Novoselsky seeks answer to Whelan Elementary Playworks program

Council approves antennas, satellite dishes; nixes auto body shop 

By Aaron Keebaugh

 

The Garfield School was the subject of three separate motions raised by Ward 2 Councillor Ira Novoselsky during the council meeting Monday night.

The first requests Mayor Dan Rizzo to discuss the recent loss of the Playworks program with members of the city council. A popular national nonprofit program, Playworks sends, upon request, a staff of coaches to schools to lead students in physical activity in organized recess times.

Earlier this month, Garfield discontinued the program due to a lapse in the budget process. Councillor Novoselsky wrote in a November 5 email to Rizzo: “I just found out over the weekend that the Playworks program at the Garfield has been dropped because the school committee didn’t pay the $26,000. Is this true? I think this news is devastating for the Garfield School Community. Since Playworks joined the GES it has made a HUGE impact on the lives of hundreds of kids. What happened?”

In an email response the following day, Superintendent Dr. Paul Dakin noted that the Garfield Playworks program is not funded through a grant. Therefore, the money is subject to procurement regulations, he opined. Dr. Dakin further explained: “As a result, The City is waiting for a ruling from the IG as to whether we can hire them without going out to bid. The question has been presented to the IG by the purchasing agent; they have not returned the information ruling… The Playworks people did not want to wait any longer for the ruling from the IG.”

The Playworks program at Whelan Elementary remains intact, Dr. Dakin noted, because the funds come through a state grant.

In a related motion, Novoselsky requested the installation of an outside tot lot at Garfield Elementary School.

To help fund the build, Novoselsky recommended that the mayor consider employing KaBoom, the D.C.-based organization that helped rebuild Costa Park. KaBoom finances such projects by finding sponsors. The two-phase Costa Park build, for example, resulted from city funds, KaBoom, and JetBue.

When the play area at Garfield was moved inside, it took away a play area for kids in the neighborhood, Novoselsky said. “There’s space for it [outside] and we can probably find money for it,” he added.

In yet another motion, Novoselsky asked that the school department take the appropriate steps to repair the roadway and sidewalk lights on Waxwan Way and those adjacent to the Garfield school.

“The Garfield School needs a lot of work,” said Novoselsky. The current lack of lighting poses a particular problem,because students and teachers are walking home and to their vehicles in the late afternoon darkness, he said.

 

Council approves installation of antennas and dishes

In a unanimous vote Monday night, the city council approved the installation of new satellite antennas and dishes to seven existing sites in the city.

The new apparatuses will enhance and speed up communication service and will result in minimal changes to the buildings, said MetroPCS Representative Bryan Wilson.

The largest dishes for installation measure two feet in diameter, the smallest, only 8 inches. Aesthetically, the antennas should blend in with existing structures. “No one will be able to notice [them],” Wilson said.

The installations will be added to the following addresses: 400 Broadway, 1070 Broadway, 50 Walnut Avenue, 250 Revere Street, 474 Revere Beach Boulevard, 427 Squire Road (Four Points Sheraton), and 204 Proctor Avenue.

 

Council votes down proposed garage

Monday night, city councillors, in unison, voted down a special permit and license for a proposed auto body shop at 851–855 Broadway, bringing an end to James St. Vil’s plans to transform the existing structure into a garage.

With the vote, the council joined the abutters, who voiced opposition to the proposal during a well-attended neighborhood meeting last Friday.

Ward 3 Councillor Arthur Guinasso said that the proposed garage would “inundate the neighborhood” and traffic would become a “day to day battle.” “The area is overwhelmed with this activity,” Guinasso said. “This…business [would] create havoc. Traffic would be overwhelming.”

Councillor-at-Large John Correggio joined Guinasso, saying that it is, above all, a safety issue. “It’s a very difficult area as far as traffic… To me, we don’t need another body shop [in that area],” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the applicant at a zoning subcommittee meeting earlier Monday afternoon, Attorney Larry Simeone reasoned that the proposed garage would have enough work space inside for ten to twelve cars and, since customers would be dropping off their vehicles, the business would have little effect on traffic in the area. He further noted that the garage would only require three outside parking places for employees and the applicant was willing to adhere to a no-parking rule on Folsom Street as a condition.

Furthermore, renovations to the building would not allow chemical odors to spread outside and beyond the premises, he said. Simeone added that the applicant has had “an exemplary record” in the area over the last six years. But his reasoning did not sway the council.

Ward 4 Councillor Stephen Reardon doubted that the building’s sealed doors could adequately contain chemical odors. In addition, he noted that the business would create a great deal of noise for nearby residents.

Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto agreed with the neighbors but warned that the city risks “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” He explained his concern that if the applicant pursues a lawsuit, the court will not see the proposal as a detriment to neighbors and could grant the permit.

He implored Simeone not to take the issue to court. “The best case,” Zambuto said, “is to find suitable use for the lots there that the neighbors can live with.”

“I don’t see this losing in court,” opined Council President Richard Penta. “If you live down there, you’d want to be able to sleep at night.”