The Chelsea Rotary Club will hold its 91st Annual Installation of Officers at 6 p.m. at the Homewood Suites Event Center on Thursday June 21. Past President Allan Alpert will be Master of Ceremonies for the evening celebrating Rotary’s 2018-19 Theme, “Be The Inspiration.” Installed officers will be Maureen Foley of Colwen Hotels as President, Peter Zaksheski of Frank A. Welsh & Sons Funeral Services as President-Elect, Todd Taylor of KSM Staffing as Vice President, Past President D. Bruce Mauch of Chelsea Clock as Secretary, Frank Kowalski, Retired as Sergeant-at-Arms and Past President Joe Vinard of Chelsea Bank a division of East Cambridge Savings Bank as Treasurer. Todd Taylor will be honored as Chelsea Rotarian of the Year. The Club will also be awarding Paul Harris Fellowships, one of Rotary International’s highest honors to LediaKoco, Administrative Assistant to Chelsea City Council and to seven Chelsea Rotarians; Robert Alconada, Paula Barton, Daniel Flores, Susan Gallant, Arthur Michaud, Jackie Moore and Joseph Panetta. Outgoing President David M. Mindlin, Esq. of Kraft and Hall will be thanked for his past year of dedicated service to the Rotary Club of Chelsea.
Everyone is invited to attend this Chelsea Rotary event honoring many outstanding business people in our community. If you would like to attend, please contact Maureen Foley at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-964-6576 for tickets.
Saying he is disappointed with the Council’s posture toward the Fire Department during last week’s successful $100,000 budget cut to his department, Chief Len Albanese said the Council missed an opportunity to help bring the Department forward.
The Council, particularly Council President Damali Vidot, called for the cut and said the Fire Department overtime budget had requested an increase. She and others felt like that number – which in the past has been described as being abused – should be doing down.
Albanese said it wasn’t fair, and he said he Council hasn’t listened to his calls for an appropriate percentage of funding and more staffing.
“I’m disappointed with the cut that was made and the comments made by Council President Vidot,” he said. “This year we made budget. I told the Council that if they properly funded the Fire Department we would do our best to live within that range, and we delivered. We require no supplemental funding to finish the year.
“I have advocated for more staffing since my first month on the job,” he continued. “We have acquired both the staffing and apparatus to make that happen. Now, we need this additional staffing to translate into more boots on the ground daily. If the recent fire on John Street is not indication enough of that, I’m not sure what is. These major fires in our densely populated neighborhoods are a significant threat to our community. We need as much help as possible in the first 10 minutes of these fires to protect our neighborhoods.”
He said the John Street fire was one where they lucked out because had other calls been going, the staffing might not have been there to respond correctly.
“We are lucky that all of our apparatus was available at the time of that alarm and not tied up on other calls,” he said. “I assure you, the devastation would have been much worse. Twenty homeless could have been 100. We cannot count on luck. We need to be prepared with a reasonable amount of protection based on the threat that we face.”
In 2016, Albanese presented to the Council that the Fire Department budget is around 6.25 percent of the overall budget, and national standard indicate it should be between 6.5-7 percent based on the call volumes.
This year, they would be 6.25 percent and that represents less percentage-wise than in 2016.
“Our overall budget represents only 6.25 percent of the overall City Budget which is actually less percentage wise than we received in 2016,” he said. “Even when you consider that we will eventually take over the new hire salaries in full, we will still be between 6.5 and 6.75 percent of total budget, well within a reasonable and acceptable range.”
For his overtime request, he said he requested a 4 percent increase to the current year’s $1.25 million overtime budget. That, he said, is because salaries increased by 4 percent and so there would be less overtime coverage.
“It’s one thing to hold the line, but to cut our entire request, plus an additional $50,000 that we had this year makes no sense,” he said. “It’s like saying thanks but no thanks.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he believes the chief can make things work despite the cut.
