In a move that dramatically affects the advancement of the new high school project for now, the Council deferred to a subcommittee a request for a loan order of $29.5 million for the acquisition of the former Wonderland Greyhound Park property.
Wonderland was the No. 1 choice by the Revere High School Building Committee for a new high school following a lengthy process consisting of many public meetings.
But some councillors expressed their opposition to Wonderland as the site and their concern about the substantial cost of a new high school at a public hearing Monday night.
Revere CFO Richard Viscay, a member of the School Building Committee brought the bond authorization request to the Councilâ€™s public hearing.
â€œAfter vetting through all the options, Wonderland seemed like the most advantageous for the City,â€ said Viscay. â€œIt does come with a price tag, but Iâ€™m here to speak in favor of the acquisition.â€
Supt. of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly spoke as a proponent of the Wonderland property acquisition.
â€œI also want to speak on behalf of the children of Revere and the teachers at Revere School and their administrative staff who are in desperate need of a new facility,â€ said Kelly. â€œItâ€™s exciting to be at a point in time where weâ€™re going to have a space identified and be able to really start to explore that property and the soils and other things that we need to approve before we can actually start building.â€
School Committee member Stacey Bronsdon-Rizzo also stated her support for a new high school. â€œLike you all, I want nothing but what is best for our students, and I know each and every one of you do,â€ Rizzo told the Council.
Charger Street resident Christine Robertson said, â€œIf we donâ€™t invest in the future of America, which is our students, we will be lost. This is a very wise investment and long overdue.â€
Rizzo Opposes Location of School
Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo, who was a councillor when five new schools were built in the city and Revereâ€™s mayor when the Hill Elementary School was built, said, â€œWe definitely need a new high school.â€
But Rizzo questioned the finances of the high school project and its proposed location at Wonderland.
â€œThe problem that I have right now is I think weâ€™re not all looking at the finances correctly,â€ said Rizzo. Citing the recent purchase of the Global Oil and Fed Ex properties, Rizzo added, â€œAnyone that thinks weâ€™re going to get this land for $29 million â€“ I think is either being misled, or just making a huge miscalculation. Weâ€™re going to find ourselves in court because they will never settle on $29 million. Itâ€™s happened either other eminent domain takings.â€
Rizzo then aired his concerns about the location.
â€œI think it [Wonderland] is a horrible location. I think our transportation costs are going to go through the roof to have 2,000 students descending upon Butler Circle during rush hours. Itâ€™s going to be a very dangerous and troublesome situation for the city going forward.â€
Zambuto Reiterates His Opposition to the Site
Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto, who was vehemently against Wonderland throughout the site selection process, projected the cost of the land at $100 million.
â€œI just want to say for the record that I am absolutely for our high school,â€ said Zambuto. Just because I donâ€™t agree with the site selection, what the school is going to cost and how weâ€™re going to afford it, doesnâ€™t mean I donâ€™t want to build a school. But it is my dream and my hope that we will reconsider this site selection. This is the biggest fiscal mistake in the history of the city. Weâ€™re going to take a piece of property off the tax rolls, and a conservative estimate in my mind is one billion dollars in lost revenue, based on a 50-year revenue of $22.5 million a year.â€
Ward 5 Councillor John Powers, who is in favor of building a new high school, cited some flooding problems on the Wonderland property. â€œIs this something we should look at more closely on that property?â€
Powers estimated the cost of building a new high school at â€œaround $400 million.â€ â€œWith 70-75 percent [in reimbursement], weâ€™re going to be spending in the area of $100 million to build this high school, which is going to be on the backs of the taxpayers.â€
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe, a member of the School Building Construction Committee, questioned why the Wonderland site hasnâ€™t been developed yet.
â€œWeâ€™re going to have to make a decision,â€ said Keefe, who spoke of the initial opposition to the Newton North High School project. â€œYou build a high school ten years, they go, â€˜Wow, imagine they only paid $200 million. When it comes to these huge quality-of-life issues that make a city really a great place to live and a great place to raise their family, we figure it out.â€
In her remarks, Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna praised former Supt. Dr. Paul Dakin and current Supt. Dr. Dianne Kelly for â€œchanging the whole concept of education and more kids came to [Revere schools]. When I left [my position as a Revere teacher] in 2015, there were 2,200 kids.â€
â€œBut I am concerned about the money [for a new school]. I donâ€™t want the taxpayers to take the brunt of this.â€
Council President Gerry Visconti referred the issue to the Ways and Means Subcommittee for its Oct. 24 meeting.