Chelsea Rehabs Its City Seal

Chelsea Rehabs Its City Seal

So much happens within every municipality that needs to be shared: upcoming events, new initiatives, important updates, celebrations of success.  And there’s myriad ways in which each department of City Hall interfaces with the public in routine ways, from applications for parking permits to business licenses, to simple correspondence to the uniforms of Department of Public Work employees  repairing the streets. Inherent in all of this communication is a message about how the municipality functions. Each represents an opportunity to say something about the City of Chelsea itself. 

The new Chelsea City Seal features a more appropriate figure and a consistent design.

To make the most of these opportunities, the City of Chelsea has just released a Style Guide that details the specific graphic style for all communications from the ten City Hall departments and nearly twenty boards and commissions. The goal of the effort is to establish a consistent brand identity that’s professional, clear, and attractive. The guide details typography, colors, photography and formatting that together create a distinctive look for City Hall’s print and digital materials. For administrative staff at City Hall, a suite of templates facilitate the quick creation of regularly needed materials within the established style. The refreshed documents include letterhead and envelopes, agendas and minutes, business cards and brochures, forms and flyers, reports and PowerPoint slide decks.

The underlying goal of the project is that quality, consistent design will demonstrate a unified voice whenever expressed by an agent of Chelsea’s city offices. Quality design demonstrates competence and professionalism. Through a clear graphic identity the public will be able to better recognize services provided by municipal government.

Over the past eight months, a team of City Hall staff representing a variety of departments worked with design consultant, Catherine Headen, to develop the guide. After reviews, working sessions and a special event with City Hall staff the completed Guide and templates are formally released this week.

A major aspect of the work was refining of the City Seal. Over the decades numerous changes had led to an evolution of the design, drifting the illustration away from the original as detailed in the banner hanging Chelsea’s City Council Chambers. When the team began, nearly a dozen different images were in use as a City Seal across municipal departments. The design details had changed so significantly that the group was surprised to discover lost elements prescribed within the City Charter: “The following shall be the device of the corporate seal of the city: A representation within a circle of a shield surmounted by a star, the shield bearing upon it the representation of an American Indian chief and wigwams; at the right of the shield, a sailboat such as was formerly used for ferriage; at the left of the shield, a view of the city and a steam ferryboat; under the shield, the word “Winnisimmet;” around the shield, the words “Chelsea, settled 1624; a Town 1739; a City 1857.”

The unveiling of the new look with take place over time. City staff will continue to use the print materials already on hand but will use the new templates for all their future materials. The new style is intended for the main City Hall departments and doesn’t extend to the City’s Police and Fire departments or to the schools.

Read More

Parking Study Comes In at More Than $200,000

Parking Study Comes In at More Than $200,000

A parking study asked for by the City Council has had few interested takers, and the only bid on the study has come in at an exorbitant $210,000.

The Council called for a parking study to be done for the entire City late last year, and the City began work on getting a consultant in place through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

However, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said there was only one bidder, Howard Stein Hudson (HSH), and they only bid on a portion of the city rather than the entire city.

“HSH believes that a parking study encompassing the entire City of Chelsea will be too big and likely too expensive of an undertaking,” wrote Ambrosino. “Instead, HSH is proposing that, in addition to the downtown, it would identify only a few other target neighborhoods for study. I don’t know if the Council would be satisfied with that limitation.”

The other piece of the puzzle is the cost.

Ambrosino said the cost of HSH’s limited proposal was $210,780.

“That is much more than we anticipated, and I don’t know if the Council is prepared to expend that sum,” he wrote.

Ambrosino called for the Council to convene subcommittee to talk about next steps. He said they could accept the expensive proposal from HSH, or they could re-big the project and hope to get more proposals.

A date is being set for the committee meeting.

•City Manager Tom Ambrosino is recommending against taking the trash collection operations in-house, a proposal floated by the Council last month.

He said the City’s Department of Public Works had made some initial calculations that showed it would be about the same costs to bring it in-house as it would be to continue using its contractor, Russel Disposal.

