Council President Race Down to Robinson, Vidot

Council President Race Down to Robinson, Vidot

By Seth Daniel

The City Council president race has been quietly going back and forth between Council President Leo Robinson and Council Vice President Damali Vidot for the last several weeks.

The showdown will likely continue as both court their fellow councillors for commitments and votes prior to a meeting that has been called to poll the members on Dec. 18. All that is needed is six votes, and the first candidate to achieve that commitment will emerge as the new president.

Vidot had an interest in pursuing the leadership spot last year, but put that on hold to become vice president and not take the post in her first term. Fresh off of a successful re-election effort, she said she wanted to pursue the position for the coming year.

“I’ve served as Vice President for two years and am prepared to facilitate conversations geared to community first and full adherence to the City Charter absent of personal attacks and status quo politics,” she said. “I believe it is my time, but if my colleagues determine that ‘it is not my time’ – as is typical in cases with women leaders – I will humbly continue to be a strong voice and advocate for the community. In all honesty, the title of president limits our ability to speak openly and so either way, it’s a win-win situation for myself and the residents of Chelsea.”

Meanwhile, Council President Leo Robinson has chosen to run again for the post and go for a second-straight year.

He said this week that he is a candidate and he’s running on a platform of experience.

He said the Council needs a proven leader at this moment in time, and he’s ready to continue his leadership into 2018.

As of now, it appears that both may have five committed votes, including themselves.

The key vote will likely boil down to Councillor Giovanni Recupero once again. Recupero is a supporter of both candidates, and will have a tough decision to make.

Meanwhile, there are also a number of wild cards in the race with three new councillors, including Bob Bishop, Calvin Brown and Joe Perlatonda. Their sentiments and leanings are completely unknown at the moment – though there are many assumptions as to where they might land.

All will be better known after the organizational meeting on Dec. 18, and then on inauguration night, Jan. 8, when the matter becomes official.

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9-1-1 Dispatchers Apologize for No Confidence Vote on Verdone

9-1-1 Dispatchers Apologize for No Confidence Vote on Verdone

By Seth Daniel

The Chelsea 9-1-1 Dispatchers Union made a public apology Monday night, Dec. 4, at the City Council meeting to former Assistant Emergency Management Director Robert Verdone for issuing a No Confidence Vote against him on Oct. 1, 2016.

Verdone was part of a management group in Chelsea EMS department that the union was very dissatisfied with over a number of years, but the union said Monday that Verdone was new and shouldn’t have been characterized with the rest of the management group.

It appeared that the No Confidence Vote still stood for Director Allan Alpert.

Dispatcher Paul Koolloian told the Council that since the vote, Verdone has shown he is knowledgeable and the union grew to appreciate and have confidence in his abilities.

“We stand firmly by our vote of No Confidence, but after careful consideration and reflection, we are in agreement to acknowledge that affixing Assistant Director Verdone’s name to the Letter of No Confidence was a poor decision on our part,” Koolloian said. “At the time the letter was drafted, Assistant Director Verdone was fairly new in his position and unfamiliar to the past history concerning several issues that plagued our Communications Center, most notably a continual pattern of harassment, second guessing and blatant disregard for our well- being several years prior to his arrival. Simply put, we got it wrong (with Verdone).”

Most notably, the union said they demonstrated poor judgment in including him, as it could and will have dire consequences for his future employment. Koolloian said they didn’t want to penalize Verdone for things done before his tenure.

It has been rumored that Verdone has been hired or is a finalist for the director’s position of a regional EMS center in Foxboro.

“There is no plausible excuse for our delay to publicly communicate this message,” said Koolloian. “We apologized from the bottom of our hearts for any inconvenience we may have caused you and your family and most importantly any damage we may have caused to your credibility and reputation.”

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A Big Request:City Makes Big Ask of MassDOT for Viaduct Project Mitigation

A Big Request:City Makes Big Ask of MassDOT for Viaduct Project Mitigation

By Seth Daniel

Shown in blue is the aea that will be worked on by MassDOT.

Shown in blue is the aea that will be worked on by MassDOT.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the City Council have submitted an eye-opening mitigation package to the MassDOT to accommodate the upcoming Chelsea Viaduct project – a major rehabilitation project of the elevated highway leading to the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.

