Encore Opening Procedures, Training Running Smoothly Ahead of Opening

Three weeks makes a difference.

That’s the message from Encore Boston Harbor President Bob DeSalvio when it comes to the preparations for the opening of the resort casino on June 23. DeSalvio said that hiring a majority of the workers to train for three weeks, as compared to the one-week average in the industry, will be worth every penny.

“In general we are in a very good position right now,” he said on Tuesday. “I feel like the construction, the hiring and the trainings are all coming together extremely well. Right now the number one item is about working on training and role playing on our own people in preparation for the arrival of our first guests. It was good to get the team in early and have the mass orientation on June 3. The access to the building was critical to making sure we had the necessary time to prepare.”

DeSalvio said many in the industry will bring on most employees about a week ahead of opening. Some might stretch that to two weeks. However, a three week, 20-day solid training period is unique.

“We have a full 20 days to completely fine-tine and have five-star service levels and standards,” he said. “That’s a big part of what we do. It’s an expanded preparation time, but that’s important to us…Literally having three weeks is pretty unique, but it’s worth every penny because we’ll get to thoroughly train our team members to that we can expect to deliver a flawless opening.”

Right now, workers are busy role playing, helping one another, and collaborating with helpers from the Las Vegas resorts – who are initiating the new workers from the Boston area into the company service standards.

“The next couple days we start very intensive role playing preparations with our team – we’ll eat at the restaurants and walk all of the corridors,” he said. “We plan to occupy every single guest room before guests arrive…We want to make sure we’ve got everything covered. By occupying the rooms, it gives us a chance to see everything to make sure it’s working – the air conditioners, the lighting and the TV. It’s a great way to get it done instead of waiting for guests to come in and have to bring something like that to our attention.”

That also goes for the kitchens – cooking meals for practice to make sure everything is working correctly and all of the materials are in place for when the first guests arrive.

DeSalvio said a good deal of what is happening now on the construction front is interior work and bringing in food and retail supplies.

The construction phase, he said, is done for the most part – meaning that the largest single-phase construction project in the state’s history came in on time.

“Construction is winding down,” he said. “They’re doing minor landscaping and doing some interior finish work. But for the most part, the construction has been completed.”

One of the more stunning aspects of the building, DeSalvio said, was the sunset views of the Mystic River Valley facing west. While the Boston skyline views are tremendous, DeSalvio said the views of the Mystic are special because they have never been seen before.

“One of the unique aspects of the building is the views from various angles, especially the higher up to you go – are unlike anything we’ve ever seen because there has never been a building that big in Everett,” he said. “Looking west from the tower up the Mystic River, there’s a sense of the real beauty of that area.”

Overall, DeSalvio said the team has done outstanding work on all aspects of the resort, and he said they are very much ready for their opening in less than two weeks.

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East Boston Neighborhood Health Center and South End Community Health Center Announce Intent to Merge

This week, in one of the first mergers of its kind in Massachusetts, East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) and South End Community Health Center (SECHC) announced their intent to merge after signing a definitive merger agreement.

Pending federal and state regulatory approvals, SECHC will become a part of EBNHC with Manny Lopes remaining as president and CEO. The merger will add SECHC’s 180-plus employees and 19,000 patients to the largest community health center in Massachusetts and one of the largest in the country. SECHC will continue to provide comprehensive health care services in the South End.

“As SECHC celebrates 50 years of service to the South End, we also look to the future. Our number one goal is to strengthen high-quality care for this community in an increasingly complex and volatile health care system that favors economies of scale,” said Bill Walczak, CEO and president of SECHC. “We have strategically considered many pathways to achieving this goal over the past several years and are delighted to have reached an agreement with EBNHC that positions community-based care to thrive.”

Manny Lopes, president and CEO of EBNHC, added, “Our organizations have shared a common mission for decades and there is a lot we can learn from one another. As health centers, it is our duty to innovate and grow in financially sustainable ways to ensure we are preserving and advancing affordable, accessible, high-quality care in communities that need it most. We believe that welcoming SECHC into our organization will benefit patients, staff, and our communities.”

