Everett Director of Communications Deanna Deveney told city councilors at their May 9 meeting that Everett Cable Television (ECTV) will be leading the way compared to many surrounding communities with the recent upgrades that will provide “better transparency of government.”
Deveney told the councillors that the installation of new cameras has been completed in the Council Chambers. She also informed the council of the new services that will be available for residents with disabilities.
She said that sign language aides are available provided that enough notice is given to the ECTV staff. She also mentioned that closed-captioning of the meetings will be in real time. The councilors were told that this service also will be available on the internet and Facebook platforms.
Deveney noted a minor issue with closed-captioning. She said that certain names or words may be skewed as the artificial intelligence program may not immediately recognize the correct spellings of words or names.
However, the spelling of names and words can and will be corrected manually after the fact and the program can then have the library of correct spellings for future use.
Deveney asked the councilors and the public to let ECTV staff know about these errors as soon as possible.
“If there are other ways to make the programming more accessible, let us know,” she added.
In another matter, two councilors expressed similar concerns about the time allowed for the councilors to fully digest the budget process.
Councillors Stephanie Smith and Stephanie Martins asked Everett Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas about the timeline of the budget process.
Demas told the councilors that under the law, the City Council must receive the city budget from the mayor’s office no later than 45 days from the start of the new fiscal year. This year the budget was delivered to the councilors on May 10 for the fiscal year that begins on July 1.
After receiving the budget, the council then is required to hold public hearings in order to allow residents to ask questions about expenditures.
Smith noted that even though she has degree in finances, 48 hours is not enough time to adequately review the budget and that she has to spend “all-nighters” to review the expenditures.
“These time frames asked of councilors are never asked in the corporate world. We are rushing the budget,” Smith said.
Martins voiced similar concerns and said that she will offer a new ordinance to allow “more time” to review the budget.
In other matters:
Councillors approved the request from Fire Chief Scott Dalyrmple for $2 million in additional overtime pay for the Fire Dept.
Dalrymple told the council that because of delays attributable to COVID 19 — reduced class sizes of the firefighter training academy and the postponement of the training academy from April of 2020 until January of 2022 — the new recruits who initially were hired in April 2020 were not able to attend the required training until January 2022, thus causing the need for overtime in the current fiscal year.
City Planning Director Matthew Lattanzi appeared before the council to answer questions about affordable housing in the new city developments.
Martins asked whether all new developers were adhering to the process of adding the required affordable housing units to their projects. She also said she wants to ensure that the process to check this requirement does not get lost in the years to come.
Lattanzi noted that since 2017, affordable housing units to the city’s housing stock have totaled 550 units, of which 340 units were added in the last two years.
He said that 70% of the affordable units must be made available to Everett residents, with the remainder available to residents in surrounding communities. Lattanzi also pointed out that the affordable units “cannot be less desirable,” than the market-rate units in the same development.
He also noted that the developers must keep account of these units in their annual reports submitted to the city. Lattanzi added that a one-bedroom affordable unit currently rents for $1,700 per month and a two-bedroom rents for $2,000 per month.
In another chapter of the never-ending saga pertaining to the issue of longevity pay for the office of mayor, Councilor Michael Marchese had more questions on the subject.
Demas (who was praised by Marchese for being the most honest city employee) was called upon by the council to offer some insights.
Demas said that he had nothing new to add and classified the old order that was enacted in 2016 by the council at that time as, “ambiguous at best.” He noted that under current city policy, all employees who receive the longevity benefit are given the benefit of the doubt and that longevity is defined as yearly payments.
He told the councilors that he is not a lawyer and “these are the facts as I know them,”
City Clerk Sergio Cornelio was also questioned by Marchese. He said that a $30,000 payment was approved in 2016, and the ambiguity of the issue was compounded with trying to correctly bridge the understandings in both the new charter and the old charter on this particular matter.
Cornelio also mentioned that he was not the city clerk at that time and did not have an active part in the discussions of the longevity pay. Earlier this year, the council passed an ordinance that set the yearly longevity bonus for the office of Mayor at $1,700.
In the end, the matter was “referred back to sponsor,” a parliamentary procedure that effectively lays it to rest.
In other business, councilors unanimously approved the following petitions and licenses:
An order recommending confirmation of the promotions of Everett Fire Lieutenant
Michael Baldwin to Captain and Everett Firefighter Private Craig Hardy to Lieutenant.
A petition requesting the renewal of a junk dealer/collector license for Second St Iron &
Metals at 285 Second Street.
A petition requesting the renewal of a junk dealer/collector license for Schnitzer NE at
69 Rover Street.
A petition requesting the renewal of a class two motor dealer license for Malden Auto
Repair & Sales at 80 Tremont Street.
A petition requesting the renewal the following licenses for Gold ‘n’ Oldies at 2044. Revere Beach Parkway: Second Hand Dealer’s, Antique, Precious Metals.