City Looks to Introduce 3-1-1 Reporting System for Constituent Services

Have a problem?

Soon Chelsea – like other cities – can “3-1-1” it.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he hopes to proceed with introducing a 311 constituent services reporting platform to the City in the next fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

Already, Everett, Revere, Boston and others feature a telephone and online/app 311 system that residents can use to report anything from a pothole to graffiti to a rabid skunk.

“The goal is to provide better and more prompt responsiveness to constituent complaints,” read a letter from Ambrosino to the Council.

Ambrosino said the system he has in mind would operate with two employees working out of the DPW building. They would field complaints from 311 by telephone, email, text message and web-based reporting. They would fall under the supervision of Public Works Commissioner Fidel Maltez.

Once having taken the complaint, the employees would then assign the complaint to the appropriate department.

That would open up a series of accountability measures on each complaint, he said.

“These employees will be responsible for assigning the issue to the appropriate department representative or directly accessing the relevant information in a City database, tracking progress on the issue providing information on the resolution of the issue to the individual who reported it,” he wrote. “We believe this will be a much more effective way of addressing constituent complaints and hopefully it will be well-received by our residents.”

Start-up costs would look to be $162,000 for employees and the computer software. He said there is already $27,000 set aside for the program, and $50,000 from a state grant received last year. The remainder of the first-year costs would have to come from a budget request.

“I hope the Council will see the benefits of this improved constituent services effort and approve the requested FY20 appropriations,” he wrote.

The new system would replace the old SeeClickFix reporting system, which never worked as advertised.

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Council, School Committee Seeks to Fill Vacancies Quickly

The Chelsea City Council and School Committee held a joint meeting on Tuesday night, April 9, to get a quick step forward on filling two vacancies on the School Committee.

Members Present included City Councilors Roy Avellaneda, Damali Vidot, Bob Bishop, Luis Tejada, Enio Lopez, Judith Garcia, and Yamir Rodriguez.

School Committee members present were Frank DePatto, Rosemarie Carlisle, Jeannette Velez, Rich Maronski, Lucia Henriquez, Ana Hernandez, Kelly Garcia, and Yessenia Alfaro.

Due to the recent resignations of School Committee Chairman Richard Maronski and Vice Chairman Julio Hernandez, the Chelsea City Council and Chelsea School Committee are looking to fill their seats.

“This is a job that should be taken seriously and hopefully we get someone that’s responsible and will show up,” said Maronski.

“It’s unfortunate that we have these two sudden resignations, but I’m hopeful as it has allowed for significant dialogue around expectations and the representation our families deserve,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “I am looking forward to working with the School Committee to fill the vacancies.”

Any residents of District 3 or District 5 that are interested in serving the remaining unexpired terms through December 2019, are asked to submit their resumes and letters of interest to City Council and Chelsea School Committee at: LKoco@Chelseama.gov or mail to City Council at 500 Broadway, Chelsea, MA 02150.

Candidates must be registered voters in their respective districts and must be able to pass a CORI. The Chelsea City Council and School Committee will be accepting resumes until Friday April 26, and will conduct interviews on Monday April 29. Anyone that lives in either District 3 or District 5 is encouraged to apply. If you aren’t sure of your district, please visit HYPERLINK “http://chelseama.gov” t “_blank” chelseama.gov under the City Clerk’s department for a map or call the City Clerks office at (617) 466-4050.

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School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

By Adam Swift and Seth Daniel

In a sudden move, District 5 School Committee member Julio Hernandez has resigned – one of the City’s up-and-coming political figures that many thought had a big future on the Committee.

Hernandez, a Chelsea High graduate, told the Record this week that it was with a heavy heart that he resigned, and he felt it was necessary as he had to work more hours and attend college at the same time.

“When I ran for office, I had more support from my family,” he said. “As rent started getting higher, I knew that I needed more income, and while still being in college, I decided to look at other jobs.

“I loved working in the School Committee, but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’ education,” he continued. “Student advocacy has always been my platform, to serve all students the right way. From starting the policy of an outdoor graduation, to having the opportunity to work with many teachers who really care about this community. I now believe School Committee Members should be appointed, because our student’s education is no joke.”

Hernandez, 20, said college, family and financial constraints hit all at once this year, and he couldn’t in good conscience serve on the Committee while not being able to show up.

“I know once I’m done with college, I’ll be back to serve the community I love and cherish,” he said. “I want to thank all the people who supported me, and are still supporting me in my time of sorrow.”

