GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

February 19, 2013

Kirk: No YMCA-Fuller 'swap' in the works

By James Niedzinski
Staff Writer

---- — GLOUCESTER — Countering concerns voiced by city councilors and others, Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Monday that there are no plans for the city purchase the Young Men’s Christian Association building on Middle Street, or carry out a city-YMCA building “swap” with the former Fuller School, as at least one councilor suggested.

City councilors last week requested a formal report from the mayor following a discussion about the lack of an emergency shelter during the Blizzard of 2013; a shelter that had been opened in previous years within the Fuller school.

In the meantime, Councilor Joe Ciolino acknowledged to the Times that there had been at least some “unofficial talks” about the potential for the YMCA moving into a section of the Fuller building, while the city might take over the current YMCA building on Middle Street. He also said YMCA officials showed a lot of interest in moving into the former school, if they had the opportunity.

Ciolino said one possibility of the Fuller building would be to have Cape Ann Transit Authority offices relocated into one part of the building and the YMCA to the other.

And in January – during an interview with MSO web radio’s Rick Moore, Kirk noted the possible depletion of parking on the city’s I-4, C-2 property, and said that the YMCA building would be a “perfect” place for a parking garage during an interview according to the broadcast, accessible through moorestuffonline.com.

Monday, however, Kirk said that here are no talks to swap or purchase the YMCA building.

“A building swap is not being discussed at all,” the mayor said in an email to the Times. “The city is not considering buying the Y building.”

Massachusetts General Law notes that no “swaps” of real property are authorized. Property can be acquired without competition only if it meets the requirements of a unique acquisition, according to state statutes, but no property can be traded without advertised competition.

Unique acquisition rules state that the interested party must make it clear that advertising will not be beneficial just because of any unique qualities or locations of the property needed, and any land acquisitions or sell-offs would require City Council approval.

City councilors, meanwhile, are still rewording the non-binding referendum question that will help determine the fate of building; the question will be on the ballot in November is, as of now, slated to list a number of options, including its use as the city’s prime municipal office building and other uses that could also accommodate a public safety building.

It still remains to be determined if the building would have to be partially restored to serve as a temporary West Parish school while a new West Parish were being built, if that proposal gains the necessary approvals.

Kirk said councilors are being fully briefed about all scenarios under consideration, and the administration is currently determining the next steps for the future of the property.

Ciolino said he, like fellow councilor-at-large and former mayor Bruce Tobey, also feels the Fuller building should be at least partially restored before anything else. The city has significantly scaled back maintenance of the building, including turning off the heat in most of the facility.

“How can you make proposals,” Ciolino said Monday, “when something is not available?”

James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x 3455 or at jniedzinski@gloucestertimes.com.