By Josh Resnek
The city council approved the mayor’s $10.5 million request to apparently purchase the empty Pope John High School property and to ultimately build a combination of veterans and elderly housing on it during the final meeting of the year last Monday.
The motion passed unanimously but not without the mayor delivering stern admonitions to those who questioned his request.
This included Councilor Fred Capone, whom the mayor called a liar because Capone questioned the mayor’s purchase of Pope John without any research or paperwork whatsoever.
He belittled Councilor Mike Marchese and derided him for suggesting that the Pope John property be used as a public school because, Marchese pointed out, the public schools are overcrowded and insisted the city needs another new school.
Councilor Mike McLaughlin, who the mayor also lambasted, made similar suggestions that the mayor and the city explore the options.
The mayor tried to make the case that these three are against elderly and veterans housing in an effort to discredit them and their intentions.
All three have been strong supporters of affordable housing, veterans housing and elderly housing throughout their careers on the council. At the end of the meeting, the mayor and others with him chased Marchese to his car hurling epithets and obscenities at him. (Read accompanying piece).
The councilors who questioned the mayor about the need for $10.5 million said later the mayor’s insistence was unusual and odd.
“Without so much as a purchase and sale agreement to show us, the council gave him $10.5 million. Mind you, I voted for the measure, as did my other colleagues who questioned the legitimacy of the request without any plans or paperwork. Yet the mayor remained angry and insistent. What’s that all about?” asked Marchese.
“Why is he in such a rush?” McLaughlin asked.
“Do I sense that something is in it for him?” added Marchese. Several local builders interviewed for this piece believed the Pope John building would be perfect for a school.
However both builders questioned whether or not the Pope John building would be demolished to make way for residential elderly and veterans housing.
The city is said to be prepared to borrow the $10.5 million acquisition fee with a bond, take ownership of the property, and then presumably put out an RFP to offer contractors to make bids to remake the property and to bond the remainder of the cost for construction.
The city might also choose to sell the property after purchasing it.
Without any paperwork, the mayor’s plan for the property remained unknown although he walked out of the city council chamber with the $10.5 million purchase for the property.