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Council President Damali Vidot said Hernandez had given notice to the City Clerk that he would be stepping down as of April.

Because his resignation is more than 180 days from a City Election, Vidot said the City Charter calls for a joint meeting of the Council and the School Committee within 30 days to appoint a replacement. That replacement would serve through the city election in November, when the position will be on the ballot.

“Julio was an incredible leader during his tenure,” said District 5 City Councillor Judith Garcia. “He did an incredible job while on the School Committee and was a great representative for District 5.”

Garcia encouraged anyone from District 5 who is interested to apply for the open seat.

However, Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said the Council and the School Committee may want to leave the position open until the municipal election.

“I may have some reservations about filling the post,” said Avellaneda. “There’s only one more month until (candidates can) pull papers, and then the election is in November. I feel it may be best to leave the seat unfilled.”

Appointing someone to a short-term on the School Committee would give that person a leg up on other candidates who run for the seat in the general election, Avellaneda said.

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A Lot of Noise but Little Action on Planes at Council

A Lot of Noise but Little Action on Planes at Council

For as long as jets have rumbled over Chelsea as they land at and depart from Logan Airport, City officials have struggled with getting state and federal officials to help mitigate the noise from that air traffic.

Monday night, District 6 City Councillor Giovanni Recupero introduced an order asking City Manager Tom Ambrosino to look at renegotiating a deal with Massport to bring back the window and soundproofing program to the city.

“People deserve a little more consideration than they have been given,” said Recupero.

The Councillor said he would like to see Massport provide soundproof windows for residents suffering excessive noise from plane traffic, as it has done in the past.

“I’d like to get them back to the table and figure out a way to help with the problem,” Recupero said.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said he appreciated Recupero’s efforts to get Massport back to the table to discuss sound mitigation, but that he didn’t have high hopes that it would be successful.

“Whenever the City Manager has approached Massport, the answer has been that it is a nonstarter; they have done their program,” said Avellaneda.

Avellaneda said he has been working with City Manager Tom Ambrosino to find a company to undertake an independent sound study of noise from the airport. But, he said it has been very difficult to find a company qualified to do that study.

If a company is found that can perform an independent sound study, Avellaneda said he hopes it has the support of his fellow councillors.

On the positive side, Avellaneda said he attended a recent Massport meeting with airport communities in which officials stated that a new Massport sound study is underway. He said this study will take into account items that a study released in 2017 did not take into account, such as the impact of hills on sound and the resonating sound of airplanes.

The 2017 study was conducted 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.

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.

But getting Massport to kick in for additional noise mitigation efforts has been an uphill battle.

“Confronted with the increase in air traffic, their response has been, ‘But our planes are quieter,’” said Avellaneda.

The Councillor has been pushing for the independent noise study since at least the time the 2017 airport noise study was unveiled.

“We (can) 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,” he said at the time.

•In other business, the Council unanimously approved sending a home rule petition to the state legislature that will allow for the construction of the new Innes Housing Development.

•Recupero introduced an order asking the City Manager look into hiring another animal control officer for the purpose of issuing fines to people that don’t clean up after their dogs.

•Councillor-At-Large Leo Robinson introduced orders asking the City Manager for updates on the City’s master plan and the status of the Salvation Army building on Broadway. The Council approved taking the building by eminent domain in 2017.

•District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop was absent from Monday night’s meeting, but with good reason. He was celebrating his 35th anniversary with his wife. Happy anniversary to the Bishops.

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Council Calls for Administration to Draft Strategies in Lieu of Parking Study

Council Calls for Administration to Draft Strategies in Lieu of Parking Study

The City Council has asked that City Manager Tom Ambrosino use the next month to figure out some new parking strategies for the city instead of spending a hefty sum on a major Parking Study.

Ambrosino said the Council had instructed him to put out a bid for a parking study late last year, but there was only one bidder on the project. That bid did not include the whole city and was more than $200,000.

On Monday, the Council held a Committee meeting to discuss the next steps, steps that don’t include spending such a sum on a study.

“The Council at the end of the meeting on Monday wanted to explore the idea of internal remediation before proceeding with an expensive outside study,” he said.

Ambrosino said he and his administration will spend the next month “brainstorming” some ideas and recommendations to help with the parking bottleneck in many areas of the City – including the neighborhoods.

Ambrosino said they do see it as a problem in several aspects of the city.

