Lowell, UMass strike historic multi-year PILOT agreement

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The city of Lowell and the University of Massachusetts Lowell have struck a historic multi-year master agreement that codifies almost $8 million in voluntary contributions that the university will make to the city.
 
The agreement will support services provided by the city, provide services to the city, and help with the cost of critical infrastructure projects.
 
Among the commitments made by the university are $3 million toward matching funds for a $13.4 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, which is being used to repair eight dilapidated bridges, and $1.6 million to help pay down the debt created by repairs to a city-owned parking garage that is shared by UMass. The payments for those projects will be spread out over the next 20 years.
 
The master agreement also locks into place for the next five years a 6 percent fee UMass will pay to the city for each occupied room at its Inn & Conference Center, excluding rooms paid for by university accounts, and a .75 percent meals tax to the city for all Aramark-run retail food outlets on campus, with the exception of sales made using a university meal plan.
 
UMass will provide $85,000 for the field replacement at LeLacheur Park, which is home to UMass Lowell’s baseball team as well as the minor league Lowell Spinners, and $25,000 a year for ongoing maintenance to the park.
 
Legislation to create LeLacheur Park when the university donated the land in the 1990s stated that the university did not have to pay for its baseball team to play there, but City Manager Kevin Murphy said the master agreement includes the university’s acknowledgement that it has a responsibility to maintain the ballpark.
 
The university also agrees to treat, plow and clear snow from several locations adjacent to campus property and provide landscape maintenance on certain city-owned properties. A city staffer also has a desk in UMass Lowell’s Innovation Hub coworking space downtown, so startups seeking space can immediately connect with the city, providing an economic development tool.
 
Like many cities and towns that receive contributions from tax-exempt entities, Lowell’s previous agreements with UMass tended to be informal and ad hoc, according to Murphy. The university’s purchase of a residential development last summer that will eliminate $321,000 in annual property tax revenue for Lowell spurred the city and university to codify those informal contributions into a multi-year agreement, providing stability and confidence in financial forecasting for the city.
 
“The city provides significant services to UMass Lowell when it comes to police protection, fire protection, plowing and things like that,” Murphy said. “I think it’s a great partnership. The university understands that significant resources are spent on them by the city and they just want to cooperate and help out in return.”
 
Murphy and his team met with UMass Lowell chancellor Jacquie Moloney and her team to work out the details of how the university would contribute to city, as well as to identify city projects that have a direct impact on the university.
 
Key to developing the agreement, Murphy said, was the city running a statistical analysis of police and fire calls to UMass Lowell properties and services such as plowing and maintaining intersections. Presenting those numbers to the university administrators provided a basis for discussing contributions.
 
“What I would do is advise any local managers to put the statistics together, sit down and have an honest discussion,” he said. “That’s what we did and we got a great master agreement in return.”