Post-merger, EBNHC will support approximately 1,200 employees and more than 100,000 patients per year with an operating budget of $165 million, providing high-quality services and programs in neighborhoods on both sides of Boston Harbor.

The East Boston Neighborhood Health Center (EBNHC) has been a vital part of its community for more than 40 years, providing easily accessible, high-quality health care to all who live and work in East Boston and the surrounding communities of Chelsea, Revere, Everett, and Winthrop. EBNHC supports more than 1,000 employees and handles 300,000 visits per year – more than any other ambulatory care center in New England.

South End Community Health Center (SECHC) is a comprehensive health care organization for all residents of the South End and surrounding communities. Founded in 1969, SECHC is committed to providing the highest quality, coordinated health care that is both culturally and linguistically sensitive to every patient, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability, and/or income. SECHC’s multi-cultural and highly trained staff of 180-plus serves more than 19,000 patients with an operating budget of $16.5 million.

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Construction Look-Ahead: May 19 – June 1, 2019

Traffic Impacts

Route 1 Northbound: Approaching the Tobin Bridge from Boston, the workzone begins in the righthand lane. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m. –10 p.m.) and at least 1 travel lane will be open during overnight hours (10 p.m.–5 a.m.).

Route 1 Southbound: Approaching the Chelsea Curves from the North Shore, the workzone begins in the lefthand lane. 2 of 3 travel lanes will be open during daytime hours (5 a.m. –10 p.m.) and at least 1 travel lane will be open during overnight hours (10 p.m.–5 a.m.).

Ramps: All on- and off-ramps will remain open at this time.

Local Streets: The Spruce Street temporary reconfiguration will remain in place for approximately 2-3 months.

Work Hours

Most work will occur in during daytime working hours (6 a.m – 2 p.m.) on weekdays. Some work will take place during the afternoon (2pm – 7pm) and nighttime working hours (9 p.m. – 5 a.m.) and on Saturdays (6 a.m. – 2 p.m.)

There will be no work on Monday, May 27 in observance of Memorial Day.

Summary of Work Completed

In the two weeks prior to May 19, crews implemented additional lane closures to establish the median work zone, installed new drainage in Carter Street parking lot, and prepared, painted, and repaired portions of the bridge deck and joints.

Description of Work

Route 1 Northbound: Demolish and excavate grid deck concrete fill, power wash grid deck, repair bridge deck and joints, clean and weld new deflector plates.

Route 1 Southbound: Install negative pressure containment system, powerwash and excavate around support column footings, install micropiles, conduct surveys, upgrade utilities, and deconstruct the median barrier.

Local Streets: Prepare and pave new Carter Street parking lot.

Travel Tips

The North Washington Street Bridge Replacement is also underway which requires local traffic impacts. For information or to sign up for project-specific construction look-aheads like this one, visit the project website.

Drivers should take care to pay attention to all signage and police details and move carefully through the work zone. Police details, changes in lane markings, temporary controls such as barriers and traffic cones, signage, and other tools will be used throughout the project to control traffic and create safe work zones.

The contractors are coordinating with local event organizers and police to provide awareness and manage traffic impacts during events. For your awareness, during this look-ahead period, the following events are scheduled:

Stanley Cup Playoffs (TD Garden): To be scheduled

Red Sox (Fenway Park): May 19 at 1:05 p.m., May 27 at 4:05 p.m., May 28 at 7:10 p.m., May 29 at 7:10 p.m.

Boston Calling Music Festival (Harvard Athletic Complex): May 24 – May 26

BHCC Honors Class of 2019 at 45th Commencement Ceremony

On Thursday, May 23, Bunker Hill Community College (BHCC) awarded 1,754 degrees and certificates to the Class of 2019 at the 45th Commencement Exercises.