“There’s no question it’s a problem in the city,” he said. “There are way too many cars and not enough parking spaces. There is no simple solution to that problem. Long-time, we do have an agreement as part of the Tobin Bridge Viaduct project to add 135 spaces only a short walk from downtown. That might help a little bit, but that’s three years away.”

One solution he will not suggest is to reduce parking requirements for new development. While many might think that is counter to solving a parking problem, many planners now believe that one solution to reducing the numbers of cars is to build developments without parking.

That won’t be a solution he suggests again, after having had lower parking requirements rejected by the Council only two years ago. “I don’t see the Council reducing parking any time soon,” he said. “It’s not something I’m going to re-submit.”

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Lime Bike Rental Program Hopes to Unveil Electric Situation in Chelsea

Lime Bike Rental Program Hopes to Unveil Electric Situation in Chelsea

When the Lime Bike rental program returns to the streets of Chelsea this spring, riders might notice a little extra oomph in their ride.

Chelsea took part in a program with Lime Bike, along with 16 neighboring communities, last year. Council President Damali Vidot said the bike rentals will be up and running again this year.

However, there will be a difference this year, as Lime is unveiling electric-assisted bicycles throughout the region.

Because electric bicycles are currently not allowed in Chelsea, Vidot has introduced an ordinance to the City Council that would allow for the vehicles as long as they do not travel faster than 15 miles per hour.

“Since the late Summer of 2017, the City of Chelsea has been experimenting with dockless bikes, initially as a pilot with the company Ofo and then, last year, as part of a regional Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) contract with Lime Bike,” City Manager Tom Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council. “Notwithstanding some minor complaints, I believe the experiment has been successful.”

Last year, more than 4,000 people used the dockless bikes in Chelsea, taking almost 20,000 separate trips, according to the city manager.

“The City would like to continue this dockless bike program in 2019,” stated Ambrosino. “However, there has been a change in the marketplace for dockless bikes. All the companies in this arena are moving away from pedal powered bikes to electric assisted bikes, including Lime Bike.”

To continue with the regional effort with Lime and allow the bikes in Chelsea, the City will have to change the current ordinance that prohibits the vehicles.

“Over the past month, we have explored the options of replacing Lime Bike with another company that might offer dockless pedal only bikes, but no operator is interested in the restriction,” Ambrosino said.

While the change in the ordinance would allow for the electric-assisted bicycles, Ambrosino said there are no plans in the works to allow for electric scooters to operate on public streets.

“I am just alerting the Council that the use of such scooters may soon become ubiquitous in surrounding communities,” he stated.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said he’s looking forward to the transportation upgrade.

“I’m looking forward to them,” he said. “I took a practice ride, and it was quite fun.”

•In other transportation-related news, Ambrosino told the City Council it should keep the future appearance of autonomous vehicles in the back of its mind.

“Right now, testing of such vehicles is underway in Boston and other communities,” he said.

As with the electric-assisted bicycles, the Council would have to adjust its ordinances to allow for autonomous, self-driving vehicles. A MassDOT and MAPC agreement could allow for a pilot route for the vehicles in the Industrial District.

“It is likely to be some time before autonomous vehicles actually appear on this pilot route,” Ambrosino said. “Again, such testing cannot occur until the City has given express permission. However, I just wanted to give the Council notice that this transportation innovation is moving forward and may someday make its way to Chelsea.”

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Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face Critical Vote At Council Monday

Cocoran, Chelsea Housing Face  Critical Vote At Council Monday

The Innes Street/Central Avenue housing redevelopment plan has cleared its latest hurdle with the Planning Board, but will face a critical vote Monday night at Council on whether or not to allow them to have a ‘40R’ zoning designation.

The Council will consider the special zoning designation, which allows the mixed-income project to have its own, special regulations for parking and density and other requirements. At the same time, it also unlocks $5 million in state and local funding.

“It’s a critical vote,” said Chelsea Housing Authority (CHA) Director Al Ewing. “That is a very important ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ If we don’t get it, this project dies. It is our use it or lose it moment.”

The mixed-income development is in partnership with Corcoran Development, which will assist in developing the 330-unit community on the site of the current housing development. Those units will include the existing 96 public housing units, as well as 40 workforce housing units. The remaining 194 units will be market rate, and with the state and federal grants, will subsidize the replacement of the public housing units. Overall, the development would have a 41 percent affordable ratio, which is three times as much as what would normally be required by the City and double the state requirements.

It seems like a huge moment for residents like Jean Fulco, who is part of the Innes Residents Alliance (IRA).

