The Estates on Admiral’s Hill to Hold Holiday Open House Tuesday, Dec 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea

The Estates on Admiral’s Hill to Hold Holiday Open House Tuesday, Dec 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea

The Estates on Admiral’s Hill (www.admiralshill.org) will hold a holiday open house for its two assisted living residences on Tuesday, December 5 from 3pm to 5pm. Amidst holiday treats, lively piano music and hot chocolate by the fireplace, attendees will meet Executive Director Yari Velez and her talented team. One-on-one discussions and personalized tours will be provided as well as the opportunity to meet the current residents.

Located on Admiral’s Hill at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea, The Estates is comprised of two separate residences: Cohen Florence Levine Estates, a traditional assisted living and Florence & Chafetz Home for Specialized Care, a residence for those in need of additional support services.  Amenities include fresh healthy meals, a 24-hour café with home-made baked goods, hair and nail salon, library, living room, great room for concerts and shows, dining room and outdoor courtyard area for seasonal activities.

“This open house is a chance for area residents to personally meet our amazing staff and residents and find out, first hand, what assisted living is all about,” explains Executive Director Yari Velez.  “In addition to personalized tours, we can answer questions about the affordability of assisted living as well as the tax credit program.” She added, “Finding the right place to live for seniors can be a complicated process; our goal is to make the process as easy as possible.”

The open house will be held from 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday, December 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea. To RSVP to the open house and/or schedule a private tour, please call Terry Halliday at 98-854-1825 or email thalliday@chesleajewish.org. thalliday@chelseajewish.org

Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, a highly respected leader in senior living, employs over 1200 people and provides care to over 800 individuals daily, with campuses in Chelsea and Peabody, MA. Offering a full continuum of services, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare (www.chelseajewish.org) is redefining senior care and re-envisioning what life should be like for those living with disabling conditions. The eldercare community includes a wide array of skilled and short-term rehab residences, ALS and MS specialized care residences, traditional and specialized assisted living options, memory care, independent living, adult day health, geriatric care management, home care, personal care and hospice agencies that deliver customized and compassionate care.

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Ash Back to City Manager? In Cambridge This Time?

By Seth Daniel

Numerous media outlets reported on Wednesday that State Housing Secretary Jay Ash – the former Chelsea City Manager – has made an application to become the next city manager of Cambridge, possibly leaving the cabinet post on Beacon Hill for the confines of Cambridge.

Ash confirmed to the Globe on Wednesday that he has applied and is pursuing the job.

Ash did not return a request for comment from the Record in time for publication.

He was one of the first to join Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration in January 2015 and was credited with luring in and ushering in General Electric to Massachusetts earlier this year. He also concentrated on getting homeless families out of motels an into long-term housing situations – something that he worked on also while in Chelsea.

Ash also told the Globe that his current job requires a lot of travel across the state and prevents him from focusing in on one community. Rather, he said, he is constantly rushing from one place to another listening to the needs of various locales.

His expertise in drilling down on problems, as he did in Chelsea one by one, is not particularly as useful in his current position.

The city manager position in Cambridge would also nearly double his salary, the Globe reported.

Ash’s current salary is approximately $160,000, while the salary for the Cambridge city manager exceeds $300,000.

A decision on the position is expected by the City Council in Cambridge this fall.

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Zoning Change Would Allow Expansion of Methadone and Drug Counseling

By Seth Daniel

A new provision being considered over the summer regarding zoning ordinances would allow the Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue and MGH-Chelsea to establish substance abuse counseling centers near their current site – though no medications would be allowed to be dispensed.

The Methadone Clinic on Crescent Avenue has recently come under fire, and particularly at a public meeting last month hosted by Councillors Luis Tejada, Roy Avellaneda and Leo Robinson. At that meeting, a huge turnout of residents opposed to the location of the clinic asked its owner if he would move it. The discussion went on for more than an hour.

All of the sudden, the Methadone Clinic seems to be a top concern of the public.

Now, City Manager Tom Ambrosino is proposing that the Council allow the clinic to expand its counseling services to an office building next door on Crescent Avenue through a change in the zoning ordinances. The change would also allow MGH-Chelsea to operate a counseling center near its location on Everett Avenue.

The change in zoning provides a definition of a counseling center, which stipulates that under no circumstances can it dispense medication. It also allows such centers to locate more easily in certain zoning districts of the city, including the Light Industrial and Highway Business Districts.

