A Chelsea firefighter fighting the stunning blaze created by Pollo Campero in Park Square on Sunday night. The popular restaurant was a total loss, but owners said they intend to re-build.
Heavy smoke poured from the popular Pollo Campero restaurant in Park Square on Sunday night, with firefighters facing treacherous conditions that forced their evacuation numerous times as they tried to put out the stunning fire.
In the end, crews battled and made quick
work of it – getting it out within an hour.
Chief Len Albanese said it is still under
investigation this week, and that it was a total loss.
“The fire is still under investigation;
however, I can report at this time that it appears that the fire started in a
concealed space within a wall, then traveled to the loft space above the
ceiling where the fire was allowed to burn for some time before breaking out
and activating the Fire Alarm system,” he said. “This would account for the
major fire condition on arrival even though the building had a working fire
alarm system. Also, there were no sprinklers within the structure. The fire
remains under investigation for a definitive cause that will be reported upon
There were no civilian injuries, but one
firefighter was injured.
On Sunday evening, at 11:40 p.m. Chelsea
Fire Alarm received an alarm of fire from Box 1134 for the Pollo Campero
restaurant located at 115 Park St. First arriving companies from Chelsea E2 and
L1 under the command of Capt. Phil Rogers reported heavy smoke showing on
arrival from the rear of the building. C4 Deputy Wayne Ulwick arrived
on scene assuming command and immediately ordered the Working
Fire. Due to the heavy smoke and reports of heavy fire within the interior
of the building, a Second Alarm was requested bringing companies from Revere,
Everett, Boston and MassPort to the scene. Crews were ordered out of the
building several times due to conditions rapidly deteriorating from
heavy fire conditions within the structure forcing firefighters to attack the
fire with defensive operations using blitz guns, hand lines
and ladder pipes
The fire was brought under control within an
The Boston Sparks Club under the command of
President Paul Boudreau responded to the scene supplying Re-Hab and
refreshments for the firefighters. Chelsea Police also provided traffic and
crowd control during fire. Crews from Medford and Boston provided mutual aid
during the fire.
Chief Albanese said it was a defensive fight
for firefighters because the structure was too far along to be saved.
Nevertheless, owners are determined to rebuild.
“It was determined that the fire was well
involved within the structure, and crews were ordered out of the building and
proceeded with a defensive fire attack,” he said. “Given the time of day, a
closed business and no reports of occupants, this was the safest course of
action given that very early on it was apparent that this building could not be
saved. Members of Fire Prevention are working with the ownership, who reported
to us that they intend to rebuild as soon as possible.”
St. Stanislaus Church has submitted a petition with dozens of signatures requesting that the City not leave the temporary direction change on Chestnut Street intact.
“This change has been detrimental to the day-to-day business operations of the Parish rectory, prohibits our elderly parishioners from entering and exiting their vehicles in a safe manner, prevents the safe loading and unloading of supplies to both the rectory and the church, disrupts the motor vehicle processional for funerals, impedes workers coming make repairs and service calls to the Church and rectory and causes an increase of noise during our solemn services due to the excessive congestion of traffic,” read the letter accompanying the petition, which was presented to the City Council and Traffic Commission.
Chestnut Street has long had an odd configuration at Fourth Street, with no one able to turn in either direction coming off the Mystic/Tobin Bridge exit. Both sides empty onto Fourth Street. However, during construction on the Beacon Street off-ramp, Chestnut was made one way all the way from City Hall to Everett Avenue – one long stretch.
It became popular with many drivers, but especially the Police and Fire Departments. Fire officials said they felt it helped response times from Central Fire in getting to Everett Avenue.
A petition to make the temporary change into a permanent change is now before the Traffic Commission and City Council.
Count St. Stan’s against it.
“It is jeopardizing the existence of our self-supporting Parish, which has been in existence for the past 110 years,” read the letter. “Chestnut Street is a narrow, one lane road, in a heavily populated residential neighborhood. It is unable to maintain the increased flow of traffic caused by vehicles coming from the Fourth Street off-ramp to the Bridge.”
