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Ordinance Committee Meeting May 25, 2021

May 25 2021

6:30 pm Remote by Zoom

,

City Council

Holyoke Massachusetts

 

Notice of Committee Meeting

There will be a regular meeting of the committee on

 

Ordinance

Meeting to take place remotely on Zoom Meetings on Tuesday 5-25-21 at 6:30 PM

Per order of the Chair: Rebecca Lisi

*** Meeting will take place remotely and can be accessed via www.zoom.us

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88348331186?pwd=bkFnUTlSMDdoT1gvajNHRlBIYm5yZz09

Meeting ID: 883 4833 1186 Meeting Passcode: 250991 or by call in at 1 (646) 558-8656 with same Meeting ID and Passcode.  ***

Agenda:

Item 1a: PUBLIC HEARING (continued from 4-13-21, 5-11-21) 3-2-21 Special Permit Application for Marijuana Retail and Manufacturing Establishment of Green Highland LLC to build & operate a marijuana retail, cultivation and processing establishment at 26 Hadley Mills Rd.

Item 1b: 3-16-21 VHB - Letter requesting correction of traffic study information on 26 Hadley Mills Rd Application
*Tabled 4-13-21

Item 2: PUBLIC HEARING 4-6-21 Special Permit Application of Green Valley analytics, LLC for a Marijuana Manufacturing Establishment at 306 Race St for a marijuana testing facility.

Item 3: PUBLIC HEARING 1-19-21 Special Permit Application of Mass Cannabis Growers Cooperative, LLC for a Marijuana Manufacturing Establishment at 11 Jackson St for a cultivation facility.

Item 4: 4-6-21 MURPHY -- Ordered that the city council consider adopting a wage theft ordinance for all contractors doing projects for the city or receiving special tax incentives by the city similar to Easthampton and Springfield with the following purposes: prevent misclassification of employees as independent contractors; assure that employees are paying all payroll taxes and workers compensation premiums; comply with state laws governing the payment of prevailing wages; assure that contractors provide opportunities for Holyoke residents, veterans, people of color and women.

Item 5: 3-16-21 MCGIVERIN -- That the City Council consider raising the max amount of reserve police officers for 24 to 35.

Item 6: 4-20-21 HERNANDEZ -- Ordered, That a handicap sign be placed at 63 Taylor St.

Administrative Assistant: Jeffery Anderson-Burgos

The listing of matters are those reasonably anticipated by the chair which may be discussed at the meeting. Not all items listed may in fact be discussed and other items may also be brought up for discussion to the extent permitted by law. Also one or two items may require the committee to enter into executive session at this meeting. Agenda subject to change up to two business days (48 hours) prior to posted meeting time.

Members present: Chairwoman Rebecca Lisi, Libby Hernandez, Terence Murphy, Linda Vacon

Other councilors present: Howard Greaney, Jr, Joseph McGiverin

Chairwoman Lisi called the meeting to order at 6:32 PM

 

Councilor Murphy made a motion to remove item 1A and 1B from the table. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 1A: PUBLIC HEARING (continued from 4-13-21, 5-11-21) 3-2-21 Special Permit Application for Marijuana Retail and Manufacturing Establishment of Green Highland LLC to build & operate a marijuana retail, cultivation and processing establishment at 26 Hadley Mills Rd.

--->      Public hearing continued to June 8th 3-0.

Item 1B: 3-16-21 VHB - Letter requesting correction of traffic study information on 26 Hadley Mills Rd Application
*Tabled 4-13-21

--->      Received

DISCUSSION:

Chairwoman Lisi read the letter from VHB into the record:
“VHB is the Traffic Engineer and Engineer of Record for Life Essence, LLC d/b/a Trulieve for their marijuana manufacturing establishment at 56 Canal Street in Holyoke, MA. As part of VHB’s services for Life Essence, LLC, VHB prepared a Traffic Impact Assessment providing an in-depth analysis of traffic associated impacts as outlines by the Holyoke Zoning Ordinance.
It is VHB’s understanding that without VHB’s or Life Essence LLC’s knowledge or consent, the Traffic Impact Assessment which VHB prepared for Life Essence was included in the Special Permit Application for Green Highland LLC’s proposed marijuana manufacturing establishment to be located at 26 Hadley Mills. The Green Highland Special Permit application makes no mention as to how the VHB Traffic Impact Assessment was obtained or its intended use within the application. This gives the read the misimpression that VHB is part of Green Highland LLC’s design team and approved of its usage, interpretation, and application.
VHB requests the removal of VHB’s Traffic Impact Assessment from the Green Highland LLC Special Permit Application. If, however, Green Highland LLC seeks to utilize the traffic counts from the VHB assessment, it is customary that historic traffic counts conducted within the area be increased by a factor approved by the City Engineer, followed by performance of an independent offsite analysis or otherwise as required by the City.
VHB requests that this letter be read into the record at the Green Highland LLC’s City Council Ordinance Committee meeting as documentation that VHB and Life Essence, LLC’s does not consent to the usage, interpretation, and application by others of the Traffic Impact Assessment prepared by VHB and to clarify that VHB is not part of the Green Highland LLC design team.”

