Parkland Avenue

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.

Election fight looms in Lynn’s Ward 1

COURTESY PHOTO
Pictured is Ward 1 City Councilor Wayne Lozzi.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN Wayne Lozzi, the seven-term city councilor from Ward 1, has a race on his hands.

Courtesy photo

Pictured is attorney William O’Shea.

Two opponents have pulled papers. William O’Shea, an attorney, and Jesse Warren Jr. have set their sights on the post.

“Now that my children are grown and coaching youth sports is in the past, I have a lot of time on my hands,” said O’Shea, 53. One the things that puzzles O’Shea is why KIPP Academy, the city’s charter school, can build a new high school to serve 450 students for $20 million, while the plan defeated by voters last month called for construction of two middle schools for $188.5 million.

In March, voters rejected a 652-student school on Parkland Avenue and a second facility for 1,008 students on McManus Field.

“The city wanted to build one public school for nearly $90 million while a charter school can build it for one fourth the cost,” he said.

O’Shea also wonders why the city’s tax rate rises annually and yet there’s a budget shortfall.

In addition, O’Shea questioned why the city has a methadone clinic on the Lynnway and a homeless shelter downtown.

“We can’t attract new businesses or residents with those things in the middle of downtown,” he said.

Still, he is not sure how to solve that issue.

“I don’t have the particular answers, but as an attorney, I find solutions,” he said.  

Lozzi, 60, who has served on the council since 2004, said he is seeking re-election because he loves the job, and is proud of the work he’s done.

“I’ve accomplished quite a bit as the ward councilor,” he said.  Among his proudest projects, he said, is reconstruction of the city’s parks.

“When I first ran, Gowdy,  Flax Pond and Magnolia parks were in deplorable condition,” Lozzi said.  “Now, we have a new Flax Pond playground, Gowdy was mostly done with private funds at no cost to taxpayers, Magnolia has a fairly new tennis court and Lynn Woods Park playground has been remodeled.”

Lozzi noted that the council’s initiative to move the high tension wires off the waterfront and a zoning change for the Lynnway are key to modernizing the city and spurring development.

North Shore Community Promise: free tuition

While Lozzi acknowledges the city’s financial picture is grim today, he said it’s short term.

“Historically, the city has gone through these phases where we are up and down,” he said. “I don’t want to assign blame, we need to look forward and continue to provide good services to the residents despite these difficulties.”

While the city needs new sources of revenue, Lozzi said he opposed to the imposition of a local option meals tax that would raise about $600,000 annually.

“Raising taxes is a last resort and I’m not sure I would support it,” he said.

Still, Lozzi supported the plan to build two new middle schools by raising taxes.

“I voted yes because I felt strongly that we need a new Pickering Middle School,” he said.

On the question of whether the city will need to lay off city workers to balance the budget, Lozzi said the jury is still out.

“I hope we can avoid them,” he said. “If there is any question about layoffs, that falls onto the mayor’s desk and she has to answer those questions and inform the council and residents.”

Warren could not be reached for comment.


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

 

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.

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

Don’t bury Lynn’s future: Vote yes on schools

We urge a vote tomorrow in favor of building two new middle schools and approving a tax hike to pay for them.

The 2 Schools for Lynn supporters make a strong case for the city moving forward to build a new school on Parkland Avenue and another in West Lynn, citing rapidly increasing enrollment in existing schools.

Protect Our Reservoir-Preserve Pine Grove members summarize their opposition to the ballot question by criticizing the proposed Parkland Avenue site near Breeds Pond and arguing the city cannot afford its share of the $188.5 million project, which is estimated to be a maximum of $91 million.

Voters will be asked tomorrow to pay for new schools by approving a measure excluding the school debt from the property tax-raising limitations set by state law. This request is unprecedented in the city’s history and ballot question opponents are correct when they say the debt exclusion request is set against the backdrop of the city’s recent financial problems.

