The School Committee passed a $95.4 million
School Budget last week, but it was passed with less than a majority of the
total number of nine committee seats.
The budget, which passed with a $1.9 million
funding gap that led to the elimination of 10 teaching positions, was approved
by a 4-2 vote.
School Committee members Rosemarie Carlisle
and Frank DePatto voted against the budget, while board member Jeanette Velez
and Chair Richard Maronski recused themselves from the vote, citing relatives
who work for the School Department. Last week, Julio Hernandez resigned from
the Committee and his seat has yet to be filled.
School Committee members and administrators
said it has been a long struggle to present a budget that attempts to meet the
needs of the Chelsea schools.
Supt. Mary Bourque and City Manager Thomas
Ambrosino were among those who noted that falling enrollments in the Chelsea
schools, as well as an antiquated state funding formula that underfunds urban
communities such as Chelsea, were the main culprits in the budget cuts.
“I’ve spent a lot of the time with the
superintendent trying to provide city support for the budget,” said Ambrosino.
“The City is really trying to do its fair share.”
That included the City providing an
additional $1.5 million to the schools to address budget shortfalls.
“Every new tax dollar I can raise in Fiscal
Year 2020 is going to the School Department,” said the city manager.
Regardless of how the School Committee ended
up voting on the budget, Ambrosino said the $95.5 million figure is the figure
he would present to the City Council as the school share of the overall City
“The budget (Bourque) presented is fair and
reasonable,” said Ambrosino.
Once the budget is approved, Ambrosino said
attention should be turned towards advocating for change to the Chapter 70
state education funding formula on Beacon Hill.
Bourque said she agreed that the time is now
to fix the state funding formula, noting that Chelsea schools will be
underfunded $17 million by the state.
The other factor leading to cuts in the budget
is falling enrollment, Bourque said. Between January of 2018 and January of
this year, she said Chelsea schools have lost 217 students. That is part of a
larger trend of falling enrollment over nearly a decade, according to the
Carlisle voted against the proposed budget,
but said the problem with the $95.4 million figure laid not with the City, but
with the state.
“The problem is with the state,” said
Carlisle. “They are not doing the right thing, and we have to send them a
School Committee member Ana Hernandez backed
the budget, but said it wasn’t a decision made lightly.
“The votes we make are very hard,” she said.
“This budget is what we dread every year. We have to make a decision for the
best of the entire school system.”
But for DePatto, further cuts to teaching
positions was a bridge too far to support the FY ‘20 budget. He said the
schools laid off seven teachers in 2017, 20 in 2018, 10 in 2019, and have
projected another 10 for 2020.
“Forty seven teachers and 25 paraprofessionals,”
he said. “When is it going to stop? I can’t vote for this budget (when) I don’t
support these cuts.”
School Committee member Yessenia
Alfaro-Alvarez voted in support of the budget, stating that it was in the best
interest of the City’s students to pass the budget, and also noting that
Chelsea is hamstrung by declining enrollments and inequities in the state
•In other business, the Committee voted to
forgo School Choice for the 2019-20 school year.
Committee also approved a field trip to New York City for high school and
middle school REACH students to participate in the Andover Bread Loaf Writing
Conference in May.
A major $9.5 million improvement project for
the one-mile stretch of Broadway from City Hall Avenue to the Revere line could
get underway by the spring of 2022.
On Thursday, March 21, the Massachusetts
Department of Transportation held a public hearing on the preliminary design
plans for the roadway reconstruction. Although the state officials and
engineers outnumbered the residents in attendance for the meeting, there was a
good amount of information provided on the shape, scope, and timeline of the
road reconstruction project.
“We are finishing the 25 percent design
stage,” said Larry Cash, the MassDOT project manager. “After this hearing, we
will be advancing to the final design stage.”
The purpose of the project is to increase
safety for pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicles along the Broadway corridor
and intersecting streets in the city, according to Weston and Sampson engineer
Larry Keegan. He said there will be new turn lanes, additional vehicle stacking
room, and traffic signals at the project intersections allowing for the safer
turning of vehicles and improved safety for pedestrians and bicyclists. The
plans also include dedicated bicycle lanes through the one-mile stretch.