“There’s been no indication the Methadone Clinic is moving,” said Ambrosino. “The discussions we’ve had is the would like to have more counseling at a location next door. They have said they want to do more counseling to accompany the medication. MGH supports this idea too…There is a need for more counseling and we don’t have a zoning ordinance that allows it. We’re proposing to add it by special permit in these few districts away from residential areas.”

The change is part of a very large zoning package Ambrosino submitted to the Council right before its summer recess. The Council has been considering the many changes and proposals over the summer, and is expected to vote on it at the first meeting in the fall.

Last week, the Planning Board held a hearing on the ordinance for counseling centers, and took it under advisement.

Ambrosino said he knows the history of the Clinic, including the unpopular court order to put it on Crescent Avenue, but stressed that there would be no medication dispensed at the proposed counseling centers. He also said the Methadone Clinic has been responsive in recent years where maybe they weren’t in the past.

“In my tenure here, the Clinic has been pretty good to work to address problems when we’ve asked them to do so,” he said.

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Chelsea Schools Adopt Universal Free Lunch for Next School Year

By Seth Daniel

Many say there is no free lunch, but those folks would be wrong if there were in the Chelsea Schools next year.

The Chelsea Schools announced that within their new budget is a component that will allow free lunch for all students in all grades next school year.

“We have included universal free lunch in next year’s budget,” said Supt. Mary Bourque.

Bourque said the schools have had universal free breakfast for the last five years.

“We did it so we could make sure students who need to eat are getting the food they need,” he said. “It isn’t something we will lose money on because we get the federal dollars.”

School Committeeman Bobby Pereira said he thought it was the right step.

“I feel this is a great step for our community,” he said. “Given the current structure it is difficult to pinpoint who is low income and who is not, and that should not be an issue concerning our students when they go to into the lunch line. I feel all of our students need to be nourished and provided the best meal possible for the day. I am excited about this program and hope it goes through.”

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Housing Authority Proposal Has Worked

The Chelsea Housing Authority has put out Requests for Proposals to have a private developer partner with the redevelopment of the Central Ave. and Walnut St. housing complexes.

Both of these projects were built decades ago – Central Ave. in the 1950’s and Walnut St. in the early 1960’s – when the times, and their primary need, were very different.

Today, these housing developments need an upgrade.

The idea of partnering with a private developer has worked well in Columbia Point where more rental units were added, creating a neighborhood of mixed incomes as opposed to being just low-income families. In Charlestown, officials have started the process of a private firm redeveloping the Bunker Hill complex by keeping the 1,100 existing low-income units and adding an additional 1,600 mixed-income units.

The role of government has changed in the last decade. The need for private and public dollars working together has generated a better life for all the residents of our nation.

We are not suggesting that all questions and concerns by residents and city officials should be ignored. The viewpoints of current residents certainly must be considered.

However, we believe that this is an interesting proposal and we agree with Housing Authority Board Chair Tom Standish’s comment, “This is the wave of the future.”

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Reimagining Our Waterfront: Chelsea Green Space Encourages Resident Input in Upcoming Meeting on Waterfront Visioning Process

By John Valinch

As City Manager Tom Ambrosino recently noted, Chelsea is a dynamic city that is undergoing a transformative period. Perhaps the most discussed and contested question worth analyzing during this process is how, where, and to what degree Chelsea will undergo development. The Chelsea Waterfront is one area where work is already underway to discuss a comprehensive approach to conceptualizing the future of the space.

Over the past 20-plus years, Chelsea Green Space has engaged the community in efforts to thwart negative developments such as a power plant, ethanol “bomb” trains and other environmental and public health threats. But outside of community-supported processes, has the city, state or any other entity asked us, the residents, what we want for our waterfront? Now is our unique opportunity to act. Chelsea Green Space encourages your participation and involvement.

Recently, the City of Chelsea has contracted the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to begin the visioning and planning process for the development of the waterfront. As part of the MAPC’s process, meetings with community residents are now being conducted in order to build consensus and discuss the goals, concerns, and ideas that residents have regarding the opportunities on the waterfront. On March 3, MAPC met with members of the Chelsea Green Space Committee to begin an initial conversation on perspectives on and intentions for this visioning process.

