Donald Castle

Protect-Preserve needs to produce

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Don Castle motions at the “no-vote” victory party in this March file photo.

The founder of the “no new schools” movement pledged following the March 21 referendum vote to reach out and work with school officials.

Almost three weeks have passed and that conversation between Donald Castle and the officials he wants to speak with has yet to take place.

Mr. Castle and his Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove campaign defeated the city’s request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a middle school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field.

Give Mr. Castle credit; he tapped into voter anger over taxes and tallied a 64 percent to 36 percent win.

He told The Item’s editorial board before the March 21 special election that he opposed construction of the Parkland Avenue school because the city’s forefathers wanted the 44-acre site to be reserved to expand the Pine Grove Cemetery.

He argued that the parcel is too close to Breeds Pond Reservoir, the buildings were too expensive, and the process failed to be inclusive.

Insisting his group is not anti-education or anti-new schools, Mr. Castle said he would reach out to city officials after the school vote and say, “We want to work with you.”

He kept up that refrain the day after the election, saying, “I extended an olive branch to the mayor and the committee to pick another site.”

Schools out in Lynn

Mr. Castle and Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, a school construction supporter, each say they made post-election efforts to reach out and meet, but missed each other’s post-election calls. Castle got a chance to state his case last week during the Pickering Middle School Building Committee meeting. Kennedy made a motion to suspend the rules and allow Mr. Castle to speak.

He declined.

“It was a bag job,” he said following the meeting, “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”

Sorry, Mr. Castle, you can’t have it both ways. Protect-Preserve won a stunning election victory. But the middle-school enrollment tidal wave threat still looms.

Maybe Mr. Castle wants to hold on to that no new-schools anger and see if it converts into a possible City Council bid.

Maybe he got tongue tied when the opportunity came to actually present city decision makers with his school construction suggestions.

Or maybe it’s time for Mr. Castle and Protect-Preserve to make good on his pre-election statement and offer specific and positive ideas for solving the city’s school space crunch.

Unless they never had any ideas to begin with.

Schools out for the time being in Lynn

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy is pictured at a discussion on schools.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — No new schools will be built in the city anytime soon.

That was the decision of a city panel Tuesday that orchestrated a plan for construction of two middle schools to ease overcrowding and replace a dilapidated facility.

Following last Tuesday’s special election where voters resoundingly rejected a request to fund an $188.5 million plan for a school on Parkland Avenue and a second one on McManus Field, the Pickering School Building Committee withdrew its application for state funding.

In addition to taking itself out of consideration for funds, Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager for the school proposal, said Lynn had a number of options. They included a plan to split the project into two and build one school first and then a second; build one school and renovate the Pickering Middle School; or build one school and use Pickering as an elementary school.

But the panel seemed in no mood to consider them.

Before the vote to end the city’s bid for school dollars, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy invited Donald Castle, a founding member of Protect Our Reservoir — Preserve Pine Grove, the grassroots organization that campaigned against the schools, to speak to the committee. The mayor said he had an alternative plan. But he declined.

School Committeewoman Donna Coppola voiced concern about where new students would be placed.

“We have kids coming in that will not have seats,” she said.

Edward Calnan said the committee did their job and despite the vote against the schools, the members should be proud of the work they did.

“We were told we needed to provide space for 1,600 students and that’s what we did,” he said. “We did an exhaustive search for sites in the city and came up with the best ones that were the least expensive to make the project viable.”

Off and running in Lynn

Kennedy said it’s clear the voters have no appetite for more taxes and she will honor their wishes.

“The people spoke loud and clear,” she said. “The problem was the price tag and I’m just ready to drop the whole thing. They say insanity is doing the same thing but expecting different results. That’s what we would be doing if we did anything but drop it.”

With that, the 16-member group voted unanimously to tell the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the  quasi-independent government authority created to help pay for the construction of public schools, that Lynn won’t be seeking funds.

At the close of the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Catherine Latham choked back tears as she expressed her disappointment in the failure of the vote for the new schools.

“Our new Thurgood Marshall Middle School is a model for the entire state and I was hoping that just viewing that could carry an equalized opportunity for all our students,” she said. “But it was not to be.” 

In an interview following the meeting, Castle defended his position not to speak to the committee.

“It was a bag job,” he said. “They wanted to pick a fight with me, I’m not going to get into an argument with the superintendent that would make me look dumb. The proponents never sat down with us or called us once. I feel bad for the kids, but now they want to talk to us in the 11th hour. No thanks.”


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

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.

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.

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.

 

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.

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.

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 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

 

Protesters sound off on school plans

By BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN Three to four dozen protesters gathered at Thursday night’s School Committee meeting to protest the construction of a potential new middle school near Breeds Pond Reservoir and the loss of homes the city could take to build it.

The School Committee discussed requesting the City Council vote for eminent domain of two properties adjacent to the reservoir, including 103 Parkland Ave., owned by Luise Fonseca.

Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said the properties would be used to create an intersection and improve traffic.

“I saved up all my life to buy it,” Fonseca said. “I have deer in my backyard. It’s a beautiful spot.”

Fonseca said the second property is 97 Parkland Ave.