“There have been 97 collisions over a
three-year period” along that portion of Broadway,” said Keegan. “That is above
the state average.”
Keegan pointed to poor intersection layout,
outdated traffic signals, and deficient pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit
accommodations as being among the chief culprits for the high number of
accidents. All of those issues will be addressed during the roadway
reconstruction, he said.
In addition to the repaving of the road
itself, a major component of the work includes new sidewalks and improved
Sidewalk improvements will mean the removal
of some trees.
“The existing trees are old and unhealthy,
lifting up the sidewalks themselves so that they are not ADA (Americans with
Disabilities Act) compliant,” said Keegan.
Other areas that will get major upgrades are
the MBTA bus stops along the route. Keegan noted that there is deterioration of
pavement and pavement markings from years of use along the mile of Broadway,
and that the deterioration is especially pronounced at the bus stops.
The proposed project will require permanent
and temporary easements from adjacent property owners, but Cash said those
easements are either temporary to allow for construction work along the road,
or are for the installation or minor regrading of sidewalks.
As with any project that involves ripping up
pavement and sidewalks to make way for improvements, there will be traffic and
construction impacts once work gets underway.
But Keegan said the plan is to keep
disruptions to a minimum and traffic flowing as easily as possible.
“No detours are anticipated at this time,”
During the day, the plan is to have a single
lane of traffic closed and have the traffic managed by police. At night, there
will be two-way traffic, according to Keegan. Access to schools, businesses,
and residences will be kept open as much as possible, he added.
Chelsea resident John Gunning asked if the
bus stops would remain in the current locations and if there would be
improvements to the bus shelters.
Keegan said engineers will be working with
the MBTA during the next phase of design to address some of those issues.
“The T wants certain things and the city
wants certain things (for the bus stops),” he said. “We are looking at
different options at this point.”
Dunning said he would like to see fresh, new
bus shelters and stops that will complement the surrounding area and completed
Cash said design,
permitting, and right of way acquisition for the project will continue through
2019 and 2020 with construction anticipated to start in the spring of 2022.
The Massachusetts Department of
Transportation (MassDOT) announced the Department will be rehabilitating the
surface of the Tobin Bridge and complete required maintenance to improve the
structure which will require lane closures and result in significant traffic
impacts on the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1
beginning April 1.
These impacts will lead to increased travel
times on sections of Route 1 northbound and southbound for drivers and MBTA bus
The Department also released details about
transit options available to travelers such as free fares in the inbound
direction on the SL3 bus line offered at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square,
Box District, and Eastern Avenue stops for the duration of construction. The
MBTA also announced that they will be running additional MBTA Blue Line trains
to additional capacity, and these measures will be funded by MassDOT Highway
Division project funds.
Beginning April 1, lane closures on the
Tobin Bridge northbound will be put in place, although two of three travel
lanes will be open during daytime hours. One of the three travel lanes on the
Tobin Bridge northbound will be open during overnight hours.
Beginning by early May, Route 1 travel lanes
in the Chelsea Curves area will be reduced so that two of three north
and southbound travel lanes will be open in the daytime. One of three north and
southbound travel lanes will be open during overnight hours.
“MassDOT is carrying out simultaneous work
on this infrastructure which was constructed in the middle of the
20th century and hasn’t been rehabilitated since the 1970s in order to
ensure its continued use and reliability and minimize the overall impact on
commuters and the local community,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan
Gulliver. “We thank travelers for their patience as MassDOT begins this
necessary project, and we encourage everyone traveling throughout the Route 1
area to make smart commuting decisions such as considering public transit,
using the appropriate technology apps to find the best route and time to
travel, and building extra time into their commutes to account for potential
The MBTA said they will be offering the free
fares on the Silver Line and the Commuter Rail during construction.