The city’s bond rating has been downgraded and city Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron sounded an alarm about city finances last December. But the economic benefits to the city from building new schools outweigh financial concerns.

Ballot question proponents convincingly argue that families and businesses looking to relocate in Lynn assess school quality in making their decisions. Building new schools does not simply benefit the students who will attend a new West Lynn and Pickering in 2019 and 2020, respectively. New construction also benefits future generations of students.

Ballot question opponents say they share this viewpoint. But they argue the Parkland Avenue site is a poor location because, they say, it negatively affects Pine Grove Cemetery and the woods around the pond.

Both of these arguments are weak. The Parkland Avenue and the West Lynn site were picked because they did not contain the hazardous materials contamination and flooding problems identified on other potential school sites. Proponents also point out that the Parkland Avenue site will be separated from Breeds Pond by a hill.

Opponents argue that the 44-acre site where the school has been proposed has for decades been viewed as cemetery land. But proponents point out only 12 acres are actually needed for the school project, meaning the remaining land can be destined for cemetery use.

Question opponents are also unrealistic when they say, “find another site and we will support it.” Lynn is an old, land-poor industrial city with few suitable sites available for school construction.

Opponents are misguided when they say the city can abandon plans to build on Parkland Avenue and simply propose another school site to the state and receive quick funding approval.

Competition for limited state school building assistance reimbursements is stiff. Waiting to build new schools will only drive up future construction costs. Lynn can’t afford to miss this chance to build new schools with the state’s help.

Every student in Lynn deserves a state-of-the-art middle school like Thurgood Marshall on Brookline Street. We urge a “yes” vote on Tuesday to propel Lynn into a future marked by success and opportunity for all residents.

Kennedy makes final push on school vote

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy speaks with the Item at her office.

By THOMAS GRILLO

LYNN — Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy won’t say whether she will seek a third term this fall, but the city’s chief executive is sure acting like a candidate.

In a wide ranging interview with The Item this week, the mayor laid out her goals for 2017.

At the top of her list is winning Tuesday’s vote for construction of two new middle schools. The special election on March 14 asks homeowners to approve a property tax increase for 25 years for the $188.5 million project that would build a school on Parkland Avenue and a second in West Lynn.

“Next week will give us an indication of whether we will be able to move forward with providing our students with the same kind of education they receive at the new Marshall Middle School,” she said.  “I just hope there is no confusion that voters need to vote yes on both questions in order for it to pass. If you favor the new schools, vote yes for both or it will fail.”

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

While the mayor is optimistic that voters will approve the ballot initiative, she is considering Plan B should the vote fail.

‘We would go back to the Massachusetts School Building Authority and start over,” said the mayor, referring to the quasi-independent government agency that funds a portion of school construction projects. “And hope that within a few years we could turn the vote around.”

While opponents of the school site on Parkland Avenue say a better alternative is to renovate the Pickering Middle School, the mayor said the city lacks the $44.2 million it would take to gut the 90,000-square-foot facility and install new systems, classrooms, gym, cafeteria and labs.

“We simply can’t afford it out of the city budget,” she said.

Current system not sustainable, Latham says

Also in the planning stages is a marketing staffer for the Lynn Auditorium, the city’s 2,100-seat concert hall, that would be paid for by ticket sales.

“We could reach more people and expand if we had someone to do marketing,” she said.

Kennedy is also planning to spend $400,000 for a study to replace Engine 9 on Tower Hill and Engine 7 on Pine Hill with a fire safety building in West Lynn at a cost of $15-20 million.

“Those buildings are 100 years old and continuing to show signs of aging,” she said.  “We would build one facility and perhaps move dispatch into the new station and save on rent.”

The mayor also plans to seek $100,000 in grants to restore the Angell Memorial Fountain at Broad and Nahant streets. Built in the early 1900s  in memory of George T. Angell, the founder of Boston’s Angell Memorial Hospital, the fountain once served as a horse trough.

In addition, the mayor said summer job applications for teens are available at the personnel office in City Hall. Selection for the 120 jobs will be done by lottery.