“This will be a much better situation for the people who are there now,” she said. “The re-development would be so much better because the apartment conditions now are not very good.”

Resident Melissa Booth, also of the IRA, said she has a special needs child who cannot walk up the stairs, but they live on the second floor now.

“I usually have to carry my child up the stairs because there isn’t an elevator,” she said.

The new development is slated to have an elevator.

But one of the strangleholds in this second go-around of the mixed-income redevelopment – which had to be backed off two years ago – is parking. There are 226 spaces available on site, and another 50 spaces will be located off-site nearby.

Council President Damali Vidot said she does support the project, but she also lives in the area and understands that parking is already a mess. She said they have worked out a potential plan where the market rate units will not be able to apply for a residential parking sticker.

“Everyone says that these people who will live here will take the Silver Line and not have a car,” she said. “Let’s see them prove that. I’m ok with giving them the 40R so they can move forward, but when their Tax Incremental Financing comes up, I will let them know that I will not support the project unless they will enter into an agreement with the market rate tenants to not participate in the residential parking program.”

She said the decision is a tough one for the Council. While many have reservations, they also want to help the public housing residents improve their lives.

“I’m not in love with the project, but I know everyone is trying to do their best,” she said. “These 96 families deserve to live in dignity. I have family that lives there and no one should live in those conditions…If this is what I have to do to preserve the units for these 96 families, then we don’t have a choice really.”

Over the last several weeks, the IRA and the CHA and Corcoran have been pounding the pavement. They have had coffee hours, done personal outreach and have launched a website.

“We are in a competitive process and if this doesn’t get approved for whatever reason, Chelsea will not realize this opportunity,” said Sean McReynolds of Corcoran.

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City Manager Ambrosino Highlights Achievements -Looks to the Future in His State of the City Address to City Council

City Manager Ambrosino Highlights Achievements -Looks to the Future in His State of the City Address to City Council

Fresh off of a new contract, City Manager Tom Ambrosino gave an enthusiastic opening to Monday’s Council meeting during his State of the City Address, where he talked about Chelsea’s accomplishments in 2018 as well as its goals for 2019.

“I feel confident in saying that the state of our City of Chelsea is very good indeed,” he started.

Among the achievements of the past year, Ambrosino noted that the City ended 2018 with an excess of $28 million in its coffers.

“There’s not another city our size in the entire Commonwealth with that level of reserve,” he said. “That is a testament to the shrewd financial planning of City Council.”

In 2018, Chelsea was also one of only 35 cities in the country to be awarded a Bloomberg Challenge grant for its vision to reduce crime with preventative care.

“Because of that award, our model of predicting harm and then engaging in cross-sector collaboration to address the harm got national attention,” said Ambrosino. “It’s gaining interest and it has people seeking to replicate that, not just in Massachusetts, but outside as well.”

Ambrosino cited the City’s increased development in 2018, such as the construction of two new hotels and the multi-million dollar expansion of a pharmaceutical company. He also mentioned the $10 million grant by the state to reconstruct Broadway from City Hall to the Revere Line, as well as a $3 million federal Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant to renovate Chelsea’s waterfront, one of the largest grants given by the EDA to any municipality in the country in 2018, and one of the only grants issued in Massachusetts.

“We kept our promises to our residents in 2018 by doing good services,” Ambrosino reflected. “I think we can achieve the same level of success in 2019 if we have the same level of collaboration from City Council.”

In terms of goals for 2019, Ambrosino highlighted the effort to renovate the downtown Chelsea area, building on the foundational work done in 2018.

“We added police, social services, more lighting, decorative banners, public art,” he said. “We’ve created an atmosphere and foundation for success, so what we need to do now is finalize the work that remains.”

Ambrosino outlined four areas of improvement for downtown Chelsea: finalizing the design for the infrastructure improvements for one-way schemes, adopting the necessary zoning permissions to improve the facade of the corridor, offering a rich array of cultural and artistic activities, and submitting a request for proposal (RFP) for the redevelopment of the former Salvation Army site.

The City Manager threw his support behind the Forbes Proposal, which is up before the City Board of Appeals next month for the redevelopment of the Chelsea waterfront, claiming that it will include affordable condominiums for Chelsea residents looking to become homeowners.

Ambrosino also mentioned the planned infrastructure and capital improvements for 2019, including work to the Chelsea Greenway, the Chelsea Garden Cemetery and Veterans’ Field. This would all be in the context of a master plan, the first of its kind in Chelsea since the 1970s.

