WOBURN - The City Council recently sanctioned Mayor Scott Galvin's proposed $3.3 million capital budget for FY'20, which will slate significant funding for fire department equipment upgrades and for the demolition of the old Plympton School.
During their most recent meeting in City Hall, the aldermen unanimously and without debate authorized the capital spending plan, which will be footed through a withdrawal from the city's stabilization account.
This year, City Engineer Jay Corey's office will receive the largest "pay-as-you-go" capital outlay with more than $800,000 being steered towards the department. Most of that money will foot the bill associated with razing the old Plympton School in Hammond Square.
In his state-of-the-city address in January, Galvin pledged to forge ahead with the removal of the 1976 school house, which presently serves as a records depository.
Hammond Square area residents have long advocated for demolishing the 13,764 square foot structure. Back in 2010, the City Council passed a zoning initiative that designated the .71-acre site as open-space, but that plan for a passive park has always been contingent upon the abandonment of the building.
The original Plympton School was destroyed in a tragic fire in 1964 that claimed the life of a custodian. A new building was then constructed, but it closed not long after opening in 1976.
In the ensuing years, the city leased the space to various entities, much to the dismay of area residents who repeatedly complained about quality-of-life disruptions being caused by those tenants.
The mayor is moving ahead with the Plympton School demo as school officials are examining whether the old Wyman School can be reutilized as a replacement storehouse for old city records.
Last spring, the School Committee revealed that DiNisco Design Partnership, the Boston architectural firm behind the new Hurld-Wyman School, has been retained to explore an arrangement in which the school department would move its administrative headquarters the old Central Square educational facility. As part of that plan, the city would also move its records to a portion of that renovated building.
Sitting in the heart of Central Square, the original Wyman School building, which dates back to 1892, is listed on the Mass. Register of Historic Places as an impressive example of Romanesque Revival architecture popular in the late 19th Century.
Accented by two front-facade towers, leading to the popular "castle" reference to the school house, the four-room school house is considered one of Woburn's architectural jewels. In 1924, a two-story addition was added to the rear of the facility.
Under the subdivision concept, the two oldest buildings on the 3.5-acre parcel would be sold. It's not clear how the building would be marketed, but given the neighborhood's underlying R2 or two-family zoning designation, it would presumably be targeted for an adaptive multi-unit housing reuse.
The proceeds from that sale would then be reinvested into the most recent 1960 addition to the building, popularly referred to as the Wyman "annex", which attaches to the original school house through an elevated and enclosed connector.
A recent historic preservation ordinance, enacted by the City Council at the end of 2018 in response to development plans for the Tidd Home in North Woburn, would allow either the city or a private landowner to create multi-family housing within the old school.
Other capital needs
This year's pay-as-you-go capital plan also includes $700,000 for the fire department, which would purchase a new fire engine, as well as $530,000 for DPW equipment.
The school department also stands to receive approximately $500,000, most of which would pay for playground renovations and districtwide technology needs.
Since first being sworn in as Woburn's CEO in 2010, Galvin has regularly sought mid-year appropriations, outside of the annual operating budget, to address citywide capital needs that have ranged from the purchase of new police cruisers and DPW dump trucks to the improvement of school security measures by installing new doors and locking fixtures.
In contrast to more significant multi-million dollar infrastructure and building projects, such as the Woburn Public Library addition or the construction of the new Hurld-Wyman School, Galvin relies upon stabilization accounts and reserve funding sources such as free cash to cover the costs of the more regular capital appropriations.
Generally, the annual pay-as-you-go capital spending plans have ranged between $2 to $3 million, but last year, the council approved a $4.1 million budget — the largest-ever sought during the city executive's tenure.
The full list of proposed capital items, broken down by department, is as follows:
• Dog licensing software for $2,200
Council on Aging/Senior Center
• $4,000 for the costs of a heating/cooling efficiency program
• $60,000 to replace the Senior Center's heating system
Department of Public Works
• $45,000 for a new hot top roller;
• $50,000 for drainage system maintenance
• $50,000 for a garage utility truck
• $60,000 to paint the exterior of City Hall
• $100,000 for a mini-excavator
• $225,000 for a "snow fighter"
• $17,000 for site cleanup work at Leland Park
• $25,000 to prepare a Columbus Rd. and Kennedy Park drainage study
• $27,500 for stormwater management planning
• $108,000 for a Horn Pond fish ladder
• $650,000 for the demolition of the old Plympton School
• $10,000 for Scott air bottles
• $38,000 to upgrade self-contained breathing systems
• $650,000 for a new fire engine
• $25,000for a citywide technology "refresh cycle"
• $175,000 for the purchase of new City Hall datacenter servers
• $14,000 for a new copying machine
Woburn Public Library
• $20,000 for landscaping
Parks and Recreation
• $44,000 for a new utility truck with a plow
• $10,000 for new office furniture
• $10,000 for bullet-proof vests
• $60,000 for portable radio equipment
• $110,690 to repave the police station parking lot
• $188,000 for the acquisition of new police cruisers
• $10,000 for new backstops at Wafr Park
• $15,000 for new pool filters
• $20,000 for a new Ferullo Field dog park
• $175,000 for systemwide technology upgrades
• $83,000 for a new Reeves School playground
• $40,000 to replace stairwell railings inside the White School
• $70,000 for White School playground equipment
• $75,000 for districtwide gymnasium safety repairs
• $45,000 for new baseball dugouts at Woburn Memorial High School.