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December 20, 2012

Mayor vetoes council's Fuller referendum question

Just a week after city councilors voted to ask city residents of what to do with the Fuller school building, Mayor Carolyn Kirk has vetoed the idea of a non-binding 2013 referendum question on Fuller’s future, calling one of the multiple choice options “inappropriate.”

Kirk primarily rejected one of the three referendum options — renewing the building’s use as a public school —saying at the Gloucester School Committee’s Wednesday meeting that, since the committee had already decided against reusing Fuller as a school, that’s not a viable option.

“It’s grossly misleading to the public, should that option prevail, that the School Committee would reopen a policy that’s been set in stone,” Kirk said. “It’s just inappropriate.”

The mayor also voiced her opposition to the other two options, one being to relocate all of the municipal offices to the Fuller school building, the other to lease or sell the property.

City councilors had voted last week in favor of posing the inquiry, with eight voting in favor of petitioning residents and City Councilor Joseph Ciolino the sole vote in opposition. The council can also vote to override the mayor’s veto, and carry the referendum forward.

In a letter to the councilors, Kirk wrote that the relocation of municipal offices would not work because the municipal offices only require about 50,000 square feet of space — leaving 125,000 square feet of unused space still remaining in Fuller. Kirk also pointed out the city’s ongoing $4.1 million investment in restoring City Hall. Plus, she added the change would harmfully impact the downtown area.

Kirk’s office had circulated a survey, asking a similar question of Gloucester residents, and received about 800 responses — a number that City Councilor Greg Verga said was far too low to gauge residents’ desires.

“The only way to do this is a ballot question,” Verga said Tuesday.

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