“The (figures) make clear that there are no obvious savings by taking the work in-house,” he wrote. “Our best estimate is that annual costs would probably be somewhat greater than what we pay to Russell.”

However, many of the concerns of the Council, including Councilor Enio Lopez, came from the mish-mash quality of pickup.

Ambrosino said he understood those concerns, but didn’t believe taking the operations in-house would improve the mistakes that are made.

“It is my opinion that, given the nature of the trash business, where litter, rough handling of barrels and occasional missed deliveries are inevitable no matter who is performing the work, bringing this work in-house would not demonstrably improve quality, at least not to the extent where any improvement would be noticeable to our residents.”

He said he would not recommend any change.

However, he did not close the door on taking other functions in-house.

He said he isn’t opposed to bringing things like some water and sewer work back in-house.

“I feel strongly that we should probably take in-house certain water, sewer and drainage work that we currently outsource,” he said. “But, in the case of that utility work, I can definitively show that the City will save substantial money doing the work ourselves, and I do believe the quality will be a noticeable improvement to our residents.”

However, he said he doesn’t believe the same to be true for the trash realm.

Read More

Chelsea Cultural Council Announces Grant Recipients

Chelsea Cultural Council Announces Grant Recipients

The Chelsea Cultural Council has announced the awarding of grants totalling $20,809 to 18 local artists, schools and cultural organizations.

The grants were awarded from a pool of funds distributed to Chelsea by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency that supports public programs and educational activities in the arts, sciences, and humanities.

“We are very grateful to Governor Baker and the Legislature for their continued support of the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the funding that directly benefits cultural activities here in Chelsea, said Marlene Jennings Chair. Our city has its own unique identity and in these sponsored events we get to really experience the spirit of Chelsea.”

Awardees for this year are:

•Browne Middle School: Speaker – Lost Boy of Sudan, $250

•Chelsea Black Community: Black History Month, $1,800

•Chelsea Community Connections: Chelsea Fun Bus, $1,000

•Chelsea Public Library: A Universe of Stories, $1,500

•Clark Avenue Middle School: Zumix Mini-Series, $979

•Comite de Hondurenos Unidos de MA: Central American Parade & Cultural Festival, $1,500

•Eliza Gagnon: Chelsea Zone Time Map, $800

•Ellen Rovner: The Chelsea Gateway Project, $720

•Governor Bellingham-Cary House Association: Photographic Documentation Project, $959

•GreenRoots: Bringing Community to Revel at the Revitalized ChelseaWalk, $800

•Lewis Latimer Society & Museum: Chelsea Science Festival, $800

•MUSIC Dance.edu: Hip Hop Around the World, $380

•Stacy Amaral: We Are Here/ Aqui Estamos, $600

•TheatreZone, Inc. DBA, Apollinaire Theatre Company: Apollinaire in the Park 2019, $1,500

•The Musary, JRP Inc.: Musical instruments Lending Acquisitions, $800

•Veronica Robles: Serenara a Chelsea by Veronica Robles Female Mariachi, $1,500

•Walnut Street Synagogue: A Photo Documentary of Chelsea Life in the 1970’s, $1,800

The Chelsea Cultural Council (CCC) has also set aside an additional $3,121 to complete a public mural project in collaboration with Chelsea Public School Art Department that began in the fall of 2018. The CCC is one of 329 local councils that serve every city and town in the state. The state legislature provides an annual appropriation to the Massachusetts Cultural Council, which then allocates funds to each local council. Decisions, about which activities to support, are made at the community level by the council.

The members of the Chelsea Cultural Council are: Marlene Jennings, Chair; Dakeya Christmas, Co-Chair; Devra Sari Zabot, Recorder; Juliana Borgiani, Treasurer; Sharlene McLean, Angelina McCoy, and Carolina Anzola. The CCC will seek applications again this fall. CCC Guidelines will be available online as well as the 2020 application beginning Sept. 1, 2019 at www.mass-culture.org/chelsea.

The deadline to apply is Tuesday, Oct. 15.

