In the wake of massive gas line explosions in the Greater Lawrence area last Thursday, Sept. 13, the Chelsea Fire Department jumped into action and responded to Andover High School to support first response efforts.
Chief Len Albanese said that the Tower 1 apparatus responded to an Andover Staging Area at Andover High School as part of Metro Structural task Force 13.
Greater Lawrence’s normal mutual aid capabilities were taxed to the breaking point, and so the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) began to request structural task forces from other regions, including Chelsea.
“Our Tower Ladder responded to multiple calls for odors of gas and the like in the structures,” said the Chief. “They did not respond to any structure fires. They were back here in the city by 9 p.m.”
The Chief said it was an incredible job by the state and local operations to coordinate so many responding helpers.
“This was an enormous mobilization of resources,” he said. “Lawrence, Andover, North Andover and MEMA with the help of all of the other agencies involved, including multiple law enforcement agencies did an exceptional job of meeting this most unique major fire/ emergency operation.”
The City of Chelsea dedicated the Washington Avenue bridge at Heard Street in memory of Chelsea Police officer
The Bruttaniti family, standing beneath the John P. Bruttaniti Memorial Bridge sign that is displayed at the structure on Washington Avenue. From left, are Nicole Correa, Karen Bruttaniti, Gemeisha James, Karen Bruttaniti, Festus Odigie, and Gus Correa.
John Bruttaniti during an unveiling ceremony on Wednesday, Aug. 29.
Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson served as master of ceremonies for the program during which City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Council President Damali Vidot and other dignitaries paid tribute to Mr. Bruttaniti, who died in an accident on May 12, 2016 at the age of 41.
Vidot said she personally understood the importance of having a mentor like Mr. Bruttaniti during one’s years of personal development. Other speakers at the ceremony echoed the belief that a bridge dedication was the perfect way to honor a man who was “a bridge” from Chelsea’s dedicated public servants in the Police Department to the city’s youth.
Several of Mr. Bruttaniti’s colleagues in the Police Department and the Fire Department attended the ceremony. (Mr. Bruttaniti worked for three years in the CFD before joining the Police Department in 2008). The Fire and Police Color Guards added an impressive touch to the program. Mr. Bruttaniti’s fellow veterans in the U.S. Army, who served with him in Iraq, were also in attendance for the tribute.
Police Chief Brian Kyes praised Mr. Bruttaniti’s outstanding record as a police officer and read the police report that Mr. Bruttaniti wrote after saving a toddler from choking by dislodging a penny stuck in her throat and resuscitating her. For his heroic actions in that June, 2015 incident, Mr. Bruttaniti received the Chelsea Police Life Saving Award.
Mr. Bruttaniti’s instantaneous response to the situation and his training in the emergency medical field caused some to say that he was placed as “an angel” in that situation to save a baby’s life.
Mr. Bruttaniti’s sister, Karen, delivered touching remarks on behalf of the family.
“John lived with a real zest for life,” said Karen Bruttaniti. “He loved riding his motorcycle and truly enjoying his life. John was a man of deep character. He never judged, never held a grudge, and always believed in forgiving others, no matter what.”
Karen recalled the warm and inspiring correspondences she received while her brother was serving in Iraq. “The letters always ended, saying, ‘Sister, I love my family.”
“I still read his letters and my eyes still fill with tears,” she said.
Karen added thoughtfully, “But let me be clear. John was dedicated to his entire family, and he counted all of you, the people of Chelsea, as family. Serving for and with the people of Chelsea, John loved being a firefighter, police officer, investigator, mentor, volunteering anywhere and in an any way to help his Chelsea family. That was our brother.”
Karen said her brother would have been humbled by having a bridge named in his honor.
“I know he would hope that his memory would serve as an example of community and service to one another in love,” she said.
The souvenir program included photos of Mr. Bruttaniti with Chief Brian Kyes, Capt. David Batchelor, and Sgt. David Flibotte in their CPD uniforms at an awards ceremony in Boston, and of Mr. Bruttaniti with youths he had mentored in the Chelsea REACH Program, and it aptly concluded with the following memorial tribute to the beloved police officer: “John will forever be remembered for his kindness, bravery, and service to our country and to the City of Chelsea.”
One can raise a six-pack to the end of summer if they’re a legal-aged hardworking resident, but one will no longer be able to raise up a 250ml nip bottle due to a continuing voluntary ban by Chelsea liquor stores courtesy of the Chelsea License Commission.
The Chelsea Licensing commission met again on the topic of 250 mL alcohol bottles on Aug. 28 in the Chelsea Public Library to packed room of invested residents, owners, commissioners, and police. They were all there to address the contentious topic of permanently banning 100ml to 250ml bottles and single can/malt bottle beverages.
Following from the initial commission decision to employ a voluntary ban on the June 26, the rare Aug. 28 meeting was an update to see about further action.
Over the summer downtown stores stopped selling nips and voluntarily stopped selling other small bottles as well as two very low-cost liquor brands identified as problematic.
The meeting ended with the resulting community agreeing to maintain a voluntary ban of 100ml and 250ml bottles and new, agreed-upon stipulations for community liquor store owners. The agreement comes on the heels of escalating community tensions with what Chelsea Police have described as “50 or so” individuals who constantly perpetrate public intoxication and littering problems for Chelsea community residents and visitors.
“I can tell you [increasing nip littering] has definitely decreased,” said Chelsea Police Capt. Keith Houghton.
The Chelsea Police Department seemed confident in the immediate results they have witnessed in the following weeks of the proposed ban. However when questioned by License Chair Michael Rossi if the results could be quantified, the police shifted focus and explained they now require a three-hour alcohol safety course.
“I find it really hard to believe there have been no incidents of drunkenness [since the voluntary ban],” stated commission member Roseann Bongiovanni with open skepticism.
Bongiovanni wasn’t the only person in attendance that openly questioned the Police Department’s results and the lasting impression of the ban thus far. Robert Mellion, executive director of the Massachusetts Package Store Association, also made his case in the two minutes allotted for public hearings.
“Less restrictive means have completed your goals,” Mellion stated, continuing “There’s no wall around Chelsea.”
Multiple residents and store owners echoed Mellion’s sentiment, agreeing that a legal ban instead of a voluntary ban infringed upon the rights of residents to legally purchase alcohol and would not begin to fully cover the larger issue at hand, alcoholism. The general sentiment being that there was nothing to stop these individuals from getting the same banned 250 ml bottles from liquor stores in neighboring cities and towns.
Mellion addressed those in attendance by listing the critical steps the License Commission, store owners, and police department should collaborate on together. Accomplishing cooperation by employing a voluntary ban of 100ml bottles, establishing a alcohol beverage training course and certification for liquor store owners, maintaining a do not sell list for specific individuals, along with impeding sales to intoxicated buyers.
It was agreed by the Commission to maintain a voluntary ban instead of a permanent one, keying in on public sentiment to not overextend their legal rights over Chelsea residents’ ability to purchase alcohol and promote community agreement and turnout to these meetings.
The training course has already been attended by all 12 local liquor stores, of which 25 individuals from these stores achieved the needed passing score of 75 or better. The Police Department also stated that seven individuals scored a 100.
The voluntary ban itself has not been enough to assuage some residents’ concerns, though. Edon Coimbra, owner of Ciao! Pizza and Pasta, was not content with the decision to tackle part of what he sees as the bigger problem.
“What are you going to do protect us?” Coimbra questioned, adding, “I cannot be dealing with the same individuals every day.”
The Comission had no response for a full blown initiative in tackling persistent alcoholism in Chelsea, and the voluntary ban will have to be measured through quantitative metrics that Rossi and Bongiovanni both identified a need for.
Alcoholism remains the bigger problem to many local residents like Coimbra who must deal with intoxicated individuals loitering near his restaurant on a daily basis, leaving his restaurant and other areas reliant on police assistance for these incidents.
The Commission will take up the issue again in three months.