After more than two and a half years of negotiations, the City is on the verge of a new contract with its two police unions that will see pay increases of up to three percent and implement residency requirements for new hires.
Monday night, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino requested the City Council approve the contracts, which are retroactive to Fiscal year 2017. The Council forwarded the request to its subcommittee on conference, and will take up an official vote on the contracts at a future meeting.
The collective bargaining agreements are for the unions which represent police superior officers and patrol officers.
“Both deals encompass four years, made up of two separate contracts: a one year deal for FY17; and a subsequent three year deal for FY 19-FY20,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.
The contracts include a retroactive salary increase of 2.5 percent for FY17 and 3 percent for FY18 and FY19. There is also a 3 percent increase slated for FY20 and an additional 1 percent increase that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
All told, the retroactive salary increases total about $876,000.
“I strongly recommend that the City Council support these agreements, which have been the subject of lengthy negotiations spanning more than two and a half years,” Ambrosino stated. “We set aside in Salary Reserve for the resolution of these two agreements a total of $700,000. Accordingly, we will need an additional appropriation from Stabilization of $176,000 to satisfy these contractual commitments.”
The salary hikes are the only cost item in the new contracts, according to the City Manager. Other items in the contracts related to longevity, detail pay, sick leave incentive, and clothing allowance are limited to clarifications or minor changes and do not add any additional costs to the City, he added.
The percentage increases for salary are slightly more than those other City Hall unions have received, Ambrosino said.
“However, in return, the City did secure new language on residency upon which the City Council insisted,” he stated. “As of January 1, 2019, all new police hires must live in the City of Chelsea for five years, consistent with the Ordinance approved by the City Council earlier this year.”
While there was no debate over the union contracts themselves at Monday’s Council meeting, District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop did raise concerns about the City’s use of its stabilization, or “rainy day” funds.
Bishop noted that Ambrosino was requesting the use of stabilization funds for improvements to Eden Park and for a protective cover for the new high school turf field as well as for the contract salary costs.
Those stabilization funds should be used for emergency situations, Bishop said.
“I don’t think any of these requests rise to the level of an emergency to use the rainy day fund,” he said.
While Bishop said he supported the requests being made, he wanted assurances that any money taken out of the City’s stabilization funds be replaced by free cash as soon as those funds are certified by the state.
Outside graduation coming closer to a
resolution, decided Dec. 17
The Chelsea High School Class of 2019’s quest to graduate outside at the high school could come to a conclusion at the City Council’s next meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.
That’s when the Council is expected to vote on a $170,000 appropriation from the school stabilization account to pay for a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino made the request for the funds for the protective mat, which he said will allow for the use of the turf field for non-sporting events. The turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if there are certain non-sporting uses on the field.
The possible purchase is good news for members of the high school’s senior class, who have been working with school and city officials, as well as fundraising, in an effort to have their graduation moved to the high school field.
Senior Manuel Teshe said the turf field cover will benefit the whole city, as well as students and their families attending the graduation.
“This investment is going to last for years,” he said. “If this is done, it is done for the city, and the future of the city is the students at Chelsea High School right now.”
Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste was one of a number of CHS students wearing “Dream Big” shirts who addressed the Council on Monday night.
“We are close to achieving our dream of graduating outside on our own field,” said Poste. “With the help of the City Council, this can be a possibility.”
School Supt. Mary Bourque also lent the students some support before the Council.
“This is a wise investment for our future and will have a positive impact on every generation here,” Bourque said.
District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia urged all the students present on Monday night to return with their friends on Dec. 17.
“I’m so incredibly proud of everything that was said tonight,” she said.
In other business, the Council approved a change in the zoning ordinance requiring tighter building controls in the Admiral’s Hill neighborhood.
