EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

June 8, 2010

Methuen approves $99M loan for high school

METHUEN — City councilors voted last night to approve a $99.1 million loan to pay for the Methuen High School renovation and addition.

Eight councilors voted in favor, while council Chairman John Cronin Jr. voted "present."

"I'm still not convinced that we're not going to have 90 people laid off," Cronin said at last night's City Council meeting.

The city has sent layoff notices 90 employees, but the School Department — not the city — is now slated to fund the $500,000 needed for the school project during the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

Forest Street resident James Perrotta suggested scaling down the project to save money.

Some councilors committed to supporting the financing plan for the high school early on, while others waited for more information. Those who didn't say right away that they supported the project said they were met with a barrage of phone calls and e-mails from residents.

Councilor Larry Giordano said the councilors who waited only wanted answers, they didn't oppose the project.

"I took some vicious, vicious phone calls and I am very disappointed with the people of Methuen," Giordano said. "I am very ashamed of the people of this community."

"I personally condemn anyone who viciously attacked a city councilor on that issue," said School Committeeman Kenneth Willette Jr., one of the people who organized the lobbying campaign for the school.

"They're personal friends of mine, so I personally take offense," said Willette, a former city councilor.

The Methuen High addition and renovation is projected to cost $99,063,617.

Of that, $94,036,463 is eligible for state reimbursement, and the Massachusetts School Building Authority previously voted unanimously to give Methuen a reimbursement rate of 68.84 percent, which equates to $64,734,701.

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