On Wednesday, March 23, Chelsea residents will have their next opportunity to meet with each other and MAPC to continue this conversation on waterfront visioning. A public workshop will be facilitated by MAPC at the Chelsea Senior Center at 10 Riley Way from 6-8 p.m., and will serve to gather input from community residents as well as allow residents to hear proposals from MAPC on developmental possibilities. In particular, MAPC will be providing examples of potential plans to develop the waterfront in such a way so as to balance various stakeholder interests.

At the conclusion of this series of meetings, the MAPC will be tasked with consolidating the information gathered during the various sessions and producing a proposal to be submitted to the city for approval. As MAPC is contracted by the City of Chelsea for this monumental work, it is of the utmost importance that residents attend the meetings to produce an authentic voice that reflects our current residents’ needs and perspectives on the future of the waterfront space.

The November municipal elections here in Chelsea demonstrated a resounding commitment to a particular thematic issue: development. With the new council now in office for just over three months, the time is now upon us within the community to engage with our councillors, each other, and MAPC to raise the standards by which our community mobilizes and communicates on issues of development. In order to ensure that Chelsea develops equitably, sustainably, and transparently, residents must become informed on and active in the various initiatives throughout the city.

Building our community does not stop at your polling location with the official you elected, but is instead an active process of planning, outreach, and consensus building. If re-imagining our waterfront is important to you, clear your calendars for just two hours on March 23 to engage in this timely and essential conversation. Let’s build a waterfront that works for our community, protects our residents, and expands upon Chelsea’s resource network.

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Increase in Owner Occupant Tax Exemption Gets Ambrosino Approval

By Seth Daniel

A request by city councillors to increase the owner-occupant residential tax exemption to 35 percent has gotten a very positive recommendation by City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

The measure was called for by Ambrosino last fall at 30 percent, and then Councillor Roy Avellaneda and several other colleagues called for the measure to increase to 35 percent at the first Council meeting of the year on Jan. 25.

This week, Ambrosino reported to the Council that a study of the 30 percent and 35 percent threshold by the Assessor’s Office found that there move would hurt very few and help many residents – to the tune of at least $451 in tax savings per year.

Chelsea currently has a 20 percent owner-occupant residential tax exemption.

“Based upon this analysis, the City Council can be confident that, if it were so inclined, it could seek to increase the Residential Exemption from 20 percent to 35 percent with significant benefit to the overwhelming majority of Chelsea homeowners,” he wrote. “In Chelsea, there is a sufficiently high percentage of non-owner occupants to make this program successful. In fact, with the current 20 percent exemption, the cut off for residential owner occupied properties that pay a higher tax with he exemption than without are homes valued at greater than $625,000.”

The residential tax exemption works by shifting the tax burden to non-owner occupants and to some higher valued owner-occupied properties. The idea is to reward residents living in lower valued homes and give those residents a break on their property taxes. One consequence, though, is that if there aren’t enough non-owner occupants, then some owner occupants in high-value homes can be hurt by the measure.

In this case, Ambrosino said that cut off was the $625,000 number and only four homes fall into that category.

For a $300,000 home, the analysis showed, that a 30 percent exemption would have yielded $292 in savings on the tax bill this year. For a similar home, the 35 percent exemption would have yielded $451 in savings on the tax bill.

Right now, 13 communities in the state have a residential exemption, with the majority of those being at 20 percent.

Boston, Cambridge and Malden have 30 percent right now, and Somerville is the only community to carry the 35 percent exemption.

Ambrosino said he would be ready to draft a Home Rule Petition to the Legislature is the Council so chooses.

In order to make the change, the State Legislature would need to give its approval in what is called a Home Rule Petition.

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Sale Stopped:Wyndham Hotel Deal Now on the Rocks Due to Soil Contamination

A deal to sell and completely renovate the Wyndham Hotel has hit a snag this month and may not end up happening, according to sources and City Manager Tom Ambrosino.

“It’s run into a snag for environmental reasons,” said Ambrosino on Monday. “Everyone is trying to make it work notwithstanding this issue. Hopefully it will be overcome. It’s certainly in a holding pattern now. It’s not fault of any of the parties…but these environmental issues have a long life.”

Earlier this fall, XSS Group – which owns several other hotels in Chelsea – agreed to purchase the 15-year-old hotel and invest $9.8 million into updating it for a high-end customer base.

It would have been a joint venture with the current owners, WEDGE Group of Texas. The hotel was to close this month for renovations and remain closed until March 2016.