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda introduced an order requesting that the License Commission hold two recreational marijuana licenses for applicants that have a majority ownership consisting of Chelsea residents.
Ambrosino asked the Council to approve funding for renovations to Eden Park.
The majority of the renovations will be reimbursed through a state grant, the city manager stated.
“The proposed renovations of Eden Park include replacement of the playground’s rubber surfacing, introduction of new playground equipment, installation of a new water feature and splash pad, installation of new site furniture and lighting, and reconstruction of all site utilities,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The total cost of the renovations is about $750,000, according to Ambrosino. The City Council appropriated $250,000 through the Fiscal Year 2019 Capital Improvement Program. Of the remaining $500,000, the City Manager said $400,000 should be reimbursed by the state.
Members of the Chelsea High School Class of 2019 are a step closer to getting their wish of an outdoor graduation on the new high school field.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is requesting the City Council approve spending $170,000 from the City’s Stabilization Account to buy a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
“This removable, plastic covering will allow for greater use of the field for non-sporting events, including allowing for an outdoor graduation for the Chelsea High School Class of 2019,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The city is in the midst of a $3 million-plus upgrade of Veterans Field at Chelsea High School. The first phase of the project, replacement of the artificial turf and the new track, is scheduled for completion this fall, according to Ambrosino. A second phase involving lighting and restrooms will continue in the spring.
The new turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if certain uses occur on the field, including large static crowds, spiked heels, or chairs with four legs. The City Manager said these restrictions would all but eliminate the use of the surface for any non-sporting events.
“One method for eliminating this problem is to purchase a removable, protective surface for the turf, which is how the problem is handled in many large artificial turf stadiums across the country,” Ambrosino stated. “However, we did not budget for such a protective surface in this project.”
At the request of the school, Ambrosino is asking the Council to approve the additional funding through the School Capital Stabilization Account, which Ambrosino said was specifically established for these types of School Department capital expenditures.
At its Monday night meeting, the council voted to take up the issue in its Finance Subcommittee.
The request from the City Manager was good news for Chelsea High Senior Manuel Teshe, who addressed the Council earlier this month about senior class fundraising efforts to secure an outdoor graduation.
“Mr. Tom Ambrosino made me feel like people were listening to us after all the work we did,” said Teshe. “We felt alone, and now we appreciate the chance that the City is even considering it.”
Prior to hearing from Ambrosino, Councillors Ray Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, and Yamir Rodriguez introduced an order asking the City Manager to explore the purchase of an event decking system. After hearing about Ambrosino’s request to use the stabilization funds for the purchase, Avellaneda withdrew the order.
The Chelsea Collaborative hosted its annual Thanksgiving Dinner last Thursday at its headquarters at 318 Broadway.
Collaborative President Gladys Vega and her staff welcomed members of the community, who enjoyed a delicious buffet dinner and desserts. There was also a cotton candy station for children.
A large group of staff members and volunteers, led by Board President Rosalba Medina, helped serve the many food items to the guests in attendance.
But this year the celebration was a little different as the Collaborative announced the launch of the Immigrant Justice Bond Fund, in conjunction with EECO organization and the Episcopal City Mission that includes the St. Luke’s Church, Chelsea.
The fund is being set up to assist family members with people in detention centers to pay bonds established by immigration judges, with the purpose of reuniting them with their loved ones.
The Collaborative works hard with relatives who have come to its offices for assistance in locating their loved ones who have been detained by immigration agents. During the effort to locate and to be able to acquire the pro-bono services of lawyers, the Collaborative is faced with the obstacle of not having the necessary funds to help people out of detention.
It is for this reason that the Collaborative has joined forces with ECCO and Episcopal City Mission to find financial alternatives to pay bond. Chelsea Collaborative is honored to now be an organization that can count on these funds and get mothers and fathers out of detention centers.
Once the funds are used, payment agreements will be established so that these funds can always be available to other people in detention. After being released, people will be connected with legal and social resources to establish an individual plan for each family.