Read More

Council Looking into Keeping Some Marijuana Licenses for Residents

Council Looking into Keeping Some Marijuana Licenses for Residents

Chelsea city councillors are looking at ways in which they can legally find a way to reserve some of the recreation marijuana licenses for Chelsea residents.

Councillor Roy Avellaneda forwarded an order recently to reserve at least two of the four recreational licenses for Chelsea residents, as so many residents have been impacted by the War on Drugs and the prosecution of marijuana possession crimes.

Avellaneda said his order is to amend the current retail marijuana ordinance in similar fashion to Somerville and Boston. At the state level, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) signaled early on that it would approve licenses quicker in communities like Chelsea that historically have been heavily impacted by drug prosecution.

However, Avellaneda and other councillors said they have only seen well-heeled investors from out of town turning up to take advantage of that designation in Chelsea.

“The recent rush we have seen by well-funded and politically connected individuals and groups to apply for the available licenses puts those living in communities like Chelsea at a serious disadvantage,” he said. “The goal of the legislation I have introduced is to provide a two-year window for two of the four licenses just for Chelsea residents or a business entity comprised of 60 percent Chelsea residents…I think we would have better host agreements and community benefits offered by an individual or group based from Chelsea than from someone with no connections to this city. Should we allow the money made from these lucrative licenses leave the city? Or should we try to keep that revenue here?”

The Council held a Committee of the Whole meeting on Monday night, Feb. 4, to discuss the matter and try to find a solution.

Council President Damali Vidot said she and Avellaneda and the rest of the Council seem to be on the same page with the idea, but may differ on how to accomplish it.

“My concern at Monday’s meeting and a couopld of other councillor’s concerns were that we could be interfering with a business’s right ot commerce,” she said. “If I own an adult-use shop and want to sell it, I don’t know if we can limit who you sell it to. We don’t want to cut people off at the knees. That will effect investors because they may not want to enter into a place where there are so many limits on their investment…Also, we’re only allowing the rich to get richer. If you live in Chelsea and have the money to buy one of these, you’re obviously already rich.”

She said the marijuana licenses mimic the regulations for liquor stores, and there are no such limits on liquor licenses.

That said, she agreed that Avellaneda has a good idea that needs to be explored and hopefully implemented in some fashion to help Chelsea residents – to empower those economically who have been affected in the past.

Avellaneda said the idea is consistent with the recent 100 percent residency requirement for all new police and fire hires, as well as the affordable housing requirement for Chelsea residents.

“It asks that any new jobs created in Chelsea have a priority for Chelsea residents,” he said. “I doubt Chelsea would lose any opportunities or see a delay in applications because any outsider looking to open in Chelsea would look to partner with a Chelsea resident rather than risk losing a chance at a license by waiting two years.”

Western Front Moving Quickly on Webster

The Economic Empowerment marijuana proposal on Webster Avenue is moving quickly through the local process for a marijuana dispensary at 121 Webster Ave.

Western Front is a minority-owned firm that received the Economic Empowerment designation from the state last spring, and had its community meeting shortly after. The firm plans to open a dispensary and also employ those who have been adversely affected by the War on Drugs – particularly people from the Chelsea. The ownership of the company comes from Boston and Cambridge though. Western Front is scheduled to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) on Feb. 12 at 6 p.m. It is the first ZBA hearing in Chelsea for a marijuana proposal.

Read More

City Manager Gets New, Five-Year Contract

City Manager Gets New, Five-Year Contract

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino got a new five-year contract and a healthy serving of praise from the City Council Monday night.

The council approved the contract with a 10-0 vote. Councilor-at-Large Roy Avellaneda was not present at Monday night’s meeting.

Ambrosino gets a three percent raise with the new deal, from $184,913 annually to $189,945.

Council President Damali Vidot said a sub-committee made up of Councilors Luis Tejada, Giovanni Recupero and Yamir Rodriguez had been evaluating Ambrosino for several months, and agreed that he has done a good job and should be invited back.

“He’s done a great job and he wanted to go five years instead of four years so he would be closer to retirement age at the end of this contract,” she said. “I think he deserved it. I felt he earned five years. He got a really good evaluation and people are very pleased with his performance.”

Vidot said the evaluation showed councilors and the public felt he was a little too hands-off on his management of departments, and wanted to see him be a little more hands-on with them. For Vidot, she said one of his strengths has been treating the City Council with great respect.

“He has really given the City Council the respect it deserves,” she said. “I didn’t see that in the previous administration. Chelsea seems to really be coming together. There seems to be so much more interest in social and civic issues and more unity overall.”

On Monday night, the praises continued at the Council meeting before they voted to extend the contract five more years.

“The city manager has done a great job,” said District 8 Councilor Calvin T. Brown. “He’s committed, a creative thinker, and a very approachable city manager.”

Several councilors commented on Ambrosino’s responsiveness to residents’ concerns.

“Whenever I have had a problem in my district and brought it to his attention, the city manager has been very responsive,” said District 1 Councilor Robert Bishop.

District 5 Councilor Judith Garcia said Ambrosino has been an incredible asset and resource for the community.

“He has invested a lot in the community, and I hear it from my constituents a lot,” said Garcia.

In addition to the three percent pay raise, Ambrosino will get an additional $500 per year for travel, and the former Revere mayor’s new contract will be for five years, compared to his current four-year contract.

“I’m very pleased and very grateful to the city council for giving me a vote of confidence,” Ambrosino said following Monday night’s meeting. “I will do everything I can to continue to make them proud of my work.”

Ambrosino has said since last fall he would like to be asked to return to Chelsea for another contract term. He said he feels like he has more work to do in the city, particularly with his downtown initiatives.

•In other Council news:

A resolution passed by the City Council Monday night recognized February as Black History Month and thanked the Lewis H. Latimer Society, Bunker Hill Community College, and the Chelsea Black Community “Remembering Black Migration, WWI, and the Chelsea Fire” for the contributions to the city.

The Council also recognized Feb. 21 as Dr. Maya Angelou Day in Chelsea.

•The council requested a meeting with Emergency Management Director Keith Vetreno to discuss 911 services.

•Councilor-at-Large Leo Robinson requested that City Manager Tom Ambrosino update the council on all planned development in the city. •District 6 Councilor Giovanni Recupero requested a brighter streetlight on Charles Street, as well as a study for traffic on the Meridian Street Bridge. The brightness of the new LED streetlights has been a problem point for several years, as most of them are on the lowest setting to save money on power. Recupero has routinely asked the City to increase the brightness on the new LED lights.

Read More

Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

Chelsea Transportation Task Force Inaugural Meeting: Driving the Discussion

The people of Chelsea are demanding increased frequency on the Silver Line, more reliability, and additional bus connections from the MBTA. Over the next two years there will be three major construction projects in Chelsea that will adversely impact bus traffic, and City leaders and residents are concerned that the already poor services will worsen.

“There have been big shifts in population and ridership, and the bus routes have stayed largely the same,” admitted Steve Poftak, the newly appointed MBTA General Manager. “The T is playing catch-up.”

On January 24, Poftak sat with locals and members of the City Council during the first inaugural Chelsea Transportation Task Force meeting at City Hall. The goal of the committee is to gather once a month for six months of interactive discussions with the community and Poftak to develop solutions.

“For a lot of us who live on both of the hills, buses are the only means of transportation,” commented a Bellingham Square resident. “Every year or two, they threaten to cut off both of the hills. That would leave us totally stranded, and I’m not having it.”

Many aren’t content with the massive traffic that builds with the 20 minute rising and 20 minute lowering of the Chelsea Street bridge, which slows bus travel. The MBTA noted that active discussions with the Coast Guard regarding the creation of a period of time during peak hours of commuting when the bridge does not open have been hindered by the government shutdown.

“We have limited control over the bridge. Maybe we could have some predictability with windows when we know the bridge will be active and when we know it won’t,” said Poftak.

The Better Bus Project is investigating the quality of the current bus network and working on cost-neutral proposals that will result in more frequent services for customers. Researchers have been speaking with riders to learn more about where people’s trips begin and end, the economic demographics of the area, and where jobs are located.

“We are advocating for fair mitigation,” expressed Council President Damali Vidot. “We’ve needed quality service for years and are working at a sub-par level. Chelsea was an afterthought in the Better Bus Project. We want to make sure we’re getting the service we deserve.”

The Better Bus Project has 47 proposals for changes in the MBTA bus system that will impact 63 out of the 180 routes in 35 of the 50 communities that are served. Proposals include removing bus routes with low ridership, and re-investing resources elsewhere.

The Transportation Task Force is suggesting more inspectors, less cancellations, and easier transfers between Chelsea and Lynn on the Commuter Rail.

“We are re-imagining the infrastructure on Broadway,” said City Manager Tom Ambrosino. “We will be presenting the City Council with alternatives that do away with two fast lanes to make travel safer. One idea is incorporating a dedicated bus lane.”

Gentrification has also forced many Chelsea residents to relocate to Lynn because of the high cost of rent. One Chelsea resident, who works in Lynn, voiced that it takes her up to two hours to commute from Lynn to Chelsea using public transportation. She commented that the only line that directly connects Chelsea to Everett is the 112 bus, and many avoid it due to the lifting of the bridge; and recommended that the 426 bus through Lynn could stop in Chelsea, as it already passes over the Tobin Bridge.

“In the overall bus network redesign, people on the north side of the city are particularly interested in going to Lynn and Malden,” Poftak concluded. Better Bus Project proposals will be available at www.MBTA.com with maps and data. The MBTA will also be providing riders with a warm place to view proposals at Haymarket Station, where they see the most response from Chelsea residents.

Read More

Chelsea Council Gets Back to Business for 2019 Session

Chelsea Council Gets Back to Business for 2019 Session

The City Council got back to business Monday night with a special organizational meeting and then quickly taking care of the new year’s first agenda items.

As expected, the Council approved a second term for Damali Vidot as council president. District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada was voted in as vice president, and Yamir Rodriguez as the Council’s delegate to the School Committee.

“I want to thank all my colleague’s for entrusting me with one more year as president,” said Vidot. She is the first female councillor to serve two back-to-back terms as council president.

Vidot said she is looking forward to a year of unity and respect on the council.

In other business, the Council unanimously approved funding for new contracts for the City’s two police unions.

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.

The contract also implements residency requirements for all new hires for the Police Department.

Later in the meeting, the Council also approved an amended residency ordinance for all police, fire, and civil service employees.

The ordinance requires that all personnel who live in Chelsea at the time of the hire must maintain residency for five years from the date of hire. Personnel who do not live in the city at the time of hire have six months to relocate to Chelsea.

Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson cast the lone vote against the amended ordinance, using the example of a child who might have to look after sick parents as a possible reason an employee may not be able to relocate.

•During the public speaking portion of the meeting, some familiar guests dropped in to say thank you to the Council.

Several members of the Chelsea High senior class thanked the council for its recent vote to fund a turf field cover to the tune of $170,000 for the new high school field.

With the field cover, the senior class and subsequent classes will be able to hold outdoor graduations.

“We’ve put so much hard work into this, and everything that has happened has been amazing,” said Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste.

Poste and several other seniors presented the Council with a signed letter in appreciation for their efforts. They also asked the council for their signatures on a proclamation documenting the students’ and the Council’s efforts to work together to make the turf field cover a reality.

Read More

Year in Review:Balancing Prosperity and Priorities

Year in Review:Balancing Prosperity and Priorities

The year 2018 saw many changes in Chelsea as the city tried to balance prosperity with priorities all year long. While new investment poured in, residents struggled to stay in the city and schools grappled with budget cuts. Meanwhile, public transit increased substantially in a positive direction with the introduction of the new Silver Line service.

• Flooding becomes a major issue after a Jan. 4 blizzard and a March 2 storm, both of which occur during substantial high tides. The Jan. 4 blizzard caused a huge storm surge that flooded many parts of the city and even shut down operations at the Chelsea Street Bridge.