“During construction, free fares are being
offered for Silver Line 3 (SL3) inbound customers at certain station stops and
additional Blue Line train capacity is being added. In addition, public transit
customers will be able to use a CharlieCard to travel between North Station and Chelsea on
the Commuter Rail,” said MBTA General Manager Steve Poftak. “Some MBTA
customers on certain bus routes will experience delays, so we urge riders to
consider taking advantage of these additional travel options being offered
MassDOT’s traffic modeling suggests that on
Route 1 northbound, afternoon peak travel times could increase in duration and
have significant delays. Vehicle backups are expected to extend onto the I-93
ramps, along the Leverett Connector, and towards Rutherford Avenue. On Route 1
southbound, morning peak travel times could similarly increase in duration with
significant delays expected.
MassDOT is carrying out work on the Tobin
Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1 at the same time so that
these projects will be completed in 2021. If the projects were done at separate
times, drivers would be inconvenienced for additional years. This work will
eliminate the need for weight restrictions and postings, and MassDOT will use
accelerated construction techniques to shorten the overall construction time.
For more information on traffic conditions
travelers are encouraged to:
•Dial 511 before heading out onto the
roadways and select a route to hear real-time conditions.
“http://www.mass511.com” t “_blank” www.mass511.com, a
website which provides real-time traffic and incident advisory information,
access to traffic cameras, and allows users to subscribe to text and email
alerts for traffic conditions.
•Follow MassDOT on Twitter @MassDOT to receive
regular updates on road and traffic conditions.
•Check parking availability at the T’s 8
largest garages @MBTA_Parking.
•Download MassDOT’s GoTime mobile app and view
real-time traffic conditions before setting out on the road.
In a move that could dramatically reduce the
commute times for Chelsea 111 bus riders, the City of Boston announced they are
planning on installing a dedicated bus lane on North Washington Street from
Causeway to Haymarket – a key clogging point for riders heading into Haymarket
It would be a move that would accommodate
the 111 bus routes and two Charlestown bus routes, and Boston officials said
the new lane could reduce travel times by as much as 25 percent.
“We are planning on building an exclusive
bus lane on North Washington Street from the intersection at Causeway Street
after the bridge to Haymarket,” said Vineet Gupta, director of planning at the
Boston Transportation Department (BTD). “It would be a dedicated bus lane 24/7
on the inbound side. Right now, we’re working with the MBTA to install that bus
BTD Director Gina Fiandaca said they have
been working closely with Boston Mayor Martin Walsh and the MBTA on the North
Washington Street bus lane, and hope that they can get it done as early in 2019
as possible. She said that stretch of the bus route is often the most
congested, and riders often find themselves waiting longer on the bus for the
last leg than it would take them to walk.
“This inbound bus lane will have the
opportunity to move along at a quicker pace than the rest of the traffic,” she
said. “Another good part of this is in the future when the North Washington
Street Bridge is completed, it will have a bus lane as well. That will provide
a connection with this new lane to have one unbroken exclusive bus lane from
Charlestown when the Bridge is done.”
In order to accomplish the new lane, the
City will have to remove some metered parking spaces and a commercial parking
space, but a large chunk of the stretch is a large bus stop and ‘no parking’
Gupta said they have no clear data yet on
the time it could save commuters going inbound – though they will begin keeping
that data very soon. However, in Roslindale where they installed a bus lane last
year, commutes were shortened by 25 percent. The same data also presented
itself in Everett two years ago when they put a dedicated bus lane on Broadway
The announcement was one of several made by
Boston Mayor Walsh at the Greater Boston Municipal Research Bureau meeting on
The North Washington Street bus lane would be
the first one in effect 24 hours a day in Boston.
Last Friday members of the state
legislature, including Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Dan Ryan, attended the
annual Legislative Breakfast at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
While the breakfast’s format usually gives
the opportunity for Soldiers’ Home staff and residents to lobby for more
legislation that helps and protects veterans, last week’s breakfast centered
around the new long-term care facility being constructed at the Soldiers’ Home.
