Commercial Street

Satterwhite enters race for school committee

COURTESY PHOTO
Michael Satterwhite is the latest candidate to enter the crowded race for School Committee.

By THOMAS GRILLO

Michael Satterwhite insists there’s something missing in the city’s public schools: Spanish-speaking teachers.

“About 68 percent of the school children consider themselves to be Hispanic, but there aren’t many Hispanic teachers,” he said. “We need to recruit faculty that more reflect the students.”

The 32-year-old Revere attorney, who has a 9-year-old daughter and another child on the way, is the latest candidate to launch a campaign for a seat on the School Committee.

“As a lawyer, I see families who have children with disabilities and others who are on IEPs (Individualized Education Plans),” he said. “Over the years it’s been such a difficult process for parents to get through it and get the proper ed plans for their kids. I have the tools to improve our schools.”

He enters a crowded field to join the seven-member panel where the mayor serves as chair. There will be at least two new members of the school committee because Patricia Capano, the vice chairwoman, and Maria Carrasco will not seek re-election.

Incumbents seeking another term include Donna Coppola, John Ford, Lorraine Gately, and Jared Nicholson. In addition, there are nine other contenders including Jordan Avery, Cherish Rashida Casey,  Brian Castellanos, Elizabeth Rosario Gervacio, Gayle Hearns-Rogers, Sandra Lopez, Natasha Megie-Maddrey, Jessica Murphy, and Stanley Wotring Jr.

While Satterwhite agrees Lynn desperately needs new schools, he voted against the controversial proposal in March to approve construction of a pair of middle schools.

In a special election, voters rejected two ballot questions that would have authorized a $188.5 million plan for a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second school to house 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

“I voted no because the process didn’t sit well for me,” he said. “We need new buildings, but do they need to be where they planned to put them? I didn’t agree with the school to be built at Parkland Avenue.”

Satterwhite wants to know why the city needed to tax homeowners an extra $200 a year for 25 years for the new schools.

“I’m paying property taxes now, so what are they doing to improve the schools,” he said. “Where is the $5,000 that I pay going?”

Satterwhite didn’t have the easiest of childhoods. He has talked about his mother being one of Lynn’s biggest drug dealers and a user as well. At one point, he went to live with his father to get away from a bad environment.

In 1997, he met former Mayor Thomas M. Menino at a Volunteers of America event. The faith-based nonprofit was founded in 1896 to provide assistance to low-income people. He said Menino became a mentor and helped guide him into adulthood.

“It was something having someone of his stature actually want to know more about me and help me,” he said. “We had a friendship of many years.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Deadline Friday for Lynn Youth Summer Jobs

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — Applications for the Lynn Youth Summer Jobs program are due Friday.

The program is supported by the Lynn Parks and Recreation Division of the Department of Public Works.

Young adults ages 17 to 21 will be considered for the five-week parks and recreation summer job program, which runs from Wednesday, July 5 to Aug. 4, Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

A glimpse into the future

Counselor positions pay $11 per hour; supervisor positions $13 per hour; and clinic instructors are paid $11 per hour.

Applicants for a counselor position at the Lynn Special Needs Camp should be between the ages of 16 and 21. The five-week job will run from July 5 through Aug, 4 and pay $11 per hour.

Applications are available at Lynn City Hall’s Personnel Department Room 412, the DPW at 250 Commercial St., and online at www.lynnma.gov. They should be returned to Room 412.


Bridget Turcotte can be reached at bturcotte@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte

A glimpse into the future

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Construction slowed traffic last week on the Lynnway.

The good news is that the sewer pipe repair project that snarled the Lynnway for most of last week is over and done with. The bad news is that the traffic slowdowns, the stop-and-start crawls through a single traffic lane, could become a semi-common occurrence locally over the next 10 years.

Last week’s sewer line repair ensured Nahant can continue to send its sewage to the Water and Sewer Commission’s Commercial Street extension waste treatment complex. The repairs represented an immediate fix that needed to be done. But Water and Sewer is weighing the pros and cons of a much larger project, one that involves spending $100 million-plus to end partially treated sewage discharges into the ocean.

Federal environmental officials want the discharges stopped and they want to see detailed plans for ending the overflows. Combined storm sewer overflow work (CSO) dates back, planning-wise, almost 40 years with significant work undertaken in East Lynn in the 1990s.

Simply defined, the work is aimed at ending or, at least, reducing occasions when water runoff from heavy rains overwhelms the Commercial Street extension treatment plants and sends partially-treated sewage into the ocean. Creating a new pipe network exclusively for rainwater prevents discharges but it also represents a costly, inconvenient nuisance for city residents.

Water and Sewer officials have already estimated rates could double over the next 10 years. Homeowners now paying between $600 and $1,000 annually for water and sewer service could pay double those amounts late into the next decade.

Wallet lost, and found

Water and Sewer commissioners and City Council members have argued back and forth about the need for more CSO work and how much work should be done. They point out that Lynn is well ahead of many other communities when it comes to providing clean quality water and efficiently-treated sewage.

The city’s rates, by contrast, are lower than ones paid by many residents in communities served by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority. But with federal regulatory attention focused on the city, Water and Sewer probably cannot avoid spending significant amounts of money on added CSO projects.

Proposals for new work center on West Lynn, specifically Bennett and Oakville streets, and the waterfront where, depending on the plan under discussion, projects ranging in description from massive to small-scale, are proposed for the Lynnway.

If federal pressure grows for CSO work to be done locally, it will fall to someone in elected office to define the scope of work required and build political consensus around the project required to get the work done.

Crucial to the consensus-building will be the realization that putting pipes under city streets means traffic slowdowns, inconvenience, frayed tempers and economic disruptions. If CSO work has to get done, it will get done, but Lynn residents deserve to be told what they will have to endure before the pain begins.

Light at the end of the tunnel on Lynnway

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Construction continues on the Lynnway.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — A traffic headache for Lynnway commuters this week should be just a memory soon as workers complete work on a sewer pipe near the Clock Tower Business Center.

Since Tuesday, workers have been repairing a broken 18-inch pipe that transports waste from Nahant to the Lynn Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant off the Lynnway on Commercial Street extension.

The repairs narrowed traffic outbound from Boston to a single lane and a signal light was temporarily removed as the work continued.

“I know it’s been a traffic nightmare,” said Dennis Ball interim superintendent of the Nahant Public Works Department, on Friday. “I’m crossing my fingers that the job will be done by today — hopefully.”

While the pipe is in Lynn, the agreement with Nahant requires the town to make any repairs, according to Daniel O’Neill, executive director of the Lynn Water and Sewer Commission.

Nahant residents were urged to limit their use of showers, washing machines, and dishwashers while the work proceeded.

On average, Nahant discharges about 500,000 gallons a day of wastewater, or 2 percent of the materials that enter the treatment plant, said O’Neill.

While the repairs were done, Nahant transported wastewater by tanker truck to the treatment plant.

Hands-on education at Connery tree planting

Ball said the fix has been challenging given the pipe is 12 feet underground and encased in concrete.

“We ran into quite a few obstacles,” said Ball.  

The repair won’t come cheap for Nahant.

“To fix it will break the bank,” said Ball. “It’s our pipe and it’s on us.”

He estimates the project will cost $500,000.

Ball credits the state Department of Conservation and Recreation for acting quickly to get traffic lights and signs removed and creating a new traffic pattern.

He also praised Paul Ricchi,  director of the Lynn’s Office of Emergency Management, for stepping up to perform his job in Nahant.

“It’s been a team effort to get this done,” Ball said. “They’ve been great and deserve credit.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

Health center may be news for Malden

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is the former site of the Malden Evening News and Medford Daily Mercury on at 277 Commercial St.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — A community health center could be coming to a historic location just outside of Malden Square, providing services to nearly 4,000 locals who currently have to go to Boston for care.

The new owners of the building that formerly housed operations for the Malden Evening News and Medford Daily Mercury want to establish a health center at the 277 Commercial St. site. They say they are prepared invest $5 million in renovations on top of the $3 million they paid for the building in February.

South Cove Community Health Center, whose patients are almost exclusively of Asian descent, still needs approval from the Malden Planning Board for a special permit to remodel and open the facility.

South Cove sought a permit for a change of use to allow alterations and renovations to the building. South Cove wants to establish a medical center and community health center in an area zoned for industrial use. The building’s owners are hoping for a favorable decision at the next planning board meeting May 10.

A public hearing on the matter was tabled April 12 without a decision.

In business since 1972, South Cove has locations in Brighton, Chinatown, Quincy, and adjacent to South Station in Boston. Around 32,000 patients per year are seen at the existing locations annually.

South Cove officials say nearly 4,000 Malden residents are currently active patients in its medical system. CEO Eugene Welch said a Malden location would be ideal for its local patients.

“Many times we have been asked to establish a health center in Malden,” he said. “Many (Malden residents) now travel regularly to our Boston locations and would be seen right in their own community if we are successful.”

We need more police on the streets, Ford says

The former newspaper’s owners tried for several years to sell the building. A purchase-and-sale agreement with a self-storage outlet in July 2016 included a plan to raze the building and construct a four-story facility.

That offer was withdrawn and newspaper operations continued after strong objections from Malden Councilor-at-Large Craig Spadafora and other city officials.

South Cove has had two neighborhood meetings and its plans have received largely favorable reviews, according to Malden Council President Peg Crowe. The proposed site is in Ward 1, which Crowe represents.

“It would be one of the best uses for that location and a use that would benefit our residents,” she said. “I am totally in support.”

City Councilor Paul Condon, whose ward abuts the site by one street, also expressed support for the South Cove project.

If the special permit is granted by the planning board, South Cove projects opening in Malden as soon as December 2017, following a roof-to-floor remodeling operation.

The Malden Evening News and Medford Daily Mercury operated in the 16,000 square-foot building on the 1.2 acre site for the past 40 years since its construction in 1977.

Citing financial issues, the two newspapers, which printed a daily edition since 1882, ceased publication Jan. 23. The Horgan family, all Lynn natives, finalized sale of the building and land in February.

Playing ball in Malden

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is a rendering for a possible baseball stadium in Malden.

By STEVE FREKER

MALDEN — Developer Alex Bok wants to put a $60 million field of dreams at the edge of Malden Square.

The Boston-based entrepreneur wants to build a minor league baseball stadium, but he cautioned City Council members Tuesday that progress must be made on the protracted land acquisition talks and the council needs to eye the project approvingly or June 15 may be Bok’s deadline to decide on the project’s future.

Bok told councilors he has signed a letter of intent with a minor league baseball team to purchase an existing team “affiliated” with a Major League Baseball (MLB) team.

“There is now a clear path forward toward purchasing a minor league affiliated team, which is what we and everyone associated with this project has wanted and hoped for from the start,” Bok said.

Bok won’t reveal the name or location of the team he has entered in agreement to purchase, but said it is “from the Northeast.”

Bok and his development group, Malden Field of Dreams, first launched the proposal in the spring of 2010, with plans to build a  6,000-seat stadium across from the MBTA Malden Center Orange Line.

Bok said his group would have to sign the purchase-and-sale agreement of the existing team on June 15 with plans to run the team in its existing ballpark for two seasons and open in Malden at the new stadium in 2019.

“We really need and want to have Malden and (the Council) behind this,” Bok said. “We will know a lot more in May and it’s dead or alive on June 15.”

The proposed project includes 16 private boxes, a kids’ zone, and a family-oriented grass picnic area.  Bok proposed to build the project without public tax dollars and he told councilors this week his group is seeking no tax “breaks” or incentives from the city.

The professional stadium is also proposed as home field for Malden High School baseball and other local school athletic events, Bok said.

Now seven years in the discussion stage, the stadium project centers on one of the most coveted — and contentious — land sites in the city, the nine-acre National Grid-owned parcel at Commercial and Charles street and three other private land parcels on Canal and Centre (Route 60) streets.

Bok points to three major issues that have delayed the project: acquiring a team; presently stalemated negotiations with the owners of the Canal Street business properties, and the site’s environmental cleanup requirements.

Bok and the council this week agreed to meet again in May when he pledged to have an update on new negotiations with the business owners adjacent to the National Grid site.

“We are hoping to make some progress with (the owners) in negotiations,” Bok said. “They (legal representatives) told us, ‘Come back and talk with when you have a team.’ Well, we now have a team.”

Aspire building project hits halfway point

Councilors have mixed views on Bok’s project.  