Terry Reynolds, T. Reynolds Engineering, stated that he represented Green Highland and had prepared the site plan permitting package. He clarified that VHB’s documents were publicly available, adding that there had been no claim that their findings had not been theirs. He then noted that the City Engineer requested that Green Highland obtain another traffic engineer report, adding that it had been submitted. He then shared a visual presentation of the proposed project. He noted that the site was connected to other facilities off of the same private road. He stated that the building had previously been owned by Holyoke Gas & Electric. He stated that the proposal would be a manufacturing cultivation, and small retail business. He stated that the building was three stories, along with a one story building. He highlighted employee and retail parking spaces, each exceeding the required numbers. He also noted the secure areas for handling all marijuana deliveries as well as marijuana waste. He then showed a floor plan layout, highlighting the retail area, along with the kitchen, extraction, processing, and manufacturing areas. He then presented layouts of the building exterior, noting the height and purposes for each section. He followed by detailing stormwater runoff plans.

Councilor Murphy asked why the door for retail customers would be further from their parking than the employee parking from their door.

T. Reynolds stated it had been requested by Trulieve that retail be separated to direct customers away from the back access passage that could cause security issues.

Chairwoman Lisi asked for a description of the condition of the building, as well as detailing any renovations that would have to be done.

T. Reynolds stated that there would need to be a reasonable amount of brickwork and window repairs done. He stated there had been roof repairs done. He also stated there would need to be gutter work done.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if it was in a condition where it could be worked with.

T. Reynolds confirmed that it could.

Chairwoman Lisi stated that everything appeared to be in order from the perspective of the Planning Department. She noted there had been outstanding responses for minor landscaping items. She asked if the two planters were the extend of it.

T. Reynolds confirmed that it was. He stated there was minimal green area. He noted an rea that would be loamed and seeded, with a few trees added for shading.

Chairwoman Lisi stated there had been a letter from the City Engineer dated in March, adding that a more recent communication noted some changes and amended documents that had been submitted. She then asked if those new documents had been submitted through the Clerk’s office to assure all departments had received them.

T. Reynolds stated they had not been, noting that there wouldn’t have been time for them to receive them before the timing of the meeting. He stated Engineering and Planning received, noting that no other department had submitted comments with the initial submittal.

Chairwoman Lisi stated it would be customary to submit them to assure everyone understands which documents are being referenced. She stated a final determination could not happen until the Engineer had completed a final review.

T. Reynolds noted that the Engineer sent comments earlier that day, noting there had been questions regarding the traffic engineer’s assessment, use of retail space, and storage space. He then stated that in speaking with the traffic engineer, they considered accessory spaces as part of manufacturing and would make no effective change in terms of impacts to adjacent areas. He suggested a condition could be attached if there was an issue with how the area has been calculated.

Chairwoman Lisi stated that the Engineer wanted to confirm proposed improvements were located on the property and controlled by the applicant. She also stated that the Engineer wanted to determine if there would be any impacts to rights or easements on the property, adding that a complete ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey of the property should be submitted by the applicant. She then asked if these had been met.

T. Reynolds stated that the Engineer had been provided the ALTA survey, adding that it would not be a requirement of zoning. He stated that everything was located on the property.

Atty Isaac Fleischer, from Bacon & Wilson representing the applicant, stated that the recent site plan included a wayfinding sign directing retail in one direction and cultivation employees another direction. He stated it would be placed on the property of an abutter at their request.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that matter referred to another comment in the Engineer’s letter. She then expressed a need to assure the applicant had all of the easements and rights of the property. She then stated there would need to be documentation of rights or agreements that allow for the applicant’s proposed access through the Trulieve property. She then asked if they had secured that.

Atty Fleischer stated they had discussed that with Trulieve. He then noted that there was an existing right of way across the Trulieve property noted in the title record. He then stated there was a draft agreement with the abutters regarding traffic allocation and maintenance obligations.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that another item required that they complete their own traffic study, adding that this appeared to have been done according to Mr. Reynolds. She also noted that the Engineer requested that the applicant should confirm there are no impacts to any rights that have been reserved by HG&E or others and that there is adequate capacity to receive the redirected discharges.

