A Big Request:City Makes Big Ask of MassDOT for Viaduct Project Mitigation

A Big Request:City Makes Big Ask of MassDOT for Viaduct Project Mitigation

By Seth Daniel

Shown in blue is the aea that will be worked on by MassDOT.

Shown in blue is the aea that will be worked on by MassDOT.

City Manager Tom Ambrosino and the City Council have submitted an eye-opening mitigation package to the MassDOT to accommodate the upcoming Chelsea Viaduct project – a major rehabilitation project of the elevated highway leading to the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.

The project is slated to be advertised in 2018 by the state.

In a letter submitted this month, City Manager Tom Ambrosino asked for a total of $1.724 million from MassDOT for various items to make up for the construction project.

“As you know the Route 1 viaduct basically bisects Chelsea, running directly through its dens, environmental justice neighborhoods,” he wrote. “Because of its overwhelming presence in the City, substantial and lengthy reconstruction of the Route 1 viaduct will undeniably yield negative impacts for the City’s residents, businesses and visitors and severely diminish the City’s quality of life.”

He said the project would have substantial disruption to the daily lives of Chelsea residents, including middle school and high school students who routinely walk in the Viaduct area to get the school.

MassDOT said it is early in the design stage and looks to be at about 25 percent by the end of the year. It is considering the letter, but had no further comment than that.

“MassDOT is currently in the early design stage, and is in the process of engaging the public in order to develop a comprehensive construction staging plan that will accelerate construction and minimize disruption to the City of Chelsea and commuters,” said a spokesman for MassDOT. “Additionally, MassDOT is in the process of evaluating the letter from the City of Chelsea and as always, will consider all suggestions that avoid, minimize or mitigate impacts to local business, members of the community and to ensure reliable travel throughout the viaduct area.”

One of the biggest asks is $500,000 to fund a decorative lighting program under the Viaduct. Ambrosino said the lots beneath the Viaduct have historically been very dimly lit and subject to blight and criminal activity. The City is asking for post construction lighting that includes typical street lighting, and also a significant public art and special design program.

“As a commanding presence, the City envisions a spatial design and public art involving up-lighting that would enliven this corridor and lessen the negative attributes associated with the highway,” he wrote.

A second ask is for funding in the amount of $300,000 to re-design and renovate the football stadium and Carter Park – which are cut in half by the Viaduct.

Other mitigation measures include surveillance for parking lots, parking lot improvements under the Bridge for the City, improvements to the Fourth Street off-ramp, residential enhancements to homes abutting the bridge, additional crossing guards for school children, and a contribution to a bike-pedestrian path on the Tobin/Mystic Bridge.

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The Estates on Admiral’s Hill to Hold Holiday Open House Tuesday, Dec 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea

The Estates on Admiral’s Hill to Hold Holiday Open House Tuesday, Dec 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea

The Estates on Admiral’s Hill (www.admiralshill.org) will hold a holiday open house for its two assisted living residences on Tuesday, December 5 from 3pm to 5pm. Amidst holiday treats, lively piano music and hot chocolate by the fireplace, attendees will meet Executive Director Yari Velez and her talented team. One-on-one discussions and personalized tours will be provided as well as the opportunity to meet the current residents.

Located on Admiral’s Hill at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea, The Estates is comprised of two separate residences: Cohen Florence Levine Estates, a traditional assisted living and Florence & Chafetz Home for Specialized Care, a residence for those in need of additional support services.  Amenities include fresh healthy meals, a 24-hour café with home-made baked goods, hair and nail salon, library, living room, great room for concerts and shows, dining room and outdoor courtyard area for seasonal activities.

“This open house is a chance for area residents to personally meet our amazing staff and residents and find out, first hand, what assisted living is all about,” explains Executive Director Yari Velez.  “In addition to personalized tours, we can answer questions about the affordability of assisted living as well as the tax credit program.” She added, “Finding the right place to live for seniors can be a complicated process; our goal is to make the process as easy as possible.”

The open house will be held from 3pm to 5pm on Tuesday, December 5 at 201 Captains Row in Chelsea. To RSVP to the open house and/or schedule a private tour, please call Terry Halliday at 98-854-1825 or email thalliday@chesleajewish.org. thalliday@chelseajewish.org

Chelsea Jewish Lifecare, a highly respected leader in senior living, employs over 1200 people and provides care to over 800 individuals daily, with campuses in Chelsea and Peabody, MA. Offering a full continuum of services, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare (www.chelseajewish.org) is redefining senior care and re-envisioning what life should be like for those living with disabling conditions. The eldercare community includes a wide array of skilled and short-term rehab residences, ALS and MS specialized care residences, traditional and specialized assisted living options, memory care, independent living, adult day health, geriatric care management, home care, personal care and hospice agencies that deliver customized and compassionate care.

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Avellaneda Proposes Planning Process to Change Zoning on Marginal Street

By Seth Daniel

In the wake of a Waterfront Planning Process for the areas next to Chelsea Street Bridge, Councillor Roy Avellaneda has called for the strip of land running along Marginal Street from Highland Avenue to Winnisimmet Street to be re-zoned to provide what he believes are better uses.

In an order presented to the Council on Monday and passed, he called for the City Manager and Planning Department to draft a zoning amendment for the City Council to review within 45 days, adding a Waterfront Residential Commercial Overlay District (WRCOD) to the highly-industrial – though partly residential – area. He said he believes the new overlay district would promote economic development, eliminate blighted properties and encourage residential and commercial uses.

Some of the uses suggested to be allowed in the new district include multi-family dwellings with four or more units, dwellings containing six or fewer units, multifamily dwelling units of 12-35 units per acre, hotels, bakeries, convenience stores, supermarkets, restaurants, banks, cinemas and indoor commercial recreation – to name a few.

In addition, he calls for uses currently allowed by right in the industrial area should only be allowed by special permit, and those allowed now by special permit should be prohibited.

“What I’m doing is taking advantage of the face we’re in this process to look at the waterfront planning,” he said. “This part is not in that study. In the conversation I’ve had with residents down there who live along Marginal Street, they’d like to see less industrial uses – which doesn’t fit waterfront zoning. The things they would like to see are not allowed now, things like commercial mixed use, more larger residential or banks. We should take a look at this piece of land to and allow those things to happen…The current study, again, does not include that area. It’s been cut out…It would be great to envision something for that corridor, which is the front door of our city.”

District 6 Councillor Giovanni Recupero agreed that he believes it’s a good idea.

“I am in favor of it,” he said. “It will make our area much better and it isn’t going to make the taxes go up. All of that isn’t allowed there now. We would have retail and stores with apartments above. All of that makes sense down there.”

Meanwhile, there are rumblings that not everyone agrees with the idea, and it is believed that heavy industrial owners like the warehouse on Essex Street, Eastern Salt and Boston Hides & Furs might have concerns.

Some on the Council had initial concerns as well, though public comments were not yet made on the matter. It will be scheduled for a public hearing at the Planning Board, and later at the Council

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From Brooklyn to Cannes:One Chelsea Dude in An Apartment Makes a Show to be Unveiled in 2016

You never know when things are going to start to get real.

In 2014, 28-year-old Brooklyn filmmaker Ace Salisbury – who was born and raised in Chelsea – decided it was time to put aside all his shooting and editing gigs and finally make his passion project.

“Life is short,” says Ace Salisbury, now 30, and the creator and director of EVERYTHING’S OK, “and I realized the only person who was going to hire me as a director—for the kind of stuff I wanted to direct—was me.”

EVERYTHING’S OK is a live-action/animated hybrid, a do it yourself VFX extravaganza, telling the story of a young woman’s search for her father amid the ruins of New York City 10 years after fracking has caused the apocalypse. The 1 percent still rule, and everyone else walks around in an alternate, happy reality, thanks to “Gogol Glass.”

This disillusioned young woman, however, is on a mission, with the help of a sidekick—the reanimated head of Orson Welles. In a modern-era casting move, Salisbury scoured YouTube and found Arkansas comedian Michael Brown delivering a pitch-perfect Welles impression; it was so good he flew him in and put him up for the shoot.

Once he had everything he needed, money saved up, a green screen, an extensive knowledge of Adobe After Effects software, and a style and vision he had been honing since college—a grungy, 90s-inspired bizarre style, and a slightly grotesque sense of humor—he got to work enlisting people to get the job done.

Salisbury started with production design, calling on his longtime childhood friend, Christopher C.J. O’Connell, a talented and industrious artist with a MacGuyver-like ability to turn garbage into intricate miniature sets, complete with lighting plans and breakaway walls for multiple camera setups. Between Salisbury and O’Connell, a style emerged that could be described as “Cardboard Punk.”

Producer Cameron Bossert hopes this phrase will catch on. Bossert, a producer-director Salisbury had known in college, came aboard to help run the set for the two-week shoot that took place in a single tiny room with two lights, a green screen, a rotating line of actors, and a radiator that wouldn’t turn off. After seeing the potential of the show and of Salisbury’s prodigious talents, he agreed to guide the process of completing the show within 365 days start to finish.

“When we finally screened it privately last month, people were like, ‘Wow, you’ve actually made a real thing,’” he says. “It was amazing because besides Chris’ sets, and the score (by 90s rockstar and Pinback frontman Rob Crow), and a sound mix (by Ian Turner), Ace did absolutely everything else. What should have taken a whole team of people was done by one guy in an apartment, running on a treadmill in the morning, and editing, compositing, animating, and coloring into the night. The fact that all eight episodes are done, and look exactly like the original plan, is kind of a miracle.”

Soon off the excitement of having a finished product, the team submitted, and were accepted into the Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner, where the first episode of the show will be unveiled to the public for the first time.

“I don’t know what to expect,” says Salisbury. “But at the very least it adds to the narrative of our little show that could. Whether we get distribution, or any kind of deal, this is a super exciting way to show people that we’ve made something worth watching.”

Salisbury is the son of Chelsea’s Luke and Barbara Salisbury.

On the set of EVERYTHING'S OK, Chelsea native Ace Salisbury and David Haladjian work out the angles of a shot. Using hard work and determination, Salisbury guided the production of the live action/animated hybrid short film, a film that has been accepted into the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner.

On the set of EVERYTHING’S OK, Chelsea native Ace Salisbury and David Haladjian work out the angles of a shot. Using hard work and determination, Salisbury guided the production of the live action/animated hybrid short film, a film that has been accepted into the Cannes Film Festival’s Short Film Corner.

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Obama in Cuba

The decision by President Obama to open the diplomatic doors to Cuba and begin the process of bringing that nation into the modern world acknowledges something that has been a reality for decades: the Cold War is over.

Yes, the dictatorial regime of the Castro brothers is antithetical to the democratic values we espouse. But there are three points we wish to make:

First, we already deal with many similar countries all over the world. China, Saudi Arabia, and countless other nations do not even remotely resemble the sort of democratic ideal that we profess to believe in. Yet we consider some of these countries our strongest allies and some are our biggest trading partners.

Second, it is our firm belief that as Cuba becomes open to trade and tourism, Cuba will begin to undertake the democratic reforms that we all wish to see occur. The Castro brothers are old men who will not be around much longer. The lesson of history has been that when former Communist leaders pass into the sunset, the desire of the vast majority of their people for freedom will overwhelm those who wish to maintain the status quo. That will be especially true in Cuba, which is just a stone’s throw from our shores and which has so many historical ties to the U.S.

Finally, those in our country who lecture others about the values of freedom and democracy should not be so quick to judge, given that we ourselves hardly live up to the ideals espoused in our Declaration of Independence or our Constitution in countless ways.

As far as we can tell, the only drawback to the President’s Cuban initiatives is that it will not be long before the unspoiled Cuba — both in terms of its natural beauty and its architectural historicity — will be overwhelmed by the false promises and rapaciousness of American capitalism.

Hopefully, Cuba’s future leaders will not succumb to the glitter of American gold and will maintain the integrity of their nation.

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Reimagining Our Waterfront: Chelsea Green Space Encourages Resident Input in Upcoming Meeting on Waterfront Visioning Process

By John Valinch

As City Manager Tom Ambrosino recently noted, Chelsea is a dynamic city that is undergoing a transformative period. Perhaps the most discussed and contested question worth analyzing during this process is how, where, and to what degree Chelsea will undergo development. The Chelsea Waterfront is one area where work is already underway to discuss a comprehensive approach to conceptualizing the future of the space.