During the speaking program, Vega stated that the Collaborative was ready to assist residents with the agency’s many services and programs, and also to direct them to the appropriate groups for legal advice.
Yessenia Alfaro, deputy director at the Collaborative, felt the event, that drew a large turnout on a night that the first snowstorm of the season was approaching, was a huge success.
“It’s a blessing that so many people came here to tonight to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, and we’re grateful for our partnership with the ECCO organization and Episcopal City Mission in launching this important fund,” said Alfaro.
Several residents thanked Gladys Vega for her outstanding leadership of the Collaborative and the agency’s continuing diligence in helping all members of the community.
A new and irate constituency of condo owners has arisen in response to the Water Discount program championed by Councilor Giovanni Recupero and voted on by the City Council Sept. 24 – a proposal that excludes condo owners from the owner-occupied water bill discount.
Recupero proposed the measure in September, after many years of discussing it and proposing it in other forms, to find that it had support and the votes to pass. After a challenge by Councilor Roy Avellaneda last week, the measure stood.
It is to go into effect on July 1, 2019 with the new water rates.
But what it might have lacked in votes on the Council has not deterred the momentum that has grown among those in the City who own condos. Because condo owners don’t have separate water meters in their units, they are excluded from participating in the program along with absentee landlords.
That has ignited a base that continues to protest the move, and has spoken out this week in letters to the newspaper that decry the program and, potentially, others like it that could come down the road.
“Chelsea water and sewer rates are increasing significantly, and the Council’s vote means that those renters, businesses, and 1,861 condos are going to subsidize a discount for 625 owner-occupied, single-family households and 1,149 two- and three-family households,” read a letter written by Sharlene McLean and signed by numerous condo and homeowners. “This decision is blatantly discriminatory as it creates separate classes of homeownership in Chelsea, and privileges residents who have the financial capital to buy and own single or multi-family homes – all at the expense of, among others, condo owners who are also stakeholders in the community, and deserve the same consideration as other homeowners.”
The condo owners wrote that the policy will hurt the entire community. For example, they said houses of worship are not allowed to participate, and neither are businesses.
“Simply put, this is a poorly conceived and exclusionary policy that was rushed to a vote without any meaningful discussion or community input, and that benefits the few at the expense of the many,” they wrote.
The new constituency of condo owners asked that the Council repeal its vote before the new rates go into effect.
The City Council passed District 6 City Councillor Giovanni Recupero’s measure to provide a 10 percent water and sewer percent discount to Chelsea homeowners last month.
Yet, since that vote, there has been a fair share of resident dissatisfaction from condominium owners who don’t qualify for the price break, as well as allegations of some social media shenanigans between councillors.
But despite an attempt on Monday night by Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda to consider a repeal, the discount will stand for now.
The discount applies to all units in any owner-occupied single, two-, or three-family homes and any owner-occupied condominium that has an individual water meter. The problem, as some condominium owners noted at Monday night’s council meeting, is that very few condominium units in the city have individual water meters.
“I chose 15 years ago that I wanted to buy a condominium and not a house,” said resident Suzanne Perry. “I consider this to be a basic issue of discrimination and unfairness. I’m sure it was not meant to be that way, but that’s the way it ended up.”
Condominium owner Alison Cuneo circulated an online petition with more than 130 signatures as of Monday night asking the Council to overturn its water and sewer discount vote.
“I would oppose this even if I were to benefit from (the discount),” Cuneo said.
The debate over the issue took a personal turn early in the meeting, when District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop spoke out about a social media post by Avellaneda. In the post, Bishop said Avellaneda posted a Google maps image of his home and pool, noting that Bishop would benefit from the discounted water and sewer rates.
“Councillor Avellaneda wrote that Bob Bishop would get a discount to fill up his pool next year,” said Bishop. “That is not only petty, but it is untrue.”
Bishop said that he, like many people, has an individual water meter on his pool that would not qualify for the homeowner discount.
