The newly established Community Preservation Committee will lead Chelsea’s use of funds provided by the Community Preservation Act (CPA).
Chelsea voters approved the adoption of the CPA in November 2016. It will provide hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to be used for the creation and acquisition of affordable housing, historic preservation, open space and recreation.
Nine members appointed to the Community Preservation Committee are: Bea Cravatta, Judith Dyer, Caroline Ellenbird, Jose Iraheta, Michelle Lopez, Yahya Noor, Ron Robinson, Juan Vega, and Tuck Willis. Five members, by statute, represent City boards and commissions. The remaining four members are appointed by the Chelsea City Manager with the following requirements for each of the seats: one seat requires expertise in open spaces, housing and/or historical preservation; one seat requires expertise in development, business, finance, and/or construction; and the two remaining seats will be for individuals with a history of community involvement.
Community Preservation Committee (CPC) members serve a three-year term in a volunteer capacity, and must be residents of Chelsea. The CPC’s primary responsibilities include: approving an administrative budget for the City’s Community Preservation program; developing an annual Community Preservation Plan; reviewing project applications and making recommendations for funding approval. Further, CPC members are required to meet with regularity and engage with community groups throughout the City as needed.
The Committee is organized by John DePriest, AICP, Director, City of Chelsea Department of Planning and Development. An RFP has been prepared to hire a Professional Planning consultant services to develop the Community Preservation Plan. The Community Preservation Committee solicits and reviews proposals for use of the Community Preservation Act funds and makes recommendations on how funds should be used. The funding of any project requires a recommendation from the committee.
For more information go to: https://www.chelseama.gov/community-preservation-committee.
Saying he is disappointed with the Council’s posture toward the Fire Department during last week’s successful $100,000 budget cut to his department, Chief Len Albanese said the Council missed an opportunity to help bring the Department forward.
The Council, particularly Council President Damali Vidot, called for the cut and said the Fire Department overtime budget had requested an increase. She and others felt like that number – which in the past has been described as being abused – should be doing down.
Albanese said it wasn’t fair, and he said he Council hasn’t listened to his calls for an appropriate percentage of funding and more staffing.
“I’m disappointed with the cut that was made and the comments made by Council President Vidot,” he said. “This year we made budget. I told the Council that if they properly funded the Fire Department we would do our best to live within that range, and we delivered. We require no supplemental funding to finish the year.
“I have advocated for more staffing since my first month on the job,” he continued. “We have acquired both the staffing and apparatus to make that happen. Now, we need this additional staffing to translate into more boots on the ground daily. If the recent fire on John Street is not indication enough of that, I’m not sure what is. These major fires in our densely populated neighborhoods are a significant threat to our community. We need as much help as possible in the first 10 minutes of these fires to protect our neighborhoods.”
He said the John Street fire was one where they lucked out because had other calls been going, the staffing might not have been there to respond correctly.
“We are lucky that all of our apparatus was available at the time of that alarm and not tied up on other calls,” he said. “I assure you, the devastation would have been much worse. Twenty homeless could have been 100. We cannot count on luck. We need to be prepared with a reasonable amount of protection based on the threat that we face.”
In 2016, Albanese presented to the Council that the Fire Department budget is around 6.25 percent of the overall budget, and national standard indicate it should be between 6.5-7 percent based on the call volumes.
This year, they would be 6.25 percent and that represents less percentage-wise than in 2016.
“Our overall budget represents only 6.25 percent of the overall City Budget which is actually less percentage wise than we received in 2016,” he said. “Even when you consider that we will eventually take over the new hire salaries in full, we will still be between 6.5 and 6.75 percent of total budget, well within a reasonable and acceptable range.”
For his overtime request, he said he requested a 4 percent increase to the current year’s $1.25 million overtime budget. That, he said, is because salaries increased by 4 percent and so there would be less overtime coverage.
“It’s one thing to hold the line, but to cut our entire request, plus an additional $50,000 that we had this year makes no sense,” he said. “It’s like saying thanks but no thanks.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he believes the chief can make things work despite the cut.
“I was opposed to that cut,” he said. “I think the chief can make his overtime and salaries work. He has some open positions. There are three now…Hopefully he’ll make it and if he can’t, I’ll have to come to the council in the spring and ask for more money.”
Albanese said the cut won’t stop them from carrying out their plan, but it does no one any favors.