BHCC President Pam Eddinger opened the ceremony with the annual “ritual of gratitude,” where graduates thank family and friends in attendance for their support throughout their educational journey. Eddinger also reflected on the cultural wealth of the graduates and how it left a positive impact on her as College President.

“I am braver today because I have learned from your struggles and have seen your courage,” said Eddinger. “I am more hopeful, because you have shown me, in your multiple languages, your ancestral songs, and your lived experiences that while life can be harsh, it is also limitless and ever-renewing.”

Massachusetts Commissioner of Higher Education Carlos E. Santiago delivered the keynote address. In his remarks to the graduates, he encouraged the graduates to use their education to give back to their communities. “Your communities benefit from your time and talents,” he said. “As students at our community colleges, you are uniquely connected to your cities and towns. I urge you to stay connected – to hold tight to your civic compass. Let it point you to where you can make a difference.”

Santiago also received the President’s Distinguished Services Award in recognition of his extraordinary service to the community and BHCC. Santiago has served as Commissioner of Higher Education since July of 2015. Santiago has made a great impact on important issues affecting the BHCC’s students; in particular his commitment to equity in higher education is something that resonates with us at the College.

The BHCC Nurse Education Department was awarded with the Trustees Distinguished Service Award, presented by William J. Walczak, Chair of the BHCC Board of Trustees. The department was recognized for the success of its collaborative leadership, steadfast resolve and decisive actions toward a secure and thriving program, and in recognition of the increased success of their graduates on the NCLEX Examination.

For the past two years, new leadership and the full and ongoing engagement of the Nursing Education program’s faculty and staff were all critical during an intensive reaccreditation process. The program’s faculty and staff have implemented high impact student success, pedagogical and post-graduate student interventions that have achieved immediate results: most notably an NCLEX Examination pass rate of 94% for its fall 2018 graduating class. Dean of Health Sciences Maryanne Atkinson, Assistant Dean Donna Savino, Director Elizabeth Tobin and Associate Professor and Chairperson Kristen Wenger accepted the award.

Also honored at Thursday’s ceremony were faculty speaker Bryan D. Craven, Student Government Association President Joan Acosta Garcia, and President’s Leadership Award recipients Cam Do and Eva Montrond.

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Council Looking to Limit Resident Parking for New Developments

It’s a general consensus among City officials that parking and traffic are among the greatest challenges facing Chelsea.

But the best way to help ease clogged streets and ensure residents aren’t endlessly circling their block to find an open parking spot are open to debate.

The latest proposal is an ordinance introduced by City Council President DamaliVidot and District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop seeking a change in the City’s off-street parking requirements.

Under the proposal, the residents of any development or housing that is granted relief by the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) from the City’s parking requirements won’t be eligible to participate in the residential permit parking sticker program. Already, in Everett, City officials at their ZBA have been requiring new developments or expanded housing units in triple deckers to not participate in their parking sticker program. That tool has proven quite successful over past several months.

The Chelsea proposal will head to the Planning Board for a recommendation before coming back for a public hearing before the City Council.

“This will require any developer that comes into the city to put their money where their mouth is by asking tenants not to participate in the City parking program,” said Vidot.

Bishop said it is unfair that larger developments come into the city and ask for and are granted well below the 1.5 parking spaces per unit required by the City.

“There are too many units and not enough parking,” said Bishop. “Where do you think all those cars go? They go all over the streets, that’s where they go.

“There is very little parking even in areas where there was once parking. This is something we should have done years ago.”

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero said that while developers promote the use of Ubers, Lyfts, and public transportation, the fact is that more development brings more cars into the city.

“There are more cars being registered in our city, our streets can’t support all the cars,” Recupero said.

If developers want to build in Chelsea, Recupero said they should do like they do in Boston and provide parking underneath the units.

Several councillors said there are still some questions about the proposal made by Vidot and Bishop.

Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda asked what would happen with condominiums, where there are owners as opposed to tenants. He also questioned what would happen if developers did provide required parking.

