Councillors Say It’s Time to Put the Brakes on Water, Sewer Increases

Several City Councillors are lining up in opposition to water and sewer rate hikes proposed by the Department of Public Works, urging residents to attend a public hearing on the new rates in July.

In a letter to the Council, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino stated there will be rate increases of just under 3 percent for water and sewer customers who use less than 2,500 cubic feet of water. Under the City’s tiered approach to water and sewer rates, customers who use over that amount will see a 5 percent increase.

“With this increase, the average water and sewer bill in Chelsea (assuming annual usage of 120 hundred cubic feet) will be $1,828.80,” Ambrosino stated.

The rates will cover approved expenditures of $8,709,470 for water and $13,326,503 for sewer for Fiscal Year 2020, according to the City Manager.

But with surpluses totaling about $7 million in the water and sewer enterprise accounts, several councillors questioned the need for rate increases on Monday night.

“I don’t know why we need any increase in the water and sewer rates,” said District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop. “I don’t understand why you have to go up at all with $7 million sitting there, that should be sufficient.”

Bishop said he would be attending the DPW public hearing on the rates, tentatively scheduled for July 16 to voice his displeasure, and said he hopes to see other councillors there as well.

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero, never one to mince words, said homeowners and renters will end up getting shafted by the rate increases.

“This is killing the poor people who live here,” he said. “This is not only going to drive the homeowners out, this is going to drive the tenants out, too. This is a bad thing to go up this much.

“I like living here, I don’t want to be driven out.”

District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda said he agreed with Recupero.

“The water bills keep going up, and the taxes keep going up,” he said. “We don’t get any relief for the city of Chelsea.”

District 2 Councillor Luis Tejada said one of the main reasons he became involved in local politics was because of rising water and tax rates.

“Bigger government isn’t going to make it better in the city,” he said. “We need to put the brakes on.”

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Police Briefs 06-13-2019

By Seth Daniel and Paul Koolloian


Missing Child Reunited with Parents

On June 4, Chelsea Police reunited a missing 10-year-old Chelsea girl with her parents on after the Kelly school student told officers she fell asleep on the MBTA bus she takes home from school. The juvenile told officers she ended up at the Maverick Square MBTA station where she became confused and proceeded onto another MBTA bus that she was unfamiliar with. At some point, she left the bus in the area of North Shore Road in Revere where she began to walk on the busy road. During this time, the parents responded to the police station to report their daughter missing. Officers used the young girl’s cell phone to “ping” her location in Revere. While Chelsea, Transit and Revere Police were searching the area the young girl was located by an MBTA bus driver who transported her to the Wonderland “T” Station in Revere. She was then reunited back with her parents at Chelsea Police Headquarters. Chelsea officers are working with the parents and the school in addressing future transportation options for the young girl who was unharmed in the incident.

Struggle Without a Shirt

On May 27, at 1:20 a.m., officers responded to the area 176 Clark Ave. for a report of a disturbance. The report to officers was that witnesses were reporting they saw a male who appeared drunk, with no t-shirt on, fighting with a female who was preventing him from getting into the home. Officers struggled with the male in attempting to calm him down. After a struggle to restrain him, he was placed into custody. The male was transported to CHA Everett for evaluation prior to being booked at CPD.

Eber Orantes, 33, of 176 Clark Ave., was charged with disorderly conduct, assault with a dangerous weapon and resisting arrest.

Threated With Strange Weapon

On May 30, at 9:20 p.m., officers responded in the area of Normandy Road at Garfield Avenue for a report of a road rage incident involving a firearm. Officers were given the description of the vehicle in question. It was said to be a black Honda Accord operating on Normandy Road. CPD officers located the vehicle and found the subject to have a modified instrument that resembled a firearm. The victim in the other vehicle provided other information that led to the male being arrested.

Tanvir Zahir, 21, of Stoneham, was charged with violating the motor vehicle ordinance, violating the dangerous weapons ordinance, and two counts of assault with a dangerous weapon.

Swallowed Bag of Crack

On May 31, at 9:30 a.m., Officers observed a male party known to them from previous drug offenses walking with an unknown male on Chestnut Street near Fourth Street. The officers believed they then witnessed a drug transaction between the two. The subject admitted he swallowed a bag of “crack “ when he was approached by the officers. A search of his person uncovered more drugs and he was placed under arrest. The second male was identified and placed under arrest on the scene. The subject who ingested the narcotics was transported to CHA Everett for evaluation.