T. Reynolds stated that a response letter addresses all of these items.

Chairwoman Lisi stated that the committee cannot receive anything without them first being accepted by the full City Council through the Clerk’s office.

T. Reynolds stated that they had coordinated with HG&E on the tie in for the stormwater. He stated that the stormwater submittal had been submitted two months prior.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that they showed adequacy of parking facilities. She also noted another Engineer comment requested that the applicant should be required to provide employee projections at full operation and demonstrate how employee parking needs will be met when combined with the peak hour customer parking needs. She then noted that with a plan of 15 employees per shift, the parking appeared to be adequate.

T. Reynolds confirmed that to be true.

Chairwoman Lisi read the Engineer’s comment stating that all existing and new utilities should be shown on the site plan. In addition, the applicant should be required to locate and verify the condition of the existing service and confirm that it is separate from any roof or storm drains prior to application for a building permit.

T. Reynolds stated that had been aware of that. He then stated they would determine if there was a need for an upgrade.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that the condition also stated that all drains will be required to connect to the existing separate storm line.

T. Reynolds stated that part of the design was to put new gutters on the main roofs.

Councilor Murphy asked how many employees were planned per shift and how many shifts there would be.

T. Reynolds stated that the plan was three shifts with 16 per shift.

Councilor Murphy stated that the third shift would likely not include retail. He then asked if 16 was just for manufacturing, and then how many would be in retail.

T. Reynolds stated that they anticipated 16 per shift over all.

Councilor Murphy asked if it was just manufacturing and retail.

T. Reynolds stated there would be cultivation as well.

Councilor McGiverin asked how one would drive into the parking lot.

T. Reynolds described the location of a wayfinding sign directing people off of Hadley Mills Rd.

Councilor McGiverin asked for a clarification of the proposal for allowing customer parking.

T. Reynolds described customer parking on the east side of the building, adding that it would be a small retail space. He then described signage directing customers to the appropriate door.

Councilor McGiverin asked if there further plans for the potential of greater retail traffic.

T. Reynolds stated they did not anticipate a high flow of traffic, noting the site was not in a prominent location.

Councilor Murphy made a motion to open the public hearing. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Chairwoman Lisi offered an opportunity for members of the public to address the committee. She then suggested leaving the public hearing open and continuing it in order for the committee to receive outstanding documents.

Councilor Murphy made a motion to continue the public hearing to June 8th at 6:30 PM. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Chairwoman Lisi noted there may be comments from the Engineer regarding the storm drain connections.

T. Reynolds stated it had been submitted for a stormwater permit.

Chairwoman Lisi stated that it would have to remain open until the documents were received. She then stated that as long as they are received, the discussion would likely proceed quickly at the next meeting.

 

(34:10)

Councilor Hernandez made a motion to remove item 2 from the table and open the public hearing. Councilor Murphy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 2: PUBLIC HEARING 4-6-21 Special Permit Application of Green Valley analytics, LLC for a Marijuana Manufacturing Establishment at 306 Race St for a marijuana testing facility.

--->      Approved with conditions 4-0

DISCUSSION:

Jonathan Ferguson, CEO of Green Valley Analytics, suggested that recent changes to the cannabis ordinance would have positive impacts on the industry in the city. He stated that were an independent testing lab seeking to open a facility in the city. He then highlighted additional members of his team, Found and President, Mark Zatyrka as well as Lab Director, Tanisha Boggins. He also recognized James Cunningham, the owner of the property they would be occupying. He stated that they would also be applying for a testing lab license through the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC). He emphasized that testing was a critical part of the industry to ensure safe access to cannabis. He stated they would be using high pressure liquid chromatography as their primary testing method, testing cannabinoids, microbiologicals, pesticides screening to assure quality products for consumers. He stated that all cultivators and manufacturers must have their products tested by an independent testing lab, adding that the testing labs must have host community agreements. He then stated that they test for heavy metals, microbials, pesticides, as well as residual solvents, concentrates, and acetates. He stated that they stay updated with regular changes in industry regulations. He detailed the timeline of their proposal, application, and licensing process. He then presented an overview of the plans for use of the facility, including use of a parking lot. He noted they had an expectation of 5 lab employees. He described the sample prep area, analysis of products, secure waste room, receiving room, and office space. He noted there would be minor interior renovations.

Chairwoman Lisi for a description of the bathroom locations at the facility.

J. Ferguson described the location, noting they would be moved from their current location and that ADA compliance would be addressed. He then described access points for employees as well as courier access. He then described an overview of security features, noting those details had been provided to the Police Department and Fire Department. He stated that the facility would not be open to the public, adding that anyone entering the facility would need to be 21 or older. He also clarified that as a lab, there would be no customers entering the facility, no products produced, adding that transactions would be handled through an online portal. He also noted that deliveries of samples would follow state codes, including GPS tracking of totes, unmarked delivery vehicles, camera feeds, and a locked fence around the delivery area. He also noted there would be a monthly crisis training with the employees. He described the check in and disposal processes. He described the plan for hiring of employees, including scaling up as operations continue. He also detailed their plans to have a positive impact on the local community, including donating to local non-profits, employee volunteer days, and organizing community cleanups.

Chairwoman Lisi asked to confirm that the application submission on March 19th was the final submission.

J. Ferguson confirmed that was correct.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that all the Planning Department comments had been responded to and accepted. She stated that the City Engineer letter noted that the site was fully developed and minimal improvement had been proposed. She then asked if there was a lease agreement for designated spots in the highlighted parking area.

J. Ferguson stated they did have an agreement, adding that the owners of the building and the lot were in attendance to confirm. He also noted that the lease detailed access to the spots in the adject lot.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if there had been 10 spots.

J. Ferguson confirmed that it was 10 combined between the adjacent lot and behind the building.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that there had not been new utility connections in the plan, adding that if that changed, future separation of drain and sewer piping would be required.

Councilor Hernandez asked if the plans to revitalize included only the surrounding area, noting their plan to address the canal area, or if it could expand to other areas of Holyoke.

J. Ferguson stated that chose Holyoke due to seeing potential in the community, adding that they believed they could have a positive impact through their efforts to revitalize the community, including other areas of the city.

Councilor McGiverin commended them for a strong presentation that was thought out and had answered questions before they were asked. He stated that they anticipated well. He then asked how many shifts would be operated.

J. Ferguson stated that the initial plan was for a single shift. He noted that testing capacity was behind in the area, adding that they would plan to add shifts on the weekend, a second shift, and eventually 24 hours meet the demand for testing.

Councilor McGiverin asked what areas would be served by their facility.

J. Ferguson stated would serve the entire state. He noted that they chose Holyoke, in part, due to many cultivators being located in the western region of the state while most of the testing labs were located in the eastern region. He also noted the sense of community and collaboration among the industry leaders within the city.

Councilor McGiverin expressed his support for the project.

Councilor Greaney asked what they would be testing for, as well as what happens if tested products do not meet legally approved requirements.

J. Ferguson stated they have a panel of five tests for flower samples before they could be legally sold: for potency of the cannabinoid profile, for pesticides used during the growing process, for microbials such as bacteria, fungus, mold, and mycotoxins, and for heavy metals. He noted that each test requires specific instruments to perform the analyses. He also noted that there is a state law outlining the procedure if a product fails a test, depending on what type of test has failed.

Councilor Murphy asked what qualifications would be required to work at a testing facility.

J. Ferguson stated that the lab industry required more specialized candidates, such as people who have experience in labs, specifically analytical chemistry experience and backgrounds. He expressed an intent to work with Holyoke Community College to developing training of potential employees.

Councilor Murphy expressed an expectation that the starting salary would be good. He asked for an estimate of what a new employee could expect to make.

J. Ferguson stated that employees could expect to begin making at least in the $20 an hour range, noting that those with chemistry backgrounds could be drawn to an industry that was experiencing significant growth.

Councilor Murphy commended Mr. Cunningham for maintaining the building well. He then asked if the parking at the building would require entering an alleyway, specifically through the sallyport.

J. Ferguson stated that the main parking would be offsite. He then clarified that entering the sallyport would require going through the alleyway next to the building.

Councilor Murphy noted that parking on Race Street is often difficult during the winter. He then asked to clarify that the eventual plan was to operate 24 hours.

J. Ferguson confirmed that was correct. He noted that some of the larger labs in the state operate 24 hours, adding that a recent change to Holyoke’s cannabis ordinance would allow for that in the city.

Councilor Murphy asked how that would impact the number of employees.

J. Ferguson stated they would plan for 6 employees per shift.

Councilor Murphy made a motion to close the public hearing. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Chairwoman Lisi commended Mr. Ferguson for anticipating the conditions and including them in the presentation. She then read the standard conditions into the record.
1. That the owner of the building always pay the commercial property tax rate to the extent allowed by Federal, State, and Local Laws for the duration of the Special Permit.
2. That the business retain a minimum 30% Holyoke residents for non-security jobs.
3. That Hiring preference be given to security personnel that are retired Holyoke Police or are a retired member of another police department that now lives in the City of Holyoke.
4. There shall be no marijuana consumption allowed on site.
5. There shall be no deliveries of retail or medical marijuana from the site to individual homes, residences, or people.
6. That hours of operation be set according to city ordinances.