“If they meet the conditions and there are 15 spots for 10 units, would we still allow the parking sticker?” he asked.

Avellaneda said he is supportive of working out more details for a parking plan, and also noted that many of the biggest parking issues come not from the larger developments, but from smaller conversions where parking relief is granted for buildings increasing from one to two or two to three families.

District 3 Councillor Joe Perlatonda said there needs to be a closer look at the overall parking program for the city.

He said the current program, which limits resident sticker parking to 12 a.m. to 5 a.m. is unfair to residents.

“Unless we change the parking program to 24/7, these people are still going to be parking in our streets, and I’m sick of it,” said Perlatonda.

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Rollins Speaks at Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Suffolk County District Attorney announces community meeting in Chelsea on June 19

Rachael Rollins, the dynamic district attorney who became the first female elected to the esteemed Suffolk County position last November, was the guest speaker at the Chamber of Commerce Luncheon Wednesday at the Holiday Inn/Boston Logan Airport Chelsea.

Rollins proved to be as dynamic a speaker as she is a public official.

“The people that are most impacted negatively by the criminal justice system – it has nothing to do with race and almost everything to do with poverty,” Rollins told the luncheon audience. “If you can’t afford somebody who can navigate fluently through the criminal justice system – you are at a significant disadvantage.

“I don’t care what hue your skin is – if you have no money, the system does not work well for you, period, end of story,” said Rollins.

In well-received remarks, Rollins spoke about the DA’s mission as the chief law enforcement office of Suffolk County. She addressed serious issues such as the opioid crisis. She talked about the marijuana industry and law enforcement’s efforts in the field since recreational marijuana became legal in the state.

Chamber President Joseph Mahoney noted Rollins’ achievements as a Division 1 college athlete at UMass/Amherst. While at UMass, she challenged school leaders to increase the number of athletic scholarships given to female students.

Rollins also used the forum to make a major announcement: she will hold a community meeting on June 19 at 6 p.m. at the Chelsea Senior Center.

It is the second such quarterly meeting in the county following the inaugural session in Roxbury. It will be in the style of a state of the union/state of the city, followed by a question-and-answer session.

Councillor-at-Large Leo Robinson and Chelsea Police Community Engagement Specialist Dan Cortez praised Rollins’ initiative to host a community meeting in the city.

“A community meeting on a regular basis is a great idea,” said Robinson, an early supporter of Rollins in her campaign for office. “It follows through on her pledge to be accessible and accountable to our residents. I expect to see a tremendous turnout of people welcoming her to Chelsea on June 19 and learning about the important role the DA’s Office has in our lives.”

Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes was a guest at the luncheon while Roca Assistant Director Jason Owens, who provided an overview of Roca’s efforts during brief remarks, led a delegation from the agency.

Rollins called on Kyes to elaborate on the challenges facing police officers in regard to the new marijuana laws.

“We have individuals in the state, police officers in the state who are known as drug recognition experts (DREs),” said Kyes. “There are only about 200 DREs out of 17,000 police officers, including the State Police. At the end of the day, when an officer sees somebody and they’re unsteady on their feet, bloodshot eyes – they could potentially get probable cause to make an arrest, but then without that DRE to do an added evaluation, when it goes to court, these individuals aren’t getting convicted.

“Right now, some judges will allow the testimony pf a DRE and some will not,” concluded Kyes.

Rollins’ remarks were videotaped by Chelsea Community Cable Television. Executive Director Robert Bradley said the luncheon will begin airing on the cable television station.

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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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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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New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

New Broadway Sign and Design Guidelines Head to City Council for Review

Dr. Deborah Wayne’s optometry shop has been on Broadway in one way or another since 1936, but in 2019 she’s hoping that new City guidelines and a store improvement program will help her shop – and others around it – catapult into the new century.

