ITEM PHOTO BY OWEN O’ROURKE
Mayor Judith Kennedy talks about the past year and the year ahead.
By THOR JOURGENSEN
LYNN — The new Marshall Middle School’s opening date has been pushed up four months with students attending the school by late April, Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy said Tuesday.
Kennedy credited Boston-based contractor Walsh Brothers and good planning with accelerating the $92 million school’s opening date from September to spring vacation week. Students currently attending the existing Marshall on Porter Street will finish their school year in brand-new classrooms and other school facilities.
“This is the first time we will open the door to a new school in years,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy discussed Marshall’s accelerated opening in a broad-ranging interview Tuesday touching on her six years as mayor; the state of the city and her goals. With Marshall almost completed on Brookline Street, city officials are turning their attention to building a new Pickering Middle School.
Kennedy said a specific site for a new school to replace the existing one located three blocks from Wyoma Square will be picked in four months.
“The most promising one is the site off Parkland Avenue behind the (Barkland) dog park. It’s large enough and does not involve any eminent domain takings,” she said.
Kennedy said she has “no view” on a proposal to open a Central Square charter school. State education officials heard mostly objections to the proposed school during a Dec. 8 hearing.
“I’ve never been one who is opposed to charter schools, per se. I disagree with the way they are funded,” she said.
The mayor said the city’s ability to retire debts on past building projects positions it to take on new debt related to the middle school construction projects as well as a proposal, barely in the beginning stages, to building a new West Lynn fire station.
Tentative plans calls for basing Engines 7 and 9, now based on Tower Hill and Pine Hill respectively, in the new station along with fire alarm operations.
“The Fire Department hasn’t had a new building since the 1970s,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy, a 53-year-old East Lynn resident and mother of two, was elected to the School Committee at the age of 29 in 1990. She went on to serve as City Councilor at large and won a razor-thin 2009 election victory over former Mayor Edward J. Clancy. She was reelected by a wide vote margin in 2013.
She said she may seek re-election to a third, four-year term in 2017.
“If I’m as happy then as I am now, I will, but we’ll see,” she said. “I want to feel I am continuing progress for the city. Right now, I’m very happy with my job and the way the city is moving,” she said.
Kennedy said construction to open a Market Basket store on Federal Street will take place next year. She also foresees development progress unfolding on the Beacon Chevrolet site opposite North Shore Community College in 2016 and said she couldn’t be happier with Veterans Memorial Auditorium’s popularity as an entertainment venue. Twenty shows are currently “ticketed and selling.”
“When I got here, we had two or three shows a year,” she said.
Kennedy said the “voters got it right” with their ballot choices in November’s city elections when they filled vacant council and committee seats with new elected officials. She said she recently offered this advice to Committee member-elect Jared Nicholson: “Don’t lie to the public and if you don’t know the answer to a question, don’t be afraid to ask.”
Kennedy said her success in politics is rooted in her ability to focus on goals and “trust my gut instincts.” She said people she meets around Lynn tell her “the city looks better,” but she acknowledged her decision to veto an anti-foreclosure ordinance passed by the council was unpopular.
She said she will work with the council in 2016 to reorganize the city Parking Department to “streamline” its functions and bring the autonomous Off Street Parking Commission into the revamped department.
Six years as the city’s executive have taught Kennedy an important lesson.
“I say ‘no’ more. There are ideas that are heavily touted but, on closer examination, might not be good for the city,” she said.
Thor Jourgensen can be reached at [email protected]