To the editor:
A group of concerned citizens have done extensive research on the school consolidation process as well as topics including the need for new secondary sewer treatment facilities. They deserve to have their concerns addressed by the City Council, the School Committee and our state legislators. More importantly, the research should be shared with the taxpayers of Gloucester before city government proceeds to force these projects and the enormous cost impacts that accompany them onto the citizens they allegedly represent!
It certainly appears the decision to select the Veterans Memorial School as the location for a new school was a forgone conclusion. There is no access and there never was to the Green Street site. And it was painfully obvious to anyone who cared to look that the East Gloucester School site would be insufficient to locate a school twice the size of the existing one. But it seems the city government allowed us to incur the substantial cost associated with a sham process, considering these sites before declaring Veterans was the choice.
Furthermore, with respect to Mattos Field, without any input from anyone, the city is indicating it will donate the land at East Gloucester Elementary for a new park. That’s fine, but there are rumors swirling with no confirmation available that the city will then move the lights from Mattos to that site. Before this is decided, shouldn’t the abutters of East Gloucester be consulted? I did not leave the noise pollution associated with 30 trains a day in West Gloucester to sit on top of a noisy, brilliantly lit ball field in my back yard! Imagine what that will do to the marketable value of my property.
In addition, what city officials are not discussing is that this city is very likely going to be forced to build a secondary sewage treatment facility at a cost estimated in excess of $150 million. This will be on top of our share of the consolidated school. Then, does anyone believe that when you have two glorious new schools that someone is not going to insist that there be a third glorious school erected consolidating Beeman and Plum Cove? And that one will be proposed without the benefit of some level of state funding!
Our city government is so desperate to get the Massachusetts School Building Authority funding that they are recklessly steaming ahead without properly considering and disclosing the massive financial consequences of this project in conjunction with other inevitable projects. It won’t be one consolidated school. There is every reason to think it will be two consolidated schools and a secondary sewage treatment facility. And this assumes there are no other big ticket projects that might address such things as aging water pipes throughout the city. The dramatic rise in property taxes will force people out of their homes. Many of whom have lived here for generations. It does not appear that our elected officials are in the least bit concerned about these downstream impacts.
So, let’s just rough out the math here. And with respect to reimbursement from the state, 40% is a lofty assumption as site work is only reimbursed at 8%. School No. 1, with 40% of the cost from the state (although subsidy rate is lower) would cost $45 million. The sewage treatment plant, a low ball $150 million. School No. 2, without subsidy in a few years, $90 million. That’s a total of $285 million.
The city needs to slow down and do a thoughtful analysis of the financial impact these potential projects will have on Gloucester taxpayers. As they do this, they should also be considering measures to protect senior citizens and others who live on fixed incomes and who will be at risk of displacement when property taxes skyrocket.
Terese and David Zingg