“You want to see quality businesses and you want them to look like quality businesses,” she said. “I think it’s a fabulous idea. It’s an old storefront. I have a storefront that doesn’t have any grates. We’ve been operating in one location or another on Broadway since 1936 and we’ve never had a grate. I’d do anything to get the grates off the businesses on Broadway. I think they’re ugly. I’m hoping that these regulations go through so I can take advantage of the program. I don’t want to take action and build something that isn’t in compliance. I’m ready to rip the front off my store. I can’t wait.”

She shares the enthusiasm of most of the business community on Broadway, who wholeheartedly support a set of design guidelines for the corridor, as well as a storefront improvement assistance program.

Downtown Coordinator Mimi Graney has proposed the regulations this spring to the Planning Board, and had a hearing on April 1. They will have a stop at the City Council again with a ruling promised in May.

“The goal is to be attractive and be maintained and lit well,” she said. “It’s also transparency of the windows. We’re telling folks not to have the big frosted glass and we would like the business to take down the big metal grates. In a lot of cases, they aren’t necessary because it can done other ways. We can meet the goal of safety and meet the goal of feeling safe and having an attractive façade.”

One of the problems, she said, is that the regulations for signage and façade improvements are woefully outdated – in some cases not allowing simple things like a blade sign. A blade sign is a suspended sign that faces those walking on the sidewalk. Because of the outdated regulations, she said, many store owners are hesitant to make upgrades that could be a code violation.

“The downtown has always been a bunch of things, but the rules never changed so it means the businesses can’t update or maintain their facades,” she added.

Alberto Calvo of Stop & Compare Supermarket said they improved their façade and sign a few years ago, and it made a huge difference. He’s excited to see that happen throughout the business district.

“We’re absolutely excited to see movement toward the revamping of sign ordinances,” offered Calvo, also executive vice president of the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce. “A few years ago, we at Stop & Compare in Chelsea invested significantly to improve our building’s façade and to install updated, modern signage. It has made a marked, positive difference in our foot traffic and sales at that location, and I very much want to see other businesses in the Downtown corridor benefit from these kinds of improvements.”

Chelsea Chamber President Joseph W. Mahoney added, “We do get member businesses, and non-members, too, asking whether there are programs to assist business owners to fund signage and façade improvements. For façades, we know that there is a small program to be made available, but the roll-out of the façade program has been at least a couple of years in the making. Our understanding is that there may also be a cost-sharing program for signage as well. The new signage ordinances still need to be passed by the City Council, so we’ve been telling businesses to sit tight, but be ready. We’ve been saying the same thing to our member and non-member businesses in the signage business. We suggested to Craig Murphy, owner of our member Cambridge Reprographics, start talking to people now.”

“I think businesses are most excited about the potential return of blade signs,” Mahoney elaborated, “those that are perpendicular to the building.” Newburyport’s shopping district is full of those signs.

When one drives down its streets, one can see the businesses’ signs before accidentally passing them. Pedestrians also can spot their destination from a half-block away.

•Another piece of the regulations addresses outdoor or sidewalk dining – which was pioneered by the Ciao! Market on Broadway two summers ago. It was a success, by most accounts, and Graney said they would like to encourage others to try it.

First, however, they wanted to put some standards in place.

The regulations would only allow such dining on sidewalks and they would have to be immediately in front of the business. The furniture would have to be matching and of a high quality. There would have to be a safety plan, and businesses would be responsible for the area. No alcohol service would be allowed for the time being.

Seasonal heaters for outdoor dining are also being considered.

“Realistically, there’s not a lot of space,” she said. “Downtown, where this works, it’s two or three tables or six people. It’s similar to what Ciao! Did on their pilot.”

Addressing the proposed sidewalk dining ordinance, Chamber Executive Director Rich Cuthie was slightly more cautious.