“(Fonseca) is a 77-year-old woman, she bought her house to live there for life,” said Donald Castle, a neighborhood advocate. “Parkland Avenue is the most expensive site. Pick another site. I don’t see voters approving this.”

“It’s very difficult to sit here and know the woman is very ill and you want to take her home,” said School Committee Member Lorraine Gately.

Middle school offers a lesson in NIMBY

The panel voted to table the discussion and hold a special meeting on Dec. 15, after the Building Committee discusses other options, which Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said are less expensive.

Kennedy said voting in favor of the recommendation would not be a vote to take the properties but it would keep the option open and comply with the demands of the timeline necessary to fulfill Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) requirements. The quasi-independent government funds public school projects.

If the MSBA approves, the agency would contribute $114.5 million toward the two schools, 62.5 percent of the cost.

Voters will be asked to support a so-called debt exclusion next spring. Residents would have a $163 annual hike in their real estate tax bills for the next 25 years.

The city’s School Building Committee gave approval to build two new schools to serve students in the Pickering Middle School district and West Lynn in October. The $183 million proposal includes a 652-student school to be built near the reservoir off Parkland Avenue and a second school on McManus Field on Commercial Street to serve 1,008 students.

City Attorney James Lamanna said by law residents need to be notified months before they need to vacate their homes. The houses will be appraised and the property owners will have the opportunity to challenge the amount. They are assisted with relocation and compensated for additional costs if necessary.

“It’s not like winning the lottery, but property owners will make out much better,” Lamanna said.  

Lynn charter gets second state hearing

The committee also voted unanimously to request the Lynn Park Commission and Conservation Commission vote to convert the park land at McManus Field into a school and replace the park land at the reservoir site.

The protesters filled the meeting room equipped with signs and information packets.

Castle is against the site for legal and moral reasons.

“We’re all in favor of a new school,” he said. “We have 200 people in our group. Hundreds of people oppose this site. There’s not a few of us, there’s a lot of us. We’re not just disgruntled. The process hasn’t been fair.”

Brian Field, a resident and funeral director, argued that the Parkland Avenue property was intended for cemetery use, citing a document from 1893.

“Pine Grove Cemetery will be full in 10 years,” Field said. “The city will be without a cemetery in 10 years’ time.”

Lamanna said there are “no restrictions” on the property and feels confident the court would not “put a burden on any property owner or buyer to go to the Lynn Museum or the Lynn Library” to find documents.

Proposed plans include taking four-and-a-half acres of park land from McManus Field. To replace them at another location in the city, fields will be created at the Parkland Avenue site, Stapleton said.

“We’re just looking to replace it at this point, we don’t have plans other than to protect it,” she said. “We have room for two turfed fields, football field size fields. There is a potential for a third turfed field there.”

Fonseca said the discussion didn’t give her much relief. “They’re only prolonging my agony,” she said.

The project requires voter approval. Registered voters will decide in March.


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

Residents rail against Pickering plans

PHOTO BY PAULA MULLER
Peter Grocki argues against the Breeds Pond Reservoir site plan for a potential new Pickering Middle School.

By LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — On Wednesday night, residents at a public forum had another chance to weigh in on potential new Pickering Middle School sites.

Project architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Inc. presented information about the project before a crowd that nearly filled the auditorium of the old Pickering.

The forum focused on the site near Breeds Pond Reservoir off Parkland Avenue, which has drawn heavy criticism from residents at past meetings.

One of the more contentious points discussed over the course of the evening was the possibility of private homes being removed in order to provide the new school with two points of access.

Of the potential areas being considered for a school location, only the reservoir site would require the taking of private homes by eminent domain.

Raymond said one option is to create a route across from Richardson Road, which would require the removal of two homes. The Lynnfield Street option would take one home at the end of Shoemaker Road and another at the end of Severance Street. A third option near Basse Road would not require the removal of any homes.

Raymond added that the results of an ongoing traffic study may help shed light on the best location.

“Don’t tell us this is a plan, then tell us you’re going to take someone’s home,” said Gayle Chandler of Parkland Avenue during the public commentary session. Chandler added that residents should continue to fight the development in court if necessary.   

Ellen Barr of Richardson Road voiced traffic and safety concerns. She said parking along Parkland Avenue already begins early in the morning and that it’s a common route for large trucks.

Other residents were angered by the encroachment of the development on Lynn Woods and Pine Grove Cemetery.

“The woods across the street from the cemetery is the cemetery,” said Donald Castle of Bellevue Road.

Attendee Elizabeth Sutherland, who lives on Woodside Terrace, said she was skipping school for the night to come to the forum.

“By the time I had a flier in my mail it was only a few days from when something was happening,” said Sutherland.

Former city councilor Joseph Scanlon, who also lives on Parkland Avenue, said he was at the forum to listen.

“I’ve been to all three meetings and they seem to change all the time,” said Scanlon.

The forum was the third of its kind and Project Manager Lynn Stapleton said there will be another sometime in the next several weeks to discuss the proposed McManus Field middle school site.

Stapleton said that while a formal recommendation should be forthcoming from the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) on Nov. 9, there’s still another year in the development process left to go.