We have finally launched the municipal building survey.
We held off until after Labor Day, knowing that it can be difficult to get people’s attention during the summer time. But now we are ready to go.
The Municipal Building Survey has been put together in response to the City Council’s request to obtain feedback from residents about their preferences for the future use of various municipal buildings.
The original thought from some members of the Council was to pose a non-binding ballot question. The administration strongly believed, however, that a ballot question format was far too limiting in terms of the number of questions that could be asked, and didn’t provide room for explanation of some of the various options.
The survey that has been put together has four sections, plus some demographic questions for a total of 21 questions. The first section deals with the Fuller School site and what citizen preferences are for the re-use of the property should the School Committee declare the property surplus, as has been requested by the administration.
Currently, only about 10 percent of the building is occupied, and the utility costs are over $300,000 per year. We are implementing a plan this year to shutter 80 percent of the building, and drive down those utility costs. A conservative estimate is that we will save $150,000 this year. The question remains, however, what to do with the Fuller School building over the long term.
The survey asks a series of questions about re-use of the site, and preferences for funding some of the public use options.
It is important to note that reusing the building for a school in the future is not one of the options. The School Committee is the sole determining entity that can decide whether or not the building has a future as a school again. There is no indication whatsoever from the School Committee that we are considering this option. In fact, the School Committee has recently voted to affirm its commitment to the existing elementary school and grade configurations.
The survey asks for citizen preference for a “downtown civic campus” or consolidation of municipal offices at the Fuller School site.
Questions for funding these public-use options are also included. There are also some questions about your current use of City Hall downtown and the use of technology to do business with the city such as paying bills online. We are trying to understand trends in utilizing technology, or driving into central Gloucester, ease of parking, doing business at City Hall and then perhaps patronizing other downtown businesses.
One of the options for the Fuller School site is to locate a new joint fire and police public safety building on the 13-acre site. This would need to be a newly constructed building and would create two vacancies downtown.
Most of the current police headquarters building and the entire Fire Department headquarters building would become available for re-use or redevelopment. A series of questions asks for citizen feedback on these scenarios.
And finally, there are a few demographic questions so that we can be sure we have reached a cross section of the community. By the way, the survey is totally anonymous.
As you can see, the future use of municipal buildings is very complicated and there are certain domino effects that will occur as decisions are made. Your voice is very important, and the survey will be one input to the complex decisions ahead.
The survey can be found on the city of Gloucester website on the homepage, www.gloucester-ma.gov, and is open for response until Oct. 5.
Carolyn Kirk is mayor of the city of Gloucester.