Argenis Felipe, 33, of East Boston, was charged with possession to distribute a Class B drug (crack), conspiracy, and distribution of a Class B drug.

Box Cutter

On May 31, at 11 a.m., officers were dispatched to the parking lot of 260 Clark Ave. for a fight in progress. Officers observed two tenants of the building in an argument. One tenant accused the second of threatening him with a box cutter. That item was retrieved and that male was taken into custody.

Jody Robinson, 59, of 260 Clark Ave., was charged with assault with a dangerous weapon.

Swerved at Pedestrian

On June 1, at 9:10 a.m., an off-duty CPD officer was traveling on Hawthorne Street towards Chester Avenue when he saw a male party crossing the street. The officer noticed a Toyota Corolla laying on his horn and then began to intentionally drive towards the male party that was crossing the road. The victim had to jump four to six feet to his rear to avoid being struck by the vehicle.

The officer believed the operator swerved in his direction deliberately trying to strike the victim, which could have resulted in serious injuries. CPD officers responded to assist and the male operator was placed in custody for assault with a dangerous weapon.

Eduardo Garcia, 35, of East Boston, was charged with failing to slow, reckless operation, and assault with a dangerous weapon (car).

MS-13 Member Sentenced for Unlawful Possession of a Firearm

An MS-13 member was sentenced last week for being an illegal alien in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Nery Rodriguez Diaz, 19, a Salvadoran national who resided in Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge F. Dennis Saylor IV to 14 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Diaz will also be subject to deportation proceedings upon completion of his sentence.

On May 22, 2018, Diaz and another MS-13 member, Elmer Alfaro Hercules, were arrested in possession of loaded firearms in Bremen Street Park in East Boston, a location where numerous MS-13 gang members have been observed and where gang-on-gang violence frequently occurs.

The investigation revealed that Diaz and Hercules each separately and unlawfully entered the United States in 2014 as unaccompanied minors. Both Diaz and Hercules were charged federally for being aliens in possession of a firearm and ammunition.

Hercules previously pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 13 months in prison and three years of supervised release. Hercules will also be subject to deportation proceedings after the completion of his sentence.

Chelsea Gang Leader Sentenced to Over 15 years in Prison

A leader of the East Side Money Gang (ESMG) was sentenced last week in federal court in Boston on racketeering, drug trafficking and firearms trafficking charges.

Angel “Stackz” Mejia Zelaya, 24, of Chelsea, was sentenced by U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns to 188 months in prison and five years of supervised release. In January 2019, Mejia pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to conduct enterprise affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity, commonly known as RICO, one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and cocaine base, and one count of engaging in the business of dealing in firearms without a license.

Mejia was a leader in the ESMG, a violent, Chelsea-based street gang, which was responsible for various violent crimes, including multiple shootings, and drug distribution in Chelsea and surrounding communities. Mejia, as well as other members and associates of the gang, were also actively involved in illegally selling firearms, including handguns and shotguns, in and around Chelsea.

Mejia participated in multiple, gang-related shootings.

On July 5, 2015, Mejia was involved in a shooting targeting a rival gang member on a public street in Chelsea, which did not result in the rival gang member being injured. On March 29, 2016, Mejia and his lieutenant, Josue “Superbad” Rodriguez, agreed to provide a .22 caliber revolver to a third ESMG member, Brandon “Big Baby” Baez, so that Baez could “spank” with it – meaning that he could use it against rivals of ESMG. On April 3, 2016, in Revere, Baez used the revolver to attempt to murder two men believed to be members/associates of a rival gang as they sat in a vehicle. Both men were wounded, but not killed. Baez called Mejia immediately after the shooting to inform Mejia that Baez had just shot two men. Mejia further admitted to supplying other ESMG gang members with firearms, including a juvenile who then accidently shot another person.

While Mejia was the leader of the ESMG, the gang dealt substantial quantities of drugs, including cocaine and cocaine base (crack), in Chelsea and surrounding communities. Mejia was responsible for the distribution of at least a kilogram of cocaine base. Mejia and his gang subordinates stored drugs at and distributed drugs from a residence on Tudor Street in Chelsea and another residence in the Chelsea area. The gang kept handguns at both locations to protect their drug operations, as well as for other gang activities.

