A unanimous vote by Gloucester’s School Committee last week to confirm the largely empty Fuller School building to be a “surplus” property for the school district added a small step to a chain of events that according to Mayor Carolyn Kirk and many city councilors will allow the redevelopment of the property.
Although the timing and redevelopment of the Fuller building, originally constructed by the Archdiocese of Boston as a Catholic high school, and used as a sixth elementary school until 2008, remains unclear, Kirk says that the city needs a unified public safety building for the police and fire departments and that the grounds of the Fuller property is where the facility should be built.
Kirk said seed funding for the design of the new public safety complex can be expected from National Grid which is projected to pay the city about $450,000 a year for electricity generated by the giant turbines which have gone operational in Blackburn Industrial Park.
She also said the revenues should help the city leverage borrowing for the new public safety facility.
The Fire Department is based in a 1920s building that has been obsolete for decades and the Police Department in a building from the 1970s which it shares with the District Court and offices, and by modern main street thinking does not contribute to the ambiance or economic vitality of the retail sector.
The future of Fuller is vague, compared to the vision of a modern public safety facility being place somewhere on the grounds of the old school. The School Committee’s vote last week essentially confirmed a memorandum of understanding signed between the School Committee and the mayor’s office last month.
Both of the city’s new public safety chiefs, Leonard Campenallo of Police Department and Eric Smith of the Fire Department, favor Fuller’s use as a site for a public safety complex, in part because of the obsolete nature of their present facilities and also due to the location of the Fuller property — tucked along the Route 128 extension and thus offering access to the north up Washington Street, to the West on Route 128, and to the East and South down the extension.