GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

Opinion

February 20, 2013

Editorial: Latest Fuller flap shows dire need for referendum

Let’s see.

City Councilor Joe Ciolino indicated there had been “unofficial talks” about the Cape Ann YMCA moving into a section of the Fuller School building, and even some discussion of a plan whereby the city might consider swapping part of the Fuller site in exchange for the Y building on Middle Street.

Mayor Carolyn Kirk says there have been no talks of any building “swaps,” or any move by the city to purchase the current Y building on Middle Street. Yet, during a January interview on Rick Moore’s online radio show — at moorestuffonline.com — the mayor, while not saying that any such project would be city-run — said that the YMCA building would be a “perfect” site for a downtown parking garage. And amid all of this, city councilors, like a lot of residents, are trying to get their arms around why, as the Blizzard of 2013 bore down on Gloucester 10 days ago, this supposedly hot property at Fuller had been allowed to fall into such a decrepit state that it could not be used for what has, in the past, been one of its most important safety roles — an emergency shelter during a power-killing storm.

Yikes.

We’ve sometimes noted a need for city officials to get on the same proverbial page, but when it comes to finding a future or even current emergency use for Fuller School, it’s clear that the mayor’s office and City Council aren’t even in the same book.

Yes, there has at least been some talk of leasing or selling the Fuller building to the YMCA as one of the city’s options now for more than a year. A site plan for that use was even included in a Fuller report the mayor sought and received from the quasi-public MassDevelopmment Corp. But the $56,000 MassDevelopment report came up short on credibility because the corporation would only address economic development uses – and didn’t include any uses as a school or as a municipal office building, both of which should at least be on the table.

Look, the latest flap over Fuller and its potential uses spotlight the need for two things:

One is the full report from the mayor the council is seeking in the name of full transparency. The other is the nonbinding referendum now desperately needed to get voters’ input on this issue — with another to gauge their support for a new West Parish School to boot.

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