“I’ve been a Doubting Thomas before, and I still am,” said Ward Six Councilor Neil Kinnon. “What we’ve gotten for the past seven years is deadline after deadline after deadline. I truly believe those (Canal Street) businesses aren’t moving anywhere. I think that’s fairytale land. (An agreement) is not happening in four weeks.”

Councilor at large Craig Spadafora said Malden’s downtown plans and scope have changed dramatically in the past seven years since the project was unveiled.

“If this was to occur, we as a city would have a lot of planning to do with streets, lighting and many other issues. Let’s decide this in May or June. That’s too important a land site. We are not waiting another seven years.”

Several other Councilors, including Councilor at large Debbie DeMaria, Ward Seven’s Neal Anderson and Ward Two’s Paul Condon, whose ward is located right next to the proposed ballpark, all expressed support of the project — if it is “done the right way.”  

Condon and Kinnon both noted traffic concerns which would arise. Ward Four Councilor Ryan O’Malley, in whose ward the ballpark would be placed, said he wanted to know the scope and plan for the environmental cleanup of the parcel before he could get behind it.

 

Lynn could get new bakery, coffee shop

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN – A new bakery and coffee shop could be coming to Lynn.

Alexander and Wilder Rodriquez, whose mom owns Mi Guatemala Bakery on Union Street, is scouting locations for a second shop.

The brothers had hoped to lease the former A-S Food Mart at Commercial and Summer streets. But the cost to outfit the 2,000-square-foot shuttered convenience store with fire safety equipment was too expensive, according to Frances Martinez, CEO of the North Shore Latino Business Association, who is working with the family to find space.

Rachel Bennett is seeking a special permit to open Lightning Coffee Roaster in the Lydia Pinkham Building at 271 Western Ave.

Divers search Foster Pond for evidence

Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi said the 137-year-old home is zoned for light manufacturing, so the applicant needs City Council approval for the permit.

The historic house features more than 100 studios for artists and craftsmen including sculptors, glass blowers, leather workers, and film editors.

“I don’t have a problem with it and I think it would be a good addition to the mix in the building,” Lozzi said. “I just advised her to make sure she meets all of the Inspectional Services Department requirements.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

Lynn artist turns trauma into triumph

PHOTO BY DALIA SHILAS
Dr. Eleanor Ruth Fisher’s art adorns the walls of her Lynn home and studio.

By DALIA SHILAS

BOSTON — The first thing you see as you enter the Canvas Fine Arts exhibit on the fifth floor of City Hall is “Red Sky In The Morning,“ a glass shard painting by longtime Lynn resident Dr. Eleanor Ruth Fisher. Three of her glass shards paintings are displayed here.

Her mentor, Georgia O’Keeffe, once said: “When you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for the moment. I want to give that world to someone else.” I first met Fisher, a joyful woman with blue eyes that shine like glass shards, at an art fair in Nahant. She explained her creations. “Glass shards and mixed media over acrylic on canvas, it’s unique.”

She’s unique as well, and it’s somewhat remarkable that Fisher’s art talents have come to light.

Fisher’s brain tumor had been growing since childhood. She knew she was limited in what she could do. “I loved to dance, yet my coordination was completely off in sports. Precise movements and activities seemed to escape me. I never knew why, until after my brain surgery, that I was capable of learning everything. It is amazing how the brain compensates. I went on to get a doctorate in psychology. I had a full-time private psychotherapist’s practice, became a supervisor and consultant, while continuing my education as a lifelong learner.“

Her physical deterioration started happening quickly. She began losing her ability to speak in January 1991. By that August, she had to place her hands on the chair arms to lift herself up when her patients left the office. That October, the brain tumor was removed. In four weeks, she returned to her psychotherapy practice fully recovered.

With brain trauma, strange behaviors started developing. One thought kept recurring: Paint. She bought art supplies and began to paint. After the brain surgery, the process of expressing other forms of creativity started. “When I think back, it was almost like an explosion of what I had tucked inside that needed to emerge. The art has a life of its own and is like one of the elements of my high-test gasoline. The other element is my husband, Dennis, who is my partner in all that we do.”

“Thoughts are energy and represent the energy force of the universe,” her husband, Dennis Patrick Treece, former director of Security for Massport, quotes Fisher in his recently published book, “A Million Monkeys.”

“What do you want to be known as?” I asked. “A lover and an artist who paints the voices and pictures that communicate with me,” Fisher quickly answered.

“I have two goals in life. As an artist, I may be able to influence people to develop their unique creativity without looking for others for approval. I tell people, ‘I bestow approval upon you. You do not need anybody else’s approval. Celebrate your creativity, no matter what it is.’ Through my art and therapy, I help people identify and develop step by step. What inspires me in other people, is their journey, their courage to place one foot in front of the other and show up, speak up and be counted. Everyone hits the wall at some time, and each person chooses what is intolerable and finally says ‘No’ because the cost of going along to get along kills their soul. Many of my paintings have stairs in them. Stairs represent enlightenment. I realized that each painting is me, how I feel about my life. For many years I was unable to express me.”

Afterschool program a social space for girls

Fisher lives in a grand Victorian house in the Diamond District of Lynn. It has two names: “Garden by the Sea“ and “Deer Cove Light.“ Her maternal grandparents came from Lithuania and the family, Fisher and her parents included, settled in a two-family house on Commercial Street in Lynn’s Brickyard section.

Her art subjects are mostly women, strong, confident, romantic, erotic and free-spirited. “I don’t do men very often,” she said. “I don’t understand them the way I know women. Look at the ‘Mermaid Princess.’ She is a mermaid, deciding to be a woman, and everybody says ‘No no no!’ Stay a mermaid. You don’t know what it’s like here!’ ”

Fisher’s pastel pink studio, with its ocean view, natural light, easels and boxes of glass, jewelry and seashells, is where art is born. She puts on safety glasses, a long work shirt, an apron and gloves, and turns on a machine to show how she slices Murano glass. Here, she explains the process of creating one glass shard painting that takes about 720 hours to complete.

“Each piece of glass that I carve is pointed at both ends,” she said. “Then I take them in my hand and cut several curves on each side. No lines are straight. The shaping and carving of each piece of glass are why the glass shard paintings feel alive and beautiful, and evoke emotions.”

Glass shards wound hands, bring back memories and magnify the pain of the past. Sometimes, like a vase shattered into pieces, we feel like there is no hope. What we do with the broken pieces, that’s what matters.

The work of Canvas Fine Arts artists Eleanor Fisher, Winifred Breines, Tally Forbes, Sidhartha Pani and Janice Williams can be seen at Boston City Hall, 5th floor, through May 30. For more info: suzanne@canvasfinearts.com.


Dalia Shilas, a freelance journalist and photographer from Nahant, can be reached at daliafoto@gmail.com.

 

I think I can make a difference, McGee says

PHOTO BY MARK LORENZ
Election coordinator Mary Jules greets state Sen. Thomas McGee and his wife, Maria, prior to McGee pulling his nomination papers.

By THOMAS GRILLO and THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — The city’s worst kept secret that state Sen. Thomas McGee would seek the corner office became official Monday, when the Lynn Democrat pulled his nomination papers from the City Clerk’s office.

“I am excited to … start a discussion on where we can go and build a vision,” McGee said. “I think I can make a difference for the city.”

McGee is expected to face Republican Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy next fall in what would be a no-holds-barred race to lead the city for the next four years.

McGee, 61, was elected to represent West Lynn and Nahant in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1994. After serving four terms, he won a seat in the Senate in 2002 in a district that includes Lynn, Lynnfield, Marblehead, Nahant, Saugus and Swampscott.  

He said his years in the Legislature has made him a unifier who can help bring this city together. In addition to “building consensus,” he said his legislative service has been marked by honing budget crafting skills and pursuing initiatives. He said economic growth and neighborhoods will be the focus of the campaign.

McGee called last week’s school referendum that sought taxpayer support for a pair of new middle schools “polarizing.” He said it’s time to take a deep breath and start a new conversation about the need for new schools.

“It means engaging people,” he said. “We need to talk about what new schools mean to the community.”

Benny Coviello: ‘The mayor of Stop & Shop’

McGee supported the ballot question that sought approval for a 652-student school to be built on Parkland Avenue and a  second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The $188.5 million project cost would have been offset by a minimum contribution of $97.1 million from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. But voters rejected the measure by a wide margin.

He is the son of legendary state Rep. Thomas W. McGee who served in the Massachusetts House for nearly three decades and as speaker for 10 of those years.

Kennedy became the city’s first female mayor in 2009, when as city councilor-at-large, she unseated incumbent Mayor Edward “Chip” Clancy by a few dozen votes. She won re-election 2013 when she soundly defeated Timothy Phelan.

The mayor declined to be interviewed.

In a statement she said “I’m looking forward to running on my record. I’m sure the campaign will offer voters a choice between two very different types of elected officials. May the best woman win.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Photo by Mark Lorenz

Lynn says no; so what now?

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Cathy Rowe posts early returns Tuesday night at Lynn City Hall.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — One day after a ballot question to build two middle schools lost in a landslide, proponents are reeling from the outcome.

“We knocked on doors and got great feedback from folks, so we were surprised and saddened by the outcome,” said Brant Duncan, president of the Lynn Teachers Union. “I don’t know why there was such large opposition.”

In a special election on Tuesday, voters rejected two ballot questions that would have authorized a $188.5 million plan for a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second school to house 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the schools, managed to get the no vote out. They argued that the 44 acres near the proposed Parkland Avenue school site should be reserved exclusively for future burial grounds and open space.

At a meeting of the Pickering School Building Committee at City Hall on Wednesday, Lynn Stapleton, the school project manager, thanked the panel for their hard work and acknowledged the sadness in the room.

“It was an overwhelming no vote,” she said. “And the votes came from well beyond where the school was to be located. The outcome was really upsetting, but we will move on.”

Schools out in Lynn

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, said he plans to meet with the mayor in the coming weeks.  

“We want to give everyone time to consider the results,” he said.  “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site. And we ask the City Council to keep the 44 acres for the cemetery.”

The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government authority that funds school construction projects, which agreed to fund a portion of the Lynn project, gives the city 10 days to explain why the vote failed and how the city wants to proceed. Under the agency’s rules, the city could withdraw or modify its plan and re-apply for funds by April 7 or meet next year’s April deadline.

One of the options is to build just one school, Stapleton said. Or the city could consider a phased option where construction begins on one school and then another. The other possibility is to simply add more classrooms at the Thurgood Marshall Middle School. The city could also withdraw from the competitive funding process.

Given MSBA’s timelines, if the city decides to go forward with a new plan, nothing will happen until 2020.

Full results of Lynn school vote

But Stapleton suggested this was not the time to make any decisions.

“Emotions are a little raw right now,” she said. “Let’s think about it, schedule another meeting and see what we might come up with for alternatives. We don’t have lots of time. But if you think that you have any kind of plan that might conceivably work, I recommend that we submit it to the MSBA within 10 days and see if we can get them to work with us. Otherwise, your only other option is to withdraw from the program and submit next year and try to get back in.”

Following the meeting, Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was heartbroken for the school children and the city.

“I don’t think the vote was about the money, but I just don’t know,” she said. “I wish I knew.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she needs time to consider the vote.

“I need to figure out why they voted no,” she said.

Duncan, the union president, said the vote doesn’t resolve the need for more classroom space or the condition of school buildings.

“The Pickering’s roof was leaking significantly on election day from the melting snow,” he said. “It’s the city’s responsibility to come up with a solution.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

Schools out in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Judy Odiorre, Jeanne Melanson, and Marie Muise celebrate the “Vote No” victory at the Old Tyme Restaurant.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  Voters said no to a nearly $200 million proposal to build two middle schools Tuesday, rejecting the measure by a decisive margin.

The controversial ballot asked voters to green light construction of the schools while a second question sought approval to pay for them. The first vote failed 63 to 37 percent, the funding question lost 64 to 36 percent.

“I am really proud of my neighborhood grassroots group that stood up for what they believe in,” said Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, an advocacy organization founded to fight the ballot question. “The city, and in particular, the mayor and the superintendent, really need to reassess how they do business with taxpayers.”

Castle said the vote turned on the process, financing, the site that includes land that the founding fathers intended as cemetery expansion, as well as wetlands.

It was a spirited campaign where proponents and opponents took their case to Facebook and in dueling op-ed pieces.  The Item editorialized in favor of the project on Page 1 twice in the final weeks of the campaign.

Of the 8,539 votes cast on the first question, 3,189 were in favor while 5,350 were against. On the second question, of the 8,454 votes, 3,014 were in favor while 5,440 opposed. The no vote was nearly unanimous in every ward and precinct across the city.  

Full results of Lynn school vote

The vote is a setback for Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, the superintendent, the Lynn Teachers Association and nearly all of the city’s elected officials who were in favor of the project.

“I’m disappointed for the students more than anything,” said Kennedy.  

As far as renovating the existing Pickering Middle School, Kennedy said that is not possible.

“We can’t afford it,” she said. “That would be $44 million out of the city’s budget … there is absolutely no way we can afford to renovate Pickering.”

Dr. Catherine Latham, superintendent of Lynn Public Schools, said she was greatly disappointed that the vote to build two new middle schools failed.  

“The greatest investment a city can make is for the education of its children,” she said in an email.  “Apparently our residents are unable to make such a investment at this time. I will continue to work with the state and the city to examine possible solutions to our school needs.”

If approved, the city would have built a 652-student school near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second school would have housed 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street. In making the case for the new schools, Latham said 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix. The new schools were needed to fix a problem of insufficient space and inadequate facilities.

The new schools would have added an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

City Council President Darren Cyr, an enthusiastic supporter of the new schools,  said he was extremely disappointed in the vote.

“I feel sorry for the kids in our city,” he said. “They are the losers. There are no winners.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

City put to test Tuesday

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Brant Duncan, right, of Lynn, talks to Eric and Bibiana Rogers at their home on Glenwood Street. Duncan was campaigning for a “Yes” vote for new schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If early voting is any indication, Tuesday’s special election about funding a pair of new middle schools should bring more voters to the polls than the last time a new school was put on the ballot.

By noon Friday, the City Clerk reported 1,000 absentee votes have been cast in advance of the March 21 special election. Voters who can’t make it to the polls on Tuesday have until noon today to vote at City Hall.

While 1,000 votes may not seem like a lot in a city with more than 52,000 registered voters, consider that only 93 early voters came out before the 2013 vote to approve borrowing $92 million for design and construction of the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

The controversial initiative seeks approval to borrow $188.5 million to pay for a 652-student school to be built on Parkland Avenue and a second one to serve 1,008 students on Commercial Street. A second question asks voters to OK an exemption from Proposition 2½, the tax-limit law.  

In the high stakes election, parents of school children and educators are pitted against a coalition of Pine Hill residents who say they oppose the Parkland Avenue site because it should be preserved to expand nearby Pine Grove Cemetery.

“Both sides have gotten their message out and we expect a big turnout,” said Jane Rowe, City Clerk and Elections Chief. “People aren’t coming in and talking about they voted so we really won’t know how people voted until Tuesday night.”

The election was originally scheduled for March 14. But as a blizzard threatened to shut down the Bay State with more than a foot of snow, the vote was postponed by Essex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat. In an emergency meeting last week, the City Council moved the election to the 21st.

In a filing to the city on campaign spending, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the ballot question, reported it raised $1,395 from Jan. 1 through Feb. 24.  Two Schools For Lynn, a group of residents and teachers who favor the new schools, reported $11,055 in donations, much of the cash from the Lynn Teachers Association and public officials.  Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) is the lastest elected official to say he will vote for the new schools. “I’m planning to vote yes,” he said. “The kids need the new schools.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn school election snowed out

PHOTO BY SCOTT EISEN
Lynn City Clerk Janet Rowe, left, and election coordinator Mary Jules help Tim and Deborah Potter cast absentee ballots.

By THOMAS GRILLO

SALEM — As a late season blizzard threatens to shut down the Bay State with more than a foot of snow, today’s high stakes election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed.

Essex Superior Court Judge Peter Lauriat issued the ruling on Monday in response to a request from the city. Less than three hours later, in an emergency meeting, the City Council moved the election to next Tuesday, March 21.

Lauriat approved a request by Richard Vitali, the city’s assistant city solicitor, to delay the special election. While the city had hoped the judge would approve the March 21 date, Lauriat declined.

“The City Council set the date of the first vote, they should set the new one,” Lauriat said from the bench.

That set in motion a swift response from City Hall to call for an emergency council meeting

“I’m glad,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy. “I wanted to make sure we got into court today because it’s becoming more and more evident that it would be a real public safety hazard to have people attempting to go out to vote in a storm like this.”

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, property owners will be responsible for $91.4 million of the total $188.5 million project cost. School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall calculations. If those monies are not used, officials said it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million. City officials say the average homeowner would pay from $200-$275 a year extra on their real estate tax bill for the next 25 years.

Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the ballot question, said his group will spend the extra week before the election to convince residents to vote no.

“The fight continues,” he said. “We will keep organizing to oppose this.”

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

In a filing to the city on campaign spending, Two Schools for Lynn, the group organized to support the project, reported they raised $11,055 from Jan. 31 through Feb. 24. Much of the cash, $5,000, came from the Lynn Teachers Association. Public officials also made donations. City Councilor and state Rep. Daniel Cahill contributed $500, the mayor wrote a check for $200, City Councilor Brian LaPierre gave $450 and City Councilor Buzzy Barton donated $200.

The group opposing the ballot initiative, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, failed to file on time. Castle said the report was in the mail and estimated the group raised about $7,000.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

School vote moved to Tuesday, March 21

LYNN — Under the looming possibility of more than a foot of snow Tuesday, the special election on funding two new middle schools has been postponed a week to Tuesday, March 21.

The decision was made during an emergency meeting by the City Council.

Voters are being asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery on Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The polls will open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

Lynn voters being put to the test

(Left) ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This sign is on the corner of Lynnfield Street and Kernwood Dr.
(Right) PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Pat Burke (adult standing) and Mia Duncan (with sign), of Lynn, at the “Get the Vote Out Rally” for the March 14 vote for two new schools. The meeting was held at the Lynn Teachers Union on Western Avenue.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN After months of campaigning, it all comes down to a vote on Tuesday.

The March 14 special election has pit Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove which opposes the $188.5 million project to build a pair of middle schools against 2 Schools for Lynn, which includes parents, teachers and city officials who say the more than 100-year-old Pickering Middle School should be replaced.

As a powerful nor’easter threatens to shut down the region on Tuesday with more than a foot of snow, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is considering postponing the election. The city solicitor’s office will consult with the election division of the Massachusetts Secretary of State this morning and make a decision by 5 p.m.

On Friday, Brian McNiff, a spokesman for Secretary of State William Galvin, said if the city wants to reschedule the vote due to inclement weather, they would have to appear before a judge this morning to make the request.

If approved by voters, the Pickering on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery that would house 652 students. A larger second school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Property owners will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be paid for by the Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

Voters will be asked two questions: whether the city should borrow the money to build the schools and a second question on whether taxpayers are willing to exempt the plan from Proposition 2 ½.

On one side are the proponents who say every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child. They point to the gleaming Thurgood Marshall Middle School that opened last year which offers its students an ideal place to learn with lots of natural light, studios for art, music and television production, science labs and all the modern tools to learn home economics.

On the opposing side are some Pine Hill residents who say when they purchased their homes they expected their nearest neighbors to be in the graveyard, not school children and the traffic that comes with it. They say Parkland is not only the wrong site, but the project is too expensive and the city must protect the nearby reservoir.

Gary Welch, a member of the opposition, said he favors a plan that would build the West Lynn school first at the McManus site, move the Pickering students to the new facility, demolish the current Pickering School and build the new school at the Pickering site.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham has been equally passionate in noting the building committee examined more than a dozen sites and concluded Parkland Avenue makes the most sense.

While people have suggested a parcel on Federal Street near the fire station, it is contaminated land, while another site at Magnolia Avenue is in a floodplain and has a water line, Latham said. The other location suggested at Union Hospital is not owned by the city and would exacerbate traffic on Lynnfield Street.

At press time, each group was planning to hold events on the weekend before the vote.

The 2 Schools for Lynn group scheduled a “Get Out the Vote Rally” on Saturday at the  Lynn Teachers Union. Among those expected to attend were state Rep. and City Councilor-at-Large Daniel Cahill, Rep. Brendan Crighton, City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi, School Committee members Maria Carrasco, John Ford, Lorraine Gately and Jared Nicholson.

Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove planned a walk-through of the Parkland Avenue site on Sunday at B Street Place and Basse Road.

The polls open at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Donald Castle and Gary Welch argue against the construction of two new middle schools in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Leaders of the opposition to next Tuesday’s ballot question on construction of two middle schools insist they are not anti-education and or anti-new schools.

They argue one of the sites is unacceptable because it robs land intended for the expansion of Pine Grove Cemetery, it’s too close to Breeds Pond Reservoir, the buildings are too expensive and the process has failed to include opposing voices.

“The Parkland Avenue site is one of the worst and this process has been rigged,” said Gary Welch, a member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the location of the Parkland Avenue school. “Our argument is based on this being the wrong site, although we know some people will vote no because of the cost.”

Donald Castle, a founding member of the group, said officials selected Parkland Avenue before there were any public hearings. He said there are cheaper alternatives.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Welch and Castle made the case against the $188.5 million project and urged residents to vote no.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second one to serve 1,008 students would be constructed in West Lynn on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The new schools will add an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family homeowner each year for the next 25 years.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

While Castle and Welch agree with the city’s attorney that deeds clearly state the 44 vacant acres at Pine Grove is owned by the city, they say it was always intended for a future graveyard.  

“It is city land,” Castle said. “But we want to uphold what our forefathers did 127 years ago to keep it cemetery land for so many reasons: to bury people and to protect the environment and the wildlife.”

Castle and Welch dispute the reasoning behind the Pickering Middle School Building Committee’s rejection of at least 10 other potential sites for the Parkland school.

“The feasibility study had a number of different locations that we favor,” Welch said. “Come up with a better site and I’ll vote yes.”

He said the best solution is to renovate the existing Pickering Middle School. The other option is to build the middle school in West Lynn that would serve Pickering students and others, Welch said.

Castle disputed the $44.2 million cost of the renovation, that school officials said will not be reimbursed by the state.

“Show me where that $44 million came from,” he said. “We don’t think that’s legit … I don’t know how much it will cost, but I don’t think it will cost $44 million.”

They also object to any development so close to the reservoir.

“We are concerned about building so close to the reservoir,” Welch said. “We are being sold a pig in a poke and we’re being asked for something that no one knows much about.”   


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

 

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Edward Calnan of the Pickering School Building Committee, Inspectional Services Department Director Michael Donovan and Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham make the case for new schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If voters reject the ballot initiative on Tuesday to build a pair of new middle schools, students face the possibility of split sessions, according to the superintendent.

“If we don’t build these schools, our sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will be in double sessions in a very short period of time, possibly within two years,” said Dr. Catherine Latham.

Today, 3,100 students attend the city’s three middle schools. By 2020, enrollment is expected to soar by 20 percent, adding another 600 students to the mix.

“Our schools cannot sustain that many students,” she said. Under double sessions, one group of students would attend classes from 7 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. while the next group would arrive at 1 p.m. and go until 5:30 p.m., she said.

In an interview with The Item’s editorial board on Thursday, Latham, Michael Donovan, Inspectional Services Department director, Edward Calnan, member of the Pickering Middle School Building Committee, and Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee, made the case for the $188.5 million project.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second one to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The new schools will add an additional $200 to the average tax bill for a single-family home each year for the next 25 years.

We’re not anti-education, ‘no’-voters say

Calnan said they explored more than a dozen potential sites, but they were dropped due to a variety of issues. Some were in a flood zone or marsh land, others had hazardous waste that precluded school construction. A site at Magnolia Street would boost building costs by as much as $800,000 to move a water pipe that serves Swampscott and Marblehead, officials said.

A vacant parcel on Rockdale Avenue and Verona Street was examined, but the committee found the tight residential neighborhood was difficult to access and is privately-owned. They also looked at General Electric Co. properties on Bennett Street and on Elmwood Avenue. But those were rejected because of environmental concerns, they said.

Latham said all of the city’s middle school students should have the same experience as those attending the new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School.

Last spring, the 181,847-square-foot school opened for more than 1,000 students. The three buildings are divided by clusters, each distinguished by a different color. In addition to an outdoor courtyard, lots of natural light, the soundproof classrooms block any hint of the commuter rail trains that run past the rear of the school and the sounds of musical instruments from several music classes.  

In addition, there are suites for special education and art. The school boasts computer rooms complete with Apple computers. It contains home economics rooms, a woodworking shop, a television production studio and a health center.

Iarrobino, who serves as the liaison between the schools and the School Committee, said any discussion of school must include a link to the local economy.