An exhibit of contemporary photographs celebrating life in Chelsea will be on display starting Friday, September 14, at Gallery 456. The opening reception takes place that evening from 6 to 8 p.m. at 456 Broadway, Chelsea.
The featured images are large scale reproductions of the winners of the Welcome to Chelsea Photo Contest. Amateur and professional photographers participated with a dozen winners selected by a formal judging panel. The People’s Choice Award decided through online voting by more than 500 votes by people in the community.
The contest was presented by Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s initiative for vitality in the downtown, and the facebook group Chelsea MA Photography Club coordinated by photographer and former City Councilor Matt Frank.
The judging panel included Darlene DeVita, an award-winning fine art photographer; Matt Frank, a former City Councilor and photographer who initiated the Chelsea MA Photography Club; State Representative Roselee Vincent, a champion for the arts and former member of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development; Sury Chavez, a local painter whose decorative murals and “Welcome to Chelsea” signs can be seen in key locations throughout the city; Marianne Ramos, a self-taught “outsider artist” and long-time Chelsea resident who serves as Program Coordinator for the Chelsea Senior Center; and Alex Train, artist and Assistant Director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Chelsea.
All of the winning images, submitted digitally, have been reproduced in high-quality, large format canvas prints. These framed works will remain on display on Broadway until mid to late October. At the conclusion of the exhibit the winners will take home their framed prints.
Gallery 456 is a storefront gallery so it is always open. The entire exhibit can be viewed from the sidewalk.
The Chelsea Traffic Commission voted 4-1 on Tuesday night to recommend that the Broadway business corridor be changed from a one-way, to a two-way street – the culmination of more than a year of planning.
Carolyn Vega was the lone vote on the Commission against the two-way plan. She wasn’t opposed to the overall plan, but desired to recommend a six-month trial period.
The remaining Commissioners preferred to simply recommend the two-way plan.
The plan will now go to the City Council for a final vote at the Sept. 10 meeting, though it could be put off until the Sept. 24 meeting.
Many people were for it and many were against the plan, but in the end City Manager Tom Ambrosino said that if it didn’t work out, it would easily be able to be changed back to a one-way.
Business owner Rick Gordon said he would prefer a one-way configuration because it would be more inviting for businesses.
Fire Chief Leonard Albanese said he believed in the two-way configuration and thought it would lead to a much safer pedestrian and driving experience. He also said he believed it would enhance the Fire Department’s operations.
Councillor Roy Avellaneda said he didn’t see the need for a two-way and didn’t believe it would be safer. He asked for data to show whether or not people are being hit by cars.
Resident Bruck Black said it would be a shame to study the issue for two years with an award-winning consultant team, and then not make the changes they recommend.
Consultant Kevin Dandrade, of TEC, said they believed Chelsea could successfully make the change.
The Traffic Commission also recommended sweeping circulation changes to Fay Square, Chelsea Square, Bellingham Square and the City Hall front area – where Broadway will also become a two-way street.
The changes also include new smart traffic lights which will be at all Broadway intersections and will work via Wi-Fi to help control and time the traffic lights in real time.
Facing a do-or-die situation for the completion of major off-site roadwork this summer, and a slower-than-expected work schedule on an Eversource project, Encore Boston Harbor and the City of Everett have announced on Tuesday the areas of Beacham, Dexter and Robin Streets will basically be closed off from Aug. 8 through October.
The change will likely have much more dire consequences for Chelsea than for Everett, as the roadway in and out of the New England Produce Center will be shut down for all intents and purposes. Beyond that, cab traffic from the airport will also be diverted away from the normal route through Beacham Street.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said they’ll have to take a wait and see approach in the coming weeks to figure out the proper response.
“It’s just hard to say what the impact will be,” he said. “Given the Second Street alternative (for the Produce Center), I’m hoping the impact is not too substantial. But, we will have to wait and see.”
Chief Brian Kyes said the Police Department would employ its message boards around the city to inform people of the sudden change.
Many had hoped that the work could get done side-by-side, and by making the Eversource transmission line project and the Encore traffic project a dual project Ð it could bring down the pain associated with so much construction work in one small location.