The prosecution of Mejia arose out of an investigation of various street gangs, including the 18th Street Gang, ESMG and the Boylston Street Gang, which were responsible for fueling a gun and drug pipeline across a number of cities and towns in eastern Massachusetts. During the course of the investigation, more than 70 firearms were seized.

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Congratulations, Brian Sullivan

We have been remiss for not having offered our congratulations to Chelsea native Brian Sullivan upon his recent appointment by Gov. Charlie Baker, and subsequent confirmation by the Governor’s Council, to the position of Clerk-Magistrate of the Lynn District Court.

Brian’s ascension to the clerk-magistrate’s position culminates a long career in the court system that began as a Probation Officer in the Chelsea District Court in 1986. He became an assistant clerk-magistrate in that court and then the Salem District Court before being named the Acting Clerk Magistrate of the Cambridge District Court prior to his appointment to the Lynn District Court.

Brian is a Chelsea guy through-and-through. His dad, the late Vincent Sullivan, who was the long-time Assistant Commandant of the Chelsea Soldiers Home, and his mom, Eleanor, raised their four children in the Mill Hill section of the city, where they were one of the most-respected families in Chelsea.

Brian attended St. Rose grammar school before going on to Malden Catholic and Northeastern University. He was a member of the Chelsea Knights of Columbus and was well-known as a member of the K of C’s softball team in the heyday of the Chelsea Modified Fast Pitch Softball League when that league drew huge crowds to Highland Park in the early 1980s.

Brian married the former Paula Hansbury, who also is a Chelsea native and well-known Chelsea High grad, and they have raised their family in Swampscott.

If we were writing this column in another era, it might have been titled, “Local boy makes good.” We know we speak for all of those who have been friends and acquaintances of Brian Sullivan and his family through the years in offering our congratulations to Brian upon his appointment and in wishing him continued success in his outstanding career in the Massachusetts judicial system.

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Council Passes $181.5 Million City Budget with Reservations

The City Council passed a nearly $181.5 million City Budget for Fiscal Year 2020 Monday night, but not without some dire warnings about the financial future of the City by a few of the councillors.

The $181,486,465 budget passed by an 8-3 vote, with Councillors Damali Vidot, Joe Perlatonda, and Robert Bishop voting against the 3.7 percent increase over the FY19 budget. The School Department’s $95.4 million commitment comprises the largest chunk of the budget.

The Council also approved the Water and Sewer Enterprise accounts for FY20, bringing total City appropriations to around $205 million, but the water and sewer accounts are paid through the water and sewer rates, not taxation.

Several attempts were made to cut money from the budget Monday night, but with the exception of a $1,300 cut in the Emergency Management department budget, none of those efforts garnered a majority.

Among those failed efforts was one by Vidot to cut salary lines in the police, fire, and planning budgets.

Vidot proposed the $80,000 cut to the planning budget, $50,000 to the police, and $100,000 to the fire last year as well, citing a top heavy administrative budgeting in the Police and Fire departments, and her displeasure with the way the Downtown Coordinator position in the Planning Department has panned out.

One of the biggest issues, Vidot said, is that the Downtown Coordinator has not been properly involved with the small, local businesses in the city.

“We have to think about the future of this city, and (the position) is leaving out a huge part of Chelsea,” said Vidot.

Perlatonda said he couldn’t agree with an effort to cut $80,000 from the planning budget when the Council didn’t take action to cut millions of dollars from the Department of Public Works budget.

Perlatonda made his own amendments looking for the cuts in the DPW budget, which would have effectively ended a request by City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to have the DPW oversee a new City Water and Sewer Department, rather than contracting for the services.

Those amendments also failed.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda also voted against the cuts to the planning budget, noting several recent city-wide events that have brought hundreds of people to the downtown area.

Vidot noted that her amendment was not a personal attack on anyone, but added that City events would more appropriately be funded in the Recreation Department budget.

In casting his vote against the overall $181.5 million, Bishop said the constant increases in City spending are unsustainable.

“Last year, I voted against the budget because it was unsustainable,” said Bishop. “This year, it is even more unsustainable … this can’t continue. It’s no surprise to everyone that I usually oppose certain spending.

“I’m against a lot of spending because I think it is not spent wisely,” he continued. “When is this going to end? I hope I am not around when the bottom falls out, because it is going to fall.”

