The Methuen City Council met on October 16, 2006. The following are the Council Meeting Minutes.
Chairman Zanni called the regular meeting, scheduled for Monday, October 16, 2006, to order at 7:00 p.m. with all members present, with the exception of Councilor Lahey, Councilor Giordano, and Councilor Andrew. Acceptance of the Agenda
MOTION BY: Councilor Cronin, seconded by Councilor Leone to accept the agenda as amended and posted. UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS. Chairman Zanni gave the Invocation for the evening. Everyone remained standing for the Pledge of Allegiance
ACCEPTANCE OF MINUTES
MOTION BY: Councilor Cronin, seconded by Councilor Quinn to waive the reading and approve the minutes of October 2, 2006, regular meeting.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
CORRESPONDENCE/PROCLAMATION - None
PUBLIC SERVICE: Grants: None Licenses: None Contracts: None
Order Calling for State Election – November 7, 2006 MOTON BY: Councilor Cronin, seconded by Councilor Willette to adopt. UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
PUBLIC PARTICIPATION Jack Burke, 49 Canobieola Road, began with a quote from the United Nations “to possess information is to possess power”, noting that there are in all organizations, at all levels, a selective withholding and extending of information. He spoke of the City Council agenda, TR-06-55, noting in his comments that there should be a change in rules to provide more information, by including a hyperlink that would go directly to the text of a resolution. This would allow the citizens to review the data that is the basis for discussion and conclusions and gives the citizens information that they can work with to form an opinion.
OTHER CITY OFFICERS AND COMMITTEE REPORTS Councilor Leone said there would be a meeting this Thursday regarding the final Master Plan neighborhood visioning session. Chairman Zanni said as a result of the last meeting regarding the dog ordinance and reviewing different ordinances throughout the state, our City Solicitor is now in the process of drafting an ordinance for the committee’s review. Once the group discusses the recommendations and feels comfortable with that ordinance, he will schedule a workshop with the full City Council prior to any type of presentation. Chairman Zanni reported there was a Workshop with some of the owners of rental units, regarding the tax-levying proposal submitted by Councilor Cronin, and there were some good ideas mentioned there as well. Councilor Cronin said three or four people on the list of property owners attended. He said he received some feedback from two of them and an attorney representing one of the owners, who seemed to be willing to try to work with us, if we can fit it into the regulations. Karen Faust is looking into the regulations to see if we can somehow make them qualify or eligible. We are making progress and hopefully will have another meeting shortly, although nothing has been scheduled.
TR-06-63 Resolution Accepting Mass Casualty Incident Force Grant from Mass Department of Health (in the amount of $2,000)
MOTION BY: Councilor Cronin, seconded by Councilor Willette to adopt.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
TR-06-64 Resolution Authorizing Expenditure from the Castle Fund (in the amount of $5,000)
MOTION BY: Councilor Cronin, seconded by Councilor Corey Rahme to adopt.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
TR-06-65 Resolution Accepting Chapter 79 of the Acts of 2006 – An Act Further Regulating Meetings of Municipal Boards
MOTION BY: Councilor Leone, seconded by Councilor Willette to adopt.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
TR-06-66 Resolution Authorizing Acceptance and Expenditure of FY’06 Massachusetts Community Development Block Grant Mini-entitlement Funds (in the amount of $600,000) MOTION BY: Councilor Leone, seconded by Councilor Willette to adopt.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
Consideration of Appointments: None
TR-06-67 Resolution Amending Traffic Rules and Regulations – Douglas and Bonanno Ave
MOTION BY: Councilor Willette, seconded by Councilor Corey Rahme to adopt for first read and forward to a public hearing.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
TR-06-68 Resolution Amending the Fiscal Year 2007 Budget/Veterans Services