• The New England Flower Exchange celebrates its first Valentine’s Day holiday at its new location on Second Street after being in Boston’s South End for the past 50 years. The new facility has been brought online seamlessly.

• Wynn CEO Steve Wynn seemed to be in control of his company and the project in Everett until late January, when he was accused of sexual misconduct in a Wall Street Journal report. The allegations quickly gathered steam, and by February Wynn had resigned from the company and the license for the Everett casino was in jeopardy and the project to be moving forward “at risk.” The new CEO became Matt Maddox and the company saw huge amounts of turnover throughout the year. By the end of 2018, the license for the Everett site was still in limbo and an investigation into the matter still had yet to be revealed – having been delayed for months.

• City Manager Tom Ambrosino says in his State of the City on Feb. 26 that now is not the time to save up money, but rather the time to continue investing in the City and its residents. He announces several key programs for the upcoming year.

• Sen. Sal DiDomenico is involved in a heated and intense bid for the office of Senate President over several months, but in the summer comes up just short in getting the votes necessary to prevail. Sen. President Karen Spilka gets the nod instead, but DiDomenico remains the assistant majority leader and ends up coming out of the battle in a very good position of leadership.

• Students at Chelsea High stage a walk-out in regard to school safety and school shootings on March 15. Despite lots of snow, thousands of students take to the Stadium for the one-hour protest.

•YIHE company returns to the City with a new plan for the old Forbes site in the Mill Hill neighborhood. They start the process in April with a scaled down version of their previous plan, but reviews of the project continue throughout the year and into 2019.

• The new Silver Line SL-3 service debuts on Saturday, April 21, in Chelsea. The service starts out a little slow, but by December the MBTA reports that ridership has exceeded its estimates.

• The Chelsea Soldiers’ Home secured a $70 million budget item from the federal government in April that allowed the replacement of the Quigley Hospital to move forward. The Community Living Center has a groundbreaking in the fall and construction is ongoing in the new year.

• The Chelsea Walk is transformed throughout the spring, summer and fall in a unique placemaking partnership between the City and GreenRoots. At the end, there is a new mural on the Walk and more activity. New things are also planned for the Walk in 2019.

• A $3.1 million School Budget gap hits the School Department hard, with numerous cuts reported to key school services. Th School Department, City and state grapple with the issue all summer long, but no resolution to the issue emerges at the end of the legislative session. The school funding fix is still outstanding, and no fix has yet been passed to help districts like Chelsea, who have been penalized mistakenly by a new formula.

• Chelsea High sophomore track star Stephanie Simon caps off a stellar year by heading to the National Track Meet in North Carolina over the summer. She placed 15th in the high jump and 27th in the triple jump out of a field of athletes from around the nation.

• Students at the Clark Avenue Middle School are ecstatic to return to school on Aug. 29, and that’s because they were able to enter their brand new building for the first time. The Clark Avenue premiered to excited parents and students for the new school term after many years of construction.

• The Sept. 4 Primary Election features many surprises, but the biggest headline of the night, however, was when Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley upset sitting Congressman Michael Capuano decidedly. Capuano had campaigned hugely in Chelsea, and won here with 54 percent of the vote. However, a strong Boston turnout propelled Pressley to an big win. Pressley also had notable support in Chelsea from Council President Damali Vidot and School Committeeman Julio Hernandez.

• The Two-Way Broadway proposal gathers steam, but fizzles out as residents and elected officials protest the change vehemently. That came after a late-August approval of the plan by the Traffic Commission. However, in September, it fails to get past the City Council. Broadway will remain a one-way street.

• Supt. Mary Bourque surprises most in late December when she announces she will retire at the end of 2019, pledging to help the School Committee with a new superintendent search throughout the year.

Read More

Vidot to be Chosen as Council President for a Second Year

Vidot to be Chosen as Council President for a Second Year

Council President Damali Vidot has lined up the votes to be chosen as the Council President for a second year in a row, a rare move on a Council where most only serve for one year and pass it on.