“Edson and Marvin from Ciao Pizza definitely have been the market movers on this and need to be applauded,” he said. “They put in the work and time with the City to test it out. But let’s say it’s a nice summer evening and you and I wanted to have a beer and split a plate of nachos al fresco at a local restaurant on Broadway; maybe an after work meeting or just something social. We sit down at the table and chairs on the sidewalk and then are told, ‘No, sorry. No alcohol is allowed outside.’ Like many people, we’re just going to get up, apologize, and either go to the inside of that restaurant, or another restaurant, or worse, decide to move our meeting or dinner to another town.”

Cuthie said there is no compelling argument for a business owner to make the investment in tables, chairs, and staffing while also having to insure against additional outdoor liabilities if the potential revenues to offset those costs are not there.

“No mistake,” Cuthie continued, “we’re happy and appreciative that the City is moving to try to formally create a path to outdoor dining, but without beer, wine, and cocktails—which by the way are a restaurant’s highest margin offerings and offset food costs, we’re missing the mark and I have to reserve judgment on the initiative’s ultimate success. I don’t want Chelsea to always be 10 years behind other communities. We need proper updating now so that people will say, ‘It’s a beautiful evening, let’s have some margaritas and good Latin food in Chelsea tonight. We’ll decide where we want to eat when we get there, because there are so many outdoor dining choices.’”

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YMCA Teen Mentor and Major Influencer Fuentes Has Built a Huge Following on Social Media

YMCA Teen Mentor and Major Influencer Fuentes Has Built a Huge Following on Social Media

Carlos Fuentes is a flourishing social media star and mentor who is helping inspire others on their own health and fitness journeys.

And when we say star, well, Fuentes has more than 56,000 followers, a number that is growing every day.

Chelsea residents, classmates, and childhood friends will remember him well as the personable and multi-talented member of the Jordan Boys and Girls Club (JBGC), the hard-working and helpful student at CHS (Class of 2009), or the diligent staff member at the Chelsea Collaborative where he worked with administrators Gladys Vega and Roseann Bongiovanni.

Fuentes credited former JGBC Executive Director Josh Kraft for making his visits there a positive and productive experience.

“Josh is definitely a person who helped me,” said Fuentest. “Patricia Manalo was the performing arts director and she was the first one to say to me, ‘it’s okay to put yourself out there and do something different’ “I did ballet, tap, singing, and dancing. She helped me get out my comfort zone and that’s what my current journey has been about.”

Chelsea resident Carlos Fuentes, teen program director at the East Boston YMCA and social media star, is pictured outside the youth development and community sports facility.

Reflecting on his job at the Collaborative, Fuentes said, “Gladys and Rosie are awesome. They gave me my first job. I worked at the Collaborative for five years as an environmental Chelsea organizer.”

One of his childhood highlights was singing at the Zakim Bridge opening ceremonies with superstar Bruce Springsteen.

Fuentes graduated from Wheelock College with a degree in Social Work. While a college junior, he began working at the East Boston YMCA.

Today he is the Teen Program Director at the East Boston YMCA where he oversees relationships with the surrounding middle and high schools and manages the academic credit recovery programs as well as Y teen nights.

In 2016, Fuentes began posting photos of his workouts, attendance at musicals, and his various travels on social media.

“I was doing cardio workouts and then I signed up for personal training at the YMCA,” said Fuentes, who has lost 40 pounds on a three-year fitness program.

Fuentes said one of his transformation photos became an overnight viral sensation, with no less than 800,000 likes overnight.

One of his fans praised his healthy lifestyle and positive attitude, writing, “I believe in you, Carlos.”

Fuentes now posts videos every other day and the demand for more interaction on social media is growing.

“I just recently learned how to swim, so a lot of it is my swimming videos and my working out videos,” said Fuentes, whose father, Jorge Pleitez, is from El Salvador and mother, Suyapa Fuentes, is from Honduras. He has two older brothers, Miguel and Jorge.

Fuentes is part of the LGBT community and he is often sought out for advice by people who consider him an inspiration and a source of support.

James Morton, YMCA of Greater Boston president and CEO lauded Fuentes who is part of a caring, dedicated staff that has made the ‘Y’ a true community resource in East Boston.