MOTION BY: Councilor Willette, seconded by Councilor Leone to adopt for first read. Councilor Rahme said she understands the need for this position as our services have increased. Given the fact that it is such an intimate setting and the delicate nature of the job, it would be prudent for us to ensure that Mr. Curran, our Veterans Service agent has a say in the process. Mr. Curran does a wonderful job as our agent. Veterans come in to our City Hall with PTSD and some combat fatigue and we’re dealing with a lot of older seniors seeking veterans’ services. As the Chief Executive Officer of the City, the Mayor absolutely has the need to oversee this hiring, but she’s wondering, if, as a City Council, we can make sure that Ed Curran also has a say in this. Ed Curran is well known for his hard work, the delicate way he handles our veterans, some older and some are so young coming back from Iraq. She thought perhaps that perhaps Council would have an advisory role here, in recognizing the need for this position, to say that perhaps Ed Curran would be able to have a voice in it because he would be working intimately with this individual candidate.Councilor Willette said he is supportive of the point raised by Councilor Corey Rahme, that Ed Curran should be included as part of the interview process because it is a very important position to help him. Also, maybe a member of the City Council could be included as part of the interviewing process, if the Mayor wishes to designate that.Councilor Corey Rahme asked Councilor Willette “didn’t that work really well with you and the disabilities’ co-coordinator’s position?”Councilor Willette responded, yes, that’s correct. Gene Walsh, as the ADA co-coordinator, he is part of the inspectional services for the City of Methuen, and he (who served many years as Chairperson of the Disabilities’ commission) participated in the interview process. It is important to have a direct say as part of the interview process. He is supportive of that motto.Councilor Quinn said Mr. Curran and the Mayor should be there; but thinks a member of the City Council does not need to be a part of that process. It is Mr. Curran’s office. He will work hand in hand with the person that he and the Mayor select. She doesn’t see the need for the City Council to get involved in that.Councilor Leone said we have a Human Resource Director, and a Human Resource Department, with procedures in place for applications, interviews, hiring and firing people. He doesn’t see the City Council having a role in there. If we’re going to be the Human Resources Department, we’ll be the Human Resources Department for every hire and every discharge, not just a select few. There are interviews going on every day in the conference room downstairs and we have thousands of employees throughout the city. We can’t be involved in micro-managing everyone that’s hired, especially part-timers. He doesn’t see a role for the City Council in this. If the Mayor thinks that Mr. Curran should be involved in the selection of the clerk, he’ll involve Mr. Curran. That is his prerogative not ours.Councilor Willette said we can debate the point of whether or not we should have City Council involvement – but at the very least, we should have Ed Curran as part of that interview process. He will send an email to the Mayor to have Mr. Curran included as part of the interviewing process.Councilor Leone said if Councilor Willette wants to send a letter, between him and the Mayor, that’s fine, but he doesn’t want it to be a part of this resolution. Councilor Willette said he is just stating his objectives on this matter and if City Councilors want to join that effort, they can attach their names to the letter. In the very least, he’d like to have Ed Curran as part of that process directly.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS FOR THE GOOD AND WELFARE OF THE COMMUNITY
Councilor Quinn asked Councilor Leone for a time and place for Thursday’s meeting with Community Development. Councilor Leone said the meeting is Thursday, at 7:00 p.m., at the Senior Center. It is the final session, which is going to be a recap of the three previous sessions.Councilor Corey Rahme thanked the police department for their work with the Linda Avenue neighborhood association. She said the police are always there whenever there is a neighborhood association meeting that she’s involved in, and she just wanted to say “thank you” for that because it does provide a layer of comfort and understanding of the police activity in the city for crime and neighborhood watch. Councilor Corey Rahme also congratulated the Methuen High School Ranger Band for the work that they did on Saturday at the show. They really were wonderful ambassadors for our city and they played great. Chairman Zanni announced that the Methuen Scholarship dinner dance is scheduled for this Saturday evening, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Sons of Italy in Lawrence. Interested persons may contact Colleen McCarthy at the Central or Jill Stacklin at the Searles Building.Chairman Zanni announced that the Santa Parade would be held on November 18, 2006, at 1:00 p.m., same route as last year. If anyone has any questions, they may contact Jill Stacklin at City Hall.Chairman Zanni mentioned an article in the newspaper regarding the DPW Director, Ray DiFiore, just went through the process (after reading it in a brochure) we are now starting to inflate the tires with nitrogen. Supposedly, they will last longer and it will be interesting to see how that works out.