“I was opposed to that cut,” he said. “I think the chief can make his overtime and salaries work. He has some open positions. There are three now…Hopefully he’ll make it and if he can’t, I’ll have to come to the council in the spring and ask for more money.”
Albanese said the cut won’t stop them from carrying out their plan, but it does no one any favors.
“The $100,000 cut will not keep us from continuing on our plan to increase daily staffing, but it doesn’t help,” he said. “With the amount of information we have provided the council, I think those members who voted to support this cut missed an opportunity to show their commitment to protecting our neighborhoods. The $100,000 is literally one-half of 1 percent of the City Budget, but it can translate into having an extra firefighter searching for a trapped occupant. To me, that’s money well spent.”
The City has moved to protect the resident parking around the new Silver Line Stations and busy 111 bus stops, anticipating a rush of commuters that will look to capitalize on easy parking in the day and a fast bus into Boston.
The Traffic Commission in late May approved the plan to enforce the existing resident parking program during the day hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Typically, in most parts of Chelsea, the resident parking program is enforced at night from midnight to 5 a.m.
Some exceptions are near the Commuter Rail and near the Chelsea Court.
The City Council approved the plan last week, on June 4.
The idea came from Councilor Roy Avellaneda, who first began talking about it at Council in December.
He said this week that he was glad to see proactive action.
“We don’t want to see commuters coming from Everett, Malden and Revere driving over to Chelsea and parking all day long so they can take the Silver Line into Boston and park for free,” he said. “I’m glad they also decided to take the extra step of protecting the busier 111 bus routes too. This is a win for Chelsea residents.”
After suggested by Avellaneda, Planner Alex Train worked up the proposal and sent it to the Traffic Commission.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they will begin enforcing the ordinance soon after they relay information to residents, as residents will need to have information in the areas affected. Most residents already have resident stickers, but they may need to be aware to get placards for their visitors during the day hours.
That’s a major change from what is currently in effect.
Ambrosino said they plan to have a public meeting on June 21 to explain the program and give out information to those effected. He said he wants to make sure people have a chance to digest the information as there were no public meetings beyond the Traffic Commission.
The meeting will take place at Chelsea City Hall in the City Council Chambers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 21.
The areas effected for the Silver Line include:
Gerrish Avenue from Broadway to Highland;
Library Street, from Broadway to Highland;
Highland Street, from Marlborough to Box District Station;
Marlborough Street, from Broadway to Willow.
Those areas affected by the 111 bus stop protections are:
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he would gladly enforce the new Police and Fire residency ordinance confirmed last week at Council, but not until at least 2021.
“It has to be negotiated through collective bargaining,” he said. “The firefighters are under contract until 2021, and the police are now at the state Joint Labor Management Commission. It probably won’t be able to be negotiated with either unit until 2021. We have no plans to enforce it until there is a new contract because the law is clear this is a change in the contract subject to collective bargaining.”
The Council voted for the matter last month, and staved off a challenge to that vote last week, led by Councilor Giovanni Recupero. Recupero has tried for seven years to get the residency plan in place for new police and fire hires. The plan now in effect would require all new hires as of July 31 to live in the city for five years after hire.
The matter, however, cannot be enforced until the City Manager re-negotiates the contracts with the police and fire, meaning that all member would get raises in exchange for that change in working conditions.
Ambrosino said the unions could decide not to agree to the matter, which would also make it unenforceable if it is outside any contract.
“An ordinance cannot supersede a mandatory collective bargaining matter,” he said. “It is unenforceable until it shows up in a collective bargaining agreement.”
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.”
A last ditch effort by Councillor Roy Avellaneda to reverse the new police and fire residency ordinance successfully passed by Councillor Giovanni Recupero failed on Monday night, June 4, in a close vote.
It represented seven years of twists and turns for Recupero’s number one issue and one that has been before the Council in several forms about a dozen times.
On Monday, the victory came in a narrow defeat of Avellaneda’s proposal, 5-6, which allowed the proposal to become the new law.
