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 Council’s public hearing.
“After vetting through all the options, Wonderland seemed like the most advantageous for the City,” said Viscay. “It does come with a price tag, but I’m here to speak in favor of the acquisition.”
Supt. of Schools Dr. Dianne Kelly spoke as a proponent of the Wonderland property acquisition.
“I 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,” said Kelly. “It’s exciting to be at a point in time where we’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.”
School Committee member Stacey Bronsdon-Rizzo also stated her support for a new high school. “Like you all, I want nothing but what is best for our students, and I know each and every one of you do,” Rizzo told the Council.
Charger Street resident Christine Robertson said, “If we don’t invest in the future of America, which is our students, we will be lost. This is a very wise investment and long overdue.”
Rizzo Opposes Location of School
Councillor-at-Large Dan Rizzo, who was a councillor when five new schools were built in the city and Revere’s mayor when the Hill Elementary School was built, said, “We definitely need a new high school.”
But Rizzo questioned the finances of the high school project and its proposed location at Wonderland.
“The problem that I have right now is I think we’re not all looking at the finances correctly,” said Rizzo. Citing the recent purchase of the Global Oil and Fed Ex properties, Rizzo added, “Anyone that thinks we’re going to get this land for $29 million – I think is either being misled, or just making a huge miscalculation. We’re going to find ourselves in court because they will never settle on $29 million. It’s happened either other eminent domain takings.”
Rizzo then aired his concerns about the location.
“I 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. It’s going to be a very dangerous and troublesome situation for the city going forward.”
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.
“I just want to say for the record that I am absolutely for our high school,” said Zambuto. Just because I don’t agree with the site selection, what the school is going to cost and how we’re going to afford it, doesn’t mean I don’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. We’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.”
Ward 5 Councillor John Powers, who is in favor of building a new high school, cited some flooding problems on the Wonderland property. “Is this something we should look at more closely on that property?”
Powers estimated the cost of building a new high school at “around $400 million.” “With 70-75 percent [in reimbursement], we’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.”
Ward 4 Councillor Patrick Keefe, a member of the School Building Construction Committee, questioned why the Wonderland site hasn’t been developed yet.
“We’re going to have to make a decision,” said Keefe, who spoke of the initial opposition to the Newton North High School project. “You build a high school ten years, they go, ‘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.”
In her remarks, Ward 1 Councillor Joanne McKenna praised former Supt. Dr. Paul Dakin and current Supt. Dr. Dianne Kelly for “changing 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.”
“But I am concerned about the money [for a new school]. I don’t want the taxpayers to take the brunt of this.”
Council President Gerry Visconti referred the issue to the Ways and Means Subcommittee for its Oct. 24 meeting.