“I was proud to once again attend the Chelsea Soldiers Home Legislative Breakfast and see first hand how this facility takes care of those who have served our country,” said Speaker DeLeo. “It was also a chance to hear about the progress on plans for the new building, which reflects our ongoing commitment to our veterans.”
State lawmakers, including Speaker Robert DeLeo and Rep. Dan Ryan, attended last week’s legislative breakfast at the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home.
In October Gov. Charlie Baker broke ground
on the new long-term care facility. The current facility will continue to be
fully operational, caring for 154 veterans, during the construction process
with an anticipated project completion date in 2022.
“Friday I joined my colleagues to hear from
Superintendent Cheryl Poppe of the Soldiers’ Home in Chelsea and Secretary of
the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, Francisco Urena, about the
incredible new treatment center that will soon be built on their campus,” said
Rep. Ryan. “This investment will ensure that our veterans continue to receive
the best possible care in a new, state of the art facility.
In May 2017, Baker announced plans for a new
long-term care Community Living Center (CLC) and signed legislation authorizing
funding needed to advance the project in Chelsea.
The Baker Administration also has received
funding authorization from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs
(VA) for the $199 million project. The federal funding was awarded through the
VA’s State Home Construction Grant Program which provides reimbursement of up
to 65 percent of construction costs for approved projects. The Administration,
with strong support from the Legislature, plans to spend approximately $70
million net of federal reimbursement on the project.
“Great to be with many legislative
colleagues, including Speaker DeLeo, as well as Secretary Urena, at the Chelsea
Soldiers’ Home annual legislative breakfast this morning,” said Rep. RoseLee
Vincent. “Thanks to Superintendent Cheryl Poppe and Paul Moran for your hard
work and dedication in making sure our veterans are well cared for at the
Rep. David DeCoste (R-Norwell), a U.S. Army
veteran, also attended the breakfast and said, “I had a great meeting at the
Chelsea Soldiers’ Home as we discussed an updated overview of the services that
the Commonwealth is able to provide our veterans, particularly their new
Community Living Center project. I will continue to support and advocate for
the men and women who have fought for our country.”
Home first opened its doors to Massachusetts veterans in 1882. The first
residents were Civil War veterans who were wounded or unable to care for
themselves, many of whom had previously resided in the Commonwealth’s
State Rep. Dan Ryan said this week he is
pleased in what is considered a step up in becoming the vice chair of the Post
Audit Oversight Committee – a powerful committee that runs investigations of
government operations and actually has subpoena powers.
“I want to thank Speaker DeLeo for this
appointment, and my House colleagues for voting to affirm his trust in me,”
said Ryan. “I look forward to working with Chairman Linsky and other committee
members in continuing to bring solid, cost-effective government programs to the
Ryan said Post-Audit Oversight certainly
isn’t a household name for most people in the Town, but said it has a unique
mission and is a sought-after committee on Beacon Hill.
“The Post-Audit Oversight Committee is a select House committee that has a
unique mission,” he said. “Members of the committee are tasked with ensuring
that State agencies are abiding by legislative intent and the program
initiatives put forth, by the legislature, through the budget process. When
necessary, the committee will work with administrative agencies to
propose corrective actions to best serve citizens of the Commonwealth.”
One of the most visible investigations
conducted by the Committee came several years ago in the previous
administration when the Department of Children and Families (DCF) came under
fire for its handling and management of numerous cases involving children.
Ryan has also been assigned as a member of
the Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Recovery Committee, and as a member of
the Transportation Committee.
•Just across the North Washington Street
Bridge, State Rep. Aaron Michlewitz came away with one of the biggest scores
for the Boston delegation in getting assigned as chair of the powerful Ways
& Means Committee.
Rep. Ryan said that having such an important
chair nearby will be very good for Charlestown as well as the North End. That
will particularly be apparent with projects like the North Washington Street
Bridge, which affects the North End as much as Charlestown.
Michlewitz told the Patriot-Bridge that he
is humbled by the appointment, and that while he has to build consensus across
the state, he will keep his district and Boston in the forefront.