The District 1 Councillor also said he would be in favor of extending the discount to condominium owners if there was a way to determine the water use in owner-occupied units.
Avellaneda’s attempt to overturn the discount was struck down on a procedural vote.
Council President Damali Vidot ruled the request by Avellaneda to take another vote as out of order.
“We shouldn’t set a precedent just because this is something you disagreed with,” she said. “The majority of the Council voted in favor of adopting this.”
Avellaneda challenged Vidot’s ruling that his request was out of order, but the challenge failed.
On Oct. 10, at 12:10 a.m., a CPD officer responded to 99 Maverick for a report of a male party “passed out behind a wheel of a blue mini-van.” Upon arrival, the officer observed a blue mini-van with its front right tire up on the sidewalk, and the suspect sleeping in the driver’s seat. The officer found the vehicle running. The subject was arrested for OUI after failing a sobriety test.
Ivan Ramirez, 38, of Somerville, was charged with OUI Liquor.
ACTING UP IN CLASS
On Oct. 12, at 4:42 p.m., a Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) Police Officer, while posted inside the building, heard multiple people yelling and screaming for the police. The officer entered room 401 where he observed many students and the professor fleeing the room. Chelsea police responded to assist and arrested a female student who was throwing chairs and hitting people. A second male individual was ordered trespassed off of BHCC properties.
Kayla Nicholson, 21, of Boston, was charged with disorderly conduct, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and malicious destruction of property under $1,200.
On Oct. 12, at 10:15 p.m., officers were dispatched to 10 Forsyth St. for a report of a past breaking and entering. CPD officers had responded two other times that day for reports of B&E’s. A victim was able to identify the suspect as the buildings maintenance worker. CPD detectives assisted in placing the subject under arrest.
Ediberto Aviles, 38, of 10 Forsyth St., was charged with breaking and entering in the day for a felony, and larceny from a building.
18TH STREET GANG MEMBER, ILLEGALLY HERE, SENTENCED
A Salvadoran national was sentenced this month at federal court in Boston for being an alien in possession of a firearm.
Roberto Portillo, aka “Mysterio,” 24, a Salvadoran national previously residing in Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. Senior District Court Judge Rya W. Zobel to one year and one day in prison. Portillo will face deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence. In June 2018, Portillo pleaded guilty to one count of being an alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.
The case arose from an investigation into the criminal activities of 18th Street gang members. According to court documents, Portillo is a member of 18th Street, a violent gang that has engaged in a long-running feud with MS-13. On Jan. 13, 2018, law enforcement officers were investigating drug dealing in East Somerville when they saw three people inside a gray Honda Accord purchase drugs. After confirming the drug sale, law enforcement stopped the car and frisked the front passenger, later identified as Portillo, and found a silver semi-automatic pistol with an obliterated serial number loaded with five rounds of .25 caliber CBC ammunition in his pocket. A subsequent review of immigration databases revealed that Portillo had not legally entered the country, making him an illegal alien in possession of a firearm.
On Oct. 13, at 5:12 p.m., a CPD officer, while on patrol in the area of 60 Suffolk St., received notification that a particular was stolen. The officer observed the vehicle a short time later and arrested the individual inside the car.
Jorge Beltran, 19, of 39 Shawmut St., was charged with receiving a stolen motor vehicle.
CHARLESTOWN MAN DEALING IN CHELSEA
A Charlestown man was arrested Oct. 5 for distributing fentanyl out of an apartment in Chelsea.
Cruz Villar, 31, was charged with one count of distribution and possession with intent to distribute fentanyl – aiding and abetting; and one count of possession with intent to distribute 40 grams or more of fentanyl – aiding and abetting.
The first charge provides for a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, a minimum of three years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $1 million. The second charge provides for a sentence of at least five years and up to 40 years in prison, at least four years and up to a lifetime of supervised release, and a fine of up to $5 million. Sentences are imposed by a federal district court judge based on the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian A. Pérez‑Daple of Lelling’s Criminal Division is prosecuting the case.
