastic bags for 10 cents.

Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson shared some of Perlatonda’s concerns and recommended the proposal be kept in committee, giving local businesses more time for input.

But the majority of the Council favored taking action Monday night.

“There have been other cities that have implemented this, and you can see a huge difference in the streets,” said District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada.

The one year time-frame before the ban goes into effect will give the City time to do outreach to local businesses, and give the businesses time to go through any existing stock of plastic bags.

The ban passed with a 10-1 vote, with District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown casting the lone vote against it.

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City Council News

City Council News

Police contracts add $876,000 in salary

increases, residency requirement for new hires

After more than two and a half years of negotiations, the City is on the verge of a new contract with its two police unions that will see pay increases of up to three percent and implement residency requirements for new hires.

Monday night, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino requested the City Council approve the contracts, which are retroactive to Fiscal year 2017. The Council forwarded the request to its subcommittee on conference, and will take up an official vote on the contracts at a future meeting.

The collective bargaining agreements are for the unions which represent police superior officers and patrol officers.

“Both deals encompass four years, made up of two separate contracts: a one year deal for FY17; and a subsequent three year deal for FY 19-FY20,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.

The contracts include a retroactive salary increase of 2.5 percent for FY17 and 3 percent for FY18 and FY19. There is also a 3 percent increase slated for FY20 and an additional 1 percent increase that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

All told, the retroactive salary increases total about $876,000.

“I strongly recommend that the City Council support these agreements, which have been the subject of lengthy negotiations spanning more than two and a half years,” Ambrosino stated. “We set aside in Salary Reserve for the resolution of these two agreements a total of $700,000. Accordingly, we will need an additional appropriation from Stabilization of $176,000 to satisfy these contractual commitments.”

The salary hikes are the only cost item in the new contracts, according to the City Manager. Other items in the contracts related to longevity, detail pay, sick leave incentive, and clothing allowance are limited to clarifications or minor changes and do not add any additional costs to the City, he added.

The percentage increases for salary are slightly more than those other City Hall unions have received, Ambrosino said.

“However, in return, the City did secure new language on residency upon which the City Council insisted,” he stated. “As of January 1, 2019, all new police hires must live in the City of Chelsea for five years, consistent with the Ordinance approved by the City Council earlier this year.”

While there was no debate over the union contracts themselves at Monday’s Council meeting, District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop did raise concerns about the City’s use of its stabilization, or “rainy day” funds.

Bishop noted that Ambrosino was requesting the use of stabilization funds for improvements to Eden Park and for a protective cover for the new high school turf field as well as for the contract salary costs.

Those stabilization funds should be used for emergency situations, Bishop said.

“I don’t think any of these requests rise to the level of an emergency to use the rainy day fund,” he said.

While Bishop said he supported the requests being made, he wanted assurances that any money taken out of the City’s stabilization funds be replaced by free cash as soon as those funds are certified by the state.

Outside graduation coming closer to a

resolution, decided Dec. 17

The Chelsea High School Class of 2019’s quest to graduate outside at the high school could come to a conclusion at the City Council’s next meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.

That’s when the Council is expected to vote on a $170,000 appropriation from the school stabilization account to pay for a  protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino made the request for the funds for the protective mat, which he said will allow for the use of the turf field for non-sporting events. The turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if there are certain non-sporting uses on the field.

The possible purchase is good news for members of the high school’s senior class, who have been working with school and city officials, as well as fundraising, in an effort to have their graduation moved to the high school field.

Senior Manuel Teshe said the turf field cover will benefit the whole city, as well as students and their families attending the graduation.

“This investment is going to last for years,” he said. “If this is done, it is done for the city, and the future of the city is the students at Chelsea High School right now.”

Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste was one of a number of CHS students wearing “Dream Big” shirts who addressed the Council on Monday night.

“We are close to achieving our dream of graduating outside on our own field,” said Poste. “With the help of the City Council, this can be a possibility.”

School Supt. Mary Bourque also lent the students some support before the Council.

