The Chelsea City Council met on Monday night and moved several matters of business as the novelty of the Zoom online meetings started to wear off and councillors moved more towards getting regular business done over the online networks.
Chief among the matters was an order from City Manager Tom Ambrosino for $306,500 to hire an engineer to design a solution for re-establishing the train Quiet Zone. In April, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) stripped Chelsea of its Quiet Zone status after the City had not fulfilled promises made in 2005 when they got the Quiet Zone. The City had reneged on the promises in 2011, and nothing much was said about it since then. Then there were several accidents at railroad crossings, including a death in 2017 of a Chelsea High student.
Ambrosino inherited the issue, and wrote to the Council that he wished to fix it as quick as possible, but warned the process could take 13 months to fix and get the Quiet Zone re-established. The total cost of the upgrades will be more than $3 million.
The Council moved the matter to a second reading and is expected to vote on it at the next meeting.
•The Council has approved unanimously $191,250 to fund the Bunker Hill Community College Scholarship, which lets graduating seniors at Chelsea High who have been in the dual enrollment college program to complete their Associate’s Degree on the City’s dime.
It would be the third year for the program, and Ambrosino said he expects students to be allowed move up to college in the fall.
“Despite the pandemic, there is every indication BHCC will be accepting students to matriculate in the 2021 academy year sometime in the fall,” he wrote. “In order to ensure CHS graduates have an opportunity to seek an Associate’s Degree in the fall, I ask the Council to support the scholarship request.”
It passed by a vote of 10-0.
•The Council also accepted a request from Ambrosino to scale back the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) for 2021-2025, calling for a public hearing at the next meeting.
“With the expected financial contraction anticipated in FY 21 and the economic impacts of COVID-19, the City suggests scaling back the amount of involvement proposed in the CIP at he end of January,” he wrote.
Several projects have been deferred, including a new E911 building that was in the plan.
•The Council voted unanimously to accept a new contract with the SEIU Local 888 union that promises them one year without layoffs if they agree to no pay increase in the coming fiscal year.
With financial constraints expected, the contract – which had been negotiated at the end of 2019 – has been revised. Ambrosino added a third year to the contract where workers get a 2.7 percent increase in replacement for taking a 0 percent increase in the coming fiscal year. They are also promised no layoffs in the coming fiscal year. The second year of the contract is at 3 percent increase.
Ambrosino said he is optimistic that negotiations will go well with the union. The Council voted 10-0 to allow the negotiations to go forward.
•Councilor Judith Garcia reported a new program she has been working on with Father Edgar Duarte of St. Luke’s Church. Many families in Chelsea who have suffered an unexpected loss due to COVID-19 have been struggling with paying for funeral costs.
Under the program, Garcia said they are prepared to provide $1,700 per family to help with funeral costs associated with COVID-19. Anyone looking for information on the program can call Father Edgar at (617) 884-3300.