“If folks are contemplating opening a business in Lynn, the first thing they will ask about is where will their employees attend school and what are the schools like,” he said. “We have an obligation to them and they have a right to the best quality education that is available to them, not just in the suburbs, but right here in an urban district.”  


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Pickering principal states case for new school

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Pictured is the boys’ locker room at the Pickering Middle School.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN If you’re undecided or planning to vote against construction of two middle schools in next week’s special election, Kevin Rittershaus wants to meet you.

The principal of the Pickering Middle School has hundreds of reasons why voters should vote yes. If approved on Tuesday, the city would spend $188.5 million to build a three-story middle school on Parkland Avenue and a four-story one on Commercial Street.

“This is an ancient building trying to do 21st century education,” he said. “Every inch of space is used for something, former closets have been turned into offices while counselors and music teachers are working in corridors. Come and see my school and compare it with what kids get at the new Marshall Middle School.”

Rittershaus, who has worked at Pickering since the late 1990s and is now in his fourth year as principal, brought The Item on a tour of the worn-out grade 6-8 school on Conomo Avenue Wednesday.

There’s peeling paint on the auditorium’s tin ceiling and water damage on the walls. The special education and health teachers share an office, making private sessions impossible. The computer lab has three dozen dated personal computers for 620 students.

Let the transformation begin in Malden

The school adjustment counselor has a table in a 250-square-foot corridor space to meet students. The school’s library was closed because it was needed for a classroom. It was the same story with home economics. Down the hall, the school’s original lockers have never been replaced and a music room in a hallway is shared with a vending machine. The boiler room resembles a scene out of “A Nightmare on Elm Street.”

The art room lacks a sink, easels, drawing tables and storage space.

Angeliki Russell, the school’s art teacher, said while students create art good enough to be hung, the children would be better served with more space, sinks, higher tables, improved lighting, better chairs and places to store art materials.

Because of overcrowding, Pickering has four, one-half lunch periods that start at 11 a.m. just to fit all the kids in.

Joseph Smart, the city’s building and grounds director, said the roof leaks and water has damaged the historic tin ceilings.

“The building needs a new roof,” he said. “The auditorium was painted in 2014, it’s already peeling.”

In a section of the building that is below grade, moisture is coming through the brick and onto the plaster.

“We’ve done numerous repairs, but to do it right we’d have to dig it out, weatherproof it and do the inside work,” he said.

The city’s Inspectional Services Department estimates it will cost $44.2 million to renovate the 99,000-square-foot facility.

Proponents say it makes more sense to build a new school. The vote on Tuesday asks property owners to be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total project cost. School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall cost. If those monies are not used, it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million.

The city said the average single-family homeowner would boost the tax bill to just under $200 more per year for 25 years. For multi-family units, the city estimates the added cost per year would range from $257-$269.

Rittershaus said there are lots of misconceptions about the project. For example, he said parents have told him that the land for the Parkland Avenue school belongs to Lynn Woods Reservation or the Pine Grove Cemetery, but in fact the land is owned by the city, he said.

“People don’t realize the work that’s gone into studying site selection,” he said. “We’ve spent days analyzing the potential locations and not one of them is ideal for everyone.”

On Tuesday, the Pine Grove Cemetery Commission took no action on a plan to transfer 32 acres from the city to the cemetery for a possible expansion, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. In exchange, the commission was expected to provide about 12 acres to the city for the Parkland Avenue school to avoid any potential lawsuit.

“I am still hopeful it will happen, but it won’t happen before the election,” he said.

Construction of the school on Parkland Avenue has generated opposition from neighbors who argue the land should be preserved to expand the cemetery. In addition, opponents insist it will exacerbate traffic problems while others say they are being squeezed enough and can’t afford to pay more taxes.

State Rep. and City Councilor Daniel Cahill said it’s time to build the new schools.

“School buildings were not made to last 100 years,” he said.

New era begins for Lynn police


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

4.6% tax increase would pay for schools

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN —  If the controversial ballot question passes on March 14 to build a pair of middle schools, tax bills will increase.

In its simplest form, every property owner will see their real estate taxes rise by 4.6 percent, according to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

“We can provide all these numbers for what an average single- or multi-family homeowner would pay,” he said. “But the easiest way to figure out what your new tax bill will be is to multiply it by 4.6 percent.”

In the special election scheduled for next week, voters will be asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, property owners will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall cost. If those monies are not used, it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million.

The city said the average single-family home is assessed at $273,600 and generates a real estate tax bill of $4,268. A yes vote would boost the amount due to just under $200 more per year for 25 years.

The average two-family homeowner pays $5,604. The school project would add $257 to the bill. For owners of three-family homes the average tax bill is $5,862, the additional tax would be about $269.

Commercial taxpayers will also be hit with the increase. For example, Boston Gas Co. has property valued at $65 million and pays about $2 million in taxes. It would see an increase of $92,000.

Taxpayers will still receive just one bill, four times a year, Caron said.

To offset the increase among seniors, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has proposed to boost the real estate tax exemption to income-eligible seniors by $200 and reduce the eligibility age to 65, from 70.

Caron said if the ballot initiative gets a yes vote, homeowners will not see the increase in their statements until July of 2018.

Construction of the school off Parkland Avenue has generated opposition from neighbors who argue the land should be preserved to expand the cemetery. In addition, opponents insist it will exacerbate traffic problems while others say they can’t afford to pay more taxes.

Proponents say the dilapidated Pickering Middle School must be replaced and a second middle school is needed to house a growing school population.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn mayor offers tax cuts to seniors

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Trying to head off opposition to a $188.5 million school construction project, City Hall is offering more tax relief for seniors.

Under a plan proposed by Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy to offset the cost of building two new middle schools, the city plans to boost the real estate tax exemption to seniors by $200 and reduce the eligibility age to 65, from 70.

“We believe adopting these options will provide the necessary relief to seniors who would be most affected by a tax increase,” Kennedy said in a statement. “I have spoken to many seniors who are supportive of the new schools’ proposal, but understandably concerned about the impact on their taxes. Hopefully, this will make them feel more comfortable about a ‘yes’ vote.”

On Tuesday, March 14, voters will be asked to approve a tax hike to pay for a 652-student school to be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million of the project cost. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, said it will contribute $97.1 million.

School officials said $11 million in contingency funds are included in the overall cost. If those monies are not used, it would reduce the taxpayer portion by that amount, making the taxpayers’ bill about $80 million.

The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years.

If voters reject the tax hike, the increased tax exemption would be dropped.

Kennedy said she’s heard the concerns of seniors who are worried about a $200 tax increase if voters approve two new schools. The mayor asked the Board of Assessors to explore options for providing additional tax relief.

The tax exemption is available to income-eligible seniors. A couple can earn no more than $29,804 and have assets of less than $45,974, not including a home and car. A single senior can earn up to $23,792 with assets no more than $42,908.

Today, about 100 seniors receive the $500 deduction, according to Peter Caron, the city’s chief financial officer.

Caron said most seniors who receive the exemption have homes valued around or under the average single-family value of $273,600. As a result, he said, the $200 additional exemption would mitigate the tax increase required to pay for the city’s share of the school building project.

“We have made a concerted effort to answer questions and address concerns related to the new schools,” Kennedy said. “It is critical that we build these schools in order to have the space required for the 20 percent increase in enrollment we will see in the next two years.”

Gary Welch, a member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the location of the Parkland Avenue school, declined comment. Donald Castle, a founding member of the group, could not be reached for comment.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Restaurant owner announces city council bid

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate for councilor-at-large.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Taso Nikolakopoulos is the latest candidate to throw his hat in the ring for an at-large seat on the City Council.

“I see a lot of disconnect between the council, the mayor’s office and the community,” said the 47-year-old owner of John’s Roast Beef & Seafood. “We need more of a collaborative effort and I really think I can change things.”

Married with two children, Nikolakopoulos said he will focus his campaign on a handful of issues that promise to advance the city.

“The key is economic growth,” he said.

First, the city must invest in a planning department, he said.  While other communities like Salem and Somerville have robust planning divisions that guide development, he said Lynn is lacking.

“When you call the city of Salem and tell them you plan to invest $2 million, you get someone who will guide you through the process,” she said. “Within a few steps, you know where you stand.”

On how the cash-strapped city would pay for a new department, he said, “I think we can find $300,000 in a $300 million budget.”

The other thing needed to spur growth, he said, is streamlined permitting.

“It still takes as much as four times longer to get permits in  Lynn than competing municipalities,” he said.

Figueroa for stronger community connections

Nikolakopoulos would also update the city’s plans for the Lynnway and add manufacturing to the mix of allowed uses on the non-waterside section of the busy road.

“My idea is to create a unique overlay district for manufacturing to bring in revenue,” he said.

On schools, he favors the controversial ballot question scheduled for March 14 to support construction of two new middle schools at a cost of $188.5 million.

“I am voting yes,” he said.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near on Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on Commercial Street. While parents in the Pickering Middle School district support the project, there’s opposition from many Pine Hill residents who oppose the new school on Pine Grove Cemetery land near Breeds Pond Reservoir.

Nikolakopoulos said he also favors teaching trades at Lynn English and Classical high schools.

“Teaching trade skills at Lynn Vocational Technical Institute is not enough,” he said. “We need to offer it at the other high schools. Not every family can afford a four-year college.”

On how to pay for expanded services, he suggested returning  parking meters to the downtown as a way to generate revenue.

Nikolakopoulos emigrated to the U.S. from Kalamata, Greece in the 1970s with his parents at age 4 during a time of political unrest in the southeast European nation.

He was enrolled in a Greek bilingual program at Washington Elementary School, attended St. Mary’s High School and later graduated from the College of St. Joseph’s, a small Catholic school in Vermont, where he was soccer captain.

After graduation, he worked a few jobs at the State House, including as a research analyst for the Joint Committee on Transportation. All the while, he helped his family at the restaurant.

“I’ve been working more than 70 hours a week since I was 22,” he said. “I don’t have free weekends, unless I go away.”

Nikolakopoulos joins what is expected to be a crowded field that includes incumbents Brian LaPierre, Buzzy Barton, Hong Net and Daniel Cahill. It’s unclear whether Cahill, who was elected as a state representative last year, will seek reelection.

In addition, Jaime Figueroa, a 28-year-old Suffolk University student, hopes to be the city’s first Latino councilor and Brian Field, who works at Solimine Funeral Homes, said he is considering a run.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Mayor, super make case for new schools

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham talks to a crowded room at Stadium Condominiums in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is taking no chances when it comes to passing a controversial ballot question to fund a pair of new middle schools.

On Wednesday night, the mayor and her City Hall team made the case for the $188.5 million project to more than three dozen seniors who packed the recreation room at the Stadium Condominiums.

“Right now, the library at Pickering consists of two rolling carts with books and there are no science labs,” Kennedy said. “When you contrast that with what we see at the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School, the kids are simply not getting the same educational experience.”

In a passionate plea, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham said every child who attends a middle school should have the same opportunity as every other child.

“Our beautiful new Marshall has cooking, sewing, wood shop, a TV studio, three-dimensional art rooms, music rooms and they should be available to everyone in Lynn,” she said.

Latham said there is lots of misinformation about the project. The city looked at more than a dozen sites, she said.

“We’ve heard people suggest a site on Federal Street near the fire station,” she said. “But it’s contaminated land and that is not a possibility. Magnolia Avenue has flood plains and an MWRA water line. Some have told us to use the Union Hospital site; we don’t own it.”  

The building committee also considered renovating the existing Pickering and that would cost $44 million without any state reimbursement, Latham said.

If approved by voters on March 14, the Pickering Middle School on Conomo Avenue would be replaced with a school on Parkland Avenue near the Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir that would house 652 students, while a larger school for 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Residents will be responsible for an estimated $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

But Donald Castle, a Stadium unit owner and founder of the Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, urged the crowd to vote no.

“Your taxes will go up above and beyond the legal limit for 25 years,” he said. “The land should be preserved for a cemetery. We ask the city to protect our cemetery and protect our reservoir.”

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said the school will use about a dozen acres of the 44-acre site. The rest, he said, will be preserved for cemetery expansion. In addition, he said, the project will fund a $1 million road and bridge that the Cemetery Commission could not afford. Without the school, the land could not be accessed for new graveyards.

City Council President Darren Cyr said he favors construction of the two schools.

“No matter where kids live in Lynn, they should have the same opportunities as kids get in Swampscott, Marblehead and Lynnfield,” he said. “Every one of us has a chance to change kids’ lives and by voting yes on March 14, you will give those kids a chance that they will not get otherwise.”

