Lowell, UMass Lowell sign master agreement

UMass Lowell and the city of Lowell signed a historic master agreement that spells out the financial relationship between the municipality and its largest tax-exempt landholder.

The deal commits the university to make $8 million in voluntary payments to the city over the next 20 years for a wide variety of projects and to handle snow removal and landscape maintenance on city property near the school.

The agreement also commits UMass Lowell to pay the city something akin to meals and hotel occupancy taxes, but they’re called fees instead. The meals fee is .75 percent of any sales at retail food outlets on campus and the hotel occupancy fee is 6 percent of the room rate at UMass Lowell’s Inn and Conference Center.

In short, the deal resolves a thorny issue that plagues many municipalities — how to treat tax-exempt institutions that consume many city services but are under no obligation to pay for them.

Everyone was all smiles on Tuesday at the signing of the master agreement, but just last year the city and the university were at loggerheads after the school bought a residential development on the edge of its campus. The purchase converted a taxable property into a tax-exempt one, costing the city an estimated $321,000 a year in tax revenues.

City Manager Kevin Murphy said at the time that he felt blindsided by the purchase. “It’s a devastating thing,” he said. “It’s a slap in the face to the so-called partnership we had.”

Rep. Robert Nangle of Lowell began pushing legislation that would require nonprofits to pony up money to their towns. A bill he filed last year required nonprofits to pay property taxes on a sliding scale if their top five employees earn more than $2.5 million a year. The nonprofits would pay 100 percent of their assessed property taxes in the first year, 75 percent in the second, 50 percent in the third, and 25 percent thereafter.

On Tuesday, Murphy hailed the “first-of-a-kind” formal agreement with the university and Nangle said he hoped it would become a model for nonprofits across the Commonwealth.

UMass Lowell Chancellor Jacquie Moloney also praised the deal. “This city always stands together,” she said. “At the end of the day, we always find the common ground, the right path forward to find these mutually beneficial partnerships.”

BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

Attorney General Maura Healey outlines her own vision for criminal justice reform and says the state must go beyond what Gov. Charlie Baker has proposed. (State House News)

Rep. Jay Kaufman, the chair of the Revenue Committee, confirms the obvious — there isn’t going to be a state sales tax holiday this month. (State House News)

A new surveillance camera facing down from the front of the State House toward an area often used for rallies and protests has the Boston Globe hot and bothered.

Meeting its pension obligations won’t be easy for Massachusetts. (Boston Globe)

Nicolette Smith, an employee at the Department of Public Health, which regulates medical marijuana facilities, is applying for a license to sell medical marijuana. (Boston Herald)

Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr documents how Gov. Charlie Baker’s latest judicial appointee, a Swampscott neighbor, has a penchant for contributing money to whomever occupies the corner office at the State House.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

MassLive explains how Hudson’s downtown bounced back despite competition from a mall and a Wal-Mart.

Boston reports gains in building affordable housing with its inclusionary development policy. (Boston Globe)

Cambridge approves home-sharing regulations that require owners to live in or adjacent to the buildings they are renting out. (State House News)

On Cape Cod, there has been some confusion over the procedure for banning retail marijuana  sales in communities that voted against the pot ballot measure. The newly passed law requires the town’s “legislative body” to implement any ban. In larger municipalities, that job would fall to the city council; in smaller towns, it would be town meeting. In communities that voted for the ballot measure, a townwide vote would be required to ban retail pot sales. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump, sounding much like North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, warns of “fire and fury” if the United States is threatened by the bellicose nation. (New York Times)

ELECTIONS

Boston Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld reports US Senate candidate Geoff Diehl is saying he won’t raise questions about Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s ancestry during the campaign — he’ll leave that to others.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Boston Globe’s technology columnist, Hiawatha Bray, is uneasy with one of the world’s top information providers (Google) firing an employee for speaking his mind.