“This is a wise investment for our future and will have a positive impact on every generation here,” Bourque said.

District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia urged all the students present on Monday night to return with their friends on Dec. 17.

“I’m so incredibly proud of everything that was said tonight,” she said.

  • In other business, the Council approved a change in the zoning ordinance requiring tighter building controls in the Admiral’s Hill neighborhood.
  • Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda introduced an order requesting that the License Commission hold two recreational marijuana licenses for applicants that have a majority ownership consisting of Chelsea residents.
  • Ambrosino asked the Council to approve funding for renovations to Eden Park.

The majority of the renovations will be reimbursed through a state grant, the city manager stated.

“The proposed renovations of Eden Park include replacement of the playground’s rubber surfacing, introduction of new playground equipment, installation of a new water feature and splash pad, installation of new site furniture and lighting, and reconstruction of all site utilities,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.

The total cost of the renovations is about $750,000, according to Ambrosino. The City Council appropriated $250,000 through the Fiscal Year 2019 Capital Improvement Program. Of the remaining $500,000, the City Manager said $400,000 should be reimbursed by the state.

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Council Pay Cut Doesn’t Fly in Monday Vote

Council Pay Cut Doesn’t Fly in Monday Vote

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.

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Bishop Proposes City Council Pay Cut

Bishop Proposes City Council Pay Cut

If District 1 City Councillor Robert Bishop gets his way, he’ll be taking $6,000 per year out of his own pockets, and those of his fellow city councillors.

Monday night, Bishop introduced an ordinance asking that the Council salary be cut from $14,000 to $8,000 per year beginning in 2020. The councillor said he was unhappy when the salary increased from $8,000 to $14,000 several years ago, and wants to see it cut back.

The ordinance was moved to a second reading at a future council meeting before there was any discussion on the proposal, but Council President DamaliVidot said there will be an opportunity for debate and discussion during the second reading.

The council voted for the pay raise to $14,000 in 2013 and it went into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

  • In other business, the council heard a legal opinion from City Solicitor Cheryl Watson Fisher that stated that the Council’s subcommittee on finance violated the open meeting law when it discussed a $20,000 appropriation for legal services that was not properly placed on the subcommittee’s agenda. Bishop, who heads the finance subcommittee, countered that the matter was properly posted and fell under the heading of financial requests.

“I felt it would be appropriate to discuss,” Bishop said. “I see nothing in Rule 26 that says we could not speak about it. … To me, this is kind of petty and picayune.”

But Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson said he didn’t understand how the matter had gotten to the finance subcommittee without coming before the full Council first.

Vidot said there will be a subcommittee discussion about how to best move forward with financial matters on the Council.

  • Bishop also asked for a meeting to discuss traffic flow issues at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington Avenue, Revere Beach Parkway and Webster Avenue, and Spruce Street and Everett Avenue. The councillor noted that motorists are faced with an especially dangerous intersection at Revere Beach Parkway and Washington.

“It’s a wonder that there are not more accidents than there already are,” Bishop said.

  • The District 1 Councillor is also requesting a subcommittee meeting to discuss issues with the city and the Chelsea Housing Authority’s rodent baiting programs. Bishop said he has concerns that the programs are ineffective and dangerous for the workers implementing them.
  • District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero introduced an order asking the public works director provide the Council with an accurate account of how the City sets water and sewer rates and how those rates could be stabilized.

In contrast to the past several meetings, when discussion over water and sewer rates brought a steady stream of residents to the microphone, it was a more subdued public speaking session at Monday’s meeting.

Chelsea High School senior Manuel Teshe advocated for fundraising efforts that would allow the senior class to graduate outside at the school’s football field. Teshe estimated the total cost of covering the field to keep it safe for a graduation ceremony would be about $30,000.

“We are passionate about this and want to graduate from the school in the best way possible,” said Teshe.

Teshe’s classmate, senior class president Jocelyn Poste, was also on hand at the meeting to promote the Red Devil Turkey Trot race on Saturday, Nov. 17 to benefit the school’s track and cross country programs.