The Chelsea convocation on the first day that teachers return for work after the summer break has always been a venue that Supt. Mary Bourque has used to unveil plans for the district.
Hundreds of educators from the Chelsea Public Schools, led by Supt. Mary Bourque (front row), made a statement Monday morning with ‘I (heart) Chelsea’ T-Shirts that sent a message to those on Beacon Hill that Chelsea Schools need a fix to the formula that funds the schools statewide. The scene came during the annual Back to School Address and Convocation by Supt. Bourque.
On Monday, though, she used her time to unveil a hope for the state of the state’s schools – and to send a message statewide that schools like Chelsea will not be defined only by a standardized test score and a series of cuts delivered in the state budgets.
Bourque said that this will be the year they reclaim the “heart and purpose” of who the Chelsea educators are. She said last year was one of the most difficult years of her career, and she is ready to put that behind.
“Whether it was the severe budget cuts we endured for a second year in a row, the lack of action by the state on the Foundation Budget Reform recommendations, the partial funding of the Economically Disadvantaged rates, or the noise, chaos, and pervasive negative rhetoric swirling around us from all layers of leadership – yes, in my career I will look back on 2017-2018 and say it was not an easy year,” she said. “But we…rose above it all and for that I thank all of you. We rose above it all and will continue to do so this year because we know we are succeeding in putting our students on the journey of life. While others may not hold public education to the high moral value and may not make the commitment to the next generation that is needed, we in Chelsea are different. We know and deeply value our purpose for being here in education, in Chelsea schools.”
Bourque said that the state has been on a very high-pressure, high-stakes mission of academic urgency for 25 years that has labeled every school as one-size-fits-all. That has played out in the labels given districts via the MCAS test results. She said that isn’t fair and has taken the heart out of education.
While she said such standards in the MCAS are valuable and worthy, the system needs to account for different districts like Chelsea that face different challenges – such as poverty, immigration and English Language Learners.
“I contend that the unintended consequences of this 25-year system is the loss of the heart of education,” she said. “The heart of who we are as educators. As a State, we have lost our way and forgotten what is most important in education. It is time then, to rise up and take the heart and purpose back, one classroom at a time.”
The end of the speech was a rallying cry in which Bourque called on all Chelsea educators to fight for things such as revamped state financing and Foundation Budget reform and other such changes at the state level.
“We will fight for our students and for what is right,” she said. “We will rise up as a collective voice, as a force of positivity, civility, advocacy, purpose, and heart whether at the local, state, or national level. We will lead the change that needs to take place from test score accountability framework to state education finances.”
The Chelsea Public Schools have had a life-line in the State Budget the last few years as finances have gotten more difficult.
That life-line is known as the ‘Hold Harmless’ provision, or more popularly the ‘Pothole’ account. This year, that account is little to no help for Chelsea as the district saw their funding slashed in half.
Last year, Chelsea got an additional $1.214 million from the Pothole account funding – a fund that seeks to help districts who are not getting a proper count of their low-income students due to changes three years ago in the way they are counted.
However, this year Chelsea will only get $296,000, nearly $1 million less than last year.
“The whole idea of the account is to hold us harmless for the change in the way they calculate the funding, which has taken dollars away from us,” said Supt. Mary Bourque. “Come to find out, it was slashed this year at a rate of about 56 percent, so we are not held harmless because that would mean you are at 100 percent. By their own admission, we aren’t held harmless at 100 percent.”
State Sen. Sal DiDomenico said he was disappointed in the funding allotted to Chelsea for the Pothole account, and the ability not to be able to fix the funding for the long-term. That was something he had proposed in the education funding bill.
“I’m disappointed that was also not addressed within this session,” he said. “It would have been addressed with (the education) bill and it’s another reason I’m disappointed with how all of this happened.”