The project is slated to be advertised in 2018 by the state.

In a letter submitted this month, City Manager Tom Ambrosino asked for a total of $1.724 million from MassDOT for various items to make up for the construction project.

“As you know the Route 1 viaduct basically bisects Chelsea, running directly through its dens, environmental justice neighborhoods,” he wrote. “Because of its overwhelming presence in the City, substantial and lengthy reconstruction of the Route 1 viaduct will undeniably yield negative impacts for the City’s residents, businesses and visitors and severely diminish the City’s quality of life.”

He said the project would have substantial disruption to the daily lives of Chelsea residents, including middle school and high school students who routinely walk in the Viaduct area to get the school.

MassDOT said it is early in the design stage and looks to be at about 25 percent by the end of the year. It is considering the letter, but had no further comment than that.

“MassDOT is currently in the early design stage, and is in the process of engaging the public in order to develop a comprehensive construction staging plan that will accelerate construction and minimize disruption to the City of Chelsea and commuters,” said a spokesman for MassDOT. “Additionally, MassDOT is in the process of evaluating the letter from the City of Chelsea and as always, will consider all suggestions that avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to local business, members of the community and to ensure reliable travel throughout the viaduct area.”

One of the biggest asks is $500,000 to fund a decorative lighting program under the Viaduct. Ambrosino said the lots beneath the Viaduct have historically been very dimly lit and subject to blight and criminal activity. The City is asking for post construction lighting that includes typical street lighting, and also a significant public art and special design program.

“As a commanding presence, the City envisions a spatial design and public art involving up-lighting that would enliven this corridor and lessen the negative attributes associated with the highway,” he wrote.

A second ask is for funding in the amount of $300,000 to re-design and renovate the football stadium and Carter Park – which are cut in half by the Viaduct.

Other mitigation measures include surveillance for parking lots, parking lot improvements under the Bridge for the City, improvements to the Fourth Street off-ramp, residential enhancements to homes abutting the bridge, additional crossing guards for school children, and a contribution to a bike-pedestrian path on the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.

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Council Looks to Create Committee to Study Parking Around Upcoming Silver Line

Council Looks to Create Committee to Study Parking Around Upcoming Silver Line

By Seth Daniel

The Chelsea City Council voted 11-0 to on Monday night to begin looking at the forthcoming, new Silver Line Stations and how to prevent commuters from hogging parking spaces.

Councillor Roy Avellaneda introduced the order at Monday’s Council meeting in order to get ahead of what could certainly become an immediate problem once the Silver Line opens some time in the spring.

With working moving at a rapid pace, and residents now able to see the stations and where they will be, Avellaneda said he was compelled to call for some sort of study.

“There areas of the city where these new stations would open are certainly vulnerable and we should think about some parking regulations around them,” he said. “I can imagine there will be outsiders parking in these areas if allowed. So that we don’t harm our residents living in these areas, we should look at doing these parking restrictions now.”

Avellaneda received unanimous support on the Council, and his order calls for a working group to be assembled to look at what might work at the new stations.

The working group would include city councillors, the city manager, the city clerk, the police chief and the Planning Department.

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Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

The Chelsea City Council unanimously set the property tax rates for residential and commercial properties on Monday night, instituting an increased 27.5 percent owner-occupant exemption that will lead to a reduction in taxes for most single-family homeowners.

“(These tax rates) will result in a reduction in the average tax bill for owner-occupied single family homes, and a modest tax increase to other owner-occupied parcels,” wrote City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The new residential tax rate is $14.17 per $1,000 of value, and the commercial tax rate is $29.75 per $1,000 of value. Both tax rates are still pending state Department of Revenue approvals – which could result in minor adjustments, if any adjustments.

With that, the average owner-occupied single family home will see a decrease in their bill from $2,723 last year to $2,654 this year. There are 843 single-family homes in Chelsea.

Condos will see an increase from $1,893 to $2,100, while two-families will see a very small increase compared to previous years – going from $3,657 to $3,781 on the average bill.

Three-family homes will also see a much smaller increase than in previous years, going up 3.8 percent over last year ($4,927 to $5,114).