Anyone interested in finding out more about the race can visit  HYPERLINK “http://chelseahightrack.com” t “_blank” chelseahightrack.com. The event begins at 10 a.m. at Admiral’s Hill.

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‘Big Top’ Comes to Chelsea City Council

‘Big Top’ Comes to Chelsea City Council

Civility was at a premium at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

While the meetings typically end with a pro forma opportunity for councillors to make community announcements and hold moments of silence to honor those who have recently died in the community, this week’s meeting ended with a flurry of accusations, banging gavels, and frustration.

Tensions were already high Monday night, as the month-long debate over a water and sewer discount for homeowners was rescinded by one vote (see related story).

Things only got hotter as the Council got to an order introduced near the end of the agenda by Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda. That order asked the Council to schedule a conference with the City Clerk’s office to discuss the campaign finance filing deadline enforcement policy, and the state’s campaign and political finance office findings of campaign finance law violations, by Council President Damali Vidot’s campaign committee.

“I was a little surprised when I saw that you allowed this particular order to be placed before the Council,” District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said to Vidot. “One councillor going against another councillor, it should be ruled out of order. It’s a personal thing, and I don’t think those types of things should be put on the floor.”

Vidot ruled that Avellaneda’s motion was out of order. She said she brought the matter forward as a matter of transparency, but would not allow orders attacking her personally to go forward.

“I think this matter is totally inappropriate, and Councillor Avellaneda, I understand you wanting to embarrass me, but this is not the place to do it,” said Vidot.

Avellaneda argued that nowhere in his motion was he attacking Vidot, and that it was a motion based on facts. He challenged Vidot’s decision to rule the motion out of order.

No councillors joined Avellaneda in voting to overturn the challenge.

Matters only got more out of hand as the meeting wound down with the announcements portion that typically ends the night.

District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez accused Avellaneda of putting forward proposals that would directly affect his business ventures, which Avellaneda denied.

Vidot repeatedly banged the gavel as she tried to restore order to the proceedings.

“We are looking very circus-like,” said Vidot. “I ask that we display a little decorum and reflect on the type of representation this community needs.”

As the meeting ended, several councillors had already walked away from their seats as a steady stream of cross-talk filled the chamber before Vidot was able to settle the room for a moment of silence.

After the meeting, several councillors were visibly frustrated and expressed dismay over the recent proceedings in the Council chambers.

  • In earlier, more sedate business, the Council received communication from City Manager Tom Ambrosino asking the City to consider a request for proposals for use of the Salvation Army building for residential and commercial use.

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero asked that the City Manager look into ways the building, now owned by the City, could be converted into a community center.

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Trash Talk:City Manager Calls for Consideration of Universal Trash Fee as Rates Rise for Water, Sewer and Trash

Trash Talk:City Manager Calls for Consideration of Universal Trash Fee as Rates Rise for Water, Sewer and Trash

City Manager Tom Ambrosino told the City Council he believes it might be time to start a discussion about charging everyone a trash fee in the coming years as costs continue to rise for rubbish collection and recycling.

This came at the same time that he announced water and sewer rates would increase by 7.95 percent this year and the existing trash fee would climb 10 percent over last year.

Currently, trash fees are only charged to properties that are not owner-occupied. However, Ambrosino said it might be time to change all that.

“This new trash fee represents an increase of 10 percent,” he said. “Residential owners will pay an additional $32.88 annually as a result of this increase. I recognize that annual increases of 10 percent are painful, but even with this increase we will not cover the cost of our trash system with our fees. I have mentioned for some time that the City should consider changes to our current rate structure for Solid Waste Disposal. Specifically, I suggest we start the discussion of at least some nominal fee for owner occupied units. Otherwise, 10-plus percent increases will be the norm for the foreseeable future.”

The trash rate will increase to $30.09 monthly for residential property and $141.96 monthly for commercial units in mixed buildings.

Meanwhile, for water and sewer rates – which affect every homeowner – the combined rate increase will be 7.95 percent over last year. The average water user can assume a bill of $1,776 annual for water and sewer charges.

The water rate alone will go up 6 percent, and the sewer rate alone will go up 9 percent. Together, they arrive at the combined rate increase of 7.95 percent for residential users.

For Tier 1 users, the combined rate is $14.80 per hundred cubic feet.

The rates went into effect on July 1, but a Monday’s Council meeting Councillor Bob Bishop was quick to criticize.

“The water and sewer rates in Chelsea are too high,” he said. “I think we should be doing everything we can to hold the line or decrease these rates every year. Other cities and towns aren’t charging the rates we charge…It seems to be a feeding trough at the water and sewer department. I don’t like it.”

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Council Seeks Further Study of Two-Way Broadway

Council Seeks Further Study of Two-Way Broadway

Facing many critics from the public that showed up to speak against two-way Broadway, the City Council on Monday decided to defer any vote and, instead, hold a Committee on Conference to review the matter.

In August, the Traffic Commission voted 5-1 to approve the two-way plan, as well as a spate of many other non-controversial changes to Fay Square, Chelsea Square, Bellingham Square and City Hall Avenue.

Council President Damali Vidot called for the committee, and the Council approved the move. She said they had until Oct. 6 to hold the meeting and to have a vote of the full Council. The City Council must approve all actions of the Traffic Commission, but if they do not do so by Oct. 6, the Commission’s approval will become law.

Many on the Council have not made their opinions known yet, but some have, and ultimately the fate of two-way Broadway will fall on the votes of 11 members of the Council.

Council President Vidot has been critical of the idea, and has particularly disagreed with the planning process that has unfolded over the past two years. In the past, she has been against the change.

Councillor Leo Robinson, however, said this week he is in favor of two-way Broadway.

“I’m a two-way Broadway guy,” he said.

Councillor Joe Perlatonda has also spoke in favor of the plan, and said the one-way plan is dangerous because it calls for cars to park outside of the protected bike lane. He said that would leave those exiting their cars in a dangerous position with oncoming traffic and with oncoming bicyclists.

Meanwhile, Councillor Bob Bishop said he doesn’t buy the idea of two-way Broadway. To this point, he said he isn’t convinced it’s a good change.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Chief Brian Kyes are some of the biggest advocates, and though they don’t have a vote, they have strongly called for the change for months.

Resident Sharleen McLain, however, was one of several residents who said the plan is flawed and has been forced upon the public.

“From the very first it was clear the City Manager and the planners have been pretty bent on getting two-way Broadway,” she said. “They’ve been pretty manipulative in moving forward on this two-way plan. None of these meetings have allowed for meaningful input. It wasn’t until the July Traffic Commission meeting that members of the public were able to speak directly to the plans.”

Said Barbara Richard, “I think two-way Broadway is spot-on dead wrong. Businesses will go under. I also think it hasn’t been a good enough outreach to the community.”

Ambrosino said he is in favor of the two-way plan, but he implored the Council to consider the plan is much more than just the two-way Broadway situation. He said there are many, many more non-controversial changes in the package that people do want universally.

“Much of what is before you is non-controversial,” he said. “Whether it’s Fay Square, Bellingham Square or City Hall Avenue, these provisions have no opposition to the changes.”

The Council will meet next on Monday, Sept. 24, and the Conference Committee will likely take place next week.

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Council Approves Resolution Supporting Locked Out National Grid Workers

Council Approves Resolution Supporting Locked Out National Grid Workers

The City Council unanimously passed a resolution supporting the locked out National Grid gas workers in a vote of 8-0 on Monday night, adding to the numbers of elected officials now supporting the workers – who have been locked out in a contract dispute for 12 weeks.

Ray Bell of Chelsea – who has lived here for 45 years – came before the Council as one of the locked out workers. He said it’s a matter of public safety, as the replacement workers are not trained or experienced enough to carry out the work they’re doing.

“This is a matter of public safety,” he said. “That’s what it comes down to. This is not a labor issue. The workers trained and experienced need to be in the ground fixing our pipes. This is a no-brainer. It’s putting Chelsea people first…They’ll bury their mistakes. It may not go off now. Maybe it goes off in two months or two years. It could be a disaster. I’m telling you they don’t have experienced and trained people working on these gas pipes.”

Former Councillor Paul Murphy – whose brother is currently locked out – said he doesn’t want to see a disaster either.

“Knowing the work they’re doing on our streets, there could be a disaster here,” he said. “It is a labor dispute, but a different one because they’re locked out. They want to work.”

Councillors were very much in support of the measure despite a miscue last month at a special meeting when the matter didn’t pass due to Councillor Bob Bishop objecting to it. At a special meeting, one objection to a matter can kill it.

On Monday, Bishop said he didn’t oppose the matter, but had concerns last month due to the fact that it conflicted with the charter. Now, he said, the new draft of the resolution was free of any such conflicts.

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Controversial Parking Plan Gets Tabled at Council, Still a Victory for Vidot

Controversial Parking Plan Gets Tabled at Council, Still a Victory for Vidot

After many hours of meetings and dozens of discussions, a parking plan putting put forth by Council President Damali Vidot has been tabled by a vote of 6-4.

But within that vote was the promise by City Manager Tom Ambrosino to do a comprehensive parking study that would focus on resident needs and be done by this fall.

“Sometimes, you put things forth knowing you won’t get support; but as an opportunity to allow councilors to show where they stand to their constituency for when Election season comes,” said Vidot after the vote Monday night. “The parking ordinance served its purpose by initiating conversation and the City finally getting a comprehensive parking study going. It’s a win-win for the people of Chelsea.”

Vidot’s plan would have applied to developers who asked to waive more than 10 percent of the required parking under the zoning ordinances. Those that do ask for such relief would then be required to put in apartment leases that residents of the development could not apply for or receive City residential parking stickers.

One of the main problems with many developments, it has been explained, is that they waive the parking requirements with the assumption that residents won’t utilize cars. However, Vidot and other councillors have said that it isn’t the case, and resident parking is being taken up by those in new developments with nowhere to park.

By precluding the parking stickers for those who have sought relief for more than 10 percent of parking, Vidot hoped to open up spaces for existing residents.

“We have a serious problem with parking,” she said. “That’s one reason I became a city councilor…I’m not sure if this is the best thing personally. I speak to residents and they say it is, but I speak to businesses and non-profits who are in the development world and they say not to do it. I was elected by the residents, so I say yes to this.”

Many, however, had grave concerns that it would squash new development.

“I do speak in opposition to the amendment as proposed,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “I understand the sentiment, but the 10 percent figure will surely hamper out ability to improve the downtown and do one thing this Council is intent on doing and that’s building more affordable housing. I ask that you consider deferring action until we finish any parking study.”

Councillor Leo Robinson said he could not support the matter.

“I have concerns about how we’re going about this,” he said. “We’re in the process of finishing a parking study. At this point, I think we should be able to work on a study first.”

Those voting for the parking plan were Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, and Giovanni Recupero.

Those voting to table the matter were Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Luis Tejada, Leo Robinson, Joe Perlatonda, and Judith Garcia.

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Packed Chambers:Budget Passes, but with Some Rare Controversy, Drama

Packed Chambers:Budget Passes, but with Some Rare Controversy, Drama

The City Budget vote at the Council is usually a night of empty seats and methodical tabulation.

Not so this past Monday night when teachers, students and School Department employees packed the Chambers and councillors debated over several controversial cuts to the document.

One councillor, Bob Bishop, even cast a lone vote against the City Budget.

In the end, the Council did approve the budget 10-1.

The total spending came in at $195,964,074, with the breakdown as follows:

  • General Fund Budget, $174,074,177.
  • Water Enterprise Fund, $8,397,199.
  • Sewer Enterprise Fund, 12,808,779.
  • General Fund Free Cash, $683,919.

The total sum represents an increase of 6.6 percent over last year’s budget.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it was a document that represented a philosophy in government and he was proud of it.