However, that ended up not happening, said Everett Planner Jay Monti, who indicated that Eversource moved too slow on their project. That, in turn, has put things in jeopardy for the casino to get its work done before the end of the outdoor construction season Ð which closes in early November when the asphalt plants shut down.
“Due to delays in permitting and obstructions on the road, Eversource has gotten behind schedule to the point it’s going to threaten Encore in getting its [off-site] roadwork done and without that work they can’t open the casino next year. We’re up against a wall and the only way to get it to work is to go 24 hours a day and essentially shut down the roadsÉThings got critical last week and Eversource was just not making progress. Encore came to us and said they can’t wait any longer. They can’t risk not opening up the casino on time because of the Eversource project running behind.”
The shut-down began Aug. 8, and will run for about 10 weeks into October so that Eversource can work around the clock, three shifts, to get their work in the area done and move on to Chelsea and East Boston. Following that, the shutdown will allow Encore to work around the clock to get the work done that has been held up due to Eversource running behind.
Monti said the corridor will be open to pedestrians and bicycles during the 10-week shutdown. To be clear, though, the roads will be open for drivers, but it will be more than difficult to get through at all hours of the day. So, they are suggesting people use other ways to get places like the airport, the Produce Center and other areas. “For all intents and purposes, it’s closed because anyone who goes down there will sit in traffic for three hours,” he said. “We want to send a message to people who use that corridor. If you’re a cabbie going to or coming from the airport, you have to take the Tobin and pay the toll. If you’re a delivery driver for Amazon, we don’t want you in that area because this work needs to get done. If you’re a driver for the Produce Center, we encourage you to take Rt. 16 and Second Street into Chelsea.”
The opening of the fully-completed Clark Avenue Middle School is just about one month away, and work crews are finishing up the final preparations to welcome students into the completed new school project – after more than three years and two phases of construction.
“I think we’re shooting for substantial completion by the middle of August,” said Gerry McCue of the Chelsea Schools. “Teachers go back on Aug. 27 and students come into the new school on Aug. 29. We expect to have the school operational then. There will be punch list items to get to, but nothing major will be left.”
The completion of Phase 2 will mark the end of the $57 million project that started under former City Manager Jay Ash, and was carried out by City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the School Department.
Already, Phase 1 opened in December 2017, and students and teachers have been using half of the school since that time. The former building, the Old Chelsea High, had been completely demolished earlier this year to make way for Phase 2.
Demolition of the other side of the old high school started in March 2015, when the project first got off the ground.
With the addition of the Phase 2 building, the school will be introduced to many of the amenities, including the gym, an auditorium, a small performance stage, the library, technology labs, art rooms, music rooms, an administrative suite and the new front courtyard facing Crescent and Clark Avenues.
“In addition to things like the gym, there will be a smaller performance space and things can be done on that stage and the cafeteria can be used for seating,” he said. “Larger productions can be done in the auditorium. That’s important because the Clark Ave is the feeder program for the Chelsea High Drama Club, so they have an emphasis on music and performing arts at the Clark Avenue.”
The courtyard will be a very welcome addition to the school and the neighborhood, he said. The space was designed to open up to Crescent and Clark Avenues so that the buildings are pushed back and the space seem more open and inviting. He said the possibilities are endless for the new space.
“We could do outdoor performances or in the summer the City could have a movie night for the neighborhood out there,” he said. “There will be seating and decking in the courtyard. There will also be a school garden there too. There has been a big emphasis on school gardens across the district and the Clark Ave will have one too.”
He said that the top floors are pretty much completed, and many classrooms are set up now. He said the bottom floor is still having work done – as the contractor started from the top and worked down.
As it is, the action is aplenty on the site as the final work is completed.
“There’s just a lot of activity there now and it will be non-stop until the first day of school,” he said.
The Clark Avenue School is expected to have 668 students when it opens in August.
