LHS Vote, Gas Safety Motion on Council Agenda

February 13, 2019

LOWELL -- Another vote to push ahead the downtown high school project is set for Thursday’s City Council meeting, in addition to a proposal inspired by last year’s devastating Columbia Gas explosions.

A week after the Lowell High School Building Committee unanimously approved the submission of the project’s schematic design to the state, the City Council will be asked to authorize the submission to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The vote is the next step in order to move the high school project forward.

The total project cost for the addition/renovation high school project is estimated to top $343 million, according to the project’s schematic design.

This will likely be reviewed for approval at the MSBA’s April 10 meeting.

The complete estimated project cost is $343,399,220. Of that number, $270,444,856 represents construction costs. Other costs, like building demolition and hazmat, are estimated at $17,423,246.

After MSBA’s reimbursement, the total cost to the city is estimated at $129,267,512.

Lowell City Councilor Rita Mercier has opposed the downtown project, citing the displacement of the doctors at 75 Arcand Drive. The City Council has voted 7-2 to take that property by eminent domain.

Mercier also has a motion on Thursday’s agenda related to the Columbia Gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.

Her motion requests City Manager Eileen Donoghue have the city reach out to National Grid about installing gas pressure relief valve safety whistles across Lowell. This would alert customers if a gas line is over-pressurized.

This technology would be another layer of safety for every household in Lowell, Mercier emphasized

“Give me a warning before you blow up my house, you know what I’m saying?” Mercier said about her proposal.

She compared the safety mechanism to a smoke detector and carbon monoxide monitor in homes.

The alarm makes a loud noise, at about 80 decibels, according to Mercier. It’s also designed to help alleviate the excessive gas pressure and keep it from entering the home, releasing the gas into the atmosphere.

Some detractors may say the installation of the safety whistles would be expensive for ratepayers, but Mercier said she doesn’t want customers to pay for it.

“They (National Grid) make enough money,” she said.

Follow Rick Sobey on Twitter @rsobeyLSun.

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