“I am honored
that Speaker DeLeo believes I can do the job,” he said. “The first order of
business is creating and debating a $42.7 billion budget. A lot of work has
been done in committee, but we have a short timeframe to get a lot done. The
thing I was to stress is my district is my number one priority.”
The pieces continue to fall in place for the
proposed 330-unit mixed-income redevelopment of the Innes Housing Development
on Central Avenue.
Tuesday night, the City Council held a
public meeting with state officials and developers on the 40R Smart Growth
overlay zoning that the council will need to approve before the City can become
eligible for at least $11 million in state funding for the project.
In addition, with passage of the 40R zoning,
Chelsea could receive a little over an additional $1 million from the state’s
Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).
About half of that money would go to
Corcoran Development, which has partnered with the Chelsea Housing Authority
(CHA) to redevelop the Innes Housing Development in two phases. The 96 public
housing units will be re-developed with 40 middle-income (80 to 120 percent of
the AMI) units and 194 market rate units. The project will go in two phases to
reduce relocation of residents.
“We’re having this meeting so we can have
more understanding about the 40R zoning amendment for smart growth,” said
Judith Garcia, the District 5 Councillor.
The Planning Board is expected to make a
recommendation on the smart growth zoning at its next meeting Tuesday night,
clearing the way for a final City Council vote.
The basic requirements for a 40R district
are an eligible location preferably in a city or town center, near public
transportation, and allowing minimum by-right density of eight single-family
units, twelve 2-3 family units, and 20 multi-family units per acre, according
to William Reyelt of the DHCD.
“It has to be primarily a residential
district, but we do encourage mixed-use development,” said Reyelt.
In addition, age restrictions cannot be
required in the smart growth districts, and 20 percent of the total units must be
affordable, he said.
Once the zoning is approved by the city and
then verified by the state, the city will get its first incentive payment from
the state, Reyelt said. With smart growth zoning, communities are also eligible
for additional density bonuses and school reimbursement payments.
Currently, there are 47 smart growth
districts in 41 communities across the state, Reyelt said.
Unsurprisingly, parking was the biggest area
of concern raised by City Councilors during the question and answer portion of
Tuesday night’s presentation, although there are no specific parking
requirements or regulations built into the 40R zoning.
“The project is great, but not at the
expense of the citizens in the area,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “We
need to have a very serious conversation about it.”
There will be 276 parking spaces on site,
and the developer has said they are willing to do traffic and parking studies
to perhaps help the overall neighborhood with street parking. Initially, the
developers proposed 226 spaces, but Ronnie Slammin of Corcoran said an
additional 50 spaces are now in the plans.
The current CHA residents are eligible for
street parking permits, and will continue to be able to park at the redeveloped
Innes housing for free as part of the CHA’s 99-year lease with Corcoran.
But several councilors said they still had
concerns about how parking would impact the neighborhood.
“Before the Council moves forward, that will
definitely have to be on the table,” said District 8 Councillor Calvin T. Brown.
District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he
wants to make sure the current CHA residents are allowed to park on-site and
not forced on the street for parking.
District 4 Councillor Enio Lopez said he
wanted assurances that the 96 public housing units would remain under CHA
“Those 96 units
will always be filled by public housing tenants,” said CHA Director Al Ewing
Dr. Alfred Donatelli, chair of the Chemical
Engineering Department at UMass/Lowell, will lead an interactive, hands-on STEM
demonstration for parents and children on Saturday, Feb. 23, at 11 a.m. at the
Chelsea Public Library.
The demonstration is part of the Black
History Month series of events put together by the Lewis Latimer Society and
Museum, led by Co-Directors Ronald Robinson and Leo Robinson, and the Chelsea
Balck Community, led by President Joan Cromwell.
The event is being held to promote the
importance of STEM education to youth, who are the future engineers and
Dr. Al will demonstrate how to make
super-cool, homemade ice cream with nitrogen, how Slime and Super balls are
made from every-day materials and ingredients that we find in our homes.
