By KAITLYN NAPLES
After over one year of debating what to do with the former Memorial Boulevard Middle School, the issue is being sent to the city planner. Last week, the council was unable to pass the sale of the school to Summit Real Estate Strategies, which was proposing to turn the building into a housing facility.
While four of the seven councilors voted “yes” on the sale, the matter needed five approving votes from the council since the city’s Planning Commission voted against the sale.
Under Summit’s proposal, it would purchase the building for $300,000, the city would own the athletic fields, and Summit would lease the theater, gymnasium, and cafeteria for 99 years for $1 per year, and also to preserve the building’s historic integrity.
“This is a good and fair proposal to the city and its taxpayers,” Councilor Eric Carlson, who heads the council’s Real Estate Committee, said at last week’s meeting.
Since the council did not approve the sale of the school, it did however approve to send the matter to the city planner to review options for the vacant building.
City Councilor Dave Mills is against the sale of the school, and said he wants the council to “get started at making something of this building.” Mills added that the school is a “very important piece of property” that could have had occupants by now.
City Councilor Ken Cockayne was in favor of the sale and putting the building back on the tax rolls. He said the issue has been the center of numerous discussions, public hearings, meetings and has also been out to bid twice. He said he would rather see the money the city would get from the sale be used for repairing roads, instead of being put into a “wish list.”
“This would get the city off the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars (possibly millions),” Cockayne added.
City officials have stated in the past it costs the city roughly $120,000 annually to maintain the building as it stands vacant.
“We went through a lot to make sure the city’s needs were met,” Carlson said, adding the old building was rejected to be used any longer as a school.
Mayor Art Ward said he was in favor of the sale, and added that Summit “brought forward a responsible plan.”
“I don’t think we could have asked for more,” Ward added.
City Councilor Henri Martin, who was opposed to the sale, said the property provides more options down the road, and said he didn’t “believe selling it is in the best interest of the city.” City Councilor Derek Czenczelewski also was opposed to the sale and said he feels there are other options.
City Councilor Mayra Sampson, who won’t be on the council after this year’s election, said she is in favor of the sale. Since it didn’t pass, she said she hopes the council will focus on other options and “make sure they do something with the building,” and not let it sit vacant like the other schools, Bingham and O’Connell, which are currently empty. Jennings school was sold to D’Amato Construction earlier this year and will be turned into a senior housing facility, and also a new home for the Bristol Preschool Child Care Center.
The issue of what to do with the building has now been sent to the City Planner’s office.