“The $100,000 cut will not keep us from continuing on our plan to increase daily staffing, but it doesn’t help,” he said. “With the amount of information we have provided the council, I think those members who voted to support this cut missed an opportunity to show their commitment to protecting our neighborhoods. The $100,000 is literally one-half of 1 percent of the City Budget, but it can translate into having an extra firefighter searching for a trapped occupant. To me, that’s money well spent.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said he would gladly enforce the new Police and Fire residency ordinance confirmed last week at Council, but not until at least 2021.
“It has to be negotiated through collective bargaining,” he said. “The firefighters are under contract until 2021, and the police are now at the state Joint Labor Management Commission. It probably won’t be able to be negotiated with either unit until 2021. We have no plans to enforce it until there is a new contract because the law is clear this is a change in the contract subject to collective bargaining.”
The Council voted for the matter last month, and staved off a challenge to that vote last week, led by Councilor Giovanni Recupero. Recupero has tried for seven years to get the residency plan in place for new police and fire hires. The plan now in effect would require all new hires as of July 31 to live in the city for five years after hire.
The matter, however, cannot be enforced until the City Manager re-negotiates the contracts with the police and fire, meaning that all member would get raises in exchange for that change in working conditions.
Ambrosino said the unions could decide not to agree to the matter, which would also make it unenforceable if it is outside any contract.
“An ordinance cannot supersede a mandatory collective bargaining matter,” he said. “It is unenforceable until it shows up in a collective bargaining agreement.”
The Chelsea High School Class of 2018 will hold its Commencement Ceremonies Sunday at 1 p.m. at the high school.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Mary Bourque will address the large gathering and offer her official congratulations to the graduates.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino and School Committee Chairperson Jeanette Velez will also be part of the ceremony.
Former CHS director of athletics Frank DePatto said he is looking forward to attending the ceremony for the first time in his capacity as a member of the School Committee.
“I know this class very well and they are an accomplished group academically and athletically,” said DePatto. “I look forward to being present as our graduates attain this important milestone in their lives. Graduation represents the ending of one chapter and the beginning of another. I wish the graduates continued success as they move on to college, the military, and the work force.”
The City has announced that they have hired a landscape architect to present a Master Plan for renovating the Garden Cemetery – with Phase 1 starting as early as this fall.
The goal, said Planner Karl Allen, is to have it all done by 2024.
“We’ve hired our landscape architect to put together a phased Master Plan for rehabilitating the cemetery,” he said. “Our goal is to have it in a condition where we can open it to the public from dawn to dusk on a daily basis by 2024 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the settlement of Chelsea.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the substantial repair of the historic, garden-style cemetery is part of the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) – which the City Council approved last week. That CIP had $350,000 set aside for the Garden Cemetery work.
He said the Master Plan will include an analysis of the full rehabilitation and the costs associated with that.
“It’s a little bit of a jewel,” he said. “I think the City would like to spend some money to make it pop a little bit. It can be a small oasis in the middle of the city if treated properly and with a significant investment. I’m proud to recommend that.”
The first step in the program will be putting out phase one in for bid in the fall.
Phase one will include fixing the retaining wall on Shawmut Street that is close to collapse. It will also include replacing the metal fence around the cemetery and putting a new central gate on Shawmut and Chester. The existing entrance will have a new French gate and an arch with the words ‘Garden Cemetery 1841’ above the entrance.
Next year, it is expected that they will continue with the rehab and make the paths ADA compliant and fix the Soldier’s Lot. They will replace the broken up asphalt path piece by piece and put in something that is more appropriate to the time period, such as stone dust.
One of the key issues is that the grave stones over the years have fallen or been knocked over. That is an expensive proposition to set back all of the fallen stones, but Allen said they will likely do that incrementally over time.
“That’s definitely on our radar in order to get it open,” he said. “The restoration and resetting of the graves toppled is probably a very long-term process…Our initial purpose is to address safety issues.”
He also said they hope to be able to include an educational aspect to the project to get the students in Chelsea schools interested and informed about the Garden Cemetery.
In the big scheme of $100 million-plus budgets, $150,000 is pretty small potatoes, but that small allotment approved by the City Council went a long way to instantly changing the trajectory of dozens of Chelsea High (CHS) students last Thursday, May 10, when they learned that the City would pay for them to finish their Associate’s Degree after graduation.
CHS Principal Priti Johari made the announcement to 94 seniors that qualified for the new pilot program approved by the Council about one month ago. At first, there was an air of disbelief.
But after about 20 minutes, there were smiles and a lot of tears from students gathered there – many of whom had given up on going to college.