Dr. Al and his team of assistant, which
include Ken Umemba, members of the Lewis Latimer Society and Museum, Chelsea
Black Community, and Bunker Hill Community College, will explore the
application of these benign experiments in chemical engineering reaction
kinetics and reaction design, mechanical engineering thermodynamics and heat
transfers, emulsion polymerization in plastics engineering, and in
weightlessness when astronauts land in space.
The pupusa is a curious delicacy – part
tortilla, part cheese – and full of ‘yum.’
In Chelsea, it is an art form and nearly a
dozen restaurants in the city have their own brand and take on the pupusa, and
this spring, the Chelsea Prospers initiative will hold a community party
dedicated for the art of the pupusa.
Mimi Graney and Edwardo Chacon unveiled the
idea on Feb. 6 during a meeting of the Chelsea Prospers committee, and said it
will be the opening salvo in a season that will include the recently-announced
Chelsea Night Market.
“We have been reaching out to all the local
restaurants, and we have seven on board so far,” said Chacon. “A lot were
surprised at first. They were very surprised the City was doing this. The
reaction was pretty positive though and we will have a lot of participation.”
The idea will be to bring together the best
pupusa makers in the city to vie for the 2019 Pupusa Champion of Chelsea. The
event will take place a Emiliano’s Fiesta and will be an inside event.
There will be judges and audience voting on
who makes the best pupusa, and the City would take hints from El Santaneco
Restaurant, which has a pupusa-eating contest every November.
There would also be awards for the best salsa
and the most creative vendor display at the event.
Graney said they would also have a booth
dedicated to the history and the culture of the pupusa, and the center of the
room would feature a demonstration on how to make homemade pupusas.
An idea has been floated out to have the
Police Department and Fire Department engage in a pupusa-eating contest at the
fiesta, but that is still up in the air.
“The idea is to
bring the community around this special food item, whether it’s a contest or an
event,” said Chacon. “We want them to come out with their family and enjoy
For the first time,
Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are combining forces to conduct a comprehensive
regional Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and design a Community Health
Implementation Plan (CHIP). Major hospitals, along with health centers, human
services providers and non-profits that serve area residents, are working with
municipal leaders, health departments and the boards of health of each
community to develop the plan. Residents of the three communities are being
urged to go online and fill out a survey that asks about local health issues
and other aspects of community life.
The effort is being
co-coordinated by the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative and the Mass
General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) with the
ultimate goal of identifying, prioritizing and addressing the most urgent
health needs faced by each community and the region. Such assessments are often
used to apply for targeted funding to help address community needs.
Every three years, most
hospitals conduct a community health needs assessment to meet requirements set
by the Affordable Care Act. The Massachusetts Attorney General also requires
such a report and is encouraging regional collaboration among stakeholders,
including among healthcare systems who share the same service areas. “This is
one of the first regional assessments of its type in Massachusetts,” said Jeff
Stone, Director of the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative. “Mayor
Arrigo, Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Winthrop Town Manager Austin
Faison realize that public health conditions don’t respect borders, and,
working together we can solve some of our health challenges more effectively.”
“The North Suffolk
Community Health Needs Assessment is critical for the City of Chelsea,” said
City Manager Ambrosino. “Not only will it provide the information necessary for
Chelsea to better understand our residents’ public health needs, but it will
also enable us to properly prioritize resources to better address those needs.
We encourage all of our residents to participate in upcoming surveys, forums
The collaborators have
set an ambitious timeline. The CHNA and CHIP will be completed by Sept. 30,
2019, and will result in a guide for a three-year community health improvement
plan that all providers can use. The process includes intensive data
collection–hundreds of resident surveys, interviews and focus groups as well
as collecting data from other agencies such as the MA Department of Public
Health and the US Census.
A website has been created, www.northsuffolkassessment.org, to
provide information to anyone who may be interested. People who live or work in
Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are encouraged to complete a survey. It is
available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic, reflecting the languages
most frequently spoken in the communities.