The largest tax bill increase came on the condo properties, which will rise 11 percent over last year. Condos also are the most prevalent properties in the city, with 1,839 properties units.

The Council does have the option to increase the owner-occupant exemption to 35 percent, but instead continued to keep with the incremental increase towards that higher number. Last year, after first having the ability to go from 20 percent to 35 percent, the Council chose the conservative approach, ratifying a 25 percent exemption.

This year, they chose the 27.5 percent exemption.

“By selecting the 27.5 percent residential exemption amount, the City Council will have the opportunity to spread the benefit of the 35 percent exemption limit over several additional fiscal years,” Ambrosino wrote.

The Council did not debate the matter much, but voted 11-0 the tax rates and other related measures.

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Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

Brass Tax: some residents will see a decrease in property taxes this year

The Chelsea City Council unanimously set the property tax rates for residential and commercial properties on Monday night, instituting an increased 27.5 percent owner-occupant exemption that will lead to a reduction in taxes for most single-family homeowners.

“(These tax rates) will result in a reduction in the average tax bill for owner-occupied single family homes, and a modest tax increase to other owner-occupied parcels,” wrote City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The new residential tax rate is $14.17 per $1,000 of value, and the commercial tax rate is $29.75 per $1,000 of value. Both tax rates are still pending state Department of Revenue approvals – which could result in minor adjustments, if any adjustments.

With that, the average owner-occupied single family home will see a decrease in their bill from $2,723 last year to $2,654 this year. There are 843 single-family homes in Chelsea.

Condos will see an increase from $1,893 to $2,100, while two-families will see a very small increase compared to previous years – going from $3,657 to $3,781 on the average bill.

Three-family homes will also see a much smaller increase than in previous years, going up 3.8 percent over last year ($4,927 to $5,114).

The largest tax bill increase came on the condo properties, which will rise 11 percent over last year. Condos also are the most prevalent properties in the city, with 1,839 properties units.

The Council does have the option to increase the owner-occupant exemption to 35 percent, but instead continued to keep with the incremental increase towards that higher number. Last year, after first having the ability to go from 20 percent to 35 percent, the Council chose the conservative approach, ratifying a 25 percent exemption.

This year, they chose the 27.5 percent exemption.

“By selecting the 27.5 percent residential exemption amount, the City Council will have the opportunity to spread the benefit of the 35 percent exemption limit over several additional fiscal years,” Ambrosino wrote.

The Council did not debate the matter much, but voted 11-0 the tax rates and other related measures.

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What to Do about the Logan Noise Study? Some Ready to Bargain, Some Ready to Fight

What to Do about the Logan Noise Study? Some Ready to Bargain, Some Ready to Fight

By Seth Daniel

Councillor Dan Cortell questioned the creators of the noise study on Monday night. Cortell represents Admiral’s Hill, which has a terrible time with jet noise. He and other councillors are debating next steps after seeing the favorable study

Councillor Dan Cortell questioned the creators of the noise study on Monday night. Cortell represents Admiral’s Hill, which has a terrible time with jet noise. He and other councillors are debating next steps after seeing the favorable study.

The City Council publicly unveiled the recent Airplane Noise Study done by Boston University at a Committee on Conference meeting Monday night, Nov. 13, and the consensus is that there are two different paths – fight in court or use the favorable study as leverage.

The noise study was performed by the Center for Research on Environmental and Social Stressors in Housing Across the Life Course (CRESSH), which is a division of the BU School of Public Health. Those involved in the study included Jonathan Levy, Claire Schollaert and Madeleine Scammell (a Chelsea resident).

That report showed that flights over Chelsea have nearly doubled between 2011 and 2015, and that certain health effects associated with airplane noise are very high in Chelsea.

On Monday, Councillors and City Manager Tom Ambrosino met with the study creators and the public to talk about next steps.

Ambrosino explained that the City has had an agreement with MassPort to have a $600,000 annual payment to mitigate the airport uses and airport operations in Chelsea. That agreement ran out in 2015, but he said MassPort has “begrudgingly” continued to pay – but may not renew the deal.

He has asked that they pay $700,000 annually and that they contribute a one-time $3 million payment to create a waterfront park.