Those voting to keep the residency ordinance were Councillors Damali Vidot, Enio Lopez, Bob Bishop, Luis Tejada, Joe Perlatonda and Recupero – a one vote margin of victory.
Those voting to reconsider and repeal the ordinance were Councillors Yamir Rodriguez, Calvin Brown, Avellaneda, Leo Robinson and Judith Garcia.
“This is a good thing,” said Recupero. “It’s something the citizens of Chelsea wanted and I’ve fought for it for seven years solid. Now the councillors wanted it too. I think it’s good for the City and for the people. The police and fire can live in the neighborhood and understand the people and the people can understand them and respect them. The young men and women of the city will relate to them because they live in the same community.”
The matter will apply to anyone hired in the Police or Fire Department after July 31, 2018. It will require them to live in Chelsea for five years after starting on the job. After five years, they can move out of the city if they choose.
The negative came in that to get the measure, it had to become a collective bargaining issue. That meant that the entire Police and Fire Departments would get a raise in order to include the new condition in their contracts. Even those for whom the measure doesn’t apply will get additional pay to accept the new condition.
“Hey, it’s good for those on the department too,” said Recupero. “They’re all going to get a raise, but we’re going to get new officers that want to live in Chelsea.”
Councillor Leo Robinson said he was against the measure because of the cost. He said he was once in favor of residency, but that changed when he learned about the collective bargaining costs.
“The bottom line is you have 40 police living in the city and 26 firefighters right now,” he said. “ When we have to go and negotiate with the union that means 110 police and 96 firefighters get raises. That’s $200,000 we’ll have to give them. I think it’s foolish to do. They think it’s a great thing. You have Bob Bishop voting against the budget because he says it out of control and then he votes for this without knowing what it costs.”
Amateur and professional photographers of any age are invited to participate in the Welcome to Chelsea Photo Contest, with this being the last week to enter submissions.
The contest is presented by Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s initiative for vitality in the downtown, and the Facebook group Chelsea MA Photography Club coordinated by photographer and former City Councillor Matt Frank.
The deadline to apply is next Thursday, May 31 and the group is eager to see the community’s contributions. To apply or for more information visit:https://tinyurl.com/PhotoContestforChelsea.
The organizers seek images that capture the richness of life in this dynamic city.
“What people, places and things tell you that you are home? What image serves as invitation for others to visit Bellingham Square, Chelsea Square, Broadway? What does Chelsea mean to you? Everyone sees the city through a different lens, and we want you to show us your view!” they declare.
Entries will be accepted until May 31, 2018 via the contest website at https://tinyurl.com/PhotoContestforChelsea. An illustrious panel of judges will then select multiple winners in the categories of Local Business; The People of Chelsea; Community; and Chelsea, Past and Present. The panel will nominate a slate of finalists for a People’s Choice award to be determined via popular votes on the Chelsea MA Photography Club Facebook page.
All of the top images will be reproduced in large print format and displayed in the new storefront gallery, Gallery 456, coming soon to the former Salvation Army store on Broadway. At the conclusion of the summer-time exhibit the winners will take home their high-quality, framed images with the Best in Show and People’s Choice winners receiving additional prizes.
The judging panel includes:
Darlene DeVita, an award-winning fine art photographer who specializes in portraits that capture the energy and humanity of her subjects. Her creative eye, patience, humor and unobtrusiveness have made her one the most sought after photographers in Greater Boston. Between photographing weddings and exploring her fine art world, Darlene shoots portraits at her studio in Chelsea. She was Co-Director of the Gallery@Spencer Lofts for fourteen years, served as a member of the Chelsea Cultural Council and is a co-founder of CHARCOLL (Chelsea Artists Collaborative).