Councilor Murphy made a motion to approve the special permit with the condition. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(1:14:20)

Councilor Murphy made a motion to remove item 2 from the table and open the public hearing. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 3: PUBLIC HEARING 1-19-21 Special Permit Application of Mass Cannabis Growers Cooperative, LLC for a Marijuana Manufacturing Establishment at 11 Jackson St for a cultivation facility.

--->      Public hearing continued to June 8th 4-0

DISCUSSION:

Brandon Gates, owner of Mass Cannabis Growers Cooperative, stated he was joined by members of their Board of Directors, David Mager, David Jackson, Kyle Sosebee, and Rick Bayer. He then shared a presentation of their plans. He noted that had a unique model, creating a space for micro applicants and small farmers and individuals to create compliant products at their location. He noted that a new provision with the state would allow them to become a craft cooperative to cultivate indoor and outdoor marijuana in multiple locations under the same license. He stated that the facility would house up to 15,000 square feet. He stated that they would house operations for harvesting, manufacturing dry and cure marijuana, packaging products, developing extracts, sell to marijuana establishments, but would not be allowed to develop a retail space at the cooperative facility to sell directly to consumers. He then laid out regulations they would follow at the facility. He noted that as a cooperative, they would have to adhere to principles through the International Cooperative Alliance. He described the location of the facility and proximity to the canals. He added that they would eventually seek a lease on a second facility on Sumner Street. He then described the layout of individual grow pods that individual members would have use, adding that members would have also access to clone libraries as well as areas for trimming and packaging. He noted that each pod would need their own cameras and secure access for individual members. He also described proprietary strains of cannabis that would be available to members.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that cooperatives in other industries collect product from multiple growers and then process the product under one label. She then noted that this form of cooperative appeared to allow multiple craft labels or brands working independently under one roof.

B. Gates stated that his intent was to have a parent label, allowing individual members to retain intellectual property, branding knowledge, and ideas they developed prior to buying into the cooperative and becoming a recreational producer. He noted that in contrast to cooperatives in other industries, everyone would have to exist under one host community agreement and under one roof and compliance package. He added that each pod would operate as autonomous farms within one environment.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if there would be space for cultivation and processing.

B. Gates clarified that there would be cultivation but no processing.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if 500 square feet would be enough for a label to maintain themselves.

B. Gates stated that it would, based on data they had collected from the environments that the potential members had been using. He stated that the gross revenue per pod was expected to be around $120,000 per pod, adding that there would be $10,000 buy in to own a pod. He added that pod ownership was similar to a stock in that ownership would be transferable. He then stated that individual members would have additional costs such as for lighting and equipment. He reiterated that the intent was to create opportunity for those that would have barriers to opening their own facilities.

Chairwoman Lisi asked how the growers would make their product available to the market.

B. Gates stated they would create dry and cured flowers, adding that the trimming would be sold to manufacturers that would make it into extract for use in products. He added that the plan for a second facility would include making extract for creation of edibles. He then featured members of the advisory board.

Councilor Murphy asked if the $10,000 was a one time fee and if the revenue would come from working with the cooperative to get the product out to manufacturers.

B. Gates confirmed that was correct.

Councilor Murphy asked how many pods would be available.

B. Gates stated there would be 27 pods in the building.

Councilor Murphy asked if they are built as each member buys in.

B. Gates stated that partition space and walls would be erected as each member pays their dues. He added that security cameras, electrical wiring, and irrigation lines would be prepared and tied into central networks ahead of time.

Councilor Murphy asked if members would have access at any time.

B. Gates stated they would have access during all shifts through individual passcodes and key cards.

Councilor Murphy asked where the entrance would be, noting a preference to not have it visible to those around the area.

B. Gates stated that it would be off either Jackson or Sumner Street.

Councilor Murphy noted that the area was in need of activity, adding that he found the plan to be an interesting concept.

Councilor Hernandez asked what the criteria would be for members to join the cooperative.

B. Gates stated that a member must have been a Massachusetts resident for at least a year, they cannot have a felony on their record according to a CORI background check. He then stated that he would prefer that requirement to change to allow those with marijuana felonies and other non-violent felonies to join, adding that those disenfranchised by the war of drugs should be able to be a recreational cultivator. He also stated that everyone should be small and not backed by a larger marijuana company.