While no one has declared their candidacy for mayor, local political observers say Kennedy will run. State Sen. Thomas McGee (D-Lynn) and City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre have said they are exploring the possibility of running. McGee recently held a fundraiser in Boston and may have been the person behind a citywide poll on the race.

Kennedy and LaPierre said they had nothing to do with the poll. But a McGee spokeswoman did not respond when asked the question.


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.

 

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.

Calnan: New middle schools make sense

Edward T. Calnan:

I write as a member of the building committee for the new Pickering Middle School to be located off Parkland Avenue and another middle school proposed at McManus Field in West Lynn.

I want to correct some misinformation that has been circulating by the opponents of the school at the Parkland Avenue site. The suggestion has been made that the school would have a negative environmental impact on the nearby reservoir which is part of Lynn’s great water supply system.

I have walked this site myself. The new school will be built on 12 acres of the 44 acres available. The building will be located more than 250 feet from the reservoir, much farther away than the minimum requirements.

It should be noted that some homes in an adjoining neighborhood have been built in the past, much closer to the reservoir. The topography is such that the area to be built upon slopes away from the reservoir and surface water will drain naturally to wetlands on the site, as it does now.

The new building will be tied into the city’s sewer and drainage system. This project is subject to numerous environmental reviews and will be constructed in full conformance with all local and state agencies responsible for the protection of wetlands and public water supplies. In sum, Lynners can be assured that there will be no negative impact on the reservoir as a result of this project.

The other issue is the question of ownership of the parcel. The city’s Law Department has researched the real estate records extensively and determined that the parcel is, indeed, owned by the city. This is a big bonus as it minimizes the acquisition costs, keeping the overall project costs lower.

As a former Director of Community Development for the city for many years, I have dealt with many development consultants in neighborhood, downtown and waterfront developments.  

The consultant team we had when I served on the new Thurgood Marshall School Building Committee was as talented and impressive as any I’ve seen. And the results are manifested in a beautiful building that was completed ahead of schedule and under budget, providing a modern learning environment for the children in that district. We are fortunate to have members of that team working with us on the two new schools being proposed.

In viewing plans for new middle schools, our committee looked at 13 different sites in the city and, after much deliberation, chose the Parkland Avenue site and the McManus Field site as the best for the city. There are no sites that are even close in comparison after studying all the factors that come into play for site selection.

The state has told the city that it must plan for an additional 1,600 students in the next several years. The Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) is willing to pay up to $100 million of the $188 million cost with the city’s share to be paid through a bond issue, subject to approval by the voters in the referendum on March 14th.

If the voters approve, there will be positive spin-offs as a result of the new schools. Real estate values will be improved. It is no secret that the first thing potential buyers ask realtors about is about is the quality of the school system. Impressive new teaching and learning facilities go a long way in putting a positive point on the fact that this is something Lynners care about.

Once a new Pickering Middle School is built with a 650-student capacity, it is very likely that Pine Hill would be put into the Pickering district, resulting in a shorter walk for students to a new and exciting facility. Also parts of the old Pickering School could be saved for a future expansion of the Sisson Elementary School and provide refurbished cafeteria, auditorium gymnasium and classroom space not available to them now.

The new West Lynn middle school housing 1,000 students would serve the surrounding neighborhoods so kids could walk to school and obviate the need for very expensive transportation to other schools in the city.

This new school would absorb more than 300 students from the presently overcrowded Breed Middle School, returning needed space for educational programming to that school.

The two new schools are tied together on the ballot on March 14th. An approval by the voters will avoid the need for double sessions at the middle school level in the near future. It will also take advantage of a $100 million investment by the state to give Lynn kids the same educational opportunities offered in more advantaged communities.

Make no mistake that if Lynn doesn’t take advantage of the state funding at this time it will be years, in my opinion, before we’ll have another opportunity like it. I urge Lynn voters to give a resounding approval on the two ballot questions on March 14th.