“A budget is not just a compilation of numbers and spreadsheets,” he said. “A budget is always a document expressing a philosophy of government. This budget delivers services and programs and invests in our people, our community.”

The real drama came for the School Department, which needed a large influx of City cash into its coffers to avoid massive cuts to it program after being shorted several years by the state’s funding formula.

The City is required to give a set amount of money to the School Department each year, but in the budget crunch of the last few years, the City has kicked in extra funding. On Monday, numerous representatives from the schools were there to speak in support of what amounts to about $4 million (or 5.7 percent) above the required spending amount.

“The state is letting Chelsea down,” said Sam Baker, vice president of the Chelsea Teacher’s Union. “They can’t be relied upon to support urban Gateway districts like Chelsea…When the federal government lets you down, the state government lets you down, there is only one place left to turn – to the neighbors and the local officials of the city. This budget shows that the students and schools in Chelsea can rely on their local neighbors.”

Several others spoke as well, particularly for keeping special education position intact – positions that have been cut heavily in the past few years. School Committee Chair Jeannette Velez urged the Council to approve the additional spending in the budget.

After the vote, the room erupted in applause for the sake of the schools.

But it wasn’t that easy.

While the Council was uniformly in favor of the school measures, there were several things they were flat out against. Major amendments were proposed and hashed out on close votes over the course of an hour.

Almost all of them were proposed by Council President Damali Vidot.

First was a cut of $15,000 to the Law Department – which was a dart in the back of many on the Council. The cut represented funding put in the budget for the Council to have its own attorney on retainer to give them a second opinion when they aren’t satisfied with the City’s staff lawyers.

Only Councillor Giovanni Recupero and Damali Vidot voted for it, with it losing 9-2.

One cut that did survive was a $100,000 cut to the Fire Department as a shot across the bow for their use, and some on the Council would say abuse, of overtime in the last few years.

Vidot said the Department has seen numerous new hires in the last year and has proposed to increase its overtime budget. She said that number should be going down, not up.

The cut was approved 6-4, with Vidot, Recupero, Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez and Rodriguez voting yes.

Vidot also proposed to cut the Police Department salaries by $150,000 to curtail the use of overtime pay being given to officers who do walking beats around the downtown. She said that should come out of regular pay at the regular rate, not as overtime pay.

That measure lost narrowly, on a 5-6 vote. Those voting against that were Calvin Brown, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.

A major discussion took place after that to cut the new Downtown Coordinator position, which comes at $72,000. Vidot said it was a failed program and should be staffed by a Chelsea person who can bring all different Chelsea residents to the downtown to connect in one place. She said she doesn’t see that happening.

However, the majority felt that good things were happening and the coordinator needed more time.

A key supporter was downtown district Councillor Judith Garcia.

That cut failed 3-8, with only Vidot, Lopez and Bishop voting for it.

The final controversial cut proposal was to eliminate monies being spent to keep retiring EMS Director Allan Alpert on board for a year. Alpert plans to retire on June 30, but will be kept on as a consultant to bring the new director up to speed. The cost for that is $55,000.

Vidot said it was unnecessary, and she said it’s time to stop keeping retiring City Hall people on the payroll as consultants.

However, other councillors such as Avellaneda, said there was a succession plan in place for Alpert that didn’t pan out. Now, to make sure a new plan could be put in place, Alpert needed to be allowed to stay on another year.

After much controversial discussion, the cut was defeated narrowly 5-6. Those voting to keep Alpert on were Rodriguez, Tejada, Avellaneda, Robinson, Perlatonda, and Garcia.

For the overall budget, all councillors except Bishop voted for it.

Bishop, who has emerged as a staunch fiscal conservative on the Council, said the spending was not sustainable.

“I cannot vote for this budget,” he said. “I can’t be for this budget because it is not sustainable. We’ll hit the wall one day and that $25 million in the Rainy Day Fund will go out one ear because out budget is almost all salaries.”

The City Budget goes into effect on July 1.

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