After more than two and a half years of negotiations, the City is on the verge of a new contract with its two police unions that will see pay increases of up to three percent and implement residency requirements for new hires.
Monday night, City Manager Thomas Ambrosino requested the City Council approve the contracts, which are retroactive to Fiscal year 2017. The Council forwarded the request to its subcommittee on conference, and will take up an official vote on the contracts at a future meeting.
The collective bargaining agreements are for the unions which represent police superior officers and patrol officers.
“Both deals encompass four years, made up of two separate contracts: a one year deal for FY17; and a subsequent three year deal for FY 19-FY20,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the City Council.
The contracts include a retroactive salary increase of 2.5 percent for FY17 and 3 percent for FY18 and FY19. There is also a 3 percent increase slated for FY20 and an additional 1 percent increase that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.
All told, the retroactive salary increases total about $876,000.
“I strongly recommend that the City Council support these agreements, which have been the subject of lengthy negotiations spanning more than two and a half years,” Ambrosino stated. “We set aside in Salary Reserve for the resolution of these two agreements a total of $700,000. Accordingly, we will need an additional appropriation from Stabilization of $176,000 to satisfy these contractual commitments.”
The salary hikes are the only cost item in the new contracts, according to the City Manager. Other items in the contracts related to longevity, detail pay, sick leave incentive, and clothing allowance are limited to clarifications or minor changes and do not add any additional costs to the City, he added.
The percentage increases for salary are slightly more than those other City Hall unions have received, Ambrosino said.
“However, in return, the City did secure new language on residency upon which the City Council insisted,” he stated. “As of January 1, 2019, all new police hires must live in the City of Chelsea for five years, consistent with the Ordinance approved by the City Council earlier this year.”
While there was no debate over the union contracts themselves at Monday’s Council meeting, District 1 Councillor Robert Bishop did raise concerns about the City’s use of its stabilization, or “rainy day” funds.
Bishop noted that Ambrosino was requesting the use of stabilization funds for improvements to Eden Park and for a protective cover for the new high school turf field as well as for the contract salary costs.
Those stabilization funds should be used for emergency situations, Bishop said.
“I don’t think any of these requests rise to the level of an emergency to use the rainy day fund,” he said.
While Bishop said he supported the requests being made, he wanted assurances that any money taken out of the City’s stabilization funds be replaced by free cash as soon as those funds are certified by the state.
Outside graduation coming closer to a
resolution, decided Dec. 17
The Chelsea High School Class of 2019’s quest to graduate outside at the high school could come to a conclusion at the City Council’s next meeting on Monday, Dec. 17.
That’s when the Council is expected to vote on a $170,000 appropriation from the school stabilization account to pay for a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
City Manager Thomas Ambrosino made the request for the funds for the protective mat, which he said will allow for the use of the turf field for non-sporting events. The turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if there are certain non-sporting uses on the field.
The possible purchase is good news for members of the high school’s senior class, who have been working with school and city officials, as well as fundraising, in an effort to have their graduation moved to the high school field.
Senior Manuel Teshe said the turf field cover will benefit the whole city, as well as students and their families attending the graduation.
“This investment is going to last for years,” he said. “If this is done, it is done for the city, and the future of the city is the students at Chelsea High School right now.”
Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste was one of a number of CHS students wearing “Dream Big” shirts who addressed the Council on Monday night.
“We are close to achieving our dream of graduating outside on our own field,” said Poste. “With the help of the City Council, this can be a possibility.”
School Supt. Mary Bourque also lent the students some support before the Council.
“This is a wise investment for our future and will have a positive impact on every generation here,” Bourque said.
District 5 Councillor Judith Garcia urged all the students present on Monday night to return with their friends on Dec. 17.
“I’m so incredibly proud of everything that was said tonight,” she said.
In other business, the Council approved a change in the zoning ordinance requiring tighter building controls in the Admiral’s Hill neighborhood.
Councillor-At-Large Roy Avellaneda introduced an order requesting that the License Commission hold two recreational marijuana licenses for applicants that have a majority ownership consisting of Chelsea residents.
Ambrosino asked the Council to approve funding for renovations to Eden Park.
The majority of the renovations will be reimbursed through a state grant, the city manager stated.
“The proposed renovations of Eden Park include replacement of the playground’s rubber surfacing, introduction of new playground equipment, installation of a new water feature and splash pad, installation of new site furniture and lighting, and reconstruction of all site utilities,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The total cost of the renovations is about $750,000, according to Ambrosino. The City Council appropriated $250,000 through the Fiscal Year 2019 Capital Improvement Program. Of the remaining $500,000, the City Manager said $400,000 should be reimbursed by the state.
All are invited to attend the Chelsea Annual Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration on Thursday, Nov. 29, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. in Chelsea Square.
Presented by the City of Chelsea and the Chelsea Chamber of Commerce, the celebration brings two hours of family-friendly activities including music, dance, and crafts to Chelsea Square.
“The Tree Lighting has been a long standing tradition in Chelsea,” said City Manager Thomas Ambrosino. “Last year’s event was a great success and we’re looking forward to bringing the community together again. Positive momentum is building and I’m pleased at this latest opportunity to draw more people to the area to shop, dine and gather with their neighbors.”
This year’s program includes performances by a choir from the Chelsea High School, Off Broadway Dance Studio, and the Back Bay Bell Ringers. Everyone will have a chance to support a good cause with crafts for sale from Empty Bowls. Decorate a gingerbread person to eat right away or bring home. Free refreshments will be provided by Chelsea Chamber of Commerce businesses. Bringing back a tradition of years past, Santa is scheduled to make a dramatic entrance courtesy of the Chelsea Fire Department.
“The Chamber is excited for this time of year,” said Chamber Acting President Joe Mahoney. “In addition to serving our member organizations and supporting the general commerce of Chelsea, we strive to bring positive programming the whole community can enjoy.”
The Tree Lighting Celebration is one of three events kicking off the winter holiday season. Saturday, Nov. 24 is Small Business Saturday presented by the Chamber and Chelsea Prospers, the City of Chelsea’s downtown initiative, a day to celebrate and support small, locally-owned businesses. The following Saturday, Dec. 1, is the Chamber’s annual Breakfast with Santa event at the Williams School.
Members of the Chelsea High School Class of 2019 are a step closer to getting their wish of an outdoor graduation on the new high school field.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino is requesting the City Council approve spending $170,000 from the City’s Stabilization Account to buy a protective mat for the new turf field at the high school.
“This removable, plastic covering will allow for greater use of the field for non-sporting events, including allowing for an outdoor graduation for the Chelsea High School Class of 2019,” Ambrosino stated in a letter to the Council.
The city is in the midst of a $3 million-plus upgrade of Veterans Field at Chelsea High School. The first phase of the project, replacement of the artificial turf and the new track, is scheduled for completion this fall, according to Ambrosino. A second phase involving lighting and restrooms will continue in the spring.
The new turf field comes with an eight-year warranty, but that warranty is voided if certain uses occur on the field, including large static crowds, spiked heels, or chairs with four legs. The City Manager said these restrictions would all but eliminate the use of the surface for any non-sporting events.
“One method for eliminating this problem is to purchase a removable, protective surface for the turf, which is how the problem is handled in many large artificial turf stadiums across the country,” Ambrosino stated. “However, we did not budget for such a protective surface in this project.”
At the request of the school, Ambrosino is asking the Council to approve the additional funding through the School Capital Stabilization Account, which Ambrosino said was specifically established for these types of School Department capital expenditures.
At its Monday night meeting, the council voted to take up the issue in its Finance Subcommittee.
The request from the City Manager was good news for Chelsea High Senior Manuel Teshe, who addressed the Council earlier this month about senior class fundraising efforts to secure an outdoor graduation.
“Mr. Tom Ambrosino made me feel like people were listening to us after all the work we did,” said Teshe. “We felt alone, and now we appreciate the chance that the City is even considering it.”
Prior to hearing from Ambrosino, Councillors Ray Avellaneda, Leo Robinson, and Yamir Rodriguez introduced an order asking the City Manager to explore the purchase of an event decking system. After hearing about Ambrosino’s request to use the stabilization funds for the purchase, Avellaneda withdrew the order.
The great outdoors is a great place for graduation, and a large group of Chelsea seniors are pushing to get their big day under the blue skies once again.
Manuel Teshe and Senior Class President Jocelyn Poste have been campaigning with a large group of their classmates to get their graduation ceremony outside. Graduation has been in the gym for several years, but prior to that it was always outside. Now, the students are looking to overcome several obstacles to get the graduation on the new turf Stadium.
“We understand we have to protect the field for future classes, but we really want to have this ceremony outside,” he said, noting that they have started a GoFundMe page to raise money for the effort. “This is a beautiful new field and we want to be able to use it. We won’t stop until we get the Stadium.”
Supt. Mary Bourque reported that the School Committee has approved the move outside, but getting on the turf field is something they are trying to work out with the company. There are some steps to take, she said, to preserve the warranty if graduation is held on the field in the first year after construction.
“We are very proud to have the School Committee vote to support the students request to have graduation outside,” she said. “The location is still to be determined though. It is going to be outside, but we still are all working together on the Stadium piece.”
School Committeeman Julio Hernandez said he supports the seniors, and recalls that his class tried to also get graduation outside, but to no avail. He said he encouraged students to work with the School Committee and the City Council, which they have been doing.
“These students are really fighting to have their big day outside at the Stadium and I support them 100 percent,” he said. “My graduation was inside and I didn’t get to bring two of my siblings because I didn’t have enough tickets. The graduation is one of the biggest days for the students and their families. My class wasn’t successful in getting it outside, like many other classes. I would love to see it outside again, and I hope they are successful.”
For the students, the primary reason to go outside is so that entire families can see the ceremony.
In recent years, as classes have swelled in numbers, many family members have to sit in the cafeteria to watch on closed circuit TV – or they aren’t able to come in at all.
Even a lucrative black market has sprung up over the years where kids auction off extra graduation tickets for as much as $200. One student last year allegedly made fake tickets and sold them to families in need, who were out of luck on the big day, Teshe said.
“I always knew graduation was inside, but didn’t think much about it,” said SairaCarreto. “Last year as a junior I volunteered to help and it really hit me when I saw the mothers, aunts and siblings of graduates waiting to get in. People were being sent into the auditorium and there were no tickets. Many of these kids are the first to graduate in their families. A lot of them have come from other countries and it’s a big point of pride for their family to come see them graduate. Not having the luxury to share that moment is not fair. We don’t want that to happen to our class and we believe the Stadium is the solution.”
Marcela Castillo said they don’t want to settle, and they will push for the Stadium.
“Many people don’t have the best view of Chelsea High students and we don’t deserve that,” she said. “Current and future students should get the best graduation possible. It’s a really important day in our lives. We feel that adults in our school have settled for less and we don’t feel it’s right. We’re going to push for the field.”
Bourque said they continue to work with the students and may have a solution in the coming weeks. That is all up to the warranty on the new field, but there is optimism in the situation, she said.
The fundraising page is on GoFundMe and is listed under Chelsea High School Graduation. Donations to help the cause can be made there.
The John Silber Early Learning Center, or Shurtleff School, was put on a heavy lockdown Wednesday afternoon after police responded to shots fired on Congress Avenue.
There were no injuries as a result of the incident.
At 1:30 p.m., the ShotSpotter system triggered at 101 Congress Ave. near the school. Police discovered one man in the area who was hiding shortly after the incident. He was found to have a replica firearm on him and was taken into custody. However, later, witnesses said he had not been the shooter, but rather the intended victim.
Chelsea Police are looking for additional suspects.
Police were stationed at the school during the lockdown, and things were soon restored to normal. School was released by 2:30 p.m.
When Ayman Souabny looked around his school and his city, he didn’t see much of anything but concrete.
City Manager Tom Ambrosino, Council President Damali Vidot and Supt. Mary Bourque join Wright Middle students Luis Cruz-Martinez,Ayman Souabny, Sherlyn Melgar and Kevin Mizhquiri in front of the school last Friday, Oct. 19, to celebrate Arbor Day by planting a tree in front of the school. The planting was a request made by the students, fulfilled by local government.
He, and many of his students at the Wright Middle School, wanted to see trees.
And the City heard their call.