Do it for the kids and so we can look back after the projects are complete and know that we did the right thing for the city of Lynn.


Edward T. Calnan is a former Councillor-at-Large in Lynn.

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.

Moving on time in Lynn

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

It must be getting hard for middle-school-construction opponents to stand their ground now that the city is poised to eliminate two major objections to building new middle schools.

The public vote on building new schools and paying for them through property-tax debt exclusion is 12 days away and a plan to build a school on Parkland Avenue still faces opposition.

The continued resistance is puzzling, especially considering public statements by City Council members who said they are reviewing the idea of moving a Parkland Avenue home instead of demolishing it through an eminent-domain taking.

The tentative plan to move the house 200 yards in the direction of Wyoma Square received a guardedly optimistic response on Tuesday from the homeowner who was happy to learn city officials don’t simply want to bulldoze her home in the name of progress.

Whether someone’s house gets torn down is a sideline concern for school-construction opponents who are fighting the school projects under the banner of “Protect Our Reservoir Preserve Pine Grove.”

Opposition is healthy in a democracy but only when sensible, well-explored alternatives are outlined and presented. City officials launched a torpedo into the side of the opposition’s proverbial ship last week when they outlined a plan providing land on which to build a school off of Parkland Avenue while providing needed land for Pine Grove Cemetery.

The city’s attorney said the proposal “should end all debate” on possible legal action by construction opponents. That is an optimistic assessment given the opposition’s perspective. That said, it is up to the Pine Grove commissioners to say if the proposal meets future land requirements for the cemetery.

It is important to note that construction opponents cannot stand up, point to a piece of land in Lynn, and say, “This is the perfect site for a new school where no one will be bothered.” That fantasy tract simply does not exist in a city as old and as congested as Lynn.

Council makes a house call for school

Where to put new schools is an important question. But the more important question is how many more new schools does the city need and when does it need to build them?

Several local elementary schools were built before the Titanic set sail and others were built in the 1920s.

New schools cannot a guarantee students will focus on their studies or excel on tests. Building new schools does not protect the city from maintenance costs like the millions of dollars spent to keep Classical High School from sinking into a former dump off O’Callaghan Way.

But the condition of schools is a factor in determining if a community can be justifiably proud of its schools and its future. Middle-school-construction supporters and opponents alike take pride in Lynn and, with that pride in mind, it is time to set aside the battle over building a school on Parkland Avenue and move on to determining future school-construction needs.

 

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 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.

What a year it was

ITEM FILE PHOTO
2016 was an eventful year across the North Shore.

By Thor Jourgensen

It was the year a ferry got sunk in Lynn, a dinosaur was saved in Saugus, a laughing man burned his Swampscott home, Revere rejected slot machines and Peabody celebrated its centennial.

With 2016 hours away from ending, North Shore residents and residents in neighboring communities can look back on a year that made people smile, cry, yell and hope for what 2017 will bring.

Vote for your favorite story of 2016

Donald Trump’s climb to the presidency dominated headlines this year, but Lynn’s police chief also made political news as a first-time candidate by being elected Essex County Sheriff. Kevin Coppinger will be sworn in at Lynn City Hall on Jan. 4.

His election came in a year that also saw Lynn City Council President Daniel Cahill elected East Lynn state representative and Thomas Walsh return to the state Legislature as Peabody’s representative.

Saugus’ Kane’s Donuts got into a fight this year with Lincoln Avenue neighborhood homeowners over truck deliveries. But the year ended on an up note with Kane’s announcing plans for a second Saugus location on Route 1 on the same site where developers have vowed to keep Route 1’s iconic orange dinosaur.

Saugus celebrated iconic landmarks in 2016 and Lynn lost two of the city’s longtime businesses. Christie’s closed its takeout eatery next to Nahant Rotary, where it had operated for 103 years, and Lucky Strike bowling alley on Buffum Street closed after 79 years in business.

