From My Corner: April 15, 2024

Unorthodox practices of the LRA

Last week, the six-hour-long City Council meeting tried to deal with the issue of the transfer of properties to the Lawrence Redevelopment Authority (LRA) because some councilors are insisting on starting the process all over again.  They don’t approve of what was done in 2016 and wish to tear it apart even though Mayor Brian DePeña and the current Council President Jeovanny Rodriguez were part of that agreement when they were both city councilors.

Redevelopment is something that takes many years to complete; it’s a process that goes from one administration to another while it is progressing.  Stopping what has been done to start again sounds to me like creating a venue for future mayors to disrespect the work being done today and decide that they want to start anew, as well.

At the previous council meeting, it was decided that the LRA board members should be there for the next meeting.  I’m told that just before six o’clock, Octavien Spanner called some of the members and told them it was not necessary to be there because Atty. Brian Corrigan would be speaking for them.  Although Council President Jeovanny Rodríguez didn’t mention their names, Octavien Spanner, Ramón Quezada, and Eric Walker participated via Zoom.  Pérez was the only member in attendance because she was representing the Federación de Comerciantes.

There was another meeting held at the LRA last week which I missed, but this time it was because it was an emergency, secret meeting and it was kept away from my knowledge.  The only item on the agenda was “Transfer of City properties to the LRA pursuant to the Lawrence TBD Urban Renewal Plan.”

The LRA had argued that they don’t need council approval to do the transfers but at this ‘special meeting,’ they agreed not to accept any properties until receiving a response from the State and bringing it up to the city council to figure out the next step.

Going to these meetings is the only way to find out what’s being done because there’s no other information available.  I tried looking for a website that would offer updates on progress, but none exists.

The best way to get to know what they are doing is to go through their agenda items for each meeting and, if you are lucky to find any of their minutes, they will reveal a lot of information about how confusing they are to read.  For example:

The minutes of August 23, 2023, appear to mimic the way things are done at City Hall these days – backward – because the board reviewed the resume of Jacqueline Mercedes who was recommended by Octavien Spanner for the Small Business Accounting Services’ newly created position and hired her instructing Attorney Brian Corrigan to prepare a contract and he suggested doing a Request For Proposal (RFP).

Jacqueline Mercedes is the wife of José Javier, Capital Asset Manager at City Hall.

They proceeded to make a motion to issue three separate RFPs for Credit Repair, Accreditation, another one for the creation of a website, and one for the Director of Development.

The next item was a Contract for the Director of Development.  Mr. Spanner had recommended Andrea McCann “because he has seen her raise funds and has seen her work on several successful fundraisins (sic)” according to the August 23, 2023, minutes.  They went ahead and hired her at the rate of $7,000 each month.

Andrea has been earning her salary since August of 2023 and has nothing to show for except making copies and bringing water for the meetings and Jacqueline will be attending the next meeting.  The RFPs were never done, and the positions were never advertised.  Neither were the contracts for both drafted.

Later, I found out that since last summer, Octavien proposed paying $71,850 to Karyn Martin of Golden Thread Agency LLC, 26 Scenic View Drive, Pelham, NH, 03076.  Her proposal was dated August 14, 2023.  The members hesitated because they had no idea what should be included and what tabs it should have.  They also thought it was too much money and nothing had been done.  Meanwhile, we continue in the dark.

There’s also another contract to DHARMA Consulting, an agency created on January 11, 2023, located at 60 Island St., #209W by Hem H. Vora.  They sent a contract to the LRA on August 14, 2023, to provide “Consulting services to the LRA” beginning January 1, 2024, at $6,500 each month.

If there’s one reason, I would have loved being there, it was to tell Ana Medina what she got into.  She was very angry loudly complaining about being a “private person” and hates to have people talking about her.  You are now a public person and cannot expect anonymity.  Lawrence thanks you for stepping up to serve but that’s part of the price you pay for your loyalty to the city.

Anyone wishing to learn more about what goes on with the LRA and those properties may contact Sarah Pérez, Pedro Tejada, or Ramón Quezada.  They insisted that there should be someone addressing questions from residents and after taking a vote, the three of them were permitted to be spokespersons for the LRA.

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply