News Column

St. Ann lease loan on council bill tonight

July 22, 2014

By James Niedzinski, Gloucester Daily Times, Mass.



July 22--Gloucester's move to borrow $400,000 to lease the former St. Ann School faces public scrutiny tonight.

The City Council will host a public hearing on the loan request as part of its 7 p.m. meeting in City Hall'sKyrouz Auditorium.

At issue is the loan order to cover the cost of leasing of the now-closed St. Ann School from the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston for at least two years while a new West Parish Elementary School is being built. The former Catholic school was closed down last year in part because of declining enrollment.

The loan order was not the first choice to fund the lease. The proposal was first intended to come out of the city budget, then the school budget.

The city then tried to reconfigure the loan from the Massachusetts School Building Authority to take the lease into account. But City Councilor Paul McGeary said the MSBA had at that time already approved a set amount to build the school. So, when McGeary was the acting mayor, he initiated the loan order request.

McGeary defended his decision Monday on the eve of tonight's hearing.

"It's a good use of the money," he said.

But McGeary's colleague, Ward 2 City Councilor Melissa Cox, is not so fond of the idea. She said she would have rather seen the city use the former Fuller School for temporarily housing the West Parish School students, whose own school is set to be razed this summer and a new one built on the same site off Concord Street in West Gloucester.

She noted the lease covers utility costs as well.

"I don't approve of the loan order to pay the utilities," she said.

McGeary said the council is expected to vote tonight at the close of the public hearing.

Meanwhile, as a result of some of the backlash about the decision-making process behind choosing St. Ann's over Fuller and the cost of the lease, city councilors have filed an ordinance to gain some input on future lease deals. That proposed ordinance is the subject of another public hearing tonight.

If passed, the ordinance would require the City Council to be notified in writing when requests are made to lease property for more than one year if the total cost is expected to be more than $250,000.

"The city shall lease no real property or structure in excess of one year unless the funding for that lease is expressly approved by a majority of the membership of the City Council," the proposed ordinance reads.

The proposal, similar to one vetoed by Mayor Carolyn Kirk last fall, was recommended for approval by the council's three-member Ordinance and Administration subcommittee last month.

While some city councilors are supporting the measure, however, McGeary said he believes the city charter has a clear separation of powers between city councilors and the city's administration, and that this ordinance could be seen as violating those guidelines.

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-675-2708, or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.

___

(c)2014 the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.)

Visit the Gloucester Daily Times (Gloucester, Mass.) at www.gloucestertimes.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


For more stories on investments and markets, please see HispanicBusiness' Finance Channel



Source: Gloucester Daily Times (MA)


Story Tools






HispanicBusiness.com Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters