Chelsea Rehabs Its City Seal

Chelsea Rehabs Its City Seal

So much happens within every municipality that needs to be shared: upcoming events, new initiatives, important updates, celebrations of success.  And there’s myriad ways in which each department of City Hall interfaces with the public in routine ways, from applications for parking permits to business licenses, to simple correspondence to the uniforms of Department of Public Work employees  repairing the streets. Inherent in all of this communication is a message about how the municipality functions. Each represents an opportunity to say something about the City of Chelsea itself. 

The new Chelsea City Seal features a more appropriate figure and a consistent design.

To make the most of these opportunities, the City of Chelsea has just released a Style Guide that details the specific graphic style for all communications from the ten City Hall departments and nearly twenty boards and commissions. The goal of the effort is to establish a consistent brand identity that’s professional, clear, and attractive. The guide details typography, colors, photography and formatting that together create a distinctive look for City Hall’s print and digital materials. For administrative staff at City Hall, a suite of templates facilitate the quick creation of regularly needed materials within the established style. The refreshed documents include letterhead and envelopes, agendas and minutes, business cards and brochures, forms and flyers, reports and PowerPoint slide decks.

The underlying goal of the project is that quality, consistent design will demonstrate a unified voice whenever expressed by an agent of Chelsea’s city offices. Quality design demonstrates competence and professionalism. Through a clear graphic identity the public will be able to better recognize services provided by municipal government.

Over the past eight months, a team of City Hall staff representing a variety of departments worked with design consultant, Catherine Headen, to develop the guide. After reviews, working sessions and a special event with City Hall staff the completed Guide and templates are formally released this week.

A major aspect of the work was refining of the City Seal. Over the decades numerous changes had led to an evolution of the design, drifting the illustration away from the original as detailed in the banner hanging Chelsea’s City Council Chambers. When the team began, nearly a dozen different images were in use as a City Seal across municipal departments. The design details had changed so significantly that the group was surprised to discover lost elements prescribed within the City Charter: “The following shall be the device of the corporate seal of the city: A representation within a circle of a shield surmounted by a star, the shield bearing upon it the representation of an American Indian chief and wigwams; at the right of the shield, a sailboat such as was formerly used for ferriage; at the left of the shield, a view of the city and a steam ferryboat; under the shield, the word “Winnisimmet;” around the shield, the words “Chelsea, settled 1624; a Town 1739; a City 1857.”

The unveiling of the new look with take place over time. City staff will continue to use the print materials already on hand but will use the new templates for all their future materials. The new style is intended for the main City Hall departments and doesn’t extend to the City’s Police and Fire departments or to the schools.

Read More

Parking Study Comes In at More Than $200,000

Parking Study Comes In at More Than $200,000

A parking study asked for by the City Council has had few interested takers, and the only bid on the study has come in at an exorbitant $210,000.

The Council called for a parking study to be done for the entire City late last year, and the City began work on getting a consultant in place through a Request for Proposals (RFP) process.

However, City Manager Tom Ambrosino said there was only one bidder, Howard Stein Hudson (HSH), and they only bid on a portion of the city rather than the entire city.

“HSH believes that a parking study encompassing the entire City of Chelsea will be too big and likely too expensive of an undertaking,” wrote Ambrosino. “Instead, HSH is proposing that, in addition to the downtown, it would identify only a few other target neighborhoods for study. I don’t know if the Council would be satisfied with that limitation.”

The other piece of the puzzle is the cost.

Ambrosino said the cost of HSH’s limited proposal was $210,780.

“That is much more than we anticipated, and I don’t know if the Council is prepared to expend that sum,” he wrote.

Ambrosino called for the Council to convene subcommittee to talk about next steps. He said they could accept the expensive proposal from HSH, or they could re-big the project and hope to get more proposals.

A date is being set for the committee meeting.

•City Manager Tom Ambrosino is recommending against taking the trash collection operations in-house, a proposal floated by the Council last month.

He said the City’s Department of Public Works had made some initial calculations that showed it would be about the same costs to bring it in-house as it would be to continue using its contractor, Russel Disposal.

“The (figures) make clear that there are no obvious savings by taking the work in-house,” he wrote. “Our best estimate is that annual costs would probably be somewhat greater than what we pay to Russell.”

However, many of the concerns of the Council, including Councilor Enio Lopez, came from the mish-mash quality of pickup.

Ambrosino said he understood those concerns, but didn’t believe taking the operations in-house would improve the mistakes that are made.

“It is my opinion that, given the nature of the trash business, where litter, rough handling of barrels and occasional missed deliveries are inevitable no matter who is performing the work, bringing this work in-house would not demonstrably improve quality, at least not to the extent where any improvement would be noticeable to our residents.”

He said he would not recommend any change.

However, he did not close the door on taking other functions in-house.

He said he isn’t opposed to bringing things like some water and sewer work back in-house.

“I feel strongly that we should probably take in-house certain water, sewer and drainage work that we currently outsource,” he said. “But, in the case of that utility work, I can definitively show that the City will save substantial money doing the work ourselves, and I do believe the quality will be a noticeable improvement to our residents.”

However, he said he doesn’t believe the same to be true for the trash realm.

Read More

Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop Launch Region-wide Community Health Needs Assessment

Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop Launch  Region-wide Community Health Needs Assessment

For the first time, Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are combining forces to conduct a comprehensive regional Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) and design a Community Health Implementation Plan (CHIP). Major hospitals, along with health centers, human services providers and non-profits that serve area residents, are working with municipal leaders, health departments and the boards of health of each community to develop the plan. Residents of the three communities are being urged to go online and fill out a survey that asks about local health issues and other aspects of community life.

The effort is being co-coordinated by the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative and the Mass General Hospital Center for Community Health Improvement (CCHI) with the ultimate goal of identifying, prioritizing and addressing the most urgent health needs faced by each community and the region. Such assessments are often used to apply for targeted funding to help address community needs.

Every three years, most hospitals conduct a community health needs assessment to meet requirements set by the Affordable Care Act. The Massachusetts Attorney General also requires such a report and is encouraging regional collaboration among stakeholders, including among healthcare systems who share the same service areas. “This is one of the first regional assessments of its type in Massachusetts,” said Jeff Stone, Director of the North Suffolk Public Health Collaborative. “Mayor Arrigo, Chelsea City Manager Tom Ambrosino and Winthrop Town Manager Austin Faison realize that public health conditions don’t respect borders, and, working together we can solve some of our health challenges more effectively.”

“The North Suffolk Community Health Needs Assessment is critical for the City of Chelsea,” said City Manager Ambrosino. “Not only will it provide the information necessary for Chelsea to better understand our residents’ public health needs, but it will also enable us to properly prioritize resources to better address those needs. We encourage all of our residents to participate in upcoming surveys, forums and interviews.”

The collaborators have set an ambitious timeline. The CHNA and CHIP will be completed by Sept. 30, 2019, and will result in a guide for a three-year community health improvement plan that all providers can use. The process includes intensive data collection–hundreds of resident surveys, interviews and focus groups as well as collecting data from other agencies such as the MA Department of Public Health and the US Census.

A website has been created, www.northsuffolkassessment.org, to provide information to anyone who may be interested. People who live or work in Chelsea, Revere and Winthrop are encouraged to complete a survey. It is available in English, Spanish, Portuguese and Arabic, reflecting the languages most frequently spoken in the communities.

Read More

‘A Dream Come True’: New Children’s Librarian Always Envisioned Helping Chelsea Kids

‘A Dream Come True’: New Children’s Librarian Always Envisioned Helping Chelsea Kids

New Children’s Librarian Katherine Palencia said landing the position at the Library is a dream come true for her.

When new Children’s Librarian Katherine Palencia sits at her desk in the basement of the Chelsea Public Library near the Children’s Rooms, it’s a place that has been familiar to her since she was a little girl – coming to the library with her mother and experiencing a safe, learning environment.

Now she has been hired as the new full-time librarian after having worked part-time at the library for about 10 years, and is excited to share her love of reading with a new generation of Chelsea kids.

“I didn’t want to leave Chelsea because my family is here and my memories are here,” she said. “I don’t want to work in any other area. I want to help Chelsea grow and I want to be part of the growth…This position is a dream come true for me. I worked here in high school and came back after college and have been here since 2011. It’s a dream come true because I believe in what the library provides – the education and the free access to information. I enjoy seeing kids excited about reading or coming to work on their homework. I want to help them out. It’s a dream come true because I have always seen myself here.”

Palencia attended St. Rose School as a girl, and then went to the Williams Middle School. She attended Chelsea High School and graduated in 2007. She graduated from Salem State and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Library Science at Cambridge College.

Palencia said her memories of the Chelsea Library are very comforting, and she hopes to be able to pass that on.

“I think it was the people who made it very special,” she said. “They had great relationships with my mother coming in here and being able to feel comfortable and to ask questions. They always quenched the curiosity I had.”

