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Quincy officials aim for Quincy High demolition this summer

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  June 12, 2013 04:53 PM

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Despite questions from the City Council and problems with several state agencies, Quincy officials are still optimistic that they can demolish the 89-year-old Quincy High sometime this summer.

The $4.1 million demolition project has several hurdles to clear, the first of which being council approval.

“There was some difficulties in the presentation [that didn’t make] clear to a number of the councilors what the costs were,” Councilor Joseph Finn of the Finance Committee said at a meeting on Monday. “That was why it was not approved.”

According to Finn, councilors want more of a breakdown of the requested funds. In addition to the over $1 million already spent on interior demolition, and the $700,000 engineers are planning to spend from existing accounts, the city is looking to borrow an additional $2.5 million to finish the job.

While the demolition of the building has also gone through several debates at the School Committee level, questions have also come up about the need to demolish the building.

“I’ve never seen any reports or engineering reports as to why it’s prohibitive to keep the building intact … we’ll hear people use words like cost/benefit. That’s fine, but was there a cost/benefit done, because I haven’t seen one,” Finn said.

The council will review the proposal again at a meeting on Monday.

Even with concerns, City Solicitor Jim Timmins said nearly everything is in place to make the project a go.

The $2.5 million is mainly to make the site whole again, Timmins said, with $25,000 for architecture and engineering services, $710,000 for the construction of an infill wall, $15,000 for miscellaneous items, $150,000 for landscaping, and $1.5 million for grading and site construction.

As for the need to demolish the building, Timmins pointed to a report prepared by Public Buildings Department Director Gary Cunniff, which estimated that total rehabilitation of of the building could cost upwards of $50 million.

Even if funding was available, the report points to parking concerns as a key prohibiting factor in developing the building for another use.

The only remaining problem is a Memorandum of Agreement signed with the Army Corps of Engineers in 2006, where the city promised they would not demolish the existing building in return for permission to build on 5,000 square feet of wetlands.

According to Tim Dugan, Corps spokesman, the city still doesn’t have the right to demolish the building.

“The status right now is we haven’t seen a request from the city to modify the existing memorandum of agreement but we expect to hear from them soon,” Dugan said. “We heard they have local agreement and will now pursue the state and federal concurrence.”

Timmins recognized that nothing has been finalized, but said that much behind-the- scenes work has been ongoing with both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Massachusetts Historical Commission.

“I started with the local permission,” Timmins said. “I’ve been in front of Quincy Historical [Commission] three times an got their OK to go to the state. I’ve met with a state official from Mass Historic. He’s reviewing everything now, and he will call [the Army Corps] directly. They are aware of our time frames.”

Timmins said that with Massachusetts Historical Commission approval, the Army Corps should relinquish their hold on the property, as the corps was acting to protect the historic district, and not the building itself.

From there, Timmins said the land would be returned to the jurisdiction of the School Committee.

“The mayor wants to work with the School Committee and our historic commission to make sure whatever we come up here is acceptable to both of them,” Timmins said.

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