Mayor Art Ward said he'll vote for the new site and at least two of the Scalia site backers, Kevin McCauley and Craig Minor, said they will as well. Cliff Block and Ken Cockayne arevirtually certain to go along.
While it's less clear what Frank Nicastro and Mike Rimcoski, two Scalia site critics, will do, their opposition wouldn't matter. The vote is almost certain to be 5-2 for the new site picked by the West Bristol School Committee this week.
Ward said there won't be a special City Council session on the issue. It will come up instead at the October council meeting, where councilors will ask the Planng Commission for its recommendation.
That won't come until later in October, but this time it probably wouldn't matter if the panel said no again since there is likely to be at least a two-thirds majority among councilors.
The council meeting in November is slated for Nov. 12, a Wednesday, because of the Veterans Day holiday.
The only hitch? That it's also the night of a so long celebration for outgoing Bristol Chamber of Commerce President John Leone, which the council wants to attend.
A $130 million plan to build two new schools that looked battered and perhaps beaten a week ago now appears likely to win final approval with little trouble.
City councilors are poised to back the proposed West Bristol school site off Matthews Street.
“It looks like it would work and it would be feasible,” city Councilor Kevin McCauley said.
With Mayor Art Ward’s backing, the site near the corner of Clark Avenue and Matthews Street appears likely to garner the support of at least five of the seven City Council votes, enough to assure its passage even if the Planning Commission gives it a thumbs-down.
McCauley said he’s glad “more of us are on the same page” for the proposed site.
The last parcel recommended by the West Bristol School Building Committee – a sandpit off Barlow Street – was gunned down by planners.
Though the planning panel doesn’t have the last word, any project that it doesn’t support cannot pass muster unless there’s a two-thirds vote by the council. That provision was enough to kill the Scalia pit site because the council’s support fell short of the required margin in the wake of the planners’ choice.
That left school backs scrambling for an alternate site to go along with the one on the former Crowley auto dealership property on Pine Street.
City Councilor Craig Minor said that he’ll “go along” with the new site recommendation for the west side of town even though it’s even further from the West End, where many of the children who would go to the 900-student school live.
“We’re not going to get it in the West End,” Minor said.
Ward said the new site offers better accessibility and infrastructure than the Scalia location did.
Plus, he said, “at least this is flat.”
Minor said that his support for the new site is contingent on school officials finding a way to preserve an 18th century house that sits beside the Clark Avenue and Matthews Street junction.
“We need to save that house,” Minor said.
It appears that two other councilors, Ken Cockayne and Cliff Block, will also support the new location for the proposed school, which would lock in five votes in its favor.
The other two council members, Frank Nicastro and Mike Rimcoski, opposed the Scalia site and may not be satisfied with the new one either. Their backing isn’t necessary, however.
It’s likely the council will the site at its November meeting.
Ward said there won't be a special City Council session on the issue, as some had said. The issue will come up instead at the October 14 council meeting, where councilors will ask planning for its formal recommendation.
That won't come until later in October, leaving the council’s November 12 meeting as the most likely time for councilors to endorse the location.
There is at least one potential hitch that could still derail the $130 plan to build two new schools for kindergarten to eighth grade.
Some critics are weighing the possibility of forcing a public referendum on the plan, a move that would require gathering more than 3,000 signatures from city voters. If they try – and get the signatures – then the electorate would have the last word.
The overall plan calls for construction to start in June 2010 and the doors of the new schools to open as soon as 2012. When they do, the Board of Education will shut down three aging elementary schools and historic Memorial Boulevard Middle School, which once served as the city’s sole high school.
Contact Steve Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org