On Friday, the Chelsea Tree Board and City officials joined Souabny and several other key students who called for more trees around the Williams School building to plant a ceremonial tree in honor of Arbor Day.
“In Chelsea we need trees,” said Souabny. “Things keep changing in Chelsea and now we have none left. We need oxygen to breath and trees provide oxygen. So, I thought we should tell them to plant trees around our school…I never thought they would bring them, but they did.”
Tree Board member Julie Shannon said it’s a small gesture, but it’s one that – on Arbor Day – the students will be able to remember for a long time.
“Arbor Day is a chance for us as a community to pay special recognition to the importance of trees in our community,” she said. “I wanted to give a special thanks to the students where they are the reason we are celebrating this year’s Arbor Day at the Williams school. These students understand the numerous benefits and positive impact of more trees and took the initiative to speak up asking for more trees around the school. Well, let today be a testament that you’ve been heard and today is because of you. It’s a great lesson that you do have a voice in this community. Whether it’s getting more trees planted or other areas that need attention, speak up, you can make change happen. You should all be proud of yourselves.”
City Manager Tom Ambrosino said the new trees will be something students can remember for a long time.
“This is a City committed to improving the green canopy in our City,” he said. “For the students, the best thing is these trees will last 50 years or more. When you grow up and are in Chelsea, every time you see these trees, you’ll be able to tell everyone they are there because of your efforts.”
Said Supt. Mary Bourque, “You do have a voice in this community. Whenever you see a place to speak up, you know you will be heard.”
Council President Damali Vidot said many of the comments she gets from students are about the environment.
“The majority of letters I get from young people, probably 95 percent, are about improving the environment,” she said. “I thank you for speaking up and I thank the DPW for listening to our future leaders – these students.”
Principal Michelle Martiniello said she was proud of the students for getting such a thing done.
“A lot of the time we encourage them to get involved in the community, and this time, it showed great benefits,” she said.
Added Assistant Principal Adam Weldai, “It was great for them to hear local government did listen to them and will do things they ask for.”
Suffolk University renamed its oldest and largest residence hall in honor of two of its most esteemed graduates,
Chelsea High School classmates and friends joined Larry Smith and Michael Smith at the dedication ceremony of the Michael and Larry Smith Residence Hall at Suffolk University. Pictured at the ceremony are, from left, Jeanne Blumer, Larry Smith, Barbara Lawlor, Michael Smith, Arlene Taraskiewicz, Helen Dobbyn, and Joanne Chelotti.
Michael and Larry Smith, during a ceremony Friday at the hall located at 150 Tremont St. across from Boston Common.
Shawn A. Newton, associate dean of students, served as master of ceremonies for the program.
“I’m extremely happy to welcome you to 150 Tremont St. today, Suffolk’s oldest and largest residence which is about to have its name changed,” said Newton. “Today we’re honoring with our special guests, Michael and Larry Smith, who without your generosity and support – thank you for being role models and for being great leaders. We truly appreciate your support to Suffolk.”
Marisa Kelly, just hours before her inauguration as the new president of Suffolk University, noted the history of Suffolk’s first residence hall and praised the Smith brothers for their extraordinary history of philanthrophy to the University.
“It really is a great day at Suffolk University and I’m so excited to be a part of this incredible dedication,” said Kelly. “This is the residence hall that launched Suffolk on the new chapter of this educational journey when it opened as the university’s very first on-campus home for students in 1976.”
Recognizing the Smiths’ ongoing generosity to the University, Kelly told the assemblage, “Michael and Larry Smith are really doing so much to build community here, of course by all of their contributions, but specifically what they’re doing to build community as part of our residence life program.”
Kelly said Michael (Class of 1961) and Larry (Class of 1965) each earned business degrees at Suffolk “and they were armed to find great success in the insurance business. They have been incredibly generous to their alma mater. Larry Smith now serves as a member of the University’s board of trustees. We thank you, Michael and Larry, for your loyalty to Suffolk, your exemplary generosity and we’re just so grateful for your involvement here.”
After receiving a warm ovation from the many guests in attendance, the two brothers, who grew up in Chelsea, took the podium for the ceremonial unveiling of the rendering for the new Michael and Larry Smith Residence Hall.
Michael spoke first, thanking the University “for this great honor. “I wish my mom and dad were here to see it.”
“I love this university,” he said. “It helped us grow. I want to thank everyone for showing up today. It’s just overwhelming. When I went to college in the early 1960s, we had one building. It was a great education, great professors and I’m so proud of Boston and Suffolk University. I wish everyone the best success.”
Larry, a basketball star at Suffolk and at Chelsea High School, echoed his brothers’ sentiments, stating, “we’re very, very proud of Suffolk University.”
Larry recalled his humble beginnings as a boy, working early mornings in Boston as a window and floor washer. He said he would then change in to his school clothes at Chelsea High. He became a scholar-athlete on the basketball team and earned a scholarship to Suffolk.
“The tuition at that time was $600 and Suffolk University and Charlie Law came and gave me a scholarship,” he said.
The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), in partnership with the Statewide Stormwater Coalition, announced the launch of a new stormwater awareness campaign to help Massachusetts cities and towns comply with new federal stormwater management requirements. The announcement was made during an event at the Joseph H. Gibbons Elementary School in Stoughton.
“Stormwater runoff threatens the health of all water resources across Massachusetts,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Matthew Beaton. “This unique public education campaign provides important information to residents, businesses and developers about what they can do to reduce these contaminants in our environment and keep our rivers and streams safe from pollution.”
The public awareness campaign, “Think Blue Massachusetts,” is designed to generate awareness among businesses and residents of the effects of stormwater pollution on waterways and wetlands and encourage people to do their part to reduce pollution from stormwater runoff. The campaign was developed by the Statewide Stormwater Coalition with a grant from MassDEP and will help 260 communities in Massachusetts meet new federal requirements for stormwater management. The new permit, called the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit, requires cities and towns to implement a host of stormwater pollution prevention efforts, including public educational activities and outreach to targeted audiences.
“The new campaign is a toolkit to help cities and towns meet the public education and outreach requirements of MS4,” said MassDEP Commissioner Martin Suuberg. “The material is available online and can be easily downloaded and customized to reflect a community’s individual needs. It provides one-stop shopping for our local officials who are working hard to meet these requirements.”
Stormwater runoff occurs when rain or snow-melt travels along roadways and parking lots and picks up contaminants on its way to local rivers, streams and groundwater sources. Contaminants – such as fertilizer, trash, oils, gasoline, solvents, pollen and pet waste – is washed into catch basins and into our stormwater systems and eventually discharged into the environment. The new requirements in the MS4 permits will reduce the overall amount of stormwater runoff entering our waterbodies.
MassDEP is responsible for ensuring clean air and water, safe management and recycling of solid and hazardous wastes, timely cleanup of hazardous waste sites and spills and the preservation of wetlands and coastal resources.
In the wake of massive gas line explosions in the Greater Lawrence area last Thursday, Sept. 13, the Chelsea Fire Department jumped into action and responded to Andover High School to support first response efforts.
Chief Len Albanese said that the Tower 1 apparatus responded to an Andover Staging Area at Andover High School as part of Metro Structural task Force 13.
Greater Lawrence’s normal mutual aid capabilities were taxed to the breaking point, and so the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) began to request structural task forces from other regions, including Chelsea.
“Our Tower Ladder responded to multiple calls for odors of gas and the like in the structures,” said the Chief. “They did not respond to any structure fires. They were back here in the city by 9 p.m.”
The Chief said it was an incredible job by the state and local operations to coordinate so many responding helpers.
“This was an enormous mobilization of resources,” he said. “Lawrence, Andover, North Andover and MEMA with the help of all of the other agencies involved, including multiple law enforcement agencies did an exceptional job of meeting this most unique major fire/ emergency operation.”
When Chelsea’s Bob Fortunato found a closed sign on the front of Wonderland Dog Track in 2010, it was a hard road ahead for he and his family, and the end of a career in the pari-mutuel industry.
Now, however, as one of students in the first class of the Greater Boston Casino Gaming Career Institute – a partnership between Cambridge College in Charlestown and Encore Boston Harbor – Fortunato might once again be joining the gaming and wagering industry.