School Committee member Lorraine Gately said a yes vote is essential for the city’s children.

“If we don’t support this, our future is larger class sizes and double sessions,” she said.

Moving on time in Lynn


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Fleeing suspect found, Marblehead police say

ITEM PHOTO BY DAVID WILSON
A string of patrol cars speed down Atlantic Avenue around 11:15 p.m.

By GAYLA CAWLEY and DAVID WILSON

MARBLEHEAD — A man who authorities say fled a traffic stop Wednesday night was located after a two-hour search and taken to the hospital to be treated for a mental health issue, according to Police Chief Robert Picariello.

The Marblehead Police Department, in a 9:22 p.m. Facebook post, asked residents to stay indoors as officers attempted to find the suspect in the area of Commercial and Walnut streets.

Shortly after 11 p.m., there was a visible police presence on Atlantic Avenue. The intersections at Chestnut, Central and Commercial streets appeared to be blocked by patrol cars. Chelmsford police were also on scene.


In their Facebook post, police asked residents to keep their dogs indoors as there were police K9s in the area attempting to track the suspect. Officers on foot were also checking through backyards, police said.

Additional resources were brought in, including a police helicopter and harbor patrol boats. The helicopter conducted low-altitude flights over Seaside Park down to The Landing, police said.

Marblehead police posted on Facebook at 11:22 p.m. that the suspect had been located. The department gave a “special thank you to all the law enforcement agencies that responded to the mutual aid request.”

 

2 missing words could cost city $9,000

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Assistant City Solicitor James Lamanna stands with both versions of the ballot.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Two missing words could cost the city as much as $9,000 after a typo was discovered on one of the ballot questions for the March 14 special election.

The hotly contested poll will ask voters to approve $188.5 million for the construction of a pair of middle schools to serve the city’s burgeoning school population.    

In the initial printing, Question 1 failed to include the words “be approved” following a description of the school building project that includes a new Pickering Middle School on Parkland Avenue near Pine Grove Cemetery and a new West Lynn Middle School on Commercial Street. Without those two words in the English and Spanish versions, it would be unclear whether the voter was in favor or opposed to the measure.

“No one caught the error, but the blame belongs to me,” said James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor. “I take full responsibility.”

The city received the new ballots on Monday. The cost to reprint them has been estimated at between $3,000 and $9,000.

Lamanna said he was contacted by the Secretary of State’s Election Division last week telling him they had received a number of calls reporting confusion over the ballot question.

About 200 ballots had been mailed to absentee voters before the error was spotted. A letter explaining the problem has been sent to those voters with a corrected ballot.  

Donald Castle, founder of the Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization that opposes the Parkland Avenue school site, said he saw a copy of the ballot question last week, noticed it lacked a verb and contacted the city and the Secretary of State’s office.

The group is opposed to the site for the Pickering Middle School on Parkland Avenue. They argue the land is for the expansion of Pine Grove Cemetery and the new road would impact the nearby reservoir.

Pickering in middle of ballot debate


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Council makes a house call for school

COURTESY PHOTO
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pickering Middle School.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN There could be a happy ending after all for Janet Guanci and her ranch-style home on Parkland Avenue.

Facing the possibility of losing her 1,000-square-foot house to eminent domain for construction of a new middle school, the City Council is considering a plan to move the house 200 yards away.

Guanci, who bought the two-bedroom house in 2004 for $267,900, listened as the Public Property & Parks Committee unveiled the idea Tuesday night.

“We are trying to keep you in the same neighborhood because I know you like it there,” said Ward 2 Councilor William Trahant. “We’d like to keep you happy. All of us feel bad about the possibility of eminent domain and we are trying to work with you.”   

James Lamanna, the city’s assistant city solicitor, said this is one option in a complicated process for a new middle school proposed for the neighborhood near Pine Grove Cemetery.

“We are trying to be creative,” said Lamanna. “Rather than demolish your home at 97 Parkland Ave., we could relocate it down toward the salt shed. The city is trying to give you as many options as possible.”

Moving the house at a cost of about $60,000 would be far less costly for the city than paying Guanci the appraised value of nearly $300,000, officials said.

“It’s something to think about,” Guanci told the panel. “It’s not our first choice, but I’ll think about it.”

Pickering in middle of ballot debate

Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said the council has not taken a vote to seize the property.

“We are exploring all options,” he said.

Following the meeting, Guanci told The Item this is the first time she’s heard of the option of moving her home farther down Parkland Avenue.

“This was a surprise,” she said. “I thought they were going to tell me they were considering a different route. It’s a good offer, but we need to take a look at it and give it more thought.” Guanci’s home would only be taken or moved by the city if voters agree to a controversial ballot question set for March 14. If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.

The 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir on Parkland Avenue. A second 1,008 student-school would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. If voters reject the measure, the city could lose the state money.

Proponents say the city needs the two new schools to keep pace with school enrollment which has increased by 17 percent over the past five years.

But opponents say the land on Parkland Avenue belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery and should not be used for a school.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Pickering in middle of ballot debate

COURTESY PHOTO
An artist’s rendering of the proposed Pickering Middle School.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN  — If mother knows best, then an organized group of moms could be hard to stop as they push for two new middle schools in the city.

For the first time in Lynn’s history, voters will be asked to voluntarily raise their real estate taxes to pay for a school to be built near Pine Grove Cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility on Commercial Street for West Lynn. Local moms say it’s worth it.

“There’s simply not enough room in the existing middle school and the conditions are terrible,” said Christine “Krissi” Pannell, the parent of a 4-year-old who attends the Busy Bee Nursery School. “The reasons that people want to vote no are petty compared to the reasons why we should be voting yes.”

The special election, scheduled for Tuesday, March 14, is pitting mothers against a vocal opposition who insist they are not against new schools. Instead, they say the city should find an alternative to the Pine Grove site that has been reserved for the graveyard’s expansion.                                                            

If approved, voters will be responsible for $91.4 million or 51.5 percent of the total $188.5 million project cost. The city said the average homeowner will pay an additional $200 in taxes per year for 25 years. The rest of the cost will be picked up by the  Massachusetts School Building Authority, a quasi-public agency that funds school construction.      

Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said the actual cost of the project could be as much as $16 million less because the city is required to include contingencies that may not be needed. As a result, she said, the taxpayer contribution would be lower and the average cost per homeowner could drop below $200 annually.                                

“We are not opposed to the new schools, but we object to using Pine Grove Cemetery property and we oppose any effort to take that land for a school,” said Gary Welch, 63. “We are not anti-education and NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) activists. We are fine with the West Lynn site.”

Still, others who oppose the school have raised the issue of more traffic in the Parkland Avenue neighborhood, and the prospect of higher taxes.                                                                               

But the opposition hasn’t stopped moms from organizing to get out the vote in favor of the schools.                                       

Pannell said she has no patience with any of the arguments against the Parkland Avenue school.                                           

“I can’t believe people would vote no because they might have to wait a couple of extra minutes in the morning to get onto Parkland Avenue,” she said. “Traffic happens wherever there’s a school, so you plan ahead. Are we really going to deny these kids a better education and better conditions because we don’t want to figure out a little traffic pattern? As far as the cemetery is concerned, bury me anywhere. We’re talking about a new school for kids versus where we are going to bury people in 15 years when they die. Give me a break.”                               

Welch said opponents of the Parkland Avenue school are also concerned that the new access road would have a detrimental impact on the nearby reservoir. The city should consider other sites such as a parcel off Federal Street near Market Basket and one on Magnolia that would have less impact, he said.

But the School Building Committee said they vetted other sites and Parkland Avenue makes the most sense. They argued that no matter where a school is built, there will be opposition.         

Tara Osgood, whose two boys attend the Sisson Elementary School, said Pickering has outlived its usefulness.

“I attended Pickering when it was a junior high school when it had a seventh and eighth grade, and now there’s a sixth grade crammed into it,” she said. “It’s horrifying. It’s falling apart and there are 30 kids in a classroom. That’s major wear and tear on a 100-year-old building. It was never meant for that many kids and that many grades.”                                                        

Osgood said the condition of Lynn’s school buildings is driving parents out of the city.                                                          

“People who lived here their entire lives are moving out, not because of crime or taxes, it’s because the schools are falling down on the kids,” she said. “Nobody likes paying more taxes, but I am willing to pay a few hundred more for better school buildings for our children.”                                                       

But not everyone agrees. About 200 opponents packed the Hibernian Hall on Federal Street Saturday night to fight the proposal. The group, Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, raised $7,200 to continue the battle, according to Donald Castle, one of the founders.                                                       

Despite the well-financed opposition, Kristen Hawes, whose children attend Lynn Woods Elementary School, said she intends to vote yes for new schools.                                     

“These schools will benefit our children,” she said. “I understand there are issues about the cemetery and taxes. But  I’d rather pay for two brand new schools than have my taxes go to another charter school.”                                                         

Emily LeBlanc-Perrone, who is pregnant with her first child, said voters need to invest in the city if they want Lynn to improve.                                                                                      

“It will cost a few hundred more, but that’s not much when you consider we are investing in our children and for the community,” she said. “These are the people who will run the city someday and we want to provide them with the best education we can.”

Swampscott is showing signs of love


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tigrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn seeks middle ground on school project

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city said they have found a way to end the fighting over construction of a controversial middle school proposed near Pine Grove Cemetery, but opponents are standing firm.

Last week, the City Council asked the law department to prepare documents that would convey portions of the city-owned 40-acre site to the Pine Grove Cemetery Commision. Under the plan, the commission could use land not needed for the new school to expand the graveyard. The move was made to assuage school opponents who have insisted that the land was reserved for a graveyard. They have threatened court action if the school is approved.

“This should end all debate and any discussion of a taxpayer lawsuit,” said James Lamanna, city attorney.

But Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove, a grassroots organization founded to fight the school site, said it is not willing to compromise.  

At issue is a controversial proposal for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district. Proponents say the new schools are needed to accommodate a growing school population.

Swampscott school race draws contenders

In a special election on March 14, voters will be asked to pay for a 652-student school to be built near the cemetery and Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. Plans for the second school have no opposition.

If approved, homeowners would pay an estimated $75 million, or an average of $200 annually for the next 25 years on their real estate tax bills.

Lamanna said as many as 17 acres are needed for the new school. The rest, with the exception of four acres of wetlands, could be used to expand the cemetery, he said. The commission will consider the proposal on March 7.

One of the problems of enlarging the cemetery has been a $1 million project needed to build a new road and a bridge over wetlands to access the parcel, Lamanna said. While the commission lacks the funds to complete the project, the infrastructure would be built as part of the school project with most of the cost being reimbursed by the state.  

But the location of the proposed school, on what opponents insist has been designated by the city as cemetery land, has stirred debate. Opponents have argued that the Parkland Avenue property was intended for cemetery use, citing a city document from 1893.

On Saturday, they will plan to hold a fundraiser at Hibernian Hall on Federal Street to fight the proposal.

Donald Castle, one of the organizers of Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove, said they are not opposed to a new school, but to the site. He said the city’s latest plan to divide the parcel is wrong.

“It’s been cemetery land for 127 years and its wetlands with protected species,” he said. “It’s an inappropriate site.”


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynn ponders tax hike for two new schools

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Supporters are lining up on each side of what could be an expensive fight to approve a tax hike for two new schools.

So the state Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) is hosting a seminar this week on how the campaign finance law impacts ballot questions.

A special election will be held March 14 asking homeowners to pay an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

“We’re holding a workshop in Lynn because we have a sense that residents are very interested based on the calls we’ve received asking about the rules,” said Jason Tait, OCPF spokesman.

The one-hour session will be Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Lynn Police Station. Residents on both sides of the issue are invited.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. Likely to be in favor of the ballot question are the city’s elected officials and the Lynn Teachers Union. In addition, parents whose children attend the so-called feeder schools can be counted on for support, say political observers.

Pickering families who send their children to the Aborn, Shoemaker, Lynn Woods and Sisson elementary schools are likely to back the question while parents of children who attend Cobbet, Connery and Washington STEM elementary schools from West Lynn are expected to back a new school on their side of the city.                                              

Opposition has emerged from Pine Hill residents who are against building the new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir. They have organized Protect Our Reservoir – Preserve Pine Grove Community Group. They argue the land the city plans to use to build the school was intended for use as a cemetery. They say the city should find an alternative site and have threatened a lawsuit.

Tait said the seminar will be taught in two sections. One will focus on ballot question committees, the organizations that raise and spend money to support or oppose the question. The second part will review the ground rules for public employees, the use of public buildings and taxpayer funds.  