REQUEST OF COUNCILORSCouncil Vote regarding Wine in Food Stores ballot measure (Question 1) on the November ballot (see attached memo from Board of Selectmen, Chelmsford, MA)Councilor Cronin said he asked that this be put on the agenda in response to a letter received from the Board of Selectmen in Chelmsford and a statement of policy. He then read the draft policy from Chelmsford, noting he is not sure what an alcohol license is to that Board of Selectmen. We have different licenses in Methuen. We have to different kinds, beer and wine licenses and full liquor licenses. He personally would not like to support supermarkets being able to carry wine. He would like to protect the local mom and pop stores because it is tough enough for them to survive against the major supermarkets, just because of their buying power and a lot of them do have beer and wine licenses, not liquor, just beer and wine. He’d like to go on record that he is not going to be in favor of it and he recommends against it. He will not be voting for the ballot initiative that says that the supermarkets can have wine in their stores. It is his feeling that he’d like to protect the smaller business people that we have in the community that are trying to make a living in their small stores.Councilor Leone said his recommendation of voting against question one is not from a standpoint of limiting competition, but from a standpoint of realizing that many of the checkout clerks in the supermarkets are themselves between l6 and 18 years old. He doesn’t think that the level of authority and accountability is going to be there for them to ask for ID’s from people two, three, and four years older than they are. He can’t see sixteen-year-old check out clerks in supermarkets providing the security against underage purchases that we have now. Councilor Corey Rahme disclosed that the eagle tribune called her today and they are waiting for Council’s vote to add to some of the opinions among elected officials in the area. The Tribune will call her back tonight to ask her how the city council voted in this. This is non-binding and this is just our opinion. However, they shared with her that the City of Haverhill, and North Andover voted “no” on this. All along she’s been bouncing back and forth usually she is not this indecisive and up until this afternoon she was one side and tonight she came with one and now is thinking another way. It is an exhausting process to go through this, all the pros and cons, but until she get reaches the ballot box, she is not sure what her final vote will be. But, tonight she has feeling she is going to say “no”. Councilor Quinn said she spoke with many people that are not sure about this question. She isn’t sure about this question either and needs more information exactly who gets the license, when they get, what they are getting. She is not ready to vote on that right now.Chairman Zanni said the newspaper called him this evening as well. His thought is this an individual decision, not something that the council would vote on it. They’re looking to see if we’re going to take a vote on it but that’s an individual thing. We can’t very well suggest how people should vote but if Councilors chose, they can express individual opinions. Councilor Willette - point of information - if Question 1 passes, it still becomes a local option. We are saying that if question 1 passes it becomes the law of the land. It has to be taken up by each city and town by on an individual basis and then that becomes part of the educational process. There is a finite limit of licenses that can be dispersed based on population. And question l is readily available for anyone if they want to peruse the summary of question one. He is supportive of question one because he advocates for more competition, whether it be as part of the auto insurance industry or any other industry, competition helps. It drives down prices. It ensures customer service and like Councilor Quinn indicated you travel to the neighboring community of Dracut and go into Hannaford Supermarket, they have the whole assortment of liquor. They have beer and wine and hard liquor that they sell and it has not done any damage to the liquor stores in that community. There are multiple liquor stores in that community. He is supportive of question one. Ultimately, regardless of what we do tonight, if question one passes, it becomes a local option issue.Attorney McQuillan probably the definition that Councilor Quinn is probably asking for and is certainly a valid question is what is a grocery store? What is a food store? There are presently establishments statewide where we call them convenience stores of what have you that do sell beer and wine. There is a certain qualification or criteria under the statute, Chapter 186 of the General Laws, certainly a lot of quote grocery stores – they call mama and papa stores, don’t qualify under that definition. Under this particular proposed legislation, they probably would. They are confined solely to the sale of wine, not beer, whereas the current establishments now under the 186 are allowed to sell beer and wine and it is confined and most importantly, which Councilor Willette stressed, is that this is permissive legislation. If in fact the ballot does pass and it is codified into the statute, it is still up to the local legislative body of the municipality whether to accept it or not. But it does beg for definition as to a “grocery store” or a “food store”. He is sure all of us can think of several establishments that sell food, pre-wrapped food, that also sell beer and wine. They satisfy a certain definition under the statute, whereas quote grocery stores don’t. His definition of a grocery store, at least as he understands it and the thought behind the legislation is that which sells primarily food. As to whether there is a percentage, the proposed legislation is absent on that. But that is the closest definition I can give you.Chairman Zanni said the end result of this all is in fact even if it does pass state wide then it still comes back to the municipality, to us.Attorney McQuillan said, as Councilor Willette stated, it is permissive legislation.
MOTION BY: Councilor Cronin, seconded by Councilor Quinn to adjourn.
UPON VOTE: UNANIMOUS.