Last week, Sen. Sal DiDomenico (D-Everett) and his colleagues in the Massachusetts Senate passed comprehensive legislation to reduce youth access to tobacco and nicotine products. The bill raises the minimum legal sales age for all tobacco products to age 21 and adds vaping products to the smoke free workplace law.
Also included in the omnibus bill is language from Sen. DiDomenico’s bill to prohibit the sale of tobacco and nicotine delivery products in pharmacies and other health-care institutions. In 2014, CVS Pharmacy announced that it would stop tobacco based sales in their local pharmacies, and at least 160 Massachusetts communities have also banned tobacco sales in their local pharmacies. This legislation would require all other pharmacies to follow suit.
“It’s no secret that tobacco and nicotine use remains one of the leading causes of preventable illness and death across our nation, so it only makes sense that our health care institutions and pharmacies end the practice of carrying these harmful products,” said Senator DiDomenico, Assistant Majority Leader of the Massachusetts Senate. “I would like to thank Public Health Committee Chairman Jason Lewis for making this a top priority and including this as a key provision of this critical piece of legislation.”
Tobacco use and nicotine addiction remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death in Massachusetts, responsible for more than $4 billion in annual health care costs to the Commonwealth. Youth are particularly susceptible to nicotine addiction, with 9 in 10 cigarette smokers begin using before age 18.
While youth smoking has declined considerably in the last two decades, youth use of other addictive tobacco products like e-cigarettes is increasing sharply. While nicotine delivery products like e-cigarettes may sometimes help some nicotine-addicted adults to stop smoking traditional cigarettes, they present a significant new threat to the health and wellbeing of young people who have not previously used tobacco products.
“Raising the legal sales age for tobacco is an incredible public health achievement that will save lives, prevent addiction and ensure a healthier future for generations of Massachusetts youth,” said Senate President Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). “This legislation protects young adults whose minds and bodies are still developing, and is a proven strategy for nicotine addiction prevention. I am proud that the Senate has voted to approve this bill.”
“Massachusetts has long been a leader in protecting and strengthening public health,” said Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester), Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health and the bill’s lead sponsor in the Senate. “This comprehensive legislation will once again put the Commonwealth at the forefront of preventing youth addiction to tobacco and nicotine products, in order to improve health, save lives, and reduce healthcare costs.”
To directly target youth use, this legislation increases the legal sales age for tobacco products from 18 to 21. This is a proven and effective strategy to reduce youth tobacco use because it removes legally purchased tobacco products from high school social networks. The Institute of Medicine projects that increasing the age from 18 to 21 will reduce overall tobacco use in a population by 12% – the equivalent of 150,000 Massachusetts tobacco users.
Youth use of e-cigarettes has also grown alarmingly, becoming a pervasive presence in our high schools. The provisions in this bill build upon the regulations promulgated in 2016 by Attorney General Maura Healey, and ensure that the places that are tobacco free will also be vape free, including schools, restaurants and workplaces.
Other provisions included in the bill include new authority granted to the Department of Public Health to regulate new, emerging tobacco products and language requiring the Center for Health Information and Analysis to study the current tobacco cessation benefits offered by commercial insurers, MassHealth, and the Group Insurance Commission.
Many cities and towns have enacted policies to reduce tobacco use and nicotine addiction that go beyond current state and federal laws and regulations, creating a patchwork of different laws across the commonwealth that can confound retailers, distributors, consumers and public health officials. This legislation will provide a uniform statewide set of rules that protect youth and simplify the interaction between our state and local laws.
The bill now returns to the Massachusetts House of Representatives, where the bill has formerly been engrossed, for enactment.
Chelsea Record photographer Katy Rogers has won three awards for her photography in the first-ever ‘Welcome to Chelsea’ photo contest, which was announced this week.
Record Photograper Katy Rogers took first in the People of Chelsea category with this photo entitled ‘Maggie and William.’
More than 40 photographs were contributed by amateur and professional photographers in the first “Welcome to Chelsea Photo Contest” over the spring. The contest was presented by Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s initiative for vitality in the downtown, and the Facebook group Chelsea MA Photography Club coordinated by photographer and former City Councilor Matt Frank.
