By Neil Zolot
EVERETT – The City Council voted to table appropriation of $150,000 of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to hire an Owner’s Project Manager (OPM) to study using modular classrooms at schools – by a thin margin of 5-4 – at their meeting Monday, September 11. “Can we hear from constituents?” Ward 2 Councillor Stephanie Martins asked. “I’ve heard people say this is a problem. Others say it’s not.”
The Mayor’s Chief of Staff, Erin Deveney, told the Councillors an OPM is “a required component under public procurement laws to look at existing school spaces and come up with a recommendation as to where modules might be a viable option, except the Devens School, because there’s no space around it. The city would then determine if it wanted to pursue any of the recommendations. We’re proposing using ARPA funds because it won’t have a negative impact on the taxpayers.” (The idea was rejected from the Capital Improvement Plan.)
Councillors Darren Costa, John Hanlon, Michael Marchese and Stephanie Smith dissented. “I’m opposed to a project we have not approved and there’s no place to put them,” Councillor-at-Large Smith said. “They’ll either take away parking spaces or be in the front yard at the Keverian School.”
“These are not unheard of, but what is unheard of is having a Pope John,” Ward 3 Councillor Costa added.
“Where are they going to put them? In green spaces or parking lots?” Robin Babcock asked in Public Participation. “Teachers could be losing parking spaces. They’re already double parking and parking in fire lanes at the High School. Years of overcrowding without a plan doesn’t seem great. This seems like a quick fix for overcrowding in the school system.”
In a written statement to the Council, Mayor Carlo DeMaria stated, “It is important discussions are predicated on facts, not merely on personal opinion. I can’t in good faith recommend spending a massive amount of money to renovate the former Pope John High School because that would not alleviate classroom size at the High School, which is why I think Everett families would be better served if funding is saved for a new High School that would address classroom sizes across the district. I am advocating we continue exploration of the modular solution. I believe it does represent an opportunity to provide relief in our classrooms.”
Action was also postponed on a city project to be undertaken by National Grid for electric car charging stations near the Devens School due to a lack of information from the company.
In response to concerns raised by Wendy Poste that some City of Everett employees are not subject to Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) or Sexual Offender Record Information (SORI) checks, the Council heard from city Human Resources Director Terri Ronco. Poste feels any City employees “un-CORIed” or “un-SORIed” and sex offenders should to be prohibited from jobs that might bring them into people’s homes. (Poste was allegedly sexually assaulted by an Everett firefighter in 2019 and has pursued the matter since then.)
Ronco read the Background and CORI/SORI Policy and Procedure, which reads, in part, “All offers on employment with the city are contingent upon clear results of a thorough background check. Background checks include a drug exam, CORI/SORI chances, driver check based on positions, fingerprinting based on position and comprehensive reference checks.”
Currently the policy also reads, “CORI/SORI checks will be conducted on all final candidates and on all non-union employees annually on their anniversary date and on any employee that is promoted or as deemed necessary. The policy of conducting annual CORI/SORI checks for all non-union employers begins October 1.”
As for union employees, Ronco said incorporating the various checks will be part of the collective bargaining agreement negotiation process. “This is important to us – but we’d wait until the contract negotiations come up.”
At the outset of the meeting, Mayor DeMaria and the City Council recognized the championship season of Everett’s Little League baseball players, and managers Joe Young and Brian Savi. “I want to say how proud I am of this team, and you should be proud of your dedication, effort and commitment to the sport,” DeMaria said. “I’m happy for you all.”
“They all worked hard all summer long,” Young said. “I’m so proud of these kids.”
His son, Nick accepted the accolades on behalf of the team. “It was a really great season and we all had a good time,” he said.