Councilor Hernandez noted the similarity to community gardens.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if the plans submitted to the City Clerk on February were the final plans.

B. Gates stated that they had a new amendment submitted on May 13th, adding that the main information for review would have been from February.

Chairwoman Lisi noted there had been responses from the Planning Department in April, applicant responses that followed, as well as a new letter from the Planning Department on May 20th.

R. Bayer stated that the Planning Department asked for sealed plans, adding that the proposed plans were schematic and in development.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that there had been additional questions in the last review dated May 21st. She asked if they had received that letter.

B. Gates confirmed they had.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if they had provided a copy of the signed lease.

B. Gates stated that they held an option on the lease but would not have to sign and execute it until they received provisional licensing from the state, adding that the owner of the building had signed it.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if a typo regarding grow pods had been amended.

B. Gates stated that they provided responses to the Planning Department, adding that the packets should have been received and distributed by the City Clerk’s office.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if there had been a submission since the May 20th letter from the Planning Department, noting there were outstanding issues.

D. Mager clarified that the last communication they were aware of was their response to the Planning Department on May 13th.

Chairwoman Lisi stated that the outstanding issues could be conditioned into the permit. She noted that there was a typo to be addressed.

D. Mager clarified that it had been addressed.

Chairwoman Lisi stated that there had been a request to clarify which activities would occur on site as opposed to those that may occur on site, adding that the Planning Department was requesting an updated submittal reflecting the corrections. She also noted that there was a request to clarify if there would be a generator on site and where it would be located.

D. Mager stated that there had been responses to these questions submitted on May 13th. He the stated that there would not be a generator.

Chairwoman Lisi clarified that she was reading from a May 21st review of the responses submitted on April 27th.

Councilor Vacon stated she had been reading a review acknowledging that the applicant would correct the typo, adding that there had been a further request for an updated submittal.

Chairwoman Lisi suggested that the hearing should be continued in order to receive a new submission of documents. She then clarified that the documents should be sent through the City Clerk’s office for distribution.

Councilor Hernandez made a motion to continue the public hearing to June 8th at 6:30 PM. Chairwoman Lisi seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

R. Bayer stated that the necessary documents were already prepared that addressed the outstanding issues and would be submitted the following day.

 

(1:56:40)

Councilor Hernandez made a motion to remove item 4 from the table. Chairwoman Lisi seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 4: 4-6-21 MURPHY -- Ordered that the city council consider adopting a wage theft ordinance for all contractors doing projects for the city or receiving special tax incentives by the city similar to Easthampton and Springfield with the following purposes: prevent misclassification of employees as independent contractors; assure that employees are paying all payroll taxes and workers compensation premiums; comply with state laws governing the payment of prevailing wages; assure that contractors provide opportunities for Holyoke residents, veterans, people of color and women.

--->      Laid on the table 4-0.

DISCUSSION:

Councilor Murphy stated that the intent was to assure that all contractors work on a level playing field so that those not following laws and regulation would not get an advantage. He also stated that he intended to assure all employees would be treated with respect and according to the laws. He stated that the ordinance was needed because wage theft was a major issue, noting a report from the Attorney General’s office which highlighted nearly $6.7 million in restitution and $5.7 million in penalties paid, with 12,939 workers being assisted by the AG’s actions against employers. He noted that contractors not properly paying expenses have an unfair advantage over contractors following the rules.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that rules exist detailing how workers should be compensated, adding that companies the city contracts with should be following those rules and subjecting employees of loss of wages.

Councilor Vacon asked if legitimate independent contractors would be able to participate in contracts, noting that certain rules detail who is an independent contractor.

Councilor Murphy stated that as long as contractors and subcontractors follow fair labor standards laws in the state, they would be fine. He added that if they do violate laws, they would be subject to a review and potentially no longer able to submit bids for contracts.

Chairwoman Lisi recognized Lisa Clauson and Charlie Payne to provide additional information on wage theft ordinance proposals.

Councilor Murphy made a motion to suspend the necessary rules to allow Ms. Clauson and Mr. Payne to address the committee. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

L. Clauson noted that wage theft is a major problem in the construction industry as contractors try to get lower bids by cheating their workers properly. She noted that it often happens with minority workers, adding that it often includes not paying taxes, workers compensation insurance, leading workers to have to deal with costs on their own if they are injured. She stated the intent is to raise the city’s standards by stipulating that contractors with recent findings of wage theft would not be allowed to bid on jobs and would face additional repercussions. She also noted that local efforts to adopt wage theft ordinances had also included language intended to provide equitable opportunity to women, minorities, and veterans.

Councilor Vacon asked for a clarification of who Ms. Clauson and Mr. Payne represent.

L. Clauson stated that she works for the Carpenter’s Union in Springfield, adding that she represents members from across Western Mass, including many from Holyoke.

C. Payne stated that he was a business agent for the Carpenter’s Union, adding that he represented 31 families from Holyoke. He then noted that one out of four cases he had referred to the AG actually got investigated, adding that the problem is much larger than is seen. He reiterated that Latino workers are often the major victims of wage theft. He stated that workers are often paid half or less of what they are owed. He noted one case he referred resulted in $469,000 owed in restitution, adding that the matter includes 14 prevailing wage projects and a scheme to not fund pension plans for the workers. He also added that there had been $521,000 in civil penalties. He also noted another case involving workers from Holyoke that finished a job for an independent contractor that then expressed no intent to pay them.

Chairwoman Lisi suggested hearing from members of the public before reviewing the language.

Patrick Burke, United Auto Workers Local 2322, stated that he had been in support for local wage theft ordinances. He noted that more is lost due to wage theft than any other kind of crime, adding that those impacted are often those who can least afford it. He added that victims often do not have the resources to legally fight for what they are owed.

Councilor Vacon asked how an ordinance with the current state law, noting that people can file a complaint with the state.

Amy Calandrella stated she was an operating engineer running heavy equipment for International Union of Operating Engineers Local 98. She then stated that she had not initially understand how wage theft could happen, noting that she had earned salary with the same pay every week before becoming an operating engineer with a different number of hours every week. She then recalled a situation with an employer when she had not been paid for a week due to a clerical error, noting the work she had to do to get the matter resolved.

Scot Goulding stated that he had worked with the Carpenter’s Union for 30 years before becoming a teacher. He noted that while teaching at Westover Job Corps, he was aware of a great deal of abuse faced by at risk youth in terms of wage theft. He added that contractors who get caught may end up only paying in 10% of the instances that they cheated their workers. He also noted the issue with contractors receiving tax incentives from the city who then cheat their workers.

Marangeliz Castillo stated that she was a union carpenter from Local 336. She expressed her support for addressing wage theft.

Chairwoman Lisi asked if the ordinance would be redundant to state laws.

C. Payne noted that the state was a large bureaucracy, leading to long waits for cases to be handled. He reiterated that only one out of dour is pursued. He added that while the state may find that a contractor committed wage theft, they would not necessarily debar them from doing work. He stated that the ordinance would send a message that contractors who take advantage of workers would not be given access to bidding for contracts or receiving tax incentives. He also noted that many workers do not have the resources or may be afraid to file complaints, adding that the state lacks the resources to handle all complaints.

L. Clauson noted that the AG’s office issued a statement declaring their support municipalities taking action to complement their own investigative work.

Chairwoman Lisi noted there were two draft ordinances to consider.

L. Clauson noted that while both provided the same language for wage theft, one also stated goals for encouraging diversity.

Councilor Murphy stated his first goal would be to assure that contractors would be paying a fair wage. He stated he would support efforts for additional goals as a secondary priority. He expressed concern about discouraging contractors from working with Holyoke if they are not able to hire enough people for diverse workforces.

Chairwoman Lisi noted that one defines people of color and percentages of hours.

L. Clauson noted that the state requires diversity goals as a part of state projects with percentages of work hours for minority and women workers. She stated that some communities had also included a goal for hiring veterans. She noted there was also a goal for prioritizing Holyoke residents.

Councilor Vacon expressed support for workers being treated equitably as well as prioritizing local employment. She then expressed concern about problems with discrimination relative to hiring local employees if hard numbers were to be required.

Chairwoman Lisi suggested that the diversity goals were already in place with the state, adding that the language in the ordinance proposal would just be reiterating those goals.

Councilor Murphy expressed concern with specific numbers, adding that he would support for preference given to Holyoke residents as long as the qualifications match the needs. He suggested encouraging goals as a preference rather than mandating them. He then reiterated his main goal was to assure that contractors were not taking advantage of workers.

Chairwoman Lisi suggested that the language could refer to the state laws rather than codifying specific numbers in the ordinance.

Councilor Vacon suggested that the committee take more time to review the language.

Councilor Murphy suggested another two weeks to review document in order to work with the Law Department would be appropriate.

L. Clauson noted it would be a long term issue.

C. Payne stated that the matter was about taking care of people who get hurt by this issue.

Councilor Murphy noted it was also bad for the community.

Councilor Vacon stated her support for local control, noting it would be closer to the work.

Councilor Greaney requested hard copies of all information.