Guidairys Castro said she had been accepted to UMass Dartmouth, Roger Williams and two other colleges. However, even with financial aid, it was still out of her reach, and even though she gathered more than 12 college credits at Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) through the dual enrollment program over the past two years, she said she wasn’t even going to be able to pay for finishing that Associate’s program.
“I would say this is life-changing,” she said. “It definitely changes everything for me. I wasn’t thinking about getting to go to college. This is a very good opportunity for me. I didn’t think I would have the money I needed to finish and then go on to a university. I applied to so many colleges and got accepted, but when the financial aid numbers came back, I realized it wasn’t going to happen for me. Today, that all changed.”
On Thursday, Castro sat down with the other 93 seniors who qualified, most not knowing what the big announcement was going to be. Johari said students had to complete 12 credits, and if they agree to stay in Chelsea and go to BHCC, they can finish their Associate’s Degree on the City’s dime as part of the program.
“This is a special group and a really exciting announcement,” she told them. “The City of Chelsea is investing in you. That is exciting…They want you to go to college and graduate, then come back to Chelsea. We want higher education to be more affordable. I know a lot of you have big dreams and can’t go to college because of money. City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the Council wanted to take money away as an obstacle.”
Ambrosino was heartened to hear of the scene after the announcement, and said it made him believe that the program is worthy and should be continued next year.
“I’m thrilled because this is exactly why we did that program and how we wanted it to work,” he said. “We wanted it to change people’s lives.”
Others in the room were relieved because they were going to have to pay out of pocket to finish at Bunker Hill.
Barbara Mendez and Emily Romero said they were going to have to take a year off to work full-time, perhaps more than one job, to be able to pay for going back to Bunker Hill next year.
With the announcement, that all changed.
“We were going to work for a year, but now there is no point in doing that,” said Mendez.
Both were interested in nursing, and early childhood care. The plan was to finish the Associate’s and transfer to a university – which is the popular route nowadays for students wishing to save significant money on college.
“Most of us in this room are the first to even consider college in our families,” said Romero. “It’s a big achievement for our family. They are going to be so happy to hear this. I feel this is really going to help me because I was going to have to pay out of pocket, and I didn’t know if I would have the money. It’s a great opportunity.”
For David Cruz, the scholarship is going to speed up his career path, as he wants to finish up at Bunker Hill and transfer to Bridgewater State. There, he wants to study aviation so he can be an airline pilot.
“It’s what I’ve always wanted to do as long as I can remember,” he said with a smile.
The applications for the new program were due on Monday, May 14, and many of the 94 eligible students were expected to apply.
The Forbes Lithograph owners have come back to the City with a plan for 700,000 sq. ft. of development and 630 residential units for the 18-plus acre site on Mill Hill – but they still only have one entrance.
The project has yet to be formally filed, but the City has requested that the owners conduct a serious neighborhood information campaign first, which the company has been doing.
The project has been scaled back significantly from its 1.5 million square foot proposal two years ago that included skyscrapers, hotels, restaurants and about 1,000 units of housing.
The current plan would have 630 units, including several units in a 16-story building. The remainder of the units would be in a couple of other smaller buildings. The would be a small amount of commercial space, with retail and office workspace uses.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said it has been scaled back, but the City will not take a stand on it until the company files with the Zoning Board in July.
“It’s significantly less dense than the plan three years ago,” he said. “They can build the units by right as they meeting the density requirement. They will definitely need some zoning relief and the City has encouraged them to together with stakeholders and their parking access plan.”
There is still some question about the access, which comes from one bridge that would be rebuilt. Another access point over the Creek will not be part of the development.
“They explained it was just cost prohibitive with the decrease in units,” he said.
Already GreenRoots has met with them twice and that organization believes that the project is still too much.
“At both meetings, GreenRoots’ staff and members, as well as adjacent residents, voiced concern over the size and density of the project; the impacts on adjacent neighborhoods including on elementary school pedestrians and traffic and public transportation; and how the public access improvements to the Chelsea Creek waterfront would not be welcoming to the community at-large,” said Director Roseann Bongiovanni. “In short, this project must be scaled back significantly. A development in the likeness of Assembly Row cannot be built in a small neighborhood that does not have property access roads into and out of the site.”
Councillor Joe Perlatonda also has numerous concerns about the proposal. He said he has met with the developer, along with Councillor Leo Robinson, recently.
“First of all, there needs to be a two-way access to get in and out of this property which the only way the city would allow this is through a bridge connecting from the site to Rt. 1A, which will cost millions of dollars,” he said. “And what about the cleanup? Do we know if the land is contaminated? Is there a solution for pest control to combat the rodents? How long will this project take?… This will take years to develop even if this gets off the ground.