The judging panel included Darlene DeVita, an award-winning fine art photographer; Matt Frank, a former City Councilor and photographer who initiated the Chelsea MA Photography Club; State Rep. Roselee Vincent, a champion for the arts and former member of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Tourism, Arts and Cultural Development; Suzy Chavez, a local painter whose decorative murals and “Welcome to Chelsea” signs can be seen in key locations throughout the city; Marianne Ramos, a self-taught “outsider artist” and longtime Chelsea resident who serves as Program Coordinator for the Chelsea Senior Center; and Alex Train, artist and Assistant Director of the Department of Planning and Development for the City of Chelsea.
The judging panel selected three winning images in four categories along with a Best in Show award. They also nominated images for the public to select a People’s Choice winner. Voting for People’s Choice is now open through July 31 at https://tinyurl.com/ChelseaPeoplesChoice.
Rogers is a photographer who lives in Everett, though her backyard is actually in Chelsea. She attended Monserrat College, and is the founder of Katy Rogers Photography. She works for the Record, and its sister publications in Everett, Charlestown and Revere.
All of the winning images will be reproduced in large print format and will be on public display this fall at Gallery 456, the storefront gallery at 456 Broadway. A community reception will be scheduled in September for the public to meet and celebrate with the photographers. At the conclusion of the exhibit, the winners will take home their high-quality, framed images with the Best in Show and People’s Choice winners receiving additional prizes.
The Chelsea Licensing Commission has put on hold the ban of small liquor bottles (100 ml) after a hearing Tuesday night where numerous package store owners from the City came forward to protest the change.
The hearing came on the heels of the ban of “nip” bottles last month, with Chelsea being the first municipality to ban the sale of the one-shot bottles of liquor. That was to be followed up with the potential ban of small liquor bottles too. However, Chair Mark Rossi said the strong turnout from the liquor licensees in the City caused the Board to pause.
“They told us this would essentially put them out of business,” said Rossi. “The sales of small liquor bottles have been up since the ban on nips and the liquor stores were supplementing the lost income from nips with the 100 ml bottles. The positive on this is there was actually a dialog. This is the first time that has happened. Chelsea is the first municipality that has pub in a ban on nips. Based on that, it showed the community is serious about this issues. All parties considered this a problem.”
He said about half of the 16 package store license holders were at the meeting, which lasted more than two hours.
The result is the ban has been put on hold, but a special meeting has been called for Aug. 28 and a voluntary ban has been called for.
“We are calling a special meeting to address this and pick up where we left off,” Rossi said. “This is the first time I’ve ever seen something like this.”
He said the liquor license holders were asked as a show of good faith to meet with the Police Department and voluntarily ban 100 ml bottles (particularly McCormack’s and Ruble) within 30 days. While the License Commission rarely meets in the summer, Rossi said they would call the special meeting for an update, with the hope being the ban can work informally.
Police Chief Brian Kyes said he is still for the ban, but was encouraged by the willingness of the liquor license holders during the meeting.
“Although the Chelsea Police strongly encourages the commission to proceed with the ban as proposed, I am encouraged that these licensed businesses are engaged in dialogue with the commission, the community and understanding their role in this serious issue,” he said. “Moving forward, we will continue to focus enforcement on any business that violates City licensing rules and state law, especially those that have such an adverse effect on the community.”
But not all was lost in the matter, which is an issue pushed by residents and several city councilors, including Councilor Roy Avellaneda.
Rossi said it was impressed on the liquor license holders that they need to be more connected to the community. He said it was interesting to note that none of them were as involved as they thought they were – particularly in things like the Chamber of Commerce or the local non-profits.
“The idea is we’re not looking to push anyone out of business, but to address a systemic, decades-old problem everyone agrees exists in Chelsea,” he said. “This is a positive step forward to address that issue…It’s important liquor store owners realize they are members of the community and aware of their actions on others. No one wants to go to the hair salon next to a liquor store where they have to step over the urine-soaked body of a perons passed out in the doorway.”