Over the past 20-plus years, Chelsea Green Space has engaged the community in efforts to thwart negative developments such as a power plant, ethanol “bomb” trains and other environmental and public health threats. But outside of community-supported processes, has the city, state or any other entity asked us, the residents, what we want for our waterfront? Now is our unique opportunity to act. Chelsea Green Space encourages your participation and involvement.

Recently, the City of Chelsea has contracted the Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) to begin the visioning and planning process for the development of the waterfront. As part of the MAPC’s process, meetings with community residents are now being conducted in order to build consensus and discuss the goals, concerns, and ideas that residents have regarding the opportunities on the waterfront. On March 3, MAPC met with members of the Chelsea Green Space Committee to begin an initial conversation on perspectives on and intentions for this visioning process.

On Wednesday, March 23, Chelsea residents will have their next opportunity to meet with each other and MAPC to continue this conversation on waterfront visioning. A public workshop will be facilitated by MAPC at the Chelsea Senior Center at 10 Riley Way from 6-8 p.m., and will serve to gather input from community residents as well as allow residents to hear proposals from MAPC on developmental possibilities. In particular, MAPC will be providing examples of potential plans to develop the waterfront in such a way so as to balance various stakeholder interests.

At the conclusion of this series of meetings, the MAPC will be tasked with consolidating the information gathered during the various sessions and producing a proposal to be submitted to the city for approval. As MAPC is contracted by the City of Chelsea for this monumental work, it is of the utmost importance that residents attend the meetings to produce an authentic voice that reflects our current residents’ needs and perspectives on the future of the waterfront space.

The November municipal elections here in Chelsea demonstrated a resounding commitment to a particular thematic issue: development. With the new council now in office for just over three months, the time is now upon us within the community to engage with our councillors, each other, and MAPC to raise the standards by which our community mobilizes and communicates on issues of development. In order to ensure that Chelsea develops equitably, sustainably, and transparently, residents must become informed on and active in the various initiatives throughout the city.

Building our community does not stop at your polling location with the official you elected, but is instead an active process of planning, outreach, and consensus building. If re-imagining our waterfront is important to you, clear your calendars for just two hours on March 23 to engage in this timely and essential conversation. Let’s build a waterfront that works for our community, protects our residents, and expands upon Chelsea’s resource network.

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Three said to be Seeking Council President Post

As the new configuration of the Council approaches a January inauguration, already plenty of politicking is being done to secure the transformed body’s new leader.

Council President Leo Robinson will be one incumbent who is returning to the Council, but it is typically frowned upon for one to seek a second term. He also apparently lacks the support even if he were pursuing it, which he isn’t.

That leaves three councillors who are now jockeying for the post, including Councillor-election Roy Avellaneda, Councillor Giovanni Recupero and Councillor Matt Frank.

The process will work itself out next month when the returning Council members and the newly elected members will sit down for a caucus on the subject. At that point, those in the room will pledge their support to their choice for president. The first to receive a majority will be tabbed as the designated choice. However, an official vote does not take place until right after the inauguration in January. Things can certainly change in that period of time, but the custom has been to stick with the caucus.

Avellaneda, who has been on the Council previously, said he is pursuing the post.

“I am pursuing council president and I’ve had a couple of conversations asking for support,” he said. “No one has officially committed yet. I hope they’ll look at my experience and willingness to work with everybody and the way I’ve been trying to consult them in getting prepared for the Council as a true sign of a leader. It’s not locked in yet. A few would support me and others are thinking about it.”

Councillor Matt Frank said he is actively pursuing it, and was the president just two years ago before Robinson.

“I am publicly poking around about it,” he said. “I would like to be president again. When I was president previously we opened up a lot of what we did and brought a lot of new people into the Chambers…I was fair with my colleagues, even those I disagreed with. I’ll work with everybody regardless. I have the track record to show for it and I’m open to the public.”

Talk around the coffee table indicated that Frank may have Councillor-elect Damali Vidot’s vote already in place, as he made a late season endorsement of her candidacy just prior to the election. Some have indicated that was a quid-pro-quo agreement, but neither confirmed that.

Meanwhile, Recupero did not publicly acknowledge his bid for president, but others have mentioned he is looking for support.

It is believed he might have the support of some of the incumbents on the Council and some of the newcomers that he helped in the past election.

Of course, nothing is set in stone on this internal Council scramble until much later next month, and just about anything can happen until the caucus is convened.

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Election is Cemented, Primary to be Sept. 22

Eight candidates have been certified for the ballot this week in the Council at-Large race, officially triggering a Primary Election in at-Large for the first time since 2003.

City Clerk Debbie Clayman confirmed that all eight candidates had been certified over the past week, and that a Sept. 22 Primary Election would take place.

Council President Leo Robinson has called a Special Meeting of the Council on Aug. 31 to approve the warrant for a Primary Election, setting the process in place.

Candidates for the three at large seats – with one vacancy due to the retirement of Councillor Brian Hatleberg – include:

  • Calvin Brown (incumbent)
  • Leo Robinson (incumbent)
  • Damali Vidot
  • Todd Taylor
  • John Cadiz
  • Roy Avellaneda
  • Deborah Washington
  • James O’Regan Jr.

Already, a Primary Election in District 5 had already been a certainty and will also take place on Sept. 22. The three candidates in that race are:

  • Joe Perlatonda (incumbent)
  • Henry Wilson
  • Judith Garcia

Several other District Council seats are contested and several School Committee seats are also contested, but those elections will not take place until the November City Election.

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Waterfront Development Plan to be Considered this Month

The ongoing process to begin considering development for part of the Chelsea Creek waterfront will be considered this month by the Economic Development Board and, likely brought to a vote, later this month.

Since earlier this spring, a local and state process has been underway to begin discussions about developing a portion of land on the waterfront from Willow Street to the Chelsea Street Bridge. The City has engaged since that time in an overall plan, and the state has also begun a longer process to remove the area from the Designated Port Area (DPA) district.

Planning Director John DePriest said the City is hoping to do a land swap.

Currently, the City owns 324 Marginal St. – a large swath of land across from the Creek that is now leased to Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The City hopes to make a land swap with a developer who wishes to build a large parking garage on the waterfront site – just next to the bridge where there is now a brick wall. The City hopes to be able to allow the developer to build the garage on the Marginal Street site off the water, get title to the waterfront parcel and open it up to hotel development and waterfront park access.

“We’re in the process of working up that plan now,” said DePriest. “We expect to hold an Economic Development Board meeting later this month to put the finishing touches on the plan and vote to endorse the plan…The plan is practical and shows how to achieve what we want. The end goal is a land swap to allow the City to gain access to a waterfront parcel. Our feeling is a parking garage on the waterfront restricts access to the water and the waterfront for a long time. It would be better on the other side and off the water.”

The Council would also have to endorse the plan, and a tentative date for the Economic Development Board is scheduled for July 23.

DePriest said a hotel developer has already expressed interest in obtaining a portion of that waterfront site to build another hotel. Word on the street is that the developer is Colwen Hotels, which has already built several hotels in Chelsea, but that could not yet be confirmed.

Another one acre site on the waterfront parcel, DePriest said, would be reserved for some sort of park or activation zone.

“We would really like residents to gain some sort of access to the waterfront, whether it’s a park or a building or something like that,” he said. “We don’t really have that access to the water now.”

On the state front, the DPA process is still ongoing and is separate from the City’s land swap plan.

The state is expected to issue a draft report on the DPA removal in October or November. That will result in a 30-day comment period, and then a Draft Final Report in December, with another 30-day comment period.

An overall Harbor Plan would likely come 12 to 18 months afterward.

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First City Manager Vote to Come Monday Amidst Council Unrest

First City Manager Vote to Come Monday Amidst Council Unrest

The first vote for the City Manager position – a process that has come down to two finalists – will come on Monday night following a whirlwind of activity this Saturday when the Council will hold a community input meeting and will interview both candidates publicly.

“We have a vote scheduled for Monday night,” said Council President Leo Robinson. “Even on Saturday, we could have scheduled a vote, but it’s a special meeting and I wanted to let everyone digest things and then come back on Monday to vote. We were elected to make this decision. We’ve been at this six months now and it’s time.”

That Monday night vote will be preceded by a lot of activity at City Hall on Saturday, beginning with a community input meeting from 9-9:45 a.m. Residents will be able to give input to councillors, and suggest questions.

Then, at 10 a.m., Finalist Tom Ambrosino will be interviewed by the Council for 90 minutes. Following that, Finalist Mark Rees will be interviewed for 90 minutes.

During interviews, the public will not be able to interact with the process, but they will be able to observe.

“Once we are interviewing the candidates, we’re only ones interacting with the candidates,” said Robinson. “The public cannot interact with the candidates or the city councillors during the interviews. They can be there and observe though.”

While the process has now become clear and laid out, it only arrived there after a fair amount of controversy.

A meeting on Wednesday, May 27, was held at City Hall for the Council to try to figure out the process, but the decisions made there didn’t seem to hold water this week.

At Monday night’s Council meeting, an order was put in to have the community meeting and interviews on June 6, which was just five days away.

Several councillors voiced their displeasure with the date, and several others said it was time to get moving in the process.

A call came for having no community meeting and only interviews on Tuesday, June 9, but that was shot down in a 4-7 vote.

Another motion to have a Council subcommittee meeting and community meeting on June 8, and then the interviews on June 9, was also shot down in a 5-6 vote.

The plan to have the community meeting and interviews this Saturday, June 6, ended up winning the day by a vote of 10-1. Councillor Paula Barton voted against, but a handful of other councillors reluctantly voted in favor.

One of those was Councillor Matt Frank, who said afterward he was disappointed with the process and the quick meeting called for Saturday.

“If our goal is to get people involved, four days notice on a Saturday morning the day before graduation in the summertime seems like a weird time to go with it,” he said. “The frustrating part is I formally requested a meeting months ago to work out this timetable. Now, we decide to have a meeting four days in advance and that leaves a bitter taste in my mouth…It doesn’t seem responsible and adds to my concerns with how the process has played out.”

Another point of contention was how to decide which candidate would go first in the interview process.

At Monday night’s meeting, Robinson moved to pick names on camera during regular session in front of everyone. Several councillors rebuffed the idea though, as it wasn’t exactly what had been discussed previously. Some said it came at the wrong time during the meeting, during the public speaking portion.

Councillors had agreed last week to potentially call the candidates in for interviews, pick the order right there, and have both candidates sit in on both interviews. The idea was frowned upon by the City’s search firm, the Collins Center, which suggested changing that decision.

“It got all garbled there when Councillor Robinson wanted to pick names out of a hat,” said Frank. “I got up and left on purpose. I chose not to be on camera for that while he was doing that.”

Council Vice President Dan Cortell said he was uncomfortable with that too, and didn’t exactly like how the process of scheduling meetings took place.

“That came during the Public Speaking portion of the meeting and that’s not really when you would facilitate that sort of thing,” he said. “As vice president, I was surprised. I was the last person to talk about that and I saw a lot of nods…We left the room and thought things were not going to happen that way…My big procedural thing or question is the picking of the names. There’s something that doesn’t sit right. It is surprising.”

Robinson said he discontinued that part of the plan, and did not pick the order Monday night.

Instead, he consulted City Solicitor Cheryl Watson, who advised him that he had the authority as president to pick the order himself.

“We had lost an entire day on that,” he said. “I got the opinion and Cheryl said I absolutely had the power to do it, so I got two people from human resources and Rich Cuthie and Paul Casino from City Hall and we picked the order right there.”

After learning about that, Cortell and Frank were both unhappy with that process, both said. They said several things changed between last week and this week without a lot of Council input.

Robinson said things had to change because the original plan to interview both candidates at the same time wouldn’t work.

“Right now, I’d be sitting and holding two names and telling them both to come at 9 a.m. on Saturday,” he said. “If I went at 9 and got second and had to sit outside for 90 minutes waiting, I would be saying, ‘Do I want to work for these people?’ That’s the danger we ran into with that.

“If a guy has an interview at noon, he’s not going to show up at 9 a.m. to sit around,” he continued. “He’s going to get there at 11:15 or 11:30 and Stephen McGoldrick from the Collins Center will be there to welcome him and have him wait in the City Manager’s office. He’s not going to be privy to any questions. They’re professional people and we have to show them we’re professional people too.”

Things will get started early on Saturday, and the public is encouraged to come at 9 a.m. to provide input to the Council. All questions and comments will be considered.

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