The New England Patriots bought two planes to ferry players to and from games, becoming the first NFL team to own its own air wing. (ESPN)

The principle of supply and demand is working, pretty much, in psychiatric care. The number of psychiatric hospital beds is rising to meet growing demand, but some hospitals are finding it difficult to attract the psychiatrists they need to oversee the beds. (Boston Globe) Edward M. Murphy reported on a boom in psychiatric hospital beds at the start of last year. (CommonWealth)

CVS is sued over clawbacks of prescription drug copays. (Bloomberg News) Todd Brown of Northeastern laid out how consumers are paying more than necessary in June in CommonWealth.

General Electric shuffled the timetable for its Boston headquarters buildings. (Boston Globe)

EDUCATION

The UMass Building Authority asks for input from developers on what should be done with the site of the former Bayside Expo Center. The authority envisions a waterfront neighborhood that could resemble a “modern day Harvard Square.” (Dorchester Reporter)

Bristol Community College receives a $2 million donation, its largest ever. (Herald News)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Deaths from overdoses soared in the first nine months of 2016. (Washington Post)

TRANSPORTATION

Former transportation secretary James Aloisi says Rep. William Straus’s proposal to use Massport parking revenues to fund upkeep of the Metropolitan Highway System is a really bad idea. (CommonWealth)

As a New York Times editorial points out, one big difference between the New York and Boston subway systems is that New York officials are talking about investing more money in their system. They just can’t agree on how to do it.

The MBTA waived some of its own construction rules for an Eversource power line project. (Metrowest Daily News)

Sen. Edward Markey voices support for a Boston-Springfield rail connection. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Frederick Clay, who was convicted of murdering a cab driver in 1979, walked out of prison a free and innocent man on Monday after prosecutors admitted his 1981 conviction was tainted. (Boston Herald)

A woman from Boston’s Chinatown, already facing charges for sex trafficking, is arrested again on the same charge in Quincy. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

Franklin Foer, the New Republic’s former editor, says the pursuit of digital readership broke the liberal magazine and adds that the quest for clicks is damaging the entire publishing industry. (The Atlantic)

Disney is leaving Netflix and plans to launch its own streaming service. (Bloomberg)

PASSINGS

Rhinestone cowboy singer Glen Campbell, who waged a public struggle with Alzheimer’s in his later years, died at age 81. (New York Times)

  • Mhmjjj2012

    Sadly, the agreement between UMass Lowell and the City of Lowell doesn’t amount to much at all. UMass Lowell purchased a development that was contributing $321,000 in annual property taxes but now contributes nothing. Over the 20 year period of the so-called agreement UMass Lowell will supposedly contribute $8 million to the City but compare that to the grand total of $6,420,000 lost in property taxes over those same 20 years from that one single property…and that’s not adjusting for future increases…then what does the City really get out of the deal? Nothing…absolutely nothing. Whenever the City comes to the negotiating table with UMass Lowell it always ends up on the losing side. Take for example, the Tsongas Arena…now owned by UMass Lowell thanks to then Chancellor Marty Meehan’s wheeling and dealing with the City of Lowell. Here are some highlights from UMass Lowell’s website:
    “Both the city and university will benefit from the agreement. UMass Lowell will receive:
    The $24 million, 6,500-seat arena, debt-free;
    The 3-acre parcel adjacent to the arena, to be developed as a commercial property that complements the arena;
    The surrounding park and grounds for a broad range of campus activities;
    Year-round use of the arena for events;
    Increased opportunities to generate new revenue;
    Easier and more cost-effective use of the facility.
    The city of Lowell will receive:
    $800,000;
    No further responsibility for running the arena and covering its costs, which have been up to $1.3 million a year;
    The opportunity to conduct five annual events;
    Ice time for public use at cost;
    A university-owned parcel of land on Pawtucket Boulevard.”
    Apparently the “opportunity to conduct five annual events” comes at a great cost. The City Council has loudly complained about how much UMass Lowell charges Lowell High School for its commencements which must be somewhere around $20,000 by now.