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McKnight Neighborhood Meeting 02/09/16

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Board Meeting:  February 09, 2016           

Approved March 08, 2016

Minutes McKnight Neighborhood Council

Meeting called to order by President Lamont C at 6:20 pm

Board Members Present (6): Lamont E Clemons, (Pres), Tawreak Eddington, (Asst Treas), Brandi Gamble, (Sec/Clerk), Elizabeth

O’Gilvie, Elizabeth Stevens, Ben Swan, Jr

Board Members Not Present (9): Lloyd A Creswell, (Asst Sec/Clerk), Jack Dubose, Art Jones, Colin Kirby, (Treas),

Walter Kroll, Bryan McFarland, Henry Payne, (Vice Pres), Synthia Scott- Mitchell, Paul Swenson

Administrative Staff:   Elizabeth Lederman

Neighborhood Members:  Merry Boone, Susan Roche, Elliott Stratton, Roberta Kilkenney, Stephen Gray, David Gaby, Damian

Phillips, Mattie Jenkins, Lucina Ealy, Prentiss Griffin

Guests:  Arlene Smith, from the Eagles 128 on St James

Pres Lamont C welcomed those attending the meeting; Board and audience introductions followed.

 

GUEST PRESENTATIONS

  • Neighborhood Members Merry Boone and Susan Roche—sharing ideas about developing an initiative to increase voter participation in the neighborhood:
  • Representing several neighborhood residents who have gathered together with identified goals of increasing voter registration, turn-out, and engagement in McKnight which encompasses precincts 4A and 4B, with a particular focus in local government elections.
  • Would like to informally partner with the Council to use the neighborhood newsletter as a tool for outreach and education, since some neighborhood residents do not receive information and news online; and also other media tools as appropriate.
  • Goal is to engage other residents in the neighborhood who are willing to help with registering voters and promoting various “get out to the polls” efforts when local elections take place—and to stress the value of voting itself.
  • Would like to have a voter registration table at the June Block party perhaps sponsored by the League of Women Voters; and to continue to promote voter registration throughout the summer at neighborhood gathering places such as churches, farmer’s market venues, and the neighborhood health center, etc.
  • Plans include developing a voter survey through Survey Monkey, the newsletter, and at the block party to ask McKnight voters about their voting habits—what elections they tend to vote in, and what issues are likely to bring them out to the polls, what interest groups are they involved in. Residents could then be directly engaged to come out and participate when issues of specific interest to them come up on the City Council agenda or before the neighborhood Council.
  • The group is intending to carry on their work for the long haul, not just this election season, and requested a liaison from the Board to direct information. Rep Tawreak E volunteered to serve as liaison.  Rep Ben S will put up a voter registration link on the website and Facebook.
  • David Gaby—presenting information about the rehabilitation of the Kibbe House at 1030 Worthington and other projects in the neighborhood:
  • Neighborhood member David Gaby has been working for the past two years with the McKnight Community Development Corp in alliance with Uptown Construction which is a non-profit organization which is linked to the labor unions to provide training. The goal of the collaboration is to restore houses and to train individuals in the construction trade; particulary individuals who would otherwise be marginalized.
  • In the immediate future, they will be meeting with the trade unions and MGM to work toward including a lot of people who have been working in the construction trades but who have not been able to break into the unions for various reasons.  The casino agreement negotiated stipulated that a portion of the 2000 jobs needed to construct the casino would go to local residents including veterans, women and minorities—but these individuals need to be job ready.
  • There are 24 apprenticeship programs in the trade unions but they require a diploma or GED, safety training and some level of practical on the job experience—some of which are a barrier to some people. His group is sponsoring two projects that will  help individuals overcome some of these barriers.
  • One project is the house that was moved from 89 Bay Street to 111 Bay Street; the house is now setting a new foundation which was built in part by the Job Corps Westover Masonry trainees. The other house that was purchased is the former Kibbe mansion at 1030 Worthington Street.  The plan is to use the upper part of the house as housing, and then to use the lower portion of the house as a training facility—both in its renovation and then as classroom space.  This would also provide for a museum space to emphasize the history of the development of McKnight as the first planned community, i.e. Victorian streetcar suburb, and the history of the home itself.
  • His group will be giving 4-hour classes on construction safety beginning soon, which will be advertised, and can accept 25 students. There is no cost to those students taking the class; the classes are paid for with grant funding.  They are working on being able to give an “OSHA 20” certification to those who successfully complete the class.
  • Group is also developing a “porch project”. Both the Bay and Kibbe houses need extensive porch work, and the group wants to use the work on those porches, along with some others in need of repair in the neighborhood, as training projects for their students.  Currently looking into funding sources from the Dept of Labor and the National Park Services to help homeowners pay for the cost of materials for the porch restorations.
  • Mr Gaby also raised the alarm on a recent change in City policy which is moving in the direction of pursuing demolition of vacant and/or damaged homes rather than permitting them to be sold and repaired, even when there are parties interested in doing so. The City has been flagging such properties with Code Enforcement issues and sending them to housing court for review before they can be sold; and frequently lobbying for demolition rather than restoration.  62 Bowdoin Street was cited as such a property, even though renovation funds and a mortgage commitment had been acquired.
  • Mr Gaby also pointed out the City did not apply to HUD for neighborhood reinvestment funds which are available, but chose to apply for demolition money instead. He also reported the City attorney in Housing Court as representing the neighborhoods, McKnight in many instances, as being in favor of these demolitions.
  • General agreement by the Board that appropriate City department representatives need to be invited to discuss these issues more in depth with the neighborhood.
  • Mr Gaby gave a proposal summary to the Board for review and input at a future date which outlined a plan for the restoration of 62 Bowdoin Street, a property for which the City has proposed demolition but has been blocked by the Historic Commission. The renovation of this property would be done by the Uptown Construction group and the McKnight CDC, with Mr. Michael Florio who is a certified receiver and construction manager.

