MELROSE — An important downtown business owner is telling Mayor Robert J. Dolan this week to forget dumping $5.3 million into Melrose High and instead concentrate on more parking spaces.
Steven Trulli, co-owner of Whittemore Hardware, writes in a letter that he disagrees with a new technology center at the city’s flagship school as the way to keep students in Melrose through grade 12. He says, “Instead of throwing money at a pipe dream, put it towards a cause you can win. Improve the parking in downtown. Given the hundreds of customers that have expressed their dissatisfaction about accessible parking, I am sure I can speak for many downtown businesses when I say that I have lost many sales due to a lack of parking. The lost sales due to a missed trip into the downtown are permanent. Many of these trips will be made to the mall instead.
“Mayor Dolan expressed a concern over the pressures of rent increases yet suggested reviewing the lower than average residential and commercial tax rates. Well which is it? This is an oxymoron. Renters and landlords do what they can to try to keep costs down. They can negotiate terms with their insurers and take advantage of state energy programs to conserve energy use, but the one thing they can’t control is real estate tax. And real estate tax will always be passed down to the tenant increasing their rent. Therefore if the mayor were truly concerned about rent costs then he would not suggest increasing residential and commercial tax.
“Instead of considering higher taxes and more school spending as a solution to make this city thrive, consider supporting what works. Propose a plan to increase parking in the downtown.
“I proposed numerous times to the mayor and other politicians that the city should buy Deering Lumber, even if that meant through the unpopular eminent domain. This is a dirty word in Melrose and in most communities. However, this is the last large piece of property left in Melrose. It would be an invaluable addition to the city. The police department could be moved there freeing up that valuable piece of downtown property. The current police station combined with the building next door, now part of TD Bank, would be a great place for a parking lot or a 3 story parking garage with a lower level parking. This would provide plenty of additional parking at Deering for downtown business employees to park at a reduced rate. There would be parking for out of town train riders to use producing another area of revenue.
“The city recently rezoned the street from Deering Lumber to Franklin St this year for more varied uses, one of which is assisted living. It is not a coincidence that an assisted living corporation has had a pending offer on that property for a couple of years. That property could have many more positive uses for the city. Some say that it’s too late for the city to buy Deering. But is it? Here we go back to those dirty words, eminent domain. The $5.3 million not spent on a technology center could be used to buy Deering or buy up property around the downtown district piece-by-piece adding to the parking inventory. Take a cue from the YMCA. They should be congratulated and thanked for having the gall, and the insight for spending the money they did to buy up the two properties behind them, adding parking for their customers.
Yes, that $5,300,000 is a proposed bond and has nothing to do with the Override this mayor is also planning to get onto the next ballot. This is After turning over an additional $2,000,000 last year to the schools, on top of the $485,000 textbook bond, and on top of the proposed 11% increase of $3,000,000 the superintendent has requested this year! Apparently he doesn't care about driving away the middle class here in Melrose. His "Melrose has the poorest of the poor to the opposite end of the spectrum" is nonsense. Melrose does not have the "poorest of the poor" (about which he is totally ignorant) and soon it won't have any middle class, either. He thinks we are a bottomless pit that he can tax and charge fees to. He is sorely mistaken. Hope (against hope) the BOA demonstrates some balls and says "No"! This is the same administration that brought us the "historic" teacher's contract and 3 times asked the school committee to vote on it with no document in front of them, just the assurance from the