The City Manager emphasized the importance of investing in affordable housing as well as in education, specifically for grants to allow high-achieving, low-income high school students in Chelsea to attend Bunker Hill Community College free of charge.

“This idea of public funding for education beyond just high school is gaining momentum in this nation,” he said. “We can feel a sense a pride that Chelsea is in the forefront of that movement.”

The City Manager’s State of the City address can be viewed on the Chelsea Community Cable’s YouTube channel here: youtu.be/lRVWajXR44w.

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City Council Honors Community Change-makers at City Hall

City Council Honors Community Change-makers  at City Hall

Around 20 members of the local community gathered at City Hall on Monday, Feb. 25, for the meeting of the Chelsea City Council.

On the agenda for Monday night’s meeting was a ceremony to honor individuals in the Chelsea who have made a difference to their community.

The first to be recognized Dr. Alfred Donatelli, the chair of the Chemical Engineering Department at UMass/Lowell. The City Council chose to honor Dr. Donatelli for “his many contributions in the world of Science and Engineering.”

Dr. Donatelli is a proponent of STEM education, which focuses on educating students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He was featured in the Record earlier in the week for a STEM education demonstration he gave at the Chelsea Public Library.

A group of six individuals were also given the Chelsea Trailblazer 2019 Award: Bruce Mauch, Grace Muwina, Saritin Rizzuto, Lisa Santagate, Record Editor Cary Shuman and Leroy Tyler. In celebration of Black History Month, the annual Chelsea Trailblazer award is bestowed on individuals who have made positive contributions to their local community through demonstrated commitment and service. Shuman was out of town, but the remaining five recipients received awards from City Council and also posed for photos with family and City Council members.

City Council Clerk Paul Casino called award recipients “a beacon of light for all those who want to follow in their footsteps.”

When the floor was opened to members of the public to speak, Joan Cromwell, the President of Chelsea Black Community (CBC), shared her thoughts about Black History Month.

“Black History is not only for Blacks. It’s American history and it’s a part of our history right here in the city,” said Cromwell. “We’re all dealing with the same issues every day, so it’s a shared month that we should all be celebrating together as a community.”

Longtime Chelsea resident Beverly Martin Ross spoke next, adding, “We really appreciate our City Manager as well as our newly appointed [Representative] Ayanna Pressley, who came out to serve the homeless in honor of Black History Month.”

“I just want to give all the praise to the Chelsea Black Community for the work they put in every year creating events all month long,” said City Council President Damali. “There’s a lot of history here in the community that’s rich and I appreciate all the work that goes into keeping the black history alive here in the community. You guys are the real heros.”

A final Black History Month event was hosted on Thursday, February 28, at the Williams Middle School, where keynote speaker Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins honored the Chelsea Trailblazers.

The next City Council meetings will be held at Chelsea City Hall on March 11 and March 25 at 7pm.

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Clark Avenue Middle to be Named After Legendary Morrie Siegel

Clark Avenue Middle to be Named After Legendary Morrie Siegel

By Seth Daniel and Laura Plummer

The City Council and the School Committee have voted to name the new Clark Avenue Middle School after long-time School Committeeman and former Williams School Principal Morris ‘Morrie’ Seigel.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, the matter was brought up for a vote on a request forwarded from the School Committee – who had voted to approve the move.

The late Morrie Seigel pictured here in May 2013 when he served as the Chief Marshal of the Memorial Day Girl Scout Parade. The new Clark Avenue Middle School has been named after him.

The Council voted unanimously on the proposal by City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to dedicate the Clark Avenue Middle School to the late educator and community member. It will now be known as the Morris H. Seigel Clark Avenue Middle School.

City Council members spoke fondly about Seigal.

“Mr. Seigal was not only a wonderful person for the city of Chelsea, he was a great gentleman,” said Councilman Calvin Brown. “When he wasn’t in his professional attire, he had his Chelsea jacket on, his Chelsea hat on, displaying his pride.”

Said Councillor Giovanni Recupero, “There’s only one [way] to describe Mr. Seigal–great person. If anyone deserves this, it’s Mr. Seigal. He was the teacher of my kids for many years. For 40 years, I knew the gentleman and he was a very nice person.”

Seigel was an educator in the City and served as the principal of the Williams School. He was a School Committeeman for 29 years, and a youth leader at the Chelsea YMHA.

In 2013, as a noted veteran, he was the Chief Marshal of the Memorial Day Girl Scout Parade.

He passed away in October 2013.

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