“We stress that public employees are prohibited from raising money for ballot questions,” Tait said. “Firefighters and  teachers, for example, are prohibited and no tax money can be used to pay for the campaign.”

Elected officials are free to solicit funds for the cause and they often promote fundraising for ballot questions, he said.  

The vote represents the first time Lynn residents have been asked to approve a tax hike in the city’s history.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Council weeds out pot clinic locations

ITEM PHOTOS BY OWEN O’ROURKE
This building at 491 Lynnway is a chosen site for a pot dispensary.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — After more than a year of debate, officials have chosen a pair of medical marijuana treatment centers to open in the city.  

953 Western Ave. was chosen as a site for a pot dispensary.

Without any discussion, the city council chose the Newton-based Massachusetts Patient Foundation, which plans to operate a facility at 487-491 Lynnway. Councilors also approved a proposal by Old World Remedies of Marblehead, which is slated to open a shop at 953 Western Ave.

“We’ve held a series of neighborhood meetings and met with many residents over many weeks,” said Ward 6 City Councilor Peter Capano. “As a result of those discussions we have chosen those two sites.”

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said she will abide by the wishes of the council as to the selection of the clinics and where they will be housed.

Last year, the city council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to Lynn. Under the ordinance, the treatment center district would include the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

Last fall James Lamanna, the city’s attorney, wrote the 19-page request for proposals for medical marijuana treatment centers. The city asked applicants who complied with the Department of Public Health’s regulations to apply. Applicants will be required to negotiate a host agreement that will provide the city with funds, guarantees of safety and assurances that the products will not be sold to minors. The city received applications from four applicants.

In other matters, the fight between the 11-member council and the mayor ended Tuesday night when the panel dropped its insistence that the city hire a deputy election commissioner. Last year councilors had argued the job was essential while the mayor said the job wasn’t needed.

The council also approved a measure to transfer management of the school’s janitors to the Lynn Public Schools from the city’s Inspectional Services Department. Under the change, the city will capture $1 million in additional school spending.

Lynnfield looks to limit marijuana sales


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Mayor and teachers in union for new schools

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy explains how the school funding works. 

By BETHANY DOANE

LYNN — More than three dozen educators and parents gathered at the Knights of Pythias Tuesday night to support construction of a pair of middle schools.

The group, which calls itself  “Two Schools for Lynn,” is advocating a yes vote on next month’s ballot question. If approved, homeowners will pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their real estate tax bills. The two schools would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

“I spent 40 years in the Lynn schools and we owe it to Lynn teachers and school children to get this vote through,” said Bart Conlon, former director of Lynn Vocational Technical Institute.

Proponents say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment and and modernize students’ educational experiences.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. The Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects, would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

“We are already squeezing students into every possible classroom space,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who also attended the session. “We need the space that the new schools would allow  and our students need modernity in their school experience.”

The new $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School, which opened last year, features natural light, air conditioning, a state-of-the-art security system, and other amenities that cater to middle school student’s needs, the mayor said.

“An address shouldn’t prevent a child from an equitable learning experience,” Kennedy said. “We must have schools in urban core, where all the largest number of middle school children live.”

If construction of two new middle schools fails to win voter approval, the city will go to the end of the line for state funding, she said.

Lynn’s schools are the fifth largest in the state, with more than 16,000 students. Student population has swelled by 17 percent in the past five years.

Mary Ann Duncan, a Lynn guidance counselor,  said overcrowding is becoming a major issue.

“We want to make sure we have a yes vote on March 14,” she said.

Still, the proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir, citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

Home Depot nails down learning cafe


Thomas Grillo contributed to this report and can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

West Lynn church is resurrected

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Bishop Anthony Bennett is reopening the Greater Bethlehem Temple Pentecostal Church on Euclid Avenue in Lynn.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN There’s a new house of worship coming back to town.

Greater Bethlehem Temple Pentecostal Church is reopening its second home on Euclid Avenue on the city’s east side.

“Young people are looking beyond traditional churches,” said Bishop Anthony Bennett, who emigrated from Barbados in the 1960s. “They want something uplifting. They are bored with many religions and we offer something quite different.”

The former Methodist church, which was purchased in 2007 for $395,000, opened its doors the following year. But the church has been closed for more than a year as they searched for a new minister.

Since then, Bennett has renovated the 8,500-square-foot facility, upgraded the sound system, installed air conditioning and added a security system. The charismatic church is filled with song, words of God, a sermon and hope, he said.

A new pastor, David Eadie, has been hired and will conduct his first service on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Bennett said his goal is to attract Lynn area residents who are dependent on alcohol and drugs.

“There’s a tremendous need coming from people on the streets and we’re trying to get them into a different environment,” he said. “We minister to them wherever they are, tell them how good God is and how they don’t have to be addicts anymore.”

If they don’t show up for church on Sunday, Bennett said he drives around the city to pick them up.

“People are realizing drugs and alcohol are not the answer and  they are looking for a higher power, something spiritual that will allow them to live longer,” he said. “Going down the road they’re headed is a dead end.”

Bennett, an electrician at General Electric Co. for more than two decades, became a minister in 1992. After moving from its original location on Commercial Street, Bennett purchased a property on Light Street in 2003 for about $350,000.

Since then, he has been on a mission to encourage families to join the church, as well as saving addicts from an unhappy life.

“When a person realizes they are broke, busted and disgusted, where else can they go?” he asked. “Maybe they should try God to get a settled peace and fill the void.”

Bennett, who said he had not experienced a life of drug or alcohol dependence, acknowledged he has not been down the same road as some of his parishioners.

“I tell them ‘I don’t know what you’ve been through, but I’m here to sympathize, I’m not here to judge, I’m here to show you that no matter what your experience is, God can help you.’”

$1M in revenue is the ticket in Lynn


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Lynnway McDonald’s one big, happy family

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Allan Chinn, Todd LeBrasseur, Adela Medina, Cathy Boulay, Raymond Burns, and Steve Rima have all worked at the McDonald’s on the Lynnway for 15 years or more.

By BILL BROTHERTON

LYNN It’s extremely rare these days for an employee to remain loyal to one company, especially in the ever-changing, fast-paced fast food industry. But at McDonald’s on the Lynnway, four workers are celebrating their 20th year with the burger giant this year.

Allan Chinn, Cathy Boulay, Todd LeBrasseur and Adela Medina all joined McDonald’s in 1996. Chinn and LeBrasseur started on the same day, April 29. Medina began on May 15, and Boulay on Sept. 12.

Their boss, Steve Rima, kicked off his McDonald’s career as a $1.75-per-hour dishwasher on the night shift 37 years ago in southern California. He’s owned the Lynnway franchise since May 1991 and is owner-operator of three other Mickey D’s restaurants in the area: inside Walmart in Lynn, Northshore Mall and Liberty Tree Mall. He credits his employees for every bit of his success.

“At our Christmas party every year I award years-of-service pins to employees. I was dumbfounded when I saw that four of my best people hit the 20-year mark,” said Rima. “The longevity of dozens of employees of 100 total, about 33 have 10 years of service or more and another 30 or so have five to 10 years in amazed me. I am the luckiest boss in the world. This is an incredible group of people. They work extremely hard, and Lynn has an amazing workforce to draw from.”

Chinn, a former Lynner who now lives in Salem, serves as director of operations for Rima’s four restaurants. “Working at McDonald’s has evolved into a full-time job. When I started, it was mother’s hours and high school kids making just enough money to put gas in dad’s car when they borrowed it,” said Chinn. “I like the business, but Steve is the main reason I’ve made 20 years. He’s a great boss. He cares about people and is always helping people out.”

Rima jokes that Chinn’s son, Luis, 14, is now old enough to cook fries and wash floors. “We have a history of many family members working for McDonald’s,” said Rima. Indeed, 17 members of Boulay’s family have served through the years; her son, Tim, is a 10-year-employee.

Boulay, a lifelong Lynn resident, said her mom earned a certificate from “hamburger school” and worked the day shift at the old Lynnway site, before Rima moved to the current location near Commercial Street. “My dad worked days at Nissen Bakery and nights at McDonald’s. McDonald’s has been very good to my family. I love the people I work with and I love the customers.” Her husband Jim plows snow from the lot.

“Cathy is instrumental in the growth of our breakfast business,” said Rima. “She knows customers by name and knows exactly how they like their coffee and breakfast sandwich.”

LeBrasseur, of Salem, is operations technician for Rima’s four stores; he’s the IT guy who keeps everything running smoothly. “I’m very happy here, love my job. I’ve been able to raise my family, put food on the table and have a nice roof over our heads. I work with great people,” said the English High and Salem State graduate.

Medina, a native of Guatemala, is manager of first shift, which begins at 4 a.m. “I love it here. Everyone works well together. This is like my house, full of love,” said Medina, who lives in Lynn with her husband and their three children.

Boulay mentions that McDonald’s has been responsible for many marriages. “Welcome to McDonald’s dating service,” she said, smiling. Rima said that even though dating a co-worker is prohibited, he knows of about a dozen couples who first met under the Golden Arches. Chinn and his ex-wife met at McDonald’s. Medina met her husband at a McDonald’s in Waltham. “I met my wife at McDonald’s,” piped in LeBrasseur, “and my brother met his wife at McDonald’s. … and my sister met her husband at McDonald’s,” he said with a chuckle.

Other longtime employees include Yudeklis Brito and Arabely Robles, 17 years; Milvian Aguilar-Chavez, 16 years; Raymond Burns, 15 years; Orlando Robles, 14 years; Aracely Jiminez and Rosaura Lopez, 13 years; Onelia Gomez, Hilda Estevan, Esperanza Vassallo and Maria Mendez, 12 years; Karla Vega and Delfina Zacarias, 11 years; and Tim Boulay and Karla Ramos, 10 years.

Lynn teen sings his way from Tech to TV


Bill Brotherton is the Item’s Features Editor. He can be reached at bbrotherton@itemlive.com.

Lynn council costs out middle school plan

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Voters will be asked to fund two new schools during a special election on March 14.

The City Council unanimously approved putting a question on the ballot asking voters to approve the $188 million project, which would be for the construction of two schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Voters will also see a question asking if the project should be allowed to be exempt from Proposition 2 1/2, which places limits on the amount a community can raise through property taxes.

Voters would be responsible for an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills. The Massachusetts School Building Authority would reimburse about 60 percent of the funds, or $113 million of the project’s total cost.

Real deal: $7.5M sale in Lynn

In a previous interview with The Item, City Attorney James Lamanna said under the city charter, the council was required to put the question on the ballot. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million.

If voters approve the funding, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A second 1,008 student-school would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street. If voters reject the measure, the city could lose the state money.

Officials in favor of the project, including Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham, spoke about the need for new facilities to keep up with increasing enrollment.

Kennedy said there has been a 17 percent increase in the student population over the past five years. Latham added there are more than 16,000 students in Lynn Public Schools, making it the fifth largest district in the state.

Kennedy said she couldn’t emphasize enough the education inequity occurring at the middle school level, after the new Thurgood Marshall Middle School opened. She said it wasn’t right that students in the Pickering district have to go to a school of inferior quality, or that students in the Breed district are squeezed into a school that is overcrowded.

“The only way the city can bear the $200 million approximated price tag of these two schools is to do this as a debt exclusion,” Kennedy said. “I can’t emphasize enough how much we need to have these modern middle schools in the city of Lynn.”

Latham said if the schools aren’t approved, the district would be in dire need of more classroom space. There might need to be a return to half-day kindergarten, she added.

Donald Castle, president of Protect Our Reservoir, Preserve Pine Grove Cemetery, said the land on Parkland Avenue belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery. The city’s law department became aware of documents from 1893 in the fall suggesting that the land belongs to the cemetery.

“We’re not against the schools,” he said. “We’re against the site.”

Lamanna said it’s the opinion of the law department that the city owns the land, and would prevail in court if challenged.

Following the unanimous vote, city councilors weighed in on the potential schools. City Council President Darren Cyr said building two new schools to replace 100-year-old buildings was about providing students with the same opportunities kids in neighboring communities have.

“If we don’t build these new schools, we could have as many as 40 to 50 kids in a classroom,” Cyr said.

City Councilor Dan Cahill said Lynn can’t be a community of folks who don’t invest in their youth. “If we don’t make this investment, I’m really afraid of what’s going to happen in the city of Lynn,” he said.

In other news, a public hearing was set down for Feb. 14, regarding moving 57 custodians from city employment to the jurisdiction of the school department.

Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department director, said the move was to meet the net school spending requirement. When they worked for the city, he said, their health insurance didn’t work toward net school spending. If the move is passed, their benefits would be going toward that.

Donovan said the custodians are working for inspectional services now, which cleans school buildings. They would just have a different employer in the school department.

“The school will be paying for them if this proposal passes,” Donovan said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley

 

New schools would cost $200 per household

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — The city council is set to put a question on the ballot in March that asks taxpayers to fund two new schools.

Voters will be asked to pony up an estimated $75 million, or $200 annually for the next 25 years on their tax bills for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

The school committee voted last week to request the council take the action. Under the city charter, the 11-member council is obligated to put the question on the ballot, according to James Lamanna, the city’s attorney. Voter consent is required for any bond in excess of $4 million. A special election is expected to be held Tuesday, March 14.

If approved, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

Kane’s makes a tasty wager

Officials say the $188 million project is needed to accommodate the growing enrollment. Today, there are about 16,000 students in the Lynn Public Schools. But it has been increasing at a rate of 3 percent, or 500 new students annually, according to Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy.

“Enrollment continues to grow and we are out of space,” said Thomas Iarrobino, secretary of the Lynn School Committee.

“If voters reject the bond, we could be at a point where we were many years ago when we offered only a half-day kindergarten. Public schools are everyone’s right and everyone’s tax responsibility.”

The other factor in play is the contribution from the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent state agency that funds school projects. The department would contribute about 60 percent or $113 million of the project’s total cost. But if voters reject the bond authorization, the city stands to lose the state money.

The proposed construction has been controversial. Dozens of Pine Hill residents have expressed their opposition to the potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir citing traffic concerns. They have threatened a lawsuit.

But last month, the Pickering Middle School Building Committee reaffirmed its decision to locate the school off Parkland Avenue.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

The price of education increases by $5M

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNNIt’s going to cost more to build two new schools in the city.

The School Building Committee approved an amended construction plan on Thursday for a pair of schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn at an estimated cost of $188.5 million, up from $183.2 million last summer, a nearly 3 percent increase.

Under the proposal, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be constructed on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

While the revised costs for the new Pickering fell to $85.8 million, down from $86.1 million thanks to a more compact design, the West Lynn facility saw its budget rise by nearly 6 percent to $102.7 million, up from $97.1 million.

Making friends in a new language

Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager, explained that the cost to build the foundation drove the price estimate up.

Still, there was some good news. Access to the new Pickering from Shoemaker Road has been eliminated, settling a hot button issue in the neighborhood. In addition, only one home, not two, would be taken by eminent domain for the proposed Pickering.

Typically, when a home is taken by a municipality, an independent appraisal is completed and the property owner receives fair market value, plus moving expenses.

“Our intention is not to harm,” said Stapleton.

School building plans have been submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the quasi-independent government agency that funds school projects. If approved, the agency would contribute more than 60 percent of the cost.

Still, to pay for building new schools, voters will be asked to approve a tax hike of more than $160 annually to their real estate tax bill for 25 years.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Business budding for Peabody grower

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Alex Jones waters an aloe vera plant under a grow light at Green Harvest Hydroponics in Peabody.

By ADAM SWIFT

PEABODY — Legalize it, and I will advertise it, reggae legend Peter Tosh sang in the 1970s.

For at least one local business, the passage of Question 4 Tuesday, legalizing the use and sale of recreational marijuana in the state, should be a boon for business.

“I’m proud of the way the bill was put together, the way it stands now,” said Anthony Eugenio, director and co-founder of Green Harvest Hydroponics on Newbury Street in Peabody. “This is a huge step, not just for recreational marijuana, but for medical marijuana. We are getting something that is truly a medicine in the forefront of popular culture, which is where I believe it should be.”

Green Harvest Hydroponics provides supplies for inside and outside growing. And while the store offers more than just products for growing pot, there is a focus on helping people set up growing for medical marijuana.

Question 4 allows for the legalization, regulation and taxation of marijuana.

As of Dec. 15 of this year, anyone 21 or older can possess and use recreational marijuana. But it will remain illegal for those under 21.

Residents will be able to possess up to one ounce of weed in public and 10 ounces in a private residence. They will also be able to grow up to six marijuana plants on private property, and give up to one ounce of marijuana to another person of legal age with payment.

But while use and possession will be legal next month, recreational sales are still more than a year away.

The state treasurer will appoint a three-person Cannabis Control Commission, as well as a 15-member advisory board. The commission has until Jan. 1, 2018 to adopt industry regulations. If the commission cannot hammer out the regulations, the state’s existing medical marijuana dispensaries will be able to sell weed for recreational purposes.

“Lt. Governor Polito and I are proud to have worked with an unprecedented bipartisan coalition that has voiced concerns with this proposal, and our administration will work closely with lawmakers, educators and public safety and public health professionals to ensure this transition protects the interests of our communities and families,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement earlier this week.

Retail marijuana would be subject to the state sales tax, with an additional 3.75 percent excise tax. A community can choose to add up to 2 percent in additional taxes.

Stores would be subjected to random inspections and audits of books and records by the commission. Security would be mandated. Packaging will be required to include a symbol or other easily recognizable marking indicating that it contains marijuana; it will also distinguish a serving size within a package of multiple servings.

The nearest open medical marijuana dispensary is in Salem, but last month in Lynn, officials decided to invite medical marijuana treatment centers to the city. Last summer, the city council selected a zoning district along the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

City Council President and state Rep. Dan Cahill (D-Lynn) said it’s still up in the air as to how the ballot initiative will affect the city and the zoning district.

“We just don’t know how it will affect the municipalities,” said Cahill. “We will be working on it in the legislature as soon as possible.”

While the recreational dispensaries won’t be in place until 2018 at the earliest, Eugenio said his store will be ready for all questions and customers who wish to grow their own marijuana come Dec. 15.

“The biggest misconception is that it is difficult to grow and that it is a long process,” he said. Starting grow kits are priced as low as $200 and bring in a quality harvest at a lower price than someone could get at a dispensary.

“We guarantee results, and it’s not hard,” said Eugenio.


Adam Swift can be reached at aswift@itemlive.com.

Middle school offers a lesson in NIMBY

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Residents of 103 Parkland Ave. in Lynn are against building a new middle school in their back yard.

By GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Residents will get a chance to sound off on the potential new middle school that would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue. A public forum will be held at 7 p.m. on Wednesday in the Pickering Middle School Auditorium..

The third public forum on the construction of two new middle schools will be hosted by the city, Lynn Public Schools and the Pickering Middle School Building Committee.

The forum will focus on the Breeds Pond Reservoir site, which Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said has provoked the most opposition from residents in prior sessions.

In October, the city’s School Building Committee approved the construction of two schools that would serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn.

Under the $183 million proposal, a 652-student school would be built near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second facility to serve 1,008 students would be built on McManus Field on Commercial Street.

The fourth public forum, which will focus on the McManus Field site, will be held before Thanksgiving, Stapleton said.

Plans have been submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), the quasi-independent government that funds public schools. If approved, the agency would contribute $114.5 million towards the two schools, or 62.5 percent of the cost.

If approved by the MSBA and taxpayers, it would add $163 annually to the real estate tax bill for 25 years.

Stapleton said Wednesday’s forum will be about informing residents that the city is proceeding with the Reservoir and McManus sites.

“There is a great need for two schools because of the population and at this point, the city is willing to pay a significant share of the cost of two schools,” she said. “If we pass on this opportunity, the city is never going to be able to afford to pay for these two schools on their own. We’re really looking to find a compromise so we can take the benefit of the state paying the majority share of this, while attempting to minimize the impact on the city.”

Stapleton said studies are underway to look at the traffic on Parkland Avenue and Wyoma Square. Part of the studies will look at how to choose the correct school entrances and exits that will have the least effect on traffic.

Michael Donovan, the city’s Inspectional Services Department chief, who is also a member of the school building committee, acknowledged that there will be more traffic at the new school site.

“No matter where the school goes, there will be traffic impacts in the morning and the afternoon because we will be bringing 650 students in and out daily,” he said.

But he said the Parkland Avenue location near Breeds Pond Reservoir will have less impact than another proposed site on Magnolia Avenue because it’s near the Sisson Elementary School and the existing Pickering Middle School, which will likely be reused as an elementary school.

“Parkland Avenue is better suited to handle traffic than Magnolia Avenue,” Donovan said. “This small school won’t even be seen from Parkland Avenue or Lynnfield Street.”

A drawback to the Magnolia site is that there is a Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) pipe located on the property that provides water to Swampscott and Marblehead. The pipe would have to be relocated, which city officials estimated would cost up to $800,000.

Another potential issue with the Parkland Avenue site comes from documents from 1893 the city’s law department recently became aware of suggesting the land belongs to Pine Grove Cemetery.

Brian Field, Lynn resident and funeral director at Solimine Funeral Homes, said he thought the proposed land for the Reservoir site would become an extension of Pine Grove Cemetery in the future. In the next 10 to 15 years, he said, Pine Grove is going to become full, leaving people to travel up to 15 miles away to bury their loved ones at a greater expense.

Field said in the city, there is still a large religious community that prefers a traditional burial.  

“The city obviously needs schools,” he said. “The issue I have with Parkland Avenue is the intended use was to be for a cemetery. It’s almost like they want the courts to decide.”


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Thomas Grillo contributed to this report.

Kennedy taking shot at pot plan

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy

BY THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — After months of debate, the City Council finally determined where to locate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city this week, but Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is set to veto the ordinance.

While Kennedy supports the idea of limiting the clinics to specific parts of the city, which the measure does, she is opposed to an amendment which gives the 11-member panel the power to decide how money received from the marijuana clinics would be spent.

“If that language is contained in the ordinance, I will veto it because that provision of the ordinance is unenforceable,” said Kennedy, who just returned from a European cruise with her family. “The city charter dictates that the mayor determines where the city’s finances are directed. I will be more than happy to consult with the council on spending priorities, but I do not believe they have the ability to control incoming city funds.”

The mayor said she has asked the city attorney for a legal opinion, but seemed convinced she is on solid ground.

If the mayor vetoes the amendment, the council has 10 days to override with a two-thirds vote or a minimum of eight votes.

“I think I can provide compelling and convincing arguments to change the minds of three councilors,” Kennedy said.

City Council President Daniel Cahill said he agrees with the mayor that the council can’t determine how the city spends revenue.

“There’s no need for a veto,” he said. “If the law department says the portion of the ordinance giving the City Council  oversight over where the money is appropriated is unenforceable, then it’s unenforceable. If it’s vetoed, then we start from square one.”

On Tuesday, the City Council approved a plan to bring two medical marijuana clinics to the city. Under the ordinance, the treatment center district would include the non-waterfront side of the Lynnway from Market Street to the General Edwards Bridge, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

The clock was ticking on a deadline for approving a location policy for the pot outlets. The council faced a state-imposed Aug. 3 deadline to pass an ordinance that would designate the marijuana dispensary districts. If the panel failed to amend its zoning, the city could have faced lawsuits from potential clinic operators.

On a separate matter, Kennedy said she also plans to veto a reorganization plan adopted by the council last month that would create a separate department to oversee elections. It would add a department head with a six-figure salary to the city’s budget, she said.

“We can’t afford that,” Kennedy said. “I’ve been clear that I would like to create a planning department. So why would I add to an existing department when I could use that money to start a department that is needed?”  

But on this issue, Kennedy and Cahill disagree.

The intent of the ordinance and home rule petition, Cahill said,  is to encourage more candidates to run for office, allow minorities access to important voter information and have a department dedicated to handle new voting methods being imposed on municipalities.

“The council proposed creation of a level-two department head that is paid less than $100,000 and there is state money available to fund that position,” he said.


Thomas Grillo can be reached at tgrillo@itemlive.com.

Hashing out the budget in Lynn

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn City Hall.

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — The city’s $299.6 million budget was approved Tuesday, but much of the City Council’s focus was on marijuana.

The unanimously approved budget is a 2.4 percent increase over last year with most of the funds —  $139.58 million — reserved for schools.

But the fire came later when City Councilor Peter Capano passionately urged his colleagues to consider sites other than his Lynnway district for medical marijuana dispensaries. He said that Ward 6 has become a dumping ground for businesses the city does not want.

“I am sick and tired of all of these businesses ending up in Ward 6,” he said.

The council is facing a state-imposed Aug. 3 deadline to pass an ordinance that would designate pot dispensary districts. If the council fails to amend its zoning, the city could face lawsuits from potential clinic operators. Bay State residents voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012.