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero voted for the budget, but said the City needs to seriously heed Bishop’s warning, noting that other large cities in Massachusetts such as Springfield and Lawrence have seen the economic bottom fall out.

“It can happen anywhere, … and then we will have to start laying people off,” said Recupero. “We only have 1.8 square miles in the city, how much can you grow in our city?

“I am going to vote for the budget because it is the right thing to do now, but like Mr. Bishop said, we have to beware of the future, because the future is not too far away,” he continued.

Perlatonda said that the budget is rising without the City doing enough to help its poorer residents through things like tax and water and sewer rate breaks.

“When is it going to end?” he said. “This budget needs to be stopped at some point.”

District 8 Councillor Calvin Brown said the councillors have gone through a long budget process with ample chance to make amendments or address their concerns to Ambrosino.

“I believe this budget is solid, well thought out, and well supported,” Brown said. “I know the investment we are making today is sound.”

Avellaneda voted to approve the budget, but said it is the first time he has ever given serious pause to voting in favor of a budget.

“What I have seen during the last year with the budget process is that I don’t think we are doing enough during budget season,” he said.

Avellaneda said there should have been more debate about, and more information provided about, the proposed change to the control of the Water and Sewer Department.

He also noted that the budget will have to be paid for in October, when the Council sets the City tax rate.

When that time comes around, Avellaneda said he will have questions for the City’s Assessing Department, which he said has been doing a “terrible job” capturing the true value of many larger properties in Chelsea.

“Across the board, there are many, many, many buildings, and these are large landlords, that are not paying their due in this community,” Avellaneda said.

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TND, Traggorth Finally get the Green Light on Midas Site

A 38-unit affordable housing project at the former Midas site on Broadway can move forward after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) unanimously granted a special permit for the project Tuesday night.

The $15 million project is a partnership between the Traggorth Companies and The Neighborhood Developers (TND). The developers initially came before City officials last year with plans for a 42-unit housing development with some market rate units included.

In addition to cutting the project down to 38 units and making all the units affordable, a planned fifth floor of a building along the Broadway side was eliminated.

“This project cannot do everything for everyone, but it can achieve many things for Chelsea by creating 38 units of affordable housing,” said Dave Traggorth of the Traggorth Companies. “This blighted site pays very little in taxes. This will change that and bring revenue to the city.”

In addition to providing affordable housing, Traggorth said there will be public access to Mill Creek for all Chelsea residents.

As has been the case during past public hearings on the project, a number of community members touted the need for affordable housing in Chelsea and TND’s past successes in bringing affordable units to the city.

City Council President Damali Vidot said she has never supported a TND project in the city until this one.

“There is a huge problem with affordability in this city and we are displacing residents at a rapid rate,” said Vidot.

Resident Sandy Maynard supported the creation of affordable units and the improvement of a blighted site in the city.

“I can’t think of a better project than this one to meet that (affordable housing) need and to beautify Chelsea,” said Maynard. “That lot is an ugly, ugly place.”

Several residents who have been homeless also spoke in favor of the project and of the need of affordable housing.”

A letter from District 3 City Councillor Joe Perlatonda cited his objections to the project, including the welfare of neighboring residents due to traffic and parking concerns.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda, who has spoken against approval of the 1001-1005 Broadway project in the past, said his overreaching concern has been TND’s lack of a vision to bring affordable home ownership, as opposed to rental units, to the city.

“Teachers and city employees are not able to bid on homes (in Chelsea) and they are pushed out,” said Avellaneda. “I understand the need for affordable housing, but there is no balance here … There is a broader discussion that is needed in this community.”

The special permit granted by the ZBA was required because the project did not meet minimum zoning requirements for rear yard setbacks, number of off-street parking spaces, and maximum lot coverage percentage.

A housing lottery will be held for all of those units, with 30 offered at 60 percent of the Average Median Income (AMI) for the area (about $64,000 for a family of four) and eight at 30 percent AMI (about $32,000 for a family of four). The maximum preference allowable under state law will be given to Chelsea residents for the units.

There will be 42 parking spaces for the 38 units (the majority of which will be two-bedroom apartments). And because of state law regulating public access to public waterways, 31 of those parking spaces will be available as public parking from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to provide access to Mill Creek for everyone.

•In other business, the ZBA held a public hearing for a retail marijuana shop at the site of the former King Arthur’s strip club at 200 Beacham St. GreenStar Herbals, Inc. is seeking to tear down the existing two-story building and replace it with a one-story retail facility.

Representatives from GreenStar said the building will feature state-of-the-art security and 34 parking spots on site. Representatives of several of the neighboring local produce businesses came to express concerns about traffic and parking affecting their businesses.

The GreenStar proposal still needs to go before the Planning Board later this month before coming back to the ZBA for special permit and variance approvals.

•The ZBA also denied a special permit for a church to operate out of the second and third floors of 307 Broadway because the plan did not include any parking spaces.

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Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project Started May 14

The Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) began the closure of one of three southbound travel lanes on Route 1 in Chelsea and the Tobin Bridge the morning of Tuesday, May 14, snarling traffic in many parts of Everett as commuters looked for an alternative route.

The public was also reminded the one-lane northbound closure on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 was expanded the morning of Tuesday, May 14. MassDOT anticipates that these lane closures will lead to increased travel times on sections of Route 1 northbound and southbound for drivers and MBTA bus customers for months to come.

These traffic impacts are associated with MassDOT’s Tobin Bridge/Chelsea Curves Rehabilitation Project and lane closures will remain in place for approximately two years. Additional overnight lane closures will be necessary throughout the project meaning only one lane of travel may be open during certain evening hours.

In order to accommodate travelers during this necessary construction work, MassDOT is opening the I-93 southbound carpool lane between Medford and the Zakim Bridge to all vehicles regardless of the number of occupants. This lane will continue to function as an “express lane” and vehicles in this lane on I-93 southbound will not have access to Exit 28 (Mystic Avenue) or Exit 26 (Storrow Drive).

“North Shore commuters should be aware that beginning the morning of Tuesday, May 14, a travel lane will be closed on Route 1 southbound in Chelsea, and the lane closure that is already in place on the Tobin Bridge and Route 1 northbound will be expanded,” said Highway Administrator Jonathan Gulliver last Friday. “MassDOT is carrying out this necessary rehabilitation work in order to ensure the continued use and reliability of Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Viaduct. We appreciate the cooperation and patience of the traveling public and advise everyone to make smart 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 roadway congestion.”

Travelers are also reminded of options such as free fares in the inbound direction on the MBTA Silver Line 3 bus line offered at the Chelsea, Bellingham Square, Box District, and Eastern Avenue stops for the duration of construction. In addition, public transit customers will be able to use a CharlieCard to travel between North Station and Chelsea on the Commuter Rail. The MBTA is also running additional MBTA Blue Line trains to increase capacity. These measures are all being funded by MassDOT Highway Division project funds.

MassDOT is also advising the public to also consider using the Haverhill or Newburyport/Rockport Commuter Rail lines and note that the Haverhill Line historically has parking capacity at Haverhill and Bradford stations. The Newburyport/Rockport Line historically has parking capacity at Newburyport, Salem and Lynn station. Customers can monitor @MBTA_Parking on Twitter for capacity updates and information. In addition, the MBTA has installed a digital parking capacity sign at the Blue Line Wonderland parking lot so drivers approaching the lot can get “real time” information on parking availability.

MassDOT is carrying out work on the Tobin Bridge and Chelsea Curves section of Route 1 at the same time so that the most impactful work will be completed by 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.

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In Contentious Vote, Council Votes to Allow Change to Insurance

Current and former municipal employees crowded into Monday night’s City Council meeting as the council took up a vote to allow City Manager Thomas Ambrosino to negotiate changes to the city’s group health insurance policies.

Most of those employees did not leave happily or quietly as the council voted 8-2 to grant Ambrosino that authority to negotiate the changes. Councillors Roy Avellaneda and Yamir Rodriguez voted against the order, while Councillor Calvin T. Brown was not present at the meeting.

The city’s current group health plan is governed by a three-year agreement with the Public Employee Committee (PEC) that expires on June 30 of this year.

“During the months of November through March, I did attempt to negotiate with the PEC a new multi-year agreement that would provide some cost savings to the group health plan,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the council. “Unfortunately, I have not been able to reach agreement with the unions.”

Under Massachusetts General Laws, Ambrosino stated, in the absence of a new agreement, the old PEC agreement will remain in effect indefinitely. Without City Council action, Ambrosino said he cannot put any health care cost savings in place.