The City Council this fall approved a five-year Tax Incremental Financing (TIF) agreement for the new ownership configuration in order to preserve and increase the numbers of jobs at the hotel. Under the current ownership of WEDGE, community leaders have worried that the owners are having a hard time keeping up with the property.

Total new tax dollars projected for the City during the five-year TIF were just short of $250,000 – even with the tax break included.

Ambrosino said all is not lost and everyone is trying to keep the deal going.

“The hope right now is we can figure out how to move forward,” he said.

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Election Day 2015

We congratulate the winners in the 2015 city election who have earned the honor of serving in leadership positions in our city government.

In an exciting Councillor-at-Large race, Roy Avellaneda topped the ticket, followed by Damali Vidot, who made an impressive debut as a citywide candidate, and Leo Robinson, the current president of the City Council who was re-elected as a councillor-at-large, continuing his long-time record of service on the board.

In the District Council election, Luis Tejada (District 2), Enio Lopez (District 4), Judith Garcia (District 5), and Yamir Rodriguez (District 7) won in contested races.

Paul Murphy (District 1), Matt Frank (District 3), Giovanni Recupero (District 6), and Dan Cortell (District 8) were re-elected to their positions without opposition.

School Committee-at-Large member Shawn O’Regan, Robert Pereira, Yessenia Alfaro-Alvarez, Diana Maldonado, Kelly Garcia, Rosemarie Carlisle, Jeanette Velez, Richard Maronski, and Ana Hernandez were elected to the School Committee.

We look forward to the inauguration in January and wish the candidates the best as they join City Manager Thomas Ambrosino in working toward a bright future for all Chelsea residents.

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Time for Colleges and Universities to Lead

Time for Colleges and Universities to Lead

Campus sexual violence has been the subject of an intense national conversation recently, but that dialogue often lacks critical input from schools that are already taking steps to improve their campus climates. Colleges and universities, it’s time for you to lead on this issue.

So far, and with good reason, most of the attention has focused on schools that are under investigation for violating federal laws about sexual violence and on the survivors bravely sharing their stories and calling for action. Yet there are a number of schools that are working hard to address these challenges and to make real progress on this issue, and we need to hear from schools that are prioritizing prevention, response, and transparency and including students and survivors in all related initiatives on campus.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, so it’s a good time for schools to talk about how to meet their responsibilities to students. Rampant sexual violence creates a campus climate that is hostile to students, and students can’t learn when they aren’t safe. Because campus sexual assault happens everywhere, everyone benefits when schools worry less about public relations and more about making campuses safe. Part of the solution is for schools to create an environment where students feel comfortable reporting sexual violence.

Schools can also lead by understanding and complying with Title IX, the 1972 federal law that prevents sex discrimination in federally funded education programs. Unfortunately, under the scrutiny of the national spotlight, some schools have criticized or even blamed the law for problems on campus. But Title IX is not the reason schools mishandle campus sexual assaults. Smart schools recognize that it is their all-important guide for upholding students’ civil rights in campus proceedings and preventing future violence on campus. Title IX works, and it must be protected.

Title IX requires schools to have a role in addressing sexual violence because they are best equipped to provide accommodations such as class schedule or housing changes, critical pieces of the sexual assault response that survivors may need to be able to complete their education. Schools must also figure out in an administrative setting what occurred and then handle it according to their established codes of student conduct, anti-discrimination policies, and federal civil rights law.

These responsibilities under Title IX do not require schools to serve as police officers, prosecutors, or judges. Schools do not decide whether a felony or misdemeanor occurred for purposes of prosecution, and they cannot make plea agreements or impose criminal punishments. Those roles are, appropriately, left to the criminal justice system and can take place simultaneously if the survivor chooses to involve law enforcement. Title IX guidance clearly delineates between schools’ role and law enforcement’s role.

If school officials truly don’t see how these separate paths can work together, many helpful resources are available through the U.S. Departments of Education and Justice and online at notalone.gov.

The current national dialogue will be more productive if institutional leaders join the conversation — along with survivors, advocates, and policy makers — and help end the epidemic of campus sexual violence. Many schools are missing the chance not only to keep students safe but also to impress on students, faculty, prospective students, and parents that their institution is part of the solution. In the coming months, we expect to have the opportunity to highlight and learn from schools that are proactively addressing campus sexual assault and embracing Title IX. We look forward to hearing from them.

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Lisa M. Maatz is Vice President for Government Relations at American Association of University Women

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