The city also lost ferry service from Blossom Street extension to Boston with a Baker administration decision not to fund water transportation from Lynn for a third year of operation. The decision outraged Lynn legislators and U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, who earlier in the year announced $4.5 million in federal money available to buy the city its own ferry.

Lynn and Peabody opened new middle schools in 2016 with Lynn students starting classes in Marshall Middle School following spring break and Peabody’s Higgins Middle School opening in September.

Lynn’s bid to build more middle schools to absorb a tidal wave of students in their early teens turned controversial with a plan to site one of the schools on Parkland Avenue. A small group of neighbors and a homeowner potentially facing eminent domain protested the project as city officials sought approval for the middle school plans.

Swampscott pressed forward with plans to convert the Machon School to senior housing and build homes on the Greenwood Avenue former middle school site. Two homes in the town were gutted by a July 3 fire and a Linden Avenue blaze was blamed on the homeowner who, according to a police report, laughed as he watched his ex-wife’s home burn. Authorities charged the man with arson.

Lynn police responded this year to three incidents ending in officer-involved fatal shootings, including a man police said try to carjack a woman in January and a gun-wielding robbery suspect in October. A man who attempted to rob a Lynnway gas station on Nov. 29 was shot by police who were told the suspect was armed.

City councilors focused their attention on the Lynnway during discussions this year about siting medical marijuana dispensaries. Passage of the state referendum legalizing marijuana loomed over the dispensary debate and several firms interested in selling medical marijuana locally have submitted proposals to the city.

Developers unveiled plans for an apartment complex on the Lynnway’s northern end in 2016 even as developers presented Saugus officials with plans for an extended-stay hotel and a combined residential, hotel and commercial development.

Lynn residents tempered their outlooks on potential new Lynnway development with anger over Partner HealthCare’s plans to close Union Hospital and the Lynnway’s garish appearance. City officials said there is little that can be done to clear away the forest of signs fighting for drivers’ attention along the road until new development changes the commercial Lynnway’s character.

Sports gave Lynn residents reasons to be happy in 2016. The stunning end to the English-Classical Thanksgiving game briefly spread Ram running back Marcus Rivera’s name nationwide, including an interview with ESPN. The Lynn Babe Ruth 15s headed to North Dakota with visions of winning the Babe Ruth World Series. They fell short but were embraced upon their return by family and friends.

St. Mary’s enjoyed a banner year with a state championship boys basketball team. The boys hockey team made it to the state final at TD Garden and the football team went to the Division 3A Super Bowl at Gillette.

Revere Mayor Brian Arrigo opposed a proposal to convert a corner of the city into a slots gambling complex. Residents defeated a referendum on the proposal and a similar statewide referendum met with defeat.

In Peabody, residents capped off renovations to the city’s center with a centennial celebration that continues into next week. Nahant residents remembered how the town came together to launch the home-made vessel “Valiant” while Lynnfield and Marblehead residents discussed plans to build a new library and continue the Gerry School’s more-than-century-long service to the town.


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

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

Middle school matriculating through state planning process

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Pickering Middle School.

By THOR JOURGENSEN

BOSTON — The Massachusetts School Building Authority board of directors voted unanimously Wednesday to advance Lynn’s proposal to build two new middle schools to the schematic design stage, allowing the city to move forward with plans to build a school in West Lynn and one off of Parkland Avenue.

The next steps for the city are to finalize plans for the design of the new buildings, as well as the development of the two sites, and return to the MSBA with confirmed costs and a funding mechanism in place.

The total cost for the project is estimated at $183 million, of which the MSBA would cover approximately $115 million, according to Lynn Stapleton, the city’s project manager. Lynn Chief Financial Officer Peter Caron told the MSBA board the city would be asking voters to authorize the city to raise the revenue needed to fund its share of the project.

“This is a major step forward,” said Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy, who led the Lynn delegation that attended the meeting. “We want to provide state-of-the-art schools for students in the current Pickering district as well as those who live closer to the urban center. We are grateful that the MSBA has given us the approval to move forward.”

