Monday, June 24, 2024

Summer construction on Somerville’s Central Hill. (Photo: Kete Wheatley)

Somerville’s City Hall has not had significant renovation since 1924, according to Ward 5 city councilor Beatriz Gomez Mouakad, making it just one of many buildings in the city that need upgrading.

“Our municipal infrastructure just hasn’t seen renovations for decades,” Gomez Mouakad said Thursday at a meeting where councilors approved a resolution supporting a state Municipal and Public Safety Building Authority. It would release funds to cities and towns for building construction and improvements.

The authority would be funded with money from marijuana sales tax revenue statewide, according to bills legislators are considering on Beacon Hill.

The city would get “an ambitious repair and rehab program” for municipal buildings, Gomez Mouakad said.

In addition to renovations, the city needs at least one new school building and upgraded HVAC systems in others, Gomez Mouakad said. The Winter Hill school was taken out of commission for this upcoming academic year after a piece of nonstructural concrete fell in a stairwell at the end of May; then the Edgerly Education Building, which is housing several classes of displaced students, had to be remediated for asbestos before the kids arrived. 

Councilors are looking for a timeline for work discussed in a school building feasibility study that includes significant work at the Arthur D. Healey and West Somerville schools as well as Winter Hill, Gomez Mouakad said during another part of the meeting.

Meanwhile, a former fire station in Union Square was shut down at the end of August for safety concerns, forcing decadeslong nonprofit tenants the Somerville Media Center and Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers to find new homes. There is no money budgeted or available for repairs anytime for at least the next five years, the city has said.

“Every source of funding we have, we need to seek it, because I think what we’re going to hit soon is we can’t depend on doing one building at a time – we’re going to have to do multiple buildings at a time,” Gomez Mouakad said.

The authority would have money for buildings including police stations, fire stations, city or town offices, city or town halls and department of public works facilities.

Ward 4 city councilor Jesse Clingan said the city needs as much oversight and authority over the buildings as possible.

“It’s a worthwhile effort and I hope you will all sign on and perhaps testify when the time comes,” Clingan told fellow councilors. 

Clingan, Gomez Mouakad, council president Ben Ewen-Campen, Ward 1 councilor Matthew McLaughlin, councilor at-large Jake Wilson and councilor at-large Kristen Strezo are sponsoring support for the act, which is under consideration on Beacon Hill as State House Bill 3802 and Senate Bill 1489.