The action approved by the City Council allows the city to take advantage of recent state legislation that allows municipalities to implement cost saving plan design changes on its own if no agreement can be reached with the PEC as long as the city agrees to share a percentage of its first year cost savings with the unions.

With the newly granted authority by the council, the City Manager said he will negotiate reasonable design changes to the city’s group health policies, likely by imposing deductibles in line with deductibles paid for health insurance by state employees.

Ambrosino said even with any changes, Chelsea will always have health insurance at least as good as that provided to Massachusetts public employees.

However, a letter to the City Council submitted by the Chelsea Public Employees Committee outlined over two dozen reasons why members believe the adoption of the changes to the group health insurance should not be adopted.

“The PEC strongly believes that the adoption of Sections 21-23 is inappropriate and premature for multiple reasons: the Self-Insurance Trust Fund is running about a $2 million surplus; the PEC has agreed to apply any surplus to reduce future health insurance costs; City Manager Thomas Ambrosino wants the sickest families among City employees and retirees to pay $1 million more on an annual basis currently paid by the City; the PEC and City Manager Thomas Ambrosino agree that no changes to employee/retiree health insurance are needed until FY2022; Ambrosino has failed to bargain in good faith for a successor PEC agreement; a grievance, including an alleged unfair labor practice, are pending at this time; and Sections 21-23 will effectively disable bargaining on health insurance,” the letter summarizes.

City Council President Damali Vidot noted that her husband works for the Department of Public Works and that any changes in health insurance would directly affect her. However, she said the changes are necessary to allow Ambrosino to negotiate with city unions.

“We hire the Town Manager to negotiate with the unions, and I’m not comfortable when he does not have all the tools needed for the negotiations,” said Vidot.

Vidot she said she hopes Ambrosino can go back to the unions with the new negotiating tools and find common ground with the unions. In addition to wanting the best for city employees, Vidot said the council has a fiscal responsibility for the entire community.

The council president also said that there has been some miscommunication on the issue, especially when it comes to retirees. Vidot said changes to group health insurance plans would only affect a very few retirees who do not qualify for Medicare.

District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop said he agreed that the City Manager should have all the tools available as he negotiates with the city’s union.

As the vote took place, many in the audience shouted and voiced their displeasure, with several people stating the council should be ashamed of their vote. The meeting came to a brief halt as the crowd noisily filed out of the council meeting, with several audience members individually appealing to councillors.

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26th Annual Stamp out Hunger Food Drive Set for May 11

With the help of sponsors, volunteer organizations and U.S. Postal Service employees in 10,000 communities nationwide, the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) will conduct its 26th annual Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive on Saturday, May 11.Stamp Out Hunger is the nation’s largest single-day food drive.

Last year’s drive resulted in carriers collecting 71.6 million pounds of food from local communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Since the drive began in 1993, total donations have surpassed 1.6 billion pounds of food. The food drive has become the nation’s largest one-day campaign to collect food for distribution to needy families.

Making a donation is easy. Customers should leave their non-perishable food donations in a bag near their mailbox on Saturday, May 11, before their letter carrier arrives. In the days leading up to the food drive, letter carriers will be delivering special bags along with your mail that may be used to make donations. Food collected during Saturday’s drive will be delivered to local community churches, food banks and food pantries for distribution.

While all non-perishable donations are welcome, foods that are high in protein such as canned tuna, salmon, beans and peanut butter are most needed. Canned fruits and vegetables, whole grain, low sugar cereals, macaroni and cheese dinners and 100% fruit juice also top the list of most needed items.

For additional information about this year’s Stamp Out Hunger Food Drive, visit nalc.org/community-service/food-drive.

Food Drive TIPS

WHAT TO GIVE: Most-wanted foods include:

• Canned meats (tuna, chicken, salmon).

• Canned and boxed meals (soup, chili, stew, macaroni and cheese).

• Canned or dried beans and peas (black, pinto, lentils).

• Pasta, rice cereal.

• Canned fruits.

• 100 percent fruit juice (canned, plastic or boxed).

• Canned vegetables.

• Cooking oil.

• Boxed cooking mixes (pancake, breads).

WHAT NOT TO GIVE:

• Rusty or unlabeled cans.

• Glass containers.

• Perishable items.

• Homemade items.

• No expired items

• Noncommercial canned or packaged items.

• Alcoholic beverages or mixes or soda.