Lynn’s proposal calls for a 652-student school to be built off of Parkland Avenue, commonly referred to as the reservoir site, and a 1,080-student school on McManus Field, behind Lynn Tech. The current Pickering’s 78,600 square feet would be replaced by more than 313,000 square feet of space — 131,325 at Pickering and 181,847 at the West Lynn school.

While Pickering’s enrollment this year is approximately 620 students, district-wide enrollment has increased every year since 2008, including almost 400 more students this fall than last spring. Projections indicate the trend will continue for the foreseeable future.

Space is especially tight at the elementary level, particularly in the downtown and West Lynn, thus the proposal for the McManus Field site.

MSBA Chair Deb Goldberg, the state treasurer, spoke to the critical need for a new Pickering, having visited the school during her campaign in 2014. Referring to it as “my school,” Goldberg said she spoke of the conditions at Pickering as she traveled the state, calling it “an example of what we aren’t doing for kids.”

MSBA board member Terry Kwan said she had visited a Lynn elementary school (Tracy) and saw that they are using “every nook and cranny.” She said because Lynn is a gateway city with available housing, families with children are moving in, leading to increased enrollment in Lynn schools.

In response to a question from MSBA board member Sean Cronin, it was determined that this would be the first time the MSBA approves a community replacing one school with two new ones on two different sites. “That is an indication they recognize the great need that exists in Lynn,” Stapleton said.

State Rep. Donald Wong, who represents two precincts in Lynn’s Ward 1, attended and spoke in favor of the project. “We are grateful for Rep. Wong’s support.” Kennedy said.

Superintendent Dr. Catherine C. Latham said she is pleased the MSBA advanced the proposal, citing the extensive research and due diligence that went into it. “We brought forth the best proposal for students, teachers, staff and families,” she said. “It is important that we focus our efforts on ensuring the project stays on track and results in the construction of two schools that will maximize opportunities for teaching and learning.”


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

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.

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.

Problems on Parkland Avenue

Drivers headed down Parkland Avenue can be forgiven if they catch a whiff of bleach rising from the Water & Sewer Commission’s hilltop headquarters.

The smell might simply be symbolic, an olfactory hint at the troubled relationship between Commission Director Daniel O’Neill and the five-member commission, specifically Commissioner David Ellis.

O’Neill said the commission, prompted by Ellis, overstepped its bounds and waded into the daily management of Lynn’s water supply by insisting chlorine gas be replaced with a liquid treatment substitute.

The switch was billed as a security measure intended to minimize the terrorism risk associated with the gas. But O’Neill said the switch is a $2 million commission expense that could diminish Water & Sewer’s award-winning ability to supply local residents with quality water.

The gas fracas is more than a workplace fight over territory because it involves lots of ratepayer money and accusations of appointed commissioners meddling where they are not wanted.

The commissioners, as O’Neill pointed out, “govern the Commission.” But Water & Sewer is really operated by the commission’s appointing authorities: The mayor and the City Council.

Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy appointed Ellis to the commission in 2011 and, as a former councilor, she can remember when Ellis was a Ward 6 councilor. When it comes to Ellis rubbing people the wrong way, she has made a practice, unlike her mayoral predecessors, of staying out of the commission’s affairs.

Not so former Mayor Edward J. Clancy Jr. He waded into the commission’s affairs in 2004, scrapping a contract with a private firm in a move that saw Ellis leave the commission. The late Patrick J. McManus all but took over the commission in the 1990s to create a long-term plan to save ratepayers money.

Big dramatic interventions or reorganizations do not appear to be Kennedy’s style. But it might be time for her to take a closer look at Water & Sewer and ask “who is minding the shop?”

Is O’Neill out of line to complain about commission actions? Is Ellis a chronic boundary overstepper who thinks he knows more than he does? These are important questions for the mayor to ask in conjunction with Council President Daniel Cahill.

With a giant sewer project looming carrying a potential cost to the ratepayers measurable in millions of dollars, Kennedy and Cahill might want to examine the Water & Sewer operations or at least call the principals into a room and get down to brass tacks. No less than the ratepayers’ hard-earned dollars are at stake with the latest tempest atop of Parkland Avenue.

Lynn committee approves garden plan

ITEM FILE PHOTO
Principal Thomas Strangie presented the idea of expanding an existing food garden at Lynn English.

BY LEAH DEARBORN

LYNN — Lynn English High School is growing its garden space as part of a historic tribute.  

Principal Thomas Strangie presented the idea of expanding an existing food garden at English High to the unanimous support of the Lynn School Committee on Wednesday.  

Strangie said that a garden with five beds is at the school now and students will be adding two more beds by bringing in extra soil to update and expand the growing space.

The expansion of the garden will coincide with the commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton will attend at a ceremony at English High on Sept. 11 from 9-10 a.m.

A number of student-run projects will take place following the ceremony, including work on the garden.

“English is fortunate enough to be hosting this event, doing the welcoming and the Pledge of Allegiance before turning things over to Seth Moulton,” said Strangie.

In other committee business Wednesday night, it was a busy first meeting of the fall semester with members reviewing potential building sites for schools to replace Pickering Middle School.

In August, a building committee unanimously voted to support a two-school option in place of the outdated Pickering, which is being replaced to service a growing student population.

Architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Inc. presented site options for the committee to review and narrow down to a single choice for further schematic development.

Union Hospital, slated to close, is listed among potential new school sites. But Raymond said it is not a preferred site for a new middle school.

“We just don’t think it’s in the right place and we don’t think we can count on their timing for when, or if, they’re going to close,” said Raymond about the hospital.  

At the end of the presentation, the committee voted sites on Parkland Avenue and McManus Field as the preferred options for new school buildings.

Raymond said those sites were considered to be the most favorable from a traffic flow and curriculum development perspective.

The sites will be submitted for a review process to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA).

The second public forum for information on Pickering will take place on Sept. 14 at the Marshall Middle School, said Superintendent Catherine C. Latham.

Lynn states case for new middle schools

PHOTO BY BOB ROCHE
Gene Raymond of Raymond Designs explains the pros and cons of each potential site.

BY BRIDGET TURCOTTE

LYNN — The city is considering building two new schools to replace Pickering Middle School.

Architect Gene Raymond of Raymond Design Associates, Lynn Stapleton, the project manager, and city officials discussed options for the new facilities with residents Wednesday night.

Construction is expected to start next spring and take more than two years to complete.

Raymond and Stapleton worked on the $67 million Thurgood Marshall Middle School project.

This is the first in a series of public forums on building options and potential school locations.

The city is working with the Massachusetts School Building Authority, which has authorized construction of a facility equipped to hold up to 1,660 students.

Stapleton said the team is considering a two-school solution, with a total capacity of 1,600 students. The plan would alleviate overcrowding at Breed Middle School and prepare the city to educate an influx of students in coming years, she said.

Breed has 1,300 students and is designed to hold about 900, Stapleton said.

The larger capacity would accommodate about 1,000 more people in the district, and take students from Breed, Raymond said.

“One thousand, six hundred students would probably make it the largest middle school in the commonwealth,” he said. “Putting that all in one neighborhood in the city is really going to stress whatever neighborhood that is.”

Raymond also said that renovating the existing Pickering building would be “impossible and a tremendous waste of the city’s efforts and money.”

The designers are considering a dozen locations citywide, each with different permitting timelines and feasibility, he said.

Sites such as Gallagher Park and Magnolia Park were among contenders. But any open space taken for the project must be replaced elsewhere in the city, he said.

Union Hospital was considered. But the site was quickly rejected because of opposition to it’s closure, and Raymond described Barry Park as a “bathtub” during a storm.

Wetlands and traffic implications were also factors for many of the sites.