“I’m excited to serve again and thank my colleagues for their confidence,” she said this week. “From what I’m hearing, it’s the first time a woman has served for two consecutive terms as Council President. I don’t have it all figured out, but I believe my colleagues trust my leadership and know I’m trying to do the right thing.”

Aside from Vidot, the vice president will be Luis Tejada and the School Committee liaison will be Yamir Rodriguez.

The Council in Chelsea doesn’t vote on its leadership positions until its first meeting in January. However, the Council does line up its votes and preferences in December. Rarely, if ever, does the vote change between December and January.

Vidot said one of her goals is to begin looking at the boards and commissions within the City, such as the License Board and Zoning Board.

“One of my goals is to better monitor these boards in the city, like the Traffic Commission and the ZBA,” she said. “I feel like at different levels these boards exist and that no one is in control. I’ve seen residents come up 100 percent against a project, and it goes through anyway. These are things we really need to look at to make sure we’re all on the same page. It feels like we’re all running in different directions now.”

Additionally, Vidot said she hoped to foster a good working relationship between councillors in the coming year.

“I take a lot of pride in being able to work with all the different councillors,” she said. “I want to make sure we’re all working together and doing the best we can…There are so many different needs. You take a councillor like Bob Bishop from Prattville and a Councillor like Enio Lopez from District 4 and their needs in those districts are so different, but I look forward to being able to work together to address each of them equally.”

The Council has yet to set a date for its first meeting and its organizational meeting for election of officers, but it is expected to be on Jan. 7.

Read More

Keeping Money in the Mystic:Advocates Make a Successful Pitch for Oil Spill Dollars

Keeping Money in the Mystic:Advocates Make a Successful Pitch for Oil Spill Dollars

The Mystic River Watershed Association (MyRWA), and their partner GreenRoots successfully made the case in

MyRWA Director Patrick Herron and GreenRoots Director Roseann Bongiovanni celebrating their successful argument in Washington, D.C., to return funds to the area.

front of the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) Council to give Mystic communities a chance at $1.3 million in restoration funds.

“This is an opportunity to repair part of the Mystic River watershed by directing funds that resulted from the spill back to the area where the spill occurred,” said Patrick Herron, executive director. “We are excited that our Mystic communities have another shot at this funding.”

In January of 2006, approximately 15,200 gallons of petroleum product was spilled into the Lower Mystic River through an ExxonMobil Pipeline Co. terminal located in Everett. Accordingly, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) charged ExxonMobil with violating the Clean Water Act through negligence at the facility. ExxonMobil signed a plea agreement in 2009 that included a fine, the cost of cleanup, and a community service payment (CSP) that ultimately totaled $1 million to the Massachusetts Environmental Trust and $4.6 million to the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA) fund. This plea agreement states that the funds should be used exclusively for qualified coastal wetland restoration projects in Massachusetts, with preference to projects within the Mystic River Watershed. During plea proceedings, the NAWCA Council and U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff assured the U.S. Attorney’s office and Judge Saris that a process would be put in place to ensure the CSP funds would be awarded in a manner consistent to the intent of the plea agreement.

All funds managed by the Massachusetts Environmental Trust (MET) were immediately put to work on stewardship and water quality improvements in the Mystic River Watershed.

In contrast, no NAWCA funds have come to the Mystic River Watershed. To date, $3 million of the ExxonMobil CSP given to NAWCA have been spent on other projects in the Commonwealth. The NAWCA Council was considering spending the remainder of the money ($1.36 million) on yet another project not in the Mystic. This would bring the amount spent on the Mystic to zero.

Herron and Roseann Bongiovanni, executive director of GreenRoots, made the trip to Washington, D.C., on Dec. 12, to argue that money should be given to the Mystic. Prior to the meeting, David Barlow, Gene Benson and friends at GreenRoots and Conservation Law Foundation developed and submitted formal comment letters to the Council that outlined the history of these funds and the context for preference for the Mystic.

“It was our communities and our waterbodies that were impacted by the spill on that cold January morning and now almost 10 years later, our communities are deserving of the penalty dollars to restore our ecological habitat and bring about environmental justice” said Bongiovanni.

Read More