On Monday, the first day of the so-called ‘Dealer School,’ Fortunato was one of 167 students who have enrolled in the first-ever session of classes to learn how to professionally deal Blackjack and poker games, potentially for the Encore casino that is only a short drive away from the school in Charlestown.
“It’s a new experience for me and a process that could lead to a good job,” he said. “I was at Wonderland Greyhound Park for a long time before it closed. Since then, I’ve worked several jobs doing a lot of different things. This is a great opportunity for me to start a new career.”
A new career is something he didn’t think he and his family, which operated Fortune Kennels, would ever have to do.
“It was tough,” he said. “At Wonderland, I had worked there for 12 years as a greyhound trainer. My family worked there and my family was in the business for 40 years. For me, it’s a great opportunity to be a dealer, and I’m very excited to be involved on the sports betting end of it if that comes to the state.”
Fortunato said he reached out to the Wynn organization from the start, and was in their network. He saw advertisements for the school and heard about it also in an e-mail and jumped on the opportunity.
“I looked into it and decided to go for it,” he said.
He was not alone on Monday, as 166 other students entered their first day of classes along with executives from Wynn and Cambridge College.
Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox was on hand Monday with Cambridge College President Deborah Jackson to open the doors on the area’s inaugural class of prospective dealers for the Encore Boston Harbor casino.
“Today is the first day and we have more than 100 people kicking it off today,” said Maddox before cutting the ceremonial ribbon. “We believe in investing in the communities around us. That’s what makes a successful enterprise – when you invest in your community and the people that work for you.”
He was joined by state delegation members State Rep. Dan Ryan and State Sen. Sal DiDomenico, who gave their blessing to the new operation.
Fortunato joined about 50 members of the new class that chatted with Maddox and the media before starting their first day of class in the afternoon session of dealer school.
Cambridge College President Jackson said the Dealer School was a great addition to their curriculum and fell in line with the mission of helping adults find training for good-paying careers. Cambridge College recently moved its entire school into the Hood Park office complex, and was in a great place to be able to expand and utilize space for the Dealer School.
She said they had 1,900 applications for the school initially.
“This has been a long time in the making,” she said. “We have been working on it for about a year. As is the case with all good outcomes, it is the building of great relationships that gets you there.”
She also credited Cambridge College personnel Phil Page and Mark Rotondo with getting the school off the ground successfully.
Encore President Bob DeSalvio said it was the realization of a commitment to the people of Massachusetts – particularly those around the casino – to train and employ them in good-paying jobs.
“This is a big step towards our commitment to train those in the community to work at Encore Boston Harbor,” he said.
The Greater Boston Gaming Career Institute, as the Dealer School is officially known, welcomed more than 165 local students to its Bet On U program, which was created by Cambridge College in collaboration with Encore Boston Harbor. The institute was formed under the leadership of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.
The Bet On U program is designed to train qualified, employment-ready gaming professionals who are interested in starting exciting new careers as one of the more than 1,100 full- and part-time dealers at Encore Boston Harbor when the resort opens in June of 2019.
“The dealers who will be working at Encore Boston Harbor when we open our doors will have more than just jobs, they will have well-paying careers,” said Maddox. “Many of the top executives in our company started as dealers; we hope students from this course will progress the very same way. It’s always been our belief that true success comes from investing in your employees, and the communities where we live and work in.”
‘Mastering Blackjack’ and ‘Perfecting Poker’ are the first two games being taught at the institute. Students can prepare for a career as a blackjack dealer in nine weeks or a poker dealer in 14 weeks, with classes available at various times on weekdays and all day on weekends. Each class is taught by professional casino dealers using the latest tables and gaming equipment.
The cost for each game is $700 with 50 fully-funded scholarships from Encore Boston Harbor available for eligible local residents who require financial assistance. Half of the scholarships will be awarded to women. Students must be 18 years or older to apply to the Institute and work as a dealer in Massachusetts.
The second semester of the Greater Boston Gaming Career Institute will start in January of 2019, with applications being accepted now. The institute is located at HYPERLINK “https://maps.google.com/?q=510+Rutherford+Avenue&entry=gmail&source=g” 510 Rutherford Avenue in Charlestown at the Hood Executive Park, less than two miles from the Encore Boston Harbor Resort and easily accessible via the MBTA’s Orange Line.