Watch the Gardner City Council Meetings on the City of Gardner YouTube page or on our City Council page CLICK HERE. Or listen on any device by clicking Play. (Our recording eliminated the silence before meeting starts and while in recess to do swearing in.)
Gardner MA City Council Met on Wednesday September 7, 2022
The Gardner City Council met on Wednesday September 7th due both to Labor Day and the Massachusetts Primary. Complete Agenda and packet, CLICK HERE. Letter from Mayor Nicholson on establishing City Charter Drafting Committee, CLICK HERE. – Committee would eventually submit updates for approval by voters at a municipal election. – was referred to Council as a Committee as a whole.
First up was the Mayor’s requested confirmation of Eric McAvene to the position of Police Chief for a 3 year term. He started work as a Temporary Appointment on August 22nd and was confirmed at this meeting for a full 3 year appointment.
McAvene was one of 12 applicants for the position and the top pick of 3 finalists. He has served the City of Gardner for over two decades.
A request to confirm Sergeant Walter was also granted. Sergeant Walter had left his position for professional reasons and was eligible to return.
Action on School Buildings
The Council acted on whether to declare the Prospect Street and School Street Schools as surplus and authorize sale. Lengthy appraisal reports are included in the City Council Agenda and packet. After separate discussions and motions, declaration of Prospect School and School as surplus passed unanimously.
The Prospect Street School building is in relatively good condition with a 295k appraisal. However, the 53 School Street building is another story with an appraisal of $0. According to Building Commissioner Roland Jean in a communication to the Mayor, “Nearly every window…smashed by vandals, …holes in slate roof…, …prolific leaks in the flat roof, the portable classrooms are beyond their useful life and need to be demolished, ….two known underground oil tanks…, …burst pipes, ….no sprinkler system in the building…” “It is my opinion that the cost to rehabilitate the building would far exceed any worth that it might have.” The appraisal report recommends that the highest and best use of the property would be to “demolish and remove the building for future development with two residential lots.”
History of the School St. property shown in the appraisal indicates that a portion of the property was acquired by the City on March 3, 1858 from Levi Heywood for the sum of $232.80 and the rest of it from 7 other sellers in 1911 with parcel purchase prices ranging from $1 to $4700.
Lucky to Get Rid of It
The appraiser estimates that after the demolition of the School St. building, the value of the two residential lots created would be $134,000. However, the cost of demolition is estimated at $250,000. Therefore, the property actually has a negative appraised value of $116,000, rounded up to zero. In short, the City of Gardner, pricing the property at a starting bid price of $1 would be fortunate to get a buyer, get the headache off the City’s hands, and return the property to the tax rolls.
Use of Elm Street School
During the City Council meeting of 9-7, Mayor Nicholson also explained the use of Elm Street School: It will be used by the Superintendent’s office, Gardner Academy, and the Boys and Girls Club. He also explained that the city is required to use the building for educational purposes for 15 years – otherwise it is subject to paying back a $3 million grant.
Fire Department Audit
According to the Fire Department Audit, the Net income for the ambulance services provided by the Gardner Fire Department has almost doubled from $518,199 in fiscal year 2018 to $976,758 in fiscal year 2022. Part of the large increase in net income for the last two years occurred from participation in the Medicare CPE Reimbursement program which was instituted by the Commonwealth of MA to help cities and towns offset the very low Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement currently allowed. Item re the Fire Department Audit was referred to the Council as a Committee as a whole.
New Ambulance in the Works
An ambulance costs over 250k and is used for 5 years as a primary ambulance and another 5 years as a backup. According to the audit, the Gardner Fire Department is in the process of ordering a new ambulance at a cost of $290,500, which will be paid for with ARPA funds, with no cost to the City.
Headquarters and Staffing
“The city should investigate the needs for a new or substantially remodeled Fire Headquarters to meet current and future needs.” With respect to personnel, the audit states, “we would recommend the city looks at making a nonunion Deputy Fire Chief’s position.” There are other personnel recommendations as well.
City Centennial Celebration Ad Hoc Advisory Committee: Mayor Nicholson has appointed Michael Richard, Brad Heglin, Douglas Lepisto, Gladys Richardson, and Jessica DeRoy. The Council President has appointed Marion Knoll, Dawn Erickson, and Theresa Thompson. According to Mayor Nicholson, “These individuals will oversee the planning and fundraising of several events throughout the course of the coming year. Other individual volunteers will be participating in the planning and execution of these events, however, this will be the core committee to oversee the larger aspects of the year. Ms. Patricia Bergstrom will also be assisting with the planning of a parade for the Fall of 2023.”
Councilor Thanks During New Business
Those Councilors choosing to make statements during the New Business segment at the end of the meeting mostly made comments of thanks. Councilor Tyros thanked those involved in the Pleasant Street summer experiment and hopes the City tries again next year. Councilor Mack thanked everyone who helped make the new Gardner Elementary School a reality and wished students, faculty, and staff a great new year. Councilor Boone thanked the City Clerk Titi Siriphan for setting up the primary. Councilor Boudreau commented that Gardner has a wonderful live music scene. Councilor Walsh toured water and sewer facilities this summer and recommended other councilors take the same tour. Councilor Ronald Cormier commented on how fortunate the community was to have good water and sewer services. Council President Kazinskas also expressed thanks, congratulating City Clerk Siriphan for a job well done.