The council had drafted a zoning amendment that would allow the clinics to be open at seven separate Lynnway addresses, Commercial Street and Route 107/Western Avenue from the Belden Bly Bridge running north and ending at the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

Capano proposed the law department draft language to present to the council at its special meeting on July 5, tentatively scheduled for 6 p.m., that would eliminate the overlay districts in his ward. Instead, the whole city would be open to the dispensaries. He also suggested that only one clinic be allowed in the first year, rather than the maximum of two that was previously discussed. If everything goes okay with one, then a second would be considered.

Once a host agreement is established, medical marijuana clinics give a percentage of their revenues to the city. Capano’s third proposal was that no specific city employee or department would benefit from those funds.

After some dissent, the council agreed to have those changes be presented to them next week for consideration.

Despite agreeing to consider Capano’s proposal next week, some councilors appear to have already made their decision on one point.

“I can’t support opening up dispensaries anywhere in the city,” said City Councilor Wayne Lozzi.

He also said he felt the pressure to pass the new ordinance, rather than putting it off, with the deadline looming.

“We’re faced with a situation where we have a gun to our heads,” Lozzi said.

City Council Vice-President Darren Cyr said there wasn’t enough time before Aug. 3 to consider other options.

“I don’t see the reasoning to open it up to the city,” he said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Medical marijuana going somewhere – but where?

By THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — City Councilors Tuesday night will continue to debate and hear residents’ views on where medical marijuana dispensaries should be located.

But the clock is ticking on a deadline for approving a location policy for the pot outlets.

State law mandates local action on selected sites within 90 days of the first local hearing on dispensary regulations.

City attorney James Lamanna said the council should vote on a ordinance by August 3 in order to reduce the chance of a lawsuit by dispensary owners.

Massachusetts residents voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2012. The council responded to the ordinance’ passage by setting strict limits on where dispensaries could set up shop in the city. Inquiries by dispensary operators to locate in Lynn prompted city lawyers to recommend review and revisions of the ordinance.

“The state Attorney General has consistently ruled that any ordinance that is, in effect, a complete ban, is unlawful,” Lamanna said.

In response, councilors drafted an ordinance allowing dispensaries to open on the Lynnway near Commercial Street and on Western Avenue near the General Edwards Bridge.

Councilors have held public hearings on the ordinance, including one on May 24, visited dispensaries, and heard city residents’ views on where clinics should go. But questions about where to put dispensaries remain.

“Why is Ward 6 being picked to provide marijuana?” Walden Street resident George Essery asked during the May 24 council hearing.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said the Western Avenue and Lynnfield Street proposed dispensary sites are “very close to neighborhoods or in neighborhoods.”

Ward 3 Councilor Darren Cyr said councilors should narrow dispensary sites to three or four locations as they craft the ordinance.

“The reality is that no matter where you put it, it’s going to be somewhere,” Cyr said.

Council President and state Rep. Dan Cahill (D-Lynn) said the council discussion on dispensaries could see the siting list “expand or contract” during Tuesday night’s discussion.

He said top priorities for recrafting the medical marijuana ordinance are public safety, economic enhancement and patient access.

“We want to put forth the best policy benefiting Lynn in the long term,” Cahill said.

Police Chief Kevin Coppinger on May 24 said his counterparts in Lowell and other communities have had “no major issues” with crime at dispensaries. Coppinger is looking ahead to November when voters will be asked to legalize marijuana.

“What I’m looking for is security,” he said.

The ordinance under review by councilors references security in its provision allowing Lynn mayors to negotiate a “host agreement” with a dispensary. The ordinance provides money from the agreement to the police and fire departments and a $20,000 raise for city Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan.

Donovan asked the council for an $18,000 increase in his $124,000 base pay in February. But the council has yet to act. Combined with other city benefits, he earns $153,000.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com

Plenty brewing on Commercial Street in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY SPENSER HASAK
Crowds gathered at the Bent Water Brewing Co. Blast Off celebration on Saturday for beer, food, music and a tour of the facilities.

BY DILLON DURST

LYNN – Check brewery off the list of the city’s attractions.

The Bent Water Brewing Co. held its grand opening Saturday on Commercial Street just off the Lynnway.

The event featured tours of the facility, live music, local food and, yes, beer.

Thanks to a $200,000 start-up loan by the Lynn Economic Development and Industrial Corp. Bent Water was able to get its start.

Managing partner Aaron Reames called the loan a “meaningful token of support,” and praised the EDIC for its early support.

Reames, a Swampscott resident and financial manager at Columbia Threadneedle Investments, a Boston-based global asset management group, said he and Master Brewer John Strom considered sites in Marblehead and Swampscott while searching for potential brewery locations. But neither were a good fit.

Reames said he made the decision to locate in Lynn after consulting with EDIC/Lynn Executive Director Jim Cowdell, and Nick Meninno of Meninno Construction in Lynn.

“Lynn has fantastic water, and the city really embraced us,” Reames said.

Formerly Lynn Lumber, Reames said he and Strom, along with managing partners and investors Chris Crawford and Michael Shaughnessy, lease the building from Meninno.

Lynn Business Park RT and the Nicholas Mennino Trust bought the 84,000-square-foot lot in 2014 for $1.4 million.

Reames, an Ohio native, studied molecular genetics at Ohio State University before receiving his Master’s of Business Administration from Franklin University in 2000.

The 42-year-old entrepreneur said he started brewing beer in his garage in 2002 before searching for potential locations six years later.

“Going from brewing in my garage to this, there’s really no comparison,” he said.

While Bent Water can store up to 15,000 barrels of beer, Reames said his goal is to hold as many as 90,000.

He said the support from the community and surrounding towns has been incredible, and was another reason for locating in Lynn.

“For me, that was the most important thing,” he said. “I’m incredibly thankful.”


Dillon Durst can be reached at ddurst@itemlive.com.

‘The true definition of a dedicated public servant’

Chelsea Police Officer John Bruttaniti, who was killed in a Thursday night crash on the Lynnway, was hailed as “a true gentleman who was deeply respected by everyone around him.”

BY THOR JOURGENSEN

LYNN — A Lynnway crash late Thursday night killed an off-duty Chelsea police officer.

John Bruttaniti, 41, of Lynn died in the 10:27 p.m. accident in the northbound lane near Commercial Street, said State Police.

State Police said a preliminary investigation by Trooper Nicholas Fiore indicated Bruttaniti lost control of his motorcycle and struck a 2005 Honda CRF450 motorcycle operated by a 25-year-old male from Lynn. Bruttaniti’s motorcycle struck a utility pole and Bruttaniti sustained fatal injuries and was determined to be deceased at the scene, police said.

The Honda’s operator was taken to Union Hospital. Cause of the crash remains under investigation with assistance from the State Police Collision Analysis and Reconstruction Section and the State Police Crime Scene Services Section. No charges have been filed. The Lynnway’s northbound lane between Commercial Street and Marine Boulevard was closed for nearly four hours into Friday morning.

“John was the true definition of a dedicated public servant to the people of Chelsea and the country, having worked at the Chelsea Police Department since 2008 and at the Chelsea Fire Department from 2005-2008 and served in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan in 2003-2004,” said Chelsea Police Chief Brian Kyes in a statement. “He was a true gentleman who was deeply respected by everyone around him.”

Bruttaniti received the Police Department’s Lifesaving Medal in 2015 for saving a toddler who was choking on a penny.

“On behalf of the entire City of Chelsea and the Chelsea Police Department, I convey my deepest condolences and heartfelt sympathy to John’s family,” said Kyes.

Chelsea Police Department commanders have been assigned to serve as liaisons to Bruttaniti’s family and the funeral home “during this time of loss and need.”

Funeral arrangements are pending.

The crash was the second fatal accident on the Lynnway this year. A Feb. 27 vehicle crash killed two people.


Thor Jourgensen can be reached at tjourgensen@itemlive.com.

Lynn council: Still have issues to weed out

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Lynn City Hall

BY GAYLA CAWLEY

LYNN — Nothing was decided on potential sites for medical marijuana dispensaries in the city Tuesday night.

The Planning Board and Ordinance and Rules Committee tabled the discussion, while the City Council continued its hearing until May 24.

City Council Vice-President Darren Cyr said the council must gather more information before making a decision.

Officials are considering amending Lynn’s zoning bylaws that would clear the way for the controversial clinics.

If approved by City Hall, the treatment center district would include portions of 453-543 Lynnway, across from the ocean, two sites on Commercial Street and all properties on Route 107 from the Belden Bly Bridge to the intersection of Western and Murphy avenues.

City Councilor Peter Capano, whose ward includes the proposed district, questioned why the locations were chosen for potential clinics.

“I just don’t know, why not the whole Lynnway?” he said. “Why not the other side of the Lynnway?”

James Lamanna, city attorney, said those interested in operating the facilities want to be near public transportation. He added that most people want to keep the clinics away from the waterfront.

“There was concern that if the city did not take action, someone could go anywhere in the city,” Lamanna said. “Something needed to be in place.”

He said those interested in opening a clinic, with the way the current ordinance is written, could have their application denied, challenge it in court and win. Lamanna said a benefit of the way the amendment is written is that it only allows for two dispensaries.

Capano also questioned if the clinics are mandated to give money to the city. Lamanna said the city would enter into a host agreement with the operators, where Lynn gets up to three percent of the gross profits. The amendment recommends that a portion of the profits go towards public safety.

Lamanna said the measure would allow the clinics to dispense and grow marijuana. But the few people he’s spoken to about opening one have told him that they plan to grow outside of Lynn.

Lisa Wallace, of 12 Neptune St. Court, said she opposes a dispensary in her neighborhood. She is a 15-year recovering addict and the area is not stable enough the handle the clinics.

“Don’t set it up to fail by putting it in an area that already has so much stacked against it,” she said.

Wallace said there are already two methadone clinics nearby and in that low income neighborhood, people often have to decide whether they feed their children that day or if they sell their prescription. She would prefer to see a dispensary on the Boston Street corridor.

David Zeller, whose insurance agency is at 370 Lynnway, said if a facility opens, it would be one of the biggest money makers in the city.

“Let the business decide where it should go, not the politicians,” he said.

When the City Council completes its public hearing, they will have 90 days to make a decision on the zoning change.

“Whatever decision we make, it’s going to have an impact on the city for many years to come,” Cyr said.


Gayla Cawley can be reached at gcawley@itemlive.com. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

Water and Sewer needs to map out CSO solution

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Nick Costantino of the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission clears dirt away from a 60 to 80 year old service box in front of 19 Tucker Street in Lynn.

It’s great news for ratepayers that the Lynn Water & Sewer Commission (LWSC) is planning to hold the line on increasing bills this year.

A family of four pays $1,000 for water and sewer service, making Lynn less expensive than the amount paid by ratepayers in Massachusetts Water Resources Authority communities.

But before everyone turns the tap and lifts a glass to salute everyone in LWSC headquarters on Parkland Avenue, it might be a good idea to look to the horizon where the specter of combined sewer overflow costs continue to trouble the commission.

For more than 20 years, the commission has run hot and cold on the need to eliminate partially treated wastewater discharges into the ocean. In the 1990s, millions were spent on burying a pipe network under our streets designed to reduce the amount of rainwater surging through the sewerage system and overwhelming the Commercial Street treatment complex with wastewater.

In 2004, the commission fired contractor USFilter Corp. and entered into a 10-year period of inactivity regarding combined sewer overflow (CSO). In 2013, commissioners started paying attention again to the overflow problem with various arguments for and against the necessity for more CSO work.

One argument insisted the real problem is unresolved West Lynn flooding, especially around Bennett Street. Another argument centered on concerns about federal environmental officials taking a close look at Lynn CSO efforts and concluding that the city must further reduce, even end ocean discharges.

At stake in these arguments is the scope of CSO. In other words, how much of the ratepayers’ money must be spent on solving the problem? Before he left the commission, Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi argued that a small-scale project could solve the problem. But the latest number to circulate for a CSO solution is $130 million.

That’s a big number and how it translates into rate increases remains to be seen. A big factor in cost could be the federal timetable for reducing or ending ocean discharges. The commissioners, including two councilors and three mayoral appointees, must work with top LWSC executives to get a definitive answer from federal officials and determine the best way to fix the problem.

Once they have the answers, the commissioners should hold a hearing in City Hall and give the public a clear and informative look at how much the CSO solution will cost and detail any remedial project. It’s time to come up with a solution.