Many in the audience, including Ambrosino and GreenRoots Director Roseanne Bongiovanni, are of the opinion that the study should be used as leverage to bring MassPort to the table to agree on mitigation.

“It took us two years just to get a meeting with them about the airport, and then another 18 months to say they would consider doing something,” said Bongiovanni.

Ambrosino said he is a great supporter of the mitigation and park concept – as it would serve the most people – and the report could help make that happen.

“I am a great supporter of the waterfront park,” he said. “That is a piece of mitigation that generates benefits to the most residents of Chelsea and not just a small that will get soundproofing. It won’t be Piers Park in East Boston. That’s a $20 million park, but a $3 million park with the City kicking in $1 million to make it a $4 million park is something that could create a very wonderful waterfront park for everyone.”

Meanwhile, Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he was of the opinion that it might be best to look at using the study to fight MassPort in court.

“We’re going to get to a point where we have to make a decision about this on behalf of our residents,” he said. “We can squeeze them for $700,000 and a park like the City Manager wants to do, or we do a real noise study with proper equipment and prepare to say we have proof that our community is impacted and possibly prepare to embark on a lawsuit against MassPort and the FAA…My preference will be to do a proper sound study and fight. I can’t go to residents and say that I got them a park and they are still suffering from the noise.”

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Chelsea Fire Takes Delivery of Two New Apparatus

Chelsea Fire Takes Delivery of Two New Apparatus

The Chelsea Fire Department recently received two new pieces of fire apparatus, and at the moment both are being outfitted a preparing to be put into service.

The Chelsea Fire Department (CFD) has taken delivery of two new fire vehicles this week. Both are currently being outfitted and will be put into service later this month.

The Chelsea Fire Department (CFD) has taken delivery of two new fire vehicles this week. Both are currently being outfitted and will be put into service later this month.

First, the new Ladder 2, which replaces a 1999 aerial that runs from the Mill Hill Station on Broadway, was purchased by the City as part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). This new truck is currently being customized with equipment and going through the training process, and will be in service by the end of November.

The addition of this new ladder truck gives the department a viable spare aerial device that can be placed in service when a front line ladder is down for service or repairs, which is a great safety net for the city.

Second, the new Rescue 1 will replace the current Squad 5 and a step van that was utilized as a Special Operations vehicle.

This Rescue was acquired through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant program that was applied for by Fire Chief Len Albanese.

This $600,000 Rescue was obtained at only a 10 percent co-share by the City. This truck will be equipped with Special Operations equipment, most of which has been provided to the City through the Metro Boston Urban Area Strategic Initiative (UASI) program.  As part of the regional preparedness, Chelsea specializes in Technical Search for structural collapse.

When needed for Regional Response, this new Rescue can quickly get a large amount of equipment and to the scene of an incident.  This truck will be customized next, once the Ladder is completed. Then the department will conduct additional training and the project will be completed by the end of the year if not sooner.

The department hopes to be able to eventually staff this Rescue with the expansion of the additional eight firefighters obtained through SAFER Grant.

For now, it will be in service – unmanned and taken when needed, the same way the current Squad 5 has been used.

“My goal with the SAFER grant that provided eight additional firefighters and the acquisition of the Rescue was to get more boots on the ground in the field and eventually get the Rescue staffed,” said Chief Albanese. “The city manager and the council have made a commitment to support funding for these projects. Time will tell if we are able to bring this goal to fruition within our budget. There are several factors that will affect that possibility.”

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New Chelsea Day Center Making a Difference in Homeless Community

New Chelsea Day Center Making a Difference in Homeless Community

By Seth Daniel

Pastor Ricardo Valle, Ivone Valle, Esperanza Escobar and Ivellise Gonzalez are all volunteers in the new Chelsea Day Resource Center (SELAH) in the basement of the Light of Christ Church on Broadway. The new Center is a partnership between the City, Valle and many others.

Pastor Ricardo Valle, Ivone Valle, Esperanza Escobar and Ivellise Gonzalez are all volunteers in the new Chelsea Day Resource Center (SELAH) in the basement of the Light of Christ Church on Broadway. The new Center is a partnership between the City, Valle and many others.