Palencia has been spearheading the English as a Second Language program that meets on Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m., and now she has expanded that to working in the Children’s area.

She said her big push right now is for the upcoming Summer Reading Program.

“I am already really excited about summer reading,” she said. “I am looking for any local businesses wanting to collaborate with the Chelsea Public Library to donate prizes. It could be as simple as a free ice cream cone, or as much as a free bike – which the Knights of Pythias donated last year.”

She said they will be bringing back the story times soon, and will have a full range of winter and spring activities soon as well.

“I’m a life-long Chelsea resident and also very proud to be Latina,” she said. “I’m happy that we can bring in more Spanish speakers. Our staff does a great job and we have so many knowledgeable people to help accommodate everyone.”

Cutline – New Children’s Librarian Katherine Palencia said landing the position at the Library is a dream come true for her. Having fond memories of attending the library as a girl, she said she is excited to pass that on to a new generation of Chelsea kids.

Read More

Community Preservation Projects Ready to Get Underway

Community Preservation Projects Ready to Get Underway

The deadline to apply for the pilot round of grant funding for Community Preservation Act (CPA) funds is fast approaching, with eligibility forms for potential projects due to City Hall by Wednesday, Feb. 13.

On Thursday, Jan. 31, the Community Preservation Committee held the first in a series of public informational sessions and application workshops centered around the draft Community Preservation Plan and the pilot round of funding. A public hearing on the plan itself is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 21 at the Chelsea Senior Center at 7 p.m.

For the pilot round only, applications will be limited to $50,000.

“We are doing this pilot program so we can get a better understanding of how the process will work and not having the committee approve huge amounts of money until we streamline the process,” said Karl Allen of the city’s Planning and Development Office.

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. The CPA trust fund currently has a balance of just over $2.2 million.

“Part of our mission is to build our capacity in the community and to build the funds,” said Allen. “We have a low bar of entry for anyone who wants to apply.”

Last week’s workshop was geared toward helping pave the way for individuals or groups who want to apply for CPA funds, or who simply are interested in seeing what types of projects are eligible for the funds.

“We want to use the taxpayer’s money in a thoughtful way,” said Anna Callahan, a community planner at JM Goldson, the City’s consultant for the Community Preservation Plan.

In addition to limiting the grants to $50,000 in the pilot program, Callahan said the CPC is looking for projects that are shovel ready by the summer or fall of this year.

The first step for anyone interested in the pilot program is to complete a one-page project eligibility form by Feb. 13. Those eligibility forms will help determine if the proposed projects could be allowed under the CPA.

The next step is a more involved application due to Allen by Wednesday, April 3.

The CPA prioritizes projects where the applicant has control over the property or land for a proposal, Callahan said.

The best tactic with those with potential project ideas is to work with Allen and the CPC, Allen said.

“Ideally, if you have an idea, you can write it up quickly on the eligibility form and you can bring it to a workshop,” Allen said.

The last informational CPA information session before the eligibility forms are due is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9 at the Chelsea Senior Center at 1 p.m.

There are also application workshops for the longer process scheduled to take place at the Chelsea Public Library on Wednesday, March 13 at 6 p.m. and on Saturday, March 23 at 1 p.m.

CPA funds can be used for community housing, historic preservation, or open space and recreation needs.

The CPC is broadly recommending that 40 percent of the funds be allocated to community housing, 15 percent to historic preservation, 25 percent to open space and recreation and 15 percent as undesignated and available for any type of project, according to CPC Chairman Jose Iraheta.

The remaining 5 percent is reserved for administrative expenses.

In addition to groups and individuals, the City is also eligible to apply for CPA funding.

The CPC must present any and all ideas before City Council for approval after creating a Community Development Plan. The City Council retains the power to approve, deny or lower the allotted funds for project ideas.

Callahan said the CPC favors projects where there is site control, demonstrated community support, an ability to implement the project, and a focus on public accessibility.

“The CPA really reflects the community’s needs,” she said.

City Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda pushed for placing the CPA on the city ballot in 2016 and said he has been closely following the CPC’s progress. “I’m thrilled that we are where we are right now,” he said.

Read More

Supt. Bourque Says Governor’s Budget Increases Still Aren’t Enough

Supt. Bourque Says Governor’s Budget Increases Still Aren’t Enough

Gov. Charlie Baker brought a short smile to the face of many when he unveiled an increase in education funding in his State Budget proposal two weeks ago, but this week Supt. Mary Bourque said the proposal needs to go further for cities like Chelsea.

“Although a step in the right direction for public education and in particular gateway cities, the Governor’s FY20 budget does not go nearly far enough,” she wrote in a letter on Feb. 6.

Bourque said the Chelsea Public Schools are facing another year where they will likely – as it stands now – have to cut another $2 million from their budget. That falls upon multiple years of cuts that have weighed cumulatively on the schools and taken away core services from students.

One of the problems is that salaries, health insurance and special education costs are rising so quickly. This year, she said, they are looking at increases in those areas of $5.2 million.

Gov. Baker’s budget proposal steers an increase of $3.2 million to Chelsea over last year, but in the face of rising costs, that still leaves the schools in the red.

It’s yet another year of advocacy for the schools to fix the Foundation Formula – an exercise that has seemingly played out without any success for at least five years.

“Once again we are facing another year of painful budget cuts because the foundation formula used to calculate aid to our schools is broken,” she wrote. “The formula from 1993 has not kept up with inflation, changing demographics or increased student needs. I am however, encouraged this year that all leaders at the State level have acknowledged that the formula is broken, including for the first time the Governor.”

Bourque also spelled out the complex nature of the Chelsea Schools, including numerous factors that are contributing to the reduction in funding.

One of the most startling situations is that there are fewer kids, and with education funding based on numbers of kids, that translates to even less money for the schools.

Bourque said this year they have begun to identify a downward trend in enrollment for the first time in years. She said fewer kids are coming in from outside the U.S. and families are leaving Chelsea for areas with lower rents and costs of living.

“In addition to the foundation formula undercounting critical costs, a significant portion of this year’s $2 million dollar gap is due to student demographic shifts taking place in our schools,” she wrote. “We are seeing a downward trend in student enrollment…This year we have noted fewer students entering our schools from outside the United States as well as a number of students and families moving from Chelsea due to the high cost of living in the Boston area.” The Chelsea Public Schools under the City Charter have until April 1 to submit their balanced budget. Bourque said they plan to lobby members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the meantime to fix the funding gaps that now exist.

Read More

2019 Black History Month

2019 Black History Month

ALL EVENTS ARE FREE AND OPEN TO THE PUBLIC

February 1st Friday 6pm. Kick Off for Chelsea Black History Month Activities

Gallary 456 – Store Front Exhibit of Black Historical Figures of Chelsea

456 Broadway, Chelsea, MA

Continuation of Exhibit at Chelsea Public Library: Black Migration, WWI,

Chelsea Fire. 569 Broadway, Chelsea, MA

February 5th Tuesday 5 – 7pm. City Hall Art Reception. Art, Poetry, African and African

American Artifacts. Chelsea City Hall, 500 Broadway, Chelsea, MA

February 7th Thursday 12pm and 6pm. Bunker Hill Community College, “Tuskeegee

Airmen”Documentary and Discussion. 70 Everett Avenue, Chelsea

February 19th Monday 5pm. Iglesia la Luz de Cristo. The Councilors Cook Off

Community Dinner. 738 Broadway, Chelsea, MA

February 21st Thursday 12pm. Senior Center – Maya Angelou – Poet and Civil Rights

Hidden Figure. Celebration of Phenominal Women

10 Riley Way, Chelsea, MA

February 22nd Friday 6 – 8pm. Evening of Performing Arts, Clark Avenue School

8 Clark Avenue, Chelsea, MA

February 23rd Saturday 11 – 12:30pm. STEM, Chelsea Public Library

569 Broadway, Chelsea, MA (parent and child participation)

February 26th Tuesday 6 – 8pm. New England Gospel Ensemble

Bunker Hill Community College, Charlestown Campus A300 Auditorium

February 28th Wednesday 5 – 8pm. Black History Month Celebration

Keynote Speaker – Suffolk District Attorney Rachael Rollins

Special Recognition Honoring – “Chelsea Trailblazers

Williams Middle School. 180 Walnut Street, Chelsea, MA

ALL EVENTS PLANNED IN COLLABORATION WITH CHELSEA BLACK COMMUNITY, BLACK HISTORY MONTH PLANNING COMMITTEE, LEWIS H. LATIMER SOCIETY, BUNKER HILL COMMUNITY COLLEGE, CHELSEA SENIOR CENTER, CHELSEA PUBLIC SCHOOLS, CITY OF CHELSEA.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Chelsea Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Mass Cultural Council, a state agency.