Matt Frank is a life-long resident of Chelsea and served on the Chelsea City Council for ten years after four years on the Planning Board. His government, non-profit and community based work focuses on policy and project based initiatives that serve the public interest. His interest in communications and community building combined with a deep appreciation of the beauty of city life led Matt to pursue an interest in photography. Matt captures our beloved city with a painterly eye as he celebrates the colors, textures and moods of Chelsea’s ever-changing landscape.
Roselee Vincent holds the16th Suffolk District Seat in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, comprised of the communities of Revere, Chelsea and Saugus. A champion for the arts, Rep Vincent served on the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development, giving her an opportunity to visit with arts advocates across the state and learn how the arts are vital to local economies across the Commonwealth.
Sury Chavez, a painter, was born in Los Angeles but spent much of her childhood in her ancestral home of Guatemala. While East Boston is where she now resides, the colors, flora and fauna of Central America continue to inspire her work. Local businesses, The Cuscatlan, Bella Isla Express and Pan y Café, have partnered with Sury for decorative murals and menu boards and she’s working with Chelsea’s Beautification Committee to illustrate “Welcome to Chelsea” signs for key locations throughout the city.
Marianne Ramos is a self-taught “outsider artist” who believes everyone can express themselves through art. A resident of Chelsea for the past 35 years, she serves as Program Coordinator for the Chelsea Senior Center. What began out of economic necessity became the foundation of her artistic philosophy as Marianne embraces a Do-it-Yourself approach and environmental stewardship through the use of recycled and non-toxic materials. An extension of her civic involvement, Marianne’s works are typically presented in settings that foster community building.
Beyond the photography exhibit on Broadway, all submitted photographs will contribute to a collection of images for the promotion of the City of Chelsea as a great place to live and to visit. Submitted photos will become part of a collection of images for use by the City in materials like municipal reports, the city website and informational brochures.
In the big scheme of $100 million-plus budgets, $150,000 is pretty small potatoes, but that small allotment approved by the City Council went a long way to instantly changing the trajectory of dozens of Chelsea High (CHS) students last Thursday, May 10, when they learned that the City would pay for them to finish their Associate’s Degree after graduation.
CHS Principal Priti Johari made the announcement to 94 seniors that qualified for the new pilot program approved by the Council about one month ago. At first, there was an air of disbelief.
But after about 20 minutes, there were smiles and a lot of tears from students gathered there – many of whom had given up on going to college.
Guidairys Castro said she had been accepted to UMass Dartmouth, Roger Williams and two other colleges. However, even with financial aid, it was still out of her reach, and even though she gathered more than 12 college credits at Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) through the dual enrollment program over the past two years, she said she wasn’t even going to be able to pay for finishing that Associate’s program.
“I would say this is life-changing,” she said. “It definitely changes everything for me. I wasn’t thinking about getting to go to college. This is a very good opportunity for me. I didn’t think I would have the money I needed to finish and then go on to a university. I applied to so many colleges and got accepted, but when the financial aid numbers came back, I realized it wasn’t going to happen for me. Today, that all changed.”
On Thursday, Castro sat down with the other 93 seniors who qualified, most not knowing what the big announcement was going to be. Johari said students had to complete 12 credits, and if they agree to stay in Chelsea and go to BHCC, they can finish their Associate’s Degree on the City’s dime as part of the program.
“This is a special group and a really exciting announcement,” she told them. “The City of Chelsea is investing in you. That is exciting…They want you to go to college and graduate, then come back to Chelsea. We want higher education to be more affordable. I know a lot of you have big dreams and can’t go to college because of money. City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the Council wanted to take money away as an obstacle.”
Ambrosino was heartened to hear of the scene after the announcement, and said it made him believe that the program is worthy and should be continued next year.
“I’m thrilled because this is exactly why we did that program and how we wanted it to work,” he said. “We wanted it to change people’s lives.”
Others in the room were relieved because they were going to have to pay out of pocket to finish at Bunker Hill.
Barbara Mendez and Emily Romero said they were going to have to take a year off to work full-time, perhaps more than one job, to be able to pay for going back to Bunker Hill next year.
With the announcement, that all changed.
“We were going to work for a year, but now there is no point in doing that,” said Mendez.
Both were interested in nursing, and early childhood care. The plan was to finish the Associate’s and transfer to a university – which is the popular route nowadays for students wishing to save significant money on college.
“Most of us in this room are the first to even consider college in our families,” said Romero. “It’s a big achievement for our family. They are going to be so happy to hear this. I feel this is really going to help me because I was going to have to pay out of pocket, and I didn’t know if I would have the money. It’s a great opportunity.”
For David Cruz, the scholarship is going to speed up his career path, as he wants to finish up at Bunker Hill and transfer to Bridgewater State. There, he wants to study aviation so he can be an airline pilot.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do as long as I can remember,” he said with a smile.
The applications for the new program were due on Monday, May 14, and many of the 94 eligible students were expected to apply.
With a proposal that increases spending by nearly $10 million, City Manager Tom Ambrosino submitted a City Budget to the Council this week for consideration at the May 7 meeting.
The $174 million budget is rather lean and creates only two new positions, but does contribute extra money to the School Department and covers the final year pay increases of several union contracts.
As submitted, the budget is out of balance by $790,000 – which Ambrosino said would not be a big deal to cover in the months ahead.
“We continue our improvements in the downtown and our support for the schools,” he said. “We have created two new positions in the DPW, one in the Water Department and a Junior Engineer.”
There are no new positions for Police and Fire this year, in contrast to the last two years when record numbers were added to the Fire Department through federal and local funding.
“There are not new positions in those departments this year,” he said. “We’ll maintain the current contingents.”
There are now 111 Police officers on, and just shy of 100 firefighters.
Other fixed costs included increases in health insurance, rubbish disposal/collection, and retirement system funding.
The two new positions relate to growth and water meters, he said.
The junior engineer will help the city with all of the ongoing projects, while the Water Department employee will be a liaison to the public regarding the many issues with the City’s current water meters.
Ambrosino said he has instructed the Department to begin the process of getting new water meters, but until then, the new employee would help sort out customer complaints.
“The City is looking into new water meters because our existing meters are old and not functioning well,” he said.
For the School Department, he said they gave an additional $1 million on top of the $1 million added last year. He said they have given the schools 5 percent more than required by the state this year.
However, he said that cannot continue forever.
“There is a balancing act in how much a City can contribute to the School Department without putting its own budget out of whack,” he said.
The School Department is primarily funded by state money, and the City is required to pay a certain portion of the funding as well through a state formula. This year, that mandatory payment is going to be $91.2 million. The City has given over and above that in the last three years.
Following their receipt of the City Budget on Monday, Council President Damali Vidot will schedule a full slate of budget hearings for the month of May and June. The City Budget must get Council approval by June 30.
The Chelsea City Council approved a request from City Manager Tom Ambrosino to clean up and make a big-time deposit into the City’s savings accounts.
The Council approved a $15 million transfer into the Stabilization Fund on Monday night, and also approved a $5 million transfer into a new School Stabilization Fund. At the same time, three old savings accounts were closed out with about $300,000 going into the Stabilization Fund.
The requests came at the behest of Councillor Bob Bishop, who made the requests last month and presided over a committee meeting two weeks ago discussing the matters.
Bishop had indicated that he would like the money in the Stabilization Fund because he believes the City needs to save more money in case of a downturn in the economy. On the background, having the money in the Stabilization Fund gives the Council more control over any spending due to the fact that it requires a two-thirds vote of the Council.
Ambrosino said he supported both transfers and believed that the School Fund was a wise idea given that there are several projects coming up on the City’s schools.
All of them, he said, are in the Capital Improvement Plan.
In the same financial vein, the Council approved the final $3 million payment on the Clark Avenue Middle School project. The City has been paying cash wherever it can on the project – which is still under construction until this summer – to save money on interest payments accrued from having to borrow.
Part of the project is also funded by state reimbursements.