In years past, when it was severely cold, those living on the streets of Chelsea had nowhere to go but under blankets.

Some, as recently as last year, died because of exposure to the cold.

Now, to help prevent that and to give those on the streets a place to go during the day, the Chelsea Day Resource Center (SELAH) has opened in the basement of the Light of Christ Church at 738 Broadway.

The Day Center is a partnership between Pastor Ricardo Valle and his church, as well as the City of Chelsea, Pastor Ruben Rodriguez, MGH Chelsea and CAPIC.

It is part of the overall effort to provide a place for those that hang out in Bellingham Square or under the Mystic/Tobin Bridge to go for services – things such as meals, clothing, hot showers, a bathroom and – occasionally – a shoulder to cry on. It’s also a resource that can be activated by the City overnight in times of extreme cold or extreme weather events.

It isn’t a new idea, but rather one Valle and others have been championing privately for a number of years. However, about three years ago, the City began to show a greater interest in partnering with Valle and others during a relentless cold snap. One particularly bad night, they put together a quick plan to partner with Valle and host those from the streets as a trial emergency measure.

It went so well that plans have been ongoing since then to get something official going. Now, that has happened.

Valle said the center has been open since Aug. 28, and so far things are working really well. In fact, SELAH is just about ready to get their full commercial kitchen working so they can provide on-site cooked meals every day, Monday through Friday.

“This is an investment with no monetary returns,” said Valle. “If someone is sick and they die, that’s terrible but we can accept that. If they die because they are out in the cold, we can do better than that. I have this space here and I believe everyone deserves a second chance and maybe this is the place where they can come find a second chance…We talk to them and try to get them to ask for help. Once they ask, we immediately have a team ready to get them the help they need to get out of this lifestyle.”

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the population of homeless and vagrants in the city needed a place to go during the day. Many used to hang out in the Square all day, and it wasn’t compatible with the business district and nearby schools. However, there was nowhere else for them to go.

“We were really looking to partner to create a place so there’s a place people can go to get a shower and something to eat,” he said. “We hope it can be a helpful resource for our Navigators. There are now options that they didn’t have before. So far it’s doing pretty well.”

Ambrosino said the City was able to give the Center a grant of about $35,000 to build the showers and bathrooms. Meanwhile, other monies were directed to the operating budget from the Mass General neighborhood monies.

Bobby Soroka lived on the streets and under the Bridge for years until getting his own place recently. He started coming to the Day Center when it opened, and now he returns to help out as a volunteer.

“I liked what I saw when I came here and they needed help,” he said. “I was here anyway. Without this, they wouldn’t be able to shower. It’s a nice place to hand and especially with winter coming. Everybody gets along. There are no fights or problems.”

Valle said having the shower and ability to clean up is very important. He said they often find those coming in very deteriorated conditions. One man had his feet rotted, and couldn’t walk well. In general, he said, it has helped the hygiene of the community of homeless that frequent and live in Chelsea.

“A shower means a lot to them,” he said. “The first time we opened the center, it took 30 minutes and you could feel the smell. Now you come here and you don’t feel that because they have access to a shower five days a week. We had a man who came in to take a shower and he took his shoes off and his feet had deteriorated. He couldn’t walk and was using a stick to get around. It was bad and we see a lot of people in that condition.”

Soroka now has his own housing, but at night in the cold, he said he still is uneasy when he smells the air. It brings back really bad memories, and so he avoids going outside at night. He also said it helps him to continue to relate to what those at the Center are going through.

“It meant a lot to see them open this, especially a few years ago when they opened it during the cold,” he said. “I was under the Bridge then. I’m not one to go to a shelter. I’ll sleep outside first. I have a place, but I don’t like to go outside. That night air scares me to death. It makes me think I could be out there again. I hope not.”

The Day Center is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is in desperate need of volunteers, Valle said, and he hopes that more Chelsea people will step forward to help.

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Halloween Ready

Halloween Ready

CHEL_20171102_A1

Ready to conquer Halloween was Miley Rodriguez, who dressed up as Batgirl and was determined to win a prize during the 13th annual Community School Halloween Party on Sunday, Oct. 29. Halloween parties and trick or treating was everywhere in the city this past week.

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