By Josh Resnek
The City of Everett wants to pay $10.5 million to the Archdiocese of Boston to purchase the empty Pope John school campus in North Everett.
The mayor, and several others in city government are looking to remake the campus into apartment housing for the elderly and for veterans, according to public statements made during the past few weeks in city hall and development circles.
“I believe the campus should be used for the purpose it was built,” Councilor at Large Mike Marchese told the Leader Herald.
“With our public schools overcrowded and nowhere to place classrooms full of new students we should use the Pope John site as a public school,” he added.
In recent years the need for elderly and veterans housing has produced very little tangible relief in what is considered a housing shortage.
At the same time, the public schools have been growing in population by about 250-300 students from year to year, producing the need for new classrooms.
There are presently more than 7,000 public school students in the Everett Public Schools.
While no statistics exist on the need for low income elderly and veterans housing, it is believed by local housing experts that hundreds of Everett residents would qualify for elderly and veterans housing under present standards.
In either instance, the former Pope John School site will remain off the tax rolls.
How the city goes about acquiring the property is also a question for some local businessmen who regard themselves as fiscal conservatives, but who did not wish to be named for the obvious reasons where the mayor tends to punish those not agreeing with his point of view.
“Last week we heard the mayor is going to take $7 million of free cash to artificially lower a tax rate which is out of control,” a well known businessman told the Leader Herald.
“This is an example of the mayor using the $7 million in free cash to reduce the tax rate instead of using it to purchase the Pope John site without having to borrow the funds,” he added.
The businessman said the mayor doesn’t understand fiscal prudence, and that the city’s Chief Financial Officer Eric Demas should detail to the mayor the options – borrowing $10.5 from a bank to purchase the Pope John property when the city could own it with no mortgage would kill two birds with one stone.
“Borrowing costs the taxpayers money. If the city buys the property outright, the city’s cash is used to own a valuable asset rather than having to pay for bonds or a mortgage for the next ten years. By not in debting itself further, the city’s bond rating should remain grade A, taxes will not rise in this instance because the purchase of the pope John site would cause no expense,” he added.
A local realtor said she believed the city was paying way too much for the property.
“$10.5 million for that aging empty space is a lot of money,” she told the Leader Herald. It will cost several hundred thousand dollars just to have the place demolished and carted away in dump trucks. Does the city know what its getting into?”
The city council Monday night postponed a vote on the $10.5 million borrowing the mayor has asked for to purchase the property.