The team concluded that two “least impactful” sites are McManus Park and what they call a “reservoir site” on Parkland Avenue.

Flooding in the McManus Field neighborhood is ocean flooding, rather than rainfall, Raymond said.

Ward 6 Councilor Peter Capano said regardless of where the flooding comes from, it’s a problem in the neighborhood when it rains. He suggested developers coordinate with Lynn Water & Sewer Commission to resolve the problem before construction begins.

Resident Brian Field expressed concerns that the Parkland Avenue parcel is controlled by the Cemetery Commission and will need to be used for a cemetery expansion of the Pine Grove Cemetery within the next decade.

Michael Donovan, building commissioner, said city attorneys completed research to  determine the property is city-owned.

“These two are probably the most viable options,” Raymond said. “They’re both not jammed up against neighborhoods.”

He also had a plan for getting to each of the schools to avoid nearby Wyoma Square, which is often a bottleneck. Cars traveling from the north would follow Lynnfield Street to Averill Road. From the south, they would travel on Richardson Road, he said.

Those who hadn’t had the opportunity to see the new Marshall Middle School, got a first look through a slideshow presented by Superintendent Catherine Latham. The presentation highlighted aspects of Marshall that will be seen in the new school or schools.

Latham expects the new school will feature a cluster system, much like the one at Marshall. The children are separated into separate clusters of about 120 students. The clusters are color-coded and have all of the primary classes in one area of the building.

“We will be doing the same for Pickering,” she said.

The new school will also have the same electives offered at Marshall, including sewing, directing, and art classes, Latham said.

“These subjects make students want to go to school,” she said.

The next forum is scheduled for June 22.


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

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.

Gone fishing: Ippi’s Bait and Tackle closes

ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Laura Ippoliti, owner of the recently closed Ippi’s Bait & Tackle Shop in Lynn, plans to paint over the shop’s logo on her pickup truck soon.

BY THOR JOURGENSEN 

LYNN — Laura Ippoliti still plans to cast a fishing line into Sluice Pond, but her days of selling rods and reels on Parkland Avenue have ended with the closing of Ippi’s Bait and Tackle.

Ippoliti operated the store on the edge of Wyoma Square since 2004. But she said competition from large retailers, the economic downturn and spikes in fuel prices drove her out of business.

“All my guys sold their boats,” she said.

A Franklin native, Ippoliti grew up fishing for bass and hornpout catfish with her siblings on ponds in southern Massachusetts. She worked 16 years as a traveling saleswoman for an industrial instrument maker before she grew weary of flying and took a job at a Peabody firm.

Her love for fishing helped start her own business and she branched out of Ippi’s by launching and helping to sponsor local fishing derbies, including the Lynn Fish and Game derby annually held on the last Saturday in April.

The contest is held on Sluice Pond and Ippoliti has also helped host Flax Pond derbies as a way to get children outside and entice them into briefly trading smart phones for fishing rods.

“It gets them off the couch,” she said.

Ippoliti has also helped improve Wyoma Square, said First Lutheran Church Rev. Jonathan Niketh, who noted that Ippoliti is a constant presence at the square’s annual July festival.

“She really wanted to be a positive neighborhood contributor,” Niketh said. “She struck me as someone who is always positive and just a good neighbor.”

Ippoliti credited family and friends for supporting and encouraging her during the years she operated Ippi’s. She said her wife, Dr. Nancy Balch, “kept my dream alive for so long.” She misses her customers and said equipment purchased at Ippi’s help catch some big fish, including a 76-pound cod.

“It was bigger than me,” she said.

She will be involved in local fishing derbies and looks forward to fishing in the Sluice Pond derby. She will also continue working with saltwater fishing boat owners to resist federal regulations she said are steadily shrinking ocean fishing grounds.

The passenger door on her pickup truck door reads, “Ippi’s Bait and Tackle,” but Ippoliti plans to paint over the logo soon.

“It’s sad to look at,” she said.


 

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