MOTION:  (BS moved) that the Board reach out to the City to find out what their plans are for 62 Bowdoin, relative to the issues of demolition vs restoration; (EO seconded); with amendment to ask them when they come to explain 62 Bowdoin they also offer some clarity around their current demolition process and policies.  (LEC call for discussion); (LEC called the question):  Motion carried unanimously.

  • Board agreed that invited guests should at least include City Attorney Lisa DeSousa as well as Housing Dept representative Tina Quagliato, and someone from Code Enforcement.
  • Neighborhood member Elliott S observed that this information about current policies is of significant interest to other neighborhood councils and the Pioneer Valley Project as well and that it should be broadly communicated.
  • Neighborhood member Roberta K suggested that the Board should develop and advance a formally stated housing position of what the neighborhood advocates for in terms of demolition, restoration, community development, and related issues.

 

OFFICER REPORTS

  • PRESIDENT’S REPORT: (Lamont Clemons)
  • Pres Lamont C reporting that he continues to attend numerous events on behalf of McKnight. The official McKnight pins for Board members to wear are now ready and will be given out at the March meeting.
  • SECRETARY’S REPORT: (Brandi Gamble)
  • Sec Brandi G submitted minutes of Board meeting Jan 12, and Exec Board meeting Jan 26, for review and acceptance.

MOTION: (EO moved) to accept as presented; (ES seconded); (LEC call for discussion); (LEC called the question):  Motion carried unanimously.

  • TREASURER’S REPORT: (Colin Kirby) Treas Colin K absent.

 

OLD BUSINESS—Board  

  • School Zone safety measures at Rebecca Johnson School
  • Board reviewed letter submitted by Public Safety Chair Walter K which outlined safety problems on Catharine Street in front of school, and asks for thorough review by Police, Traffic, and DPW to provide appropriate remedies. Minor editorial corrections made for clarity.

MOTION: (BS moved) to accept as presented with corrections; (TE seconded); (LEC call for discussion); (LEC called the question):  Motion carried unanimously.

 

 

 

 

COMMITTEE REPORTS

  • Rail Trail—Chair, Elizabeth Stevens
  • Chair Elizabeth S reporting that the Parks Dept submitted finalized grant which will develop the schemata for the trail, which included expanding the trail’s reach down to Union Station, which will expand its appeal for federal funding as well as the support from Congressman Neal.
  • Currently investigating the eradication of Japanese knotweed, of which there is a lot on the trail.
  • Has joined a group called Walk Bike Springfield. Will invite fellow member to the Spring block party who is developing a non-profit, mobile bike repair shop.
  • Public Safety Committee—Chair, Walter Kroll
  • Rep Ben S reporting that Walter has confirmed the director of the Police Dept’s Dispatch Unit, Melissa Nazarro, as a guest speaker for the March meeting.
  • Apartment building on Worthington and Florida has apparently been sold. Suggestion that Board should send letter welcoming new owner to open up channel of communication.  Agreement that Good Neighbor Chair Elizabeth O will develop letter.
  • Food Access—Chair, Elizabeth O’Gilvie
  • Chair Elizabeth O continues to be involved in the promotion of the Massachusetts State Food System Plan, which is now complete. The group is now waiting for funding from the State to move forward with its implementation.  One of the major focuses is on food distribution in the state by local growers, with currently only 15% of what is produced being consumed by local residents, the rest going out of state.
  • The Springfield Food Policy Council has taken over the work from Mason Square Health Task Force of developing a full service grocery store in Mason Square and will continue to work with Develop Springfield on this project.
  • Community Center—Chair, Damian Phillips
  • Chair, Damian P reporting that he is keeping track of potential properties in the neighborhood that might serve the purpose, however will still need to address funding for the project, and how to maintain the property. One proposal is to let a second floor tenant serve as a caretaker for property.
  • Bylaws—Chair, Ben Swan, Jr
  • Chair Ben S reporting that he will schedule a meeting between now and the March meeting.

 

NEW BUSINESS—Open to the Floor

  • Rep Elizabeth O expressing concern about the number of Board members missing the monthly neighborhood meeting. Discussion included the provisions in the bylaws which stipulate that after three absences, Board members can be asked to resign, at the discretion of the Board as a whole.  Agreement that a friendly letter from the President on behalf of the Board might be appropriate.  Pres Lamont C said he would put into calls to Board members who had been absent a lot.
  • Neighborhood member Roberta K brought up the issue of the pending Biomass Incinerator project, suggesting that this might be an important topic of discussion at an upcoming meeting. Recent Public Health Council hearing to determine whether that  Council is willing to hold a site assignment hearing to assess the health, noise, and public nuisance issues around the incinerator, and could theoretically ban the building of the incinerator.  Agreement that it was doubtful that the PHC would act since the proponents were threatening more lawsuits if blocked.
  • Roberta K observed that even if the incinerator is built, it deserves continued attention and monitoring because it as a significant health risk in the community.
  • Agreement by Board that Arise or a member of the Public Health Council should be invited to a future meeting for a status report on the situation.

 

 

7:45 pm:  Meeting adjourned.   MOTION:   (EO moved) to adjourn; (BS seconded); (LEC called); Motion unanimous.

 

Submitted for approval by Elizabeth Lederman, Administrative Staff, 03/08/16.

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