• Open or used items.

The Postal Service receives no tax dollars for operating expenses and relies on the sale of postage, products and services to fund its operations.

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School Committee’s Garcia Fires Back After Hernandez Letter

About one month after former School Committeeman Julio Hernandez – the vice chair of the Committee – suddenly resigned, citing a lack of interest in the Committee from other members, one member is firing back to say the School Committee is committed.

Kelly Garcia.

In his letter last month, Hernandez cited financial reasons mostly for his resignation, but also indicated that many members of the School Committee didn’t show up to meetings and didn’t have the best interest of the kids at heart.

In a letter to the Record this week, member Kelly Garcia said she disagreed with that summation and defended her record.

“I persevered and fought against every obstacle that came my way, and I continue to serve on the committee and stand right by my students both in my classroom as a Special Education teacher, as an advocate for increased funding at the State House on Beacon Hill, and the School Committee member representing District 7,” she wrote. “I never gave up on the students of Chelsea because once again, and in Hernandez’s own words, ‘our students’ education is no JOKE.’

“I was appalled to read such negative commentary by a former elected official,” she continued. “A person who has chosen to break his commitment to the Chelsea School District and its students should not be now using social media to undermine those who are left to choose a replacement, while at the same time, having to choose a new Superintendent.”

The letter also indicated that she believed it was Hernandez that failed the students of Chelsea, urging him to move on with dignity.

“Hernandez is an aspiring professional, and I ask that he leave this position with dignity and respect for himself and for his former colleagues who continue to work hard attending the majority of the meetings, asking thought-provoking questions, and searching for the next superintendent,” she wrote.

Hernandez’s resignation came just before the resignation of School Committee Chair Rich Maronski, who also voiced frustrations with the fact that many members don’t attend meetings. He is continuing to serve out through the end of the superintendent search.

Hernandez resigned immediately after the letter.

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City Looking to Take Water & Sewer Work In-house, Save $350k Annually

The City could soon be running its own Water and Sewer Department as part of the Department of Public Works.

Currently, Chelsea outsources those water, sewer, and drainage services to R.H. White Construction Company as part of a 10-year contract set to expire on July 21, 2022.

City Manager Thomas Ambrosino is asking the City Council to consider an early termination of that contract, allowing the City to get a jump on establishing its own Water and Sewer Division under the DPW. While there will be initial start-up costs and ongoing personnel costs, Ambrosino said Chelsea will ultimately save about $350,000 per year.

Ambrosino is requesting the City pay an early termination fee for the contract with R.H. White in order to get the City Water and Sewer division operable by July of 2020.

“The DPW leadership and I recommend that we meet in subcommittee to go over (an informational spreadsheet) and work plan in detail,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council. “This will allow the Council to understand fully why we believe we can perform these services not only cheaper, but at a higher quality, and with more resources, than we currently achieve with the RH White annual contract.”

The upfront costs of the water and sewer transition prior to July of 2020 include the purchase of new vehicles and equipment and the hiring of seven employees to make sure the department is prepared to take full control of the water and sewer system on the date.

The total additional Fiscal Year 2020 costs are just over $1.5 million, according to the City Manager.

“The capital costs are obvious one-time expenditures,” said Ambrosino. “But the added personnel costs in FY20 are also one-time expenses. All of these personnel costs will be covered by the $1.784 million saved on the annual RH White contract starting in FY21 when the contract is terminated.”

Ambrosino recommended that all the one-time costs be paid for through the retained earnings in the City’s Water and Sewer Enterprise System, the equivalent of free cash in the general government budget.

•In other business at Monday night’s City Council meeting, Ambrosino asked the Council to consider a plan for municipal electric aggregation.

“Because municipal electric aggregation has the potential of providing more stable and lower prices and utilizing more renewable energy sources, over 140 municipalities in Massachusetts have taken advantage of this program,” Ambrosino said.

•The City Manager also told the council that the City will seek competitive bids for Chelsea towing work beginning in Fiscal Year 2020, which begins on July 1.

Although Ambrosino said towing work is exempt from state bidding laws, the City will seek bids for the work in response to a recent City Council order by District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero. “There is some work required to prepare a (request for proposals) and evaluate responses,” said Ambrosino. “For this reason, the Purchasing Agent believes he will have a new contract for towing services in place no later than September 1, 2019.”

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