My fellow councillor and I would like to see a development that would consist of duplexes and single-family homes to keep up with the neighborhood.”
The Chelsea Walk has, for years, been an uninviting walkway between Broadway and the seedier part of the alleyways behind the business district.
This photo is an example sent out by GreenRoots of some things that could be done to the Chelsea Walk to enliven and brighten it up. GreenRoots and the City are embarking on a campaign to match a state grant for funding to spruce up the Walk.
But as Broadway gets more attention, the City and GreenRoots are looking to make the Chelsea Walk a comfortable centerpiece, rather than a forgotten stretch.
GreenRoots, together with City Manager Tom Ambrosino, announced Friday night that it had received a grant from MassDevelopment to transform the dark and dingy Chelsea Walk into a safe and welcoming destination attraction featuring art, color and lighting.
The grant, however, has a twist.
In order to get the funding, it needs to be matched dollar for dollar through Crowdfunding by June 8. Crowdfunding is when many people contribute towards a project’s success. At present time, fundraising has exceeded $3,000, so GreenRoots has less than 40 days to raise the remaining $17,000.
Chelsea Chamber of Commerce President Sergio Jaramillo said the project is an effort to “ make the area a place where people feel safe.”
He added, “It is all about making our community better.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino encouraged everyone to contribute where they can.
“To the extent you can donate something, it will really benefit the city,” he said.
The effort follows two fun summer events where GreenRoots and the City developed “park-lets” on Broadway for a day – something that was extremely popular with residents, business owners and the public. The Chelsea Walk effort is another arm of that effort.
GreenRoots is accepting donations towards this project at www.patronicity.com/chelseawalk.
The City announced on Wednesday that it had secured a $3 million federal grant to go towards full design and construction of the Beacham Street reconfiguration project.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Planner Alex Train broke the news, which is a major coup in the $9 million project – which looks to reconfigure Beacham Street as a critical east-west corridor between East Boston, Chelsea and Everett.
That would be achieved by reconfiguring the roadway not only for cars, but also for bicycles and pedestrians. It would also include landscaping improvements and accommodations for the trucking traffic that needs to use the corridor as well. Everett has also begun a similar project on its side of Beacham Street, and both project would align when completed.
The project also has some pieces that will provide flood protection from the Island End River, which has been known to spill over its bands and threaten the New England Produce Market – a regional, critical food supply facility.
The federal grant will go along with money set aside in the City’s Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for the project.
Ambrosino said they would also pursue money from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) from its Transportation Improvement Fund when that money becomes available.
The MBTA is gearing up for the big rollout of its Silver Line SL-3 expansion on Saturday, April 21, as operations on the expansion of the bus rapid transit look to change the landscape, and the commute, of the City.
For the first time ever, “can’t get there from here” territory like South Station will be only 27 minutes from the Mystic Mall on the new SL-3 buses, according to information from the MBTA.
“SL3 will make commuting to the Airport, Seaport, or South Station better for anyone who rides bus routes 111, 112, 114, 116, 117, anyone travelling on the Blue Line, or anyone who is driving,” read information materials from the T. “Right now, your commute might be pretty complicated. If you’re going to the South Station area, you probably start out on a bus, and then make a few transfers to get to the Red Line. If you drive, you deal with a lot of traffic, and pay for tolls, and parking.”
On Wednesday, MBTA General Manager Luis Ramirez was out to Chelsea to get a sneak peek of the new service, taking the SL-3 from Airport Station through to the new Chelsea Station. Deputy City Manager Ned Keefe accompanied him, as well as several MBTA officials.
The new SL-3 service will operate in Chelsea between the hours of
5 a.m. (Monday through Friday) to 12:55 a.m. On Saturdays, it opens at 5:30 a.m. and Sundays at 6:30 a.m.
Service will run every 10 minutes at peak periods, which are between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Service runs every 12 to 15 minutes in off-peak and weekend times.
It will operate in Chelsea out of three brand new, heated stations – complete with covered bike racks at each. The stations are:
Chelsea Station – 174 Everett Ave.
Bellingham Station – 225 Arlington St.
Box District Station – 200 Highland St.
Eastern Avenue Station – 40 Eastern Ave.
As part of the project as well, the 111 bus will be enhanced.
It is expected that of the 11,700 riders of the 111 bus, some 2,000 will switch to the SL-3 service, reducing the crowds on the 111 somewhat.
Additionally, the MBTA plans to work with the City of Chelsea to improve the 111 bus with potential dedicated bus lanes and signal optimization.