Read More

An Amazing Job:Supt Mary Bourque Announces Retirement Plans for 2019

An Amazing Job:Supt Mary Bourque Announces Retirement Plans for 2019

School Supt. Mary Bourque announced this week that she will retire from the Chelsea Public Schools within the coming year, an announcement that few expected outside of Bourque’s inner circle.

Bourque met with the Human Resources Subcommittee of the School Committee on Thursday night, Dec. 20, and informed them of her decision to retire in December 2019.

“I am giving the School Committee 12 months’ notice to give them time to unify around a process to look for and support the next superintendent,” she wrote. “As for me, I will continue over the next 12 months to advocate, champion, and innovate for all our students, families, and staff. I will continue to build the systems that will outlive all of us. Together, we will continue to have Chelsea’s presence known and heard at the State House advocating for equal access, opportunities, social justice, and adequate funding. We will as Chelsea educators continue to be known and highly respected.”

The news traveled fast throughout the community, and many praised the job Bourque has done over the last seven years as superintendent.

“Mary has done an amazing job and her position is not easy,” said Council President Damali Vidot. “Every year she has to do more with less resources. Chelsea has been going through a lot of changes  and with her retirement, it’s an opportunity to get another person who has some connection to Chelsea or has a connection to the demographics of the school system. It’s a very hard job.”

Bourque didn’t elaborate on what her post-retirement plans are, but even after having served more than 30 years in the Chelsea Schools, she is not at the typical retirement age.

She said she would continue to serve Chelsea students in the field of education, perhaps hinting at a larger state-wide position.

“Upon retirement I plan to continue to serve Chelsea students and all children in the Commonwealth through the field of education,” she wrote. “I am and have always been a wife, mother, and teacher; I will never stop being all three. I still have much to contribute to the world of education and much to learn. I will never stop giving back and seeking to make the world a more equitable place for our students and families.”

Likewise, she said she has given advance notice so that she can support the School Committee in the superintendent search process. She stated she is fully committed to supporting the School Committee as they begin and carry out a “robust” search for a new superintendent. She also said she would be around to help put together a transition plan.

“My goal for all of us is that this transition will be smooth and seamless; we will not lose ground in all that we have built and achieved,” she wrote. “Our Chelsea Public Schools Five-Year Vision will be attained.”

Bourque was chosen as superintendent in 2011, and has served in that role since. Prior to that, she was the leader of the Clark Avenue School when it became transitioned to the old high school, and she was a teacher for many years before that.

Bourque has deep roots in Chelsea, and still lives in the city – as do many of her relatives.

Read More

GreenRoots Talks with Senior Citizens about Public Transit

GreenRoots Talks with Senior Citizens about Public Transit

There has been no shortage of discussion about what people think about public transportation service in Chelsea, but many of those conversations don’t always include the elderly, and that is one of the largest populations to use the service.

On Monday morning, GreenRoots staff and a graduate student from Boston University gathered to speak to seniors in a multi-lingual, confidential discussion about what needs to be improved.

“We wanted to have this conversation because so many seniors depend on public transportation,” said Sarah Levy of GreenRoots. “We want to know what is working and what is not working. We hope this will being a conversation on how to improve public transportation for you all. It’s not going to be us coming one time and going away.”

The group was lively and many seniors turned out for the meeting.

Some of the answers were unique to the older popular.

“The strollers are often a problem for us,” said one woman. “Seniors get on with canes or walkers and the baby strollers block the space. When the bus starts going, they can’t get to a seat because the strollers slow them down. They can fall down.”

Added one woman, “I would suggest that they have strollers get on in back. That gives more space for seniors in the front.”

Another request was to educate the young people and adults about getting up to provide a seat for an elderly person.

“I hope the T can have an educational campaign to better let young people know that they are supposed to get up and provide a seat for an elderly or handicapped person,” said one man.

By and large, though, the biggest complaint for seniors was the infrequent service and the inaccurate time schedule.

“If you don’t come at the right time, you have to wait another hour,” said one woman. “The 111 is usually ok, but the 116, 117 and 112 are always late and they are too crowded. Sometimes you can’t get on because it’s full and then you have to wait an hour for another bus.”

Added another woman, “Many people are left behind because the buses are so crowded. They are left standing there in the cold because there is no room for them.”

Other major concerns were:

  • There needs to be more places to get a Charlie Card in Chelsea.
  • The MBTA needs to schedule a time to come to Chelsea to do photos for Senior ID Passes.
  • There needs to be more regular 111 buses and fewer 111C buses.
  • The Chelsea loop bus to the Mystic Mall needs to be more predictable, and it needs to also go to the Parkway Plaza.

Read More