Council votes to move forward on current site
City and school officials have been meeting for weeks to try to find a path forward for the new high school construction project. This week’s meeting was by far the loudest, and most unruly with shouting, interrupting speakers and plenty of gavel pounding. Although it wasn’t as long as the high school building project meeting, speakers managed to hit every point for Wonderland and the existing site which speakers have pressed over the past several weeks. The City Council voted to inform the Revere High School Building Committee that they support moving forward with the existing site. But that wasn’t entirely clear because of the way the votes fell.
The City Council’s Ways and Means Subcommittee, which has been plowing through the details of the city’s plan to pay for the new school, voted four to two against Councillor-at-Large Gerry Visconti’s motion to support the existing site as the preferred option for the new high school. But rather than present the subcommittee’s decision clearly, Councillor-at-Large Anthony Zambuto presented a minority report that allowed the full council to vote on Visconti’s motion. Councillors Steve Morabito, Ira Novoselsky, John Powers, Marc Silvestri and Patrick Keefe, who have all supported moving ahead with the plan to build at the Wonderland site, voted against Visconti’s motion. However, Visconti’s motion passed with the votes of the remaining six councillors.
“A few weeks ago, the City Council did not pass the schematic design at the Wonderland site,” said Visconti at the beginning of the Ways and Means meeting. “It was evident that in order to move progress forward … we would have to move to the existing high school site.”
Councillor Zambuto noted that the Wonderland schematic design was voted down and is no longer an option. “The schematic design is dead at Wonderland,” said Zambuto. “The only option on the table tonight is to go back to the original site, so if you truly want a new high school, I suggest you vote for this motion.”
City Council President Keefe explained the vote to residents who were crowded into the City Council Chambers. Despite the school department and the community’s support for building at Wonderland, there seemed to be some relief that a decision was made and work on the schematic design can now more forward.
Later during the council meeting, councillors voted on a motion from Councillor Silvestri that would direct the High School Building Committee to develop a revised building design for the Wonderland site with changes that would reduce the overall cost of the project by as much as possible. It was another confusing moment, given that the council had already voted to support a design for the existing site. Silvestri’s motion was defeated by a six to five vote with councillors Morabito, Powers, Novoselsky, Silvestri and Keefe voting in favor.
“This project was about working together and that did not happen,” said Ward 3 Councillor Anthony Cogliandro, who stressed that the city just could not afford to build a new high school at Wonderland or the current site.
“We need to go back to the drawing board,” said Cogliandro, stating that the city needs a new school that it could afford without raising taxes or fees or making city department budget cuts.
Those who were against the Wonderland site pointed not only to the projected high construction costs and removing Wonderland from the tax roll, but the safety of students who walk to school – which would more than double the amount now who cross Bell Circle and American Legion Highway to get to the high school.