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6 Takeaways from the August 4 North St. & Trahan Reuse Committee Meeting

Last night’s meeting was attended by all current members: chair Bruce Shick, Kayla Biagioni-Smith, Bob Fowler, Mark Kratman and Kristen Smith. The committee currently has three open positions, per Select Board representative Kratman. The Select Board will conduct interviews to fill these seats, along with open positions on other committees, next week.

This committee is tasked with evaluating options for the North St. and Trahan schools and presenting a recommendation to the Select Board, in preparation for the School Committee formally turning the properties over to the town in early 2023. The Reuse Committee will formulate that recommendation based on its learnings plus a soon-to-be-launched survey of boards and residents.

At its last meeting, the committee heard from Tewksbury Community Vision Committee member Karla Branchaud. Find out what she shared about priorities.

1. Shick attended a Housing Authority meeting recently to obtain information for the committee to aid them in their recommendation. He reports there are currently 1,400 public housing units in the state, 144 of which are located in Tewksbury.

Meanwhile, there are 1,200 55+ Mass. residents on the waiting list, six whom are veterans living in Tewksbury, and 1,900 nonelderly handicapped individuals; 52 are Tewksbury residents.

The current monthly cost of an affordable — not public or subsidized — unit in town is $1,600. Shick also confirmed that priority cannot be given to Tewksbury residents on the waiting list for subsidized units built in Tewksbury.

Kratman noted that at this week’s Select Board goal-setting meeting, one of the priorities stated was the creation of more affordable housing in town.

2. Currently no appraisals have been done on the properties to determine fair market value. Reasons cited are the cost of appraisals and having appraisers in the buildings while they are still in use for students. Shick said he would speak with town manager Richard Montuori and town planner Alexandra Lowder about possibly appraising the properties, to give residents insight into their potential value.

The 2022 assessed values are as follows:
North St. School: Land: $476,400; building/improvements: $3,595,200
Trahan School: Land: $492,100; building/improvements: $2,326,900

Biagioni-Smith noted that the town manager agreed to ask Consigli, the builder of the new Center Elementary School, for an estimate to tear down the Trahan and North St. buildings; she requested an update. Shick said he would add that to a list of questions for Montuori. He will also inquire if Consigli can give estimates for the cost to maintain the empty buildings and potentially weigh in on appraised values. The committee is also seeking a cost for the town to insure the empty buildings.

3. Kratman confirmed that once a recommendation is made to the town, the Select Board will take that up and make its own recommendation. Any funding needed for the sites would have to go to Town Meeting for approval.

4. The committee decided they want to have the survey for town boards and committees and residents out the first week in September, with assistance from Lowder. Biagioni-Smith and Smith will work on adding some clarifying language that nothing can be done until the School Committee turns ownership over to the town, and that the Select Board will make the final recommendation. The survey will be finalized at the next meeting. Watch for a link to that sometime in early September.

5. The consensus is that the committee would like to have its recommendation to the Select Board by December, which would tie in with the schools closing and staff and students moving to the new Center Elementary School — though Kratman raised concerns about a formal recommendation prior to the town taking possession of the properties.

6. Kratman is reaching out to the East Boston Community Development Association to have the agency, which he says works on redevelopment projects across the country, come in to address the Committee on Sept. 15 and offer guidance on possible reuse of the buildings for affordable housing.

The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 18 at 6:30 p.m.

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