“Carlos’ story is truly an inspiration to all,” said Morton, who is an avid runner and fitness advocate himself. “When people join the Y, they are seeking to improve themselves, but in actuality they are also part of creating a better community. The Y helps teens with job training, academic support, and college prep help.”

Ashley Genrich, aquatics director at the East Boston YMCA, taught Fuentes how to swim.

“Carlos is one of hardest workers I’ve ever met in my life,” said Genrich. “He figured it out pretty quickly and was hungry to learn all the different strokes. Now he assists with our swim classes. The kids love him. East Boston is such a family here and Carlos models what it is to be a huge member of the this community and the family. He’s an awesome guy.”

Added Kate Martinez, 17, who works part time in the teen program, “Being at the Y has always felt like a second home because of Carlos. He helps me balance my schoolwork and sports. He’s also given me the opportunity to support other youths with their homework and taking part in ‘Y’ activities.”

Meanwhile, Fuentes is becoming so popular and uplifting across many age groups and lifestyles that he is being approached by clothing companies to promote their products. A local film maker has also reached out to Fuentes for a project.

“I’m trying to see what endorsements are available,” said Fuentes. “The response has been overwhelming. A lot of people on Instagram say they appreciate me being vulnerable. Because of this platform that I have, I am looking to expand my outreach.”

Fuentes said he’s pleased that the East Boston ‘Y’ is attracting members from Chelsea. “It’s great that some of our participants are from Chelsea. I’ve tried to make it known that Chelsea residents are welcomed. My heart has always been Chelsea.”

And Fuentes is happily putting his hometown and the East Boston YMCA on the map through his tremendous following on social media.

With his ability to lead and inspire others, is an entry in to the political arena in his immediate future?

“I’ve thought about it,” he admits. “But not right now.”

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School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

School Committeeman Julio Hernandez Resigns

By Adam Swift and Seth Daniel

In a sudden move, District 5 School Committee member Julio Hernandez has resigned – one of the City’s up-and-coming political figures that many thought had a big future on the Committee.

Hernandez, a Chelsea High graduate, told the Record this week that it was with a heavy heart that he resigned, and he felt it was necessary as he had to work more hours and attend college at the same time.

“When I ran for office, I had more support from my family,” he said. “As rent started getting higher, I knew that I needed more income, and while still being in college, I decided to look at other jobs.

“I loved working in the School Committee, but it also made me angry to see some members not show up to meetings, not ask questions, and not have thorough discussions regarding our students’ education,” he continued. “Student advocacy has always been my platform, to serve all students the right way. From starting the policy of an outdoor graduation, to having the opportunity to work with many teachers who really care about this community. I now believe School Committee Members should be appointed, because our student’s education is no joke.”

Hernandez, 20, said college, family and financial constraints hit all at once this year, and he couldn’t in good conscience serve on the Committee while not being able to show up.

“I know once I’m done with college, I’ll be back to serve the community I love and cherish,” he said. “I want to thank all the people who supported me, and are still supporting me in my time of sorrow.”

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Council President Damali Vidot said Hernandez had given notice to the City Clerk that he would be stepping down as of April.

Because his resignation is more than 180 days from a City Election, Vidot said the City Charter calls for a joint meeting of the Council and the School Committee within 30 days to appoint a replacement. That replacement would serve through the city election in November, when the position will be on the ballot.

“Julio was an incredible leader during his tenure,” said District 5 City Councillor Judith Garcia. “He did an incredible job while on the School Committee and was a great representative for District 5.”

Garcia encouraged anyone from District 5 who is interested to apply for the open seat.

However, Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda said the Council and the School Committee may want to leave the position open until the municipal election.

“I may have some reservations about filling the post,” said Avellaneda. “There’s only one more month until (candidates can) pull papers, and then the election is in November. I feel it may be best to leave the seat unfilled.”

Appointing someone to a short-term on the School Committee would give that person a leg up on other candidates who run for the seat in the general election, Avellaneda said.

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