’23: Looking Back At The Year in Chelsea

It was a year of departures and returns in Chelsea in 2023.

Thomas Ambrosino stepped down as City Manager in January to take a position in the state court system.

That set off a nearly year-long search process by the City Council for a new manager. In the fall, the council unanimously selected former public works director and current Reading Town Manager Fidel Maltez. 

Maltez will officially take office on Jan. 2, the same day as the City Council inaugural.

Even before officially taking the reins of city government, the council approved funding a reorganization of the manager’s office by Maltez that will see two deputy city managers as well a constituent services director.

The coming year will also see four new members on the City Council.

Councilors Damali Vidot, Enio Lopez, and Judith Garcia all decided not to run for reelection after eight years in office this year. Garcia will continue to serve as the state representative for Chelsea.

Councilor-at-Large Brian Hatleberg also did not run for office this year. Hatleberg, who was appointed to the position after former Councilor 
Roy Avellaneda stepped down last year, had stated that he did not intend to run for office after completing Avellaneda’s uncompleted term.

Two School Committee members are stepping up to fill some of those council seats, with Kelly Garcia and Roberto Jimenez-Rivera joining dean of the council Leo Robinson as the at-large councilors.

Lisa Anne Santagate will be the new councilor in District 5 and Manuel Tesche will be the new representative for District 7.

It was a big year for new beginnings at the Veterans’ Home in Chelsea, formerly known as the Chelsea Soldiers’ Home. 

Earlier this month, Governor Maura Healey was joined by Senator Elizabeth Warren and US Secretary of Veterans Services Denis McDonough to cut the ribbon for the new Veterans’ Home in Chelsea Community Life Center.

There was also big news for the future of the domiciliary campus of the Veterans’ Home, as the project that will see the restoration of existing buildings on the campus as well as some new construction won the approval of the city’s zoning and planning boards.

The future of the massive Forbes site development continued to be up in the air this year.

The proposed 590-unit mixed use development has been entwined in a lawsuit in state Superior Court this year after the Zoning Board denied a permit extension request at the end of last year.

The project was back before the ZBA for a remand hearing at the end of the year, but the board once again denied a request to extend previously granted special permits for the project.

As in past years, the city’s non-profits banded together to tackle issues ranging from homelessness, food insecurity, the influx of migrants to the city, and environmental justice.

Early in the year, GreenRoots raised concerns about lead paint chips falling from the Tobin Bridge and worked with the city to hold the state and its department of transportation accountable for the damage done to Chelsea’s neighborhoods.

MassDOT officials stated that a $125 million Tobin Bridge repair project would address the lead chip issue, but city and GreenRoots representatives said they still had concern about the speed with which the state was addressing the issue.

La Colaborativa also worked with the city on a number of important issues, including assisting the influx of migrants, many from Haiti, into the city.

The city, La Colaborativa and PAIR immigration legal services agency piloted a work authorization program that sought to expedite work authorization for a number of households sheltering in Chelsea, and were able to advance work authorizations in about six weeks compared to the 12 months.

A number of nonprofits, including La Colaborativa and HarborCOV, and state and city agencies held a vigil against domestic violence in front of City Hall in May.

The vigil was in memory of Margarita Morehead, who was killed in a domestic violence incident on May 8.

Angel Alvarez, 65, pleaded not guilty to her murder. Prosecutors allege Alvarez stabbed Morehead to death after she refused to reconcile with him. Morehead had an active restraining order against Alvarez.

In October, there was a fatal shooting in the city that took the life of 23-year-old Santos David Canizales. Edgar Nerys, 28, was charged with the murder of Canizales.

The city’s Department of Housing and Community Development continued its efforts this year to provide services for those most in need in the city, as well as continuing efforts to increase the amount of green space in the city.

Among those efforts have been securing additional funds for a waterfront park at 88 Clinton St.

The Clinton Street park will provide both passive and active recreation opportunities for residents and provide waterfront access to Mill Creek.

Over the past year, the city also secured funding to provide funding for the creation of affordable housing and to allow it to complete its strategic housing plan.

The 2022-23 school year saw 382 students graduate, with 306 graduating from Chelsea High School, 43 from the Chelsea Opportunity Academy, 21 from the Virtual Learning Academy, and 12 from out of district. Overall, students from the Class of ‘23 were accepted to 92 colleges and post secondary programs and will be attending 64, and earned $5.5 million in scholarships.

“We are very proud of the work this entire team has done to graduate our class of ‘23 with 382 students,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Almi Abeyta said.

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