Councilor Murphy asked for the legislation passed in Easthampton as well as in Springfield.

L. Clauson noted that Springfield broke it out into three different ordinances, while Easthampton had passed it as one ordinance.

Chairwoman Lisi stated that the Easthampton version was already available.

L. Clauson stated that a new Holyoke proposal could be provided to reflect feedback.

Chairwoman Lisi asked how other communities have handled compliance, noting that Holyoke did not have a compliance officer.

L. Clauson stated that it would vary based on a community’s resources. She stated that one city had documents filed through their procurement office while another utilized the City Clerk office. She then clarified that the process would involve filing the documents so that they would be available for requests to review the information. She stated that contractors would sign an affidavit that they would comply with the ordinance and had not had a finding against them. She added that if someone brings a complaint to the city, there would be a process for addressing it. She noted that certified payrolls were already required of contractors.

Chairwoman Lisi suggested leaving out a preamble section of the proposed language.

Councilor Murphy suggested clearly laying out what the rules are and what the consequences would be without a need for extra language.

Councilor Vacon made a motion to lay on the table. Councilor Murphy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(2:50:40)

Councilor Vacon made a motion to remove item 5 from the table. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 5: 3-16-21 MCGIVERIN -- That the City Council consider raising the max amount of reserve police officers for 24 to 35.

--->      Approved 4-0

DISCUSSION:

Councilor McGiverin noted that the Police Department stated that the number of reserve officers was not sufficient for the uses of the department. He stated that reserve officers receive training toward eventually being hired as permanent officers as well as having a pool to utilize from when there are needs. He noted that there would not be a greater cost other than increased per diem costs approved by the City Council.

Councilor Murphy made a motion to suspend the necessary rules to allow Lt. Hart to address the committee. Chairwoman Lisi seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Lt. Hart stated that the additional reserves would help, especially with a new reform bill. He stated that training time would be extended, adding that once training, they could be put to work right away without the need to go to another police academy. He noted that they would be losing much of their auxiliary force with the new reform bill.

Councilor Vacon asked how many reserve officers there had been at the time.

Lt. Hart stated there were 14, along with 10 new that had just been hired. He added that 10 of them would be hired as full time the next month.

Councilor Vacon asked if that meant they would be looking for 21 reserve officers.

Lt. Hart confirmed that was correct.

Councilor Vacon asked if they would be able to recruit 21 people.

Lt. Hart stated there were many already on the civil service list.

Councilor Vacon asked why they would be losing auxiliary officers due to the reform bill.

Lt. Hart stated they would have to fall under the same regulations as full time officers, noting that those over 65 would be automatically eliminated as those over 65 cannot be police officers.

Councilor Vacon noted that it was more restrictive, especially give that the duties of auxiliary officers were different than full time officers.

Councilor Murphy noted having just appointed new reserve officers. He added that he would be appointed 10 new patrol officers in the coming week, bringing it up close to 90 and reducing the number of available reserve officers. He also noted that fewer people had been applying to be police officers, given the environment of the time. He noted that the benefits of reserve officers included helping to reduce costs as well as having new officers already coming in with training.

Chairwoman Lisi emphasized that raising the cap was important, noting that they would always be hiring few full time officers than there were available reserve officers as some choose to make other decisions about their future. She then asked if the department had legal support for interpreting the new reforms.

Lt. Hart confirmed they had an officer helping the department implement the guidelines.

Councilor Vacon made a motion to approve the increase. Councilor Murphy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

(3:02:55)

Councilor Vacon made a motion to remove item 6 from the table. Councilor Hernandez seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

Item 6: 4-20-21 HERNANDEZ -- Ordered, That a handicap sign be placed at 63 Taylor St.

--->      Approved 4-0

DISCUSSION:

Chairwoman Lisi asked if there had been communication from the Disabilities Commission.

Admin Asst Anderson-Burgos stated that Don Welch approved the addition of the spot, the City Engineer submitted measurements, and the Law Department would be putting together a draft.

Councilor Hernandez noted there had been questions from the Commission, adding that she was pleased to get help for the woman who needed help parking closer to where she lived.

Councilor Vacon made a motion to approve the addition of the sign. Councilor Murphy seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

Councilor Vacon made a motion to adjourn. Chairwoman Lisi seconded the motion. All members voted in favor.

 

Adjourned 9:36 PM.


Jeffery Anderson-Burgos
Holyoke City Hall
536 Dwight St, Room 10
Holyoke, MA 01040
Regular hours 8:30 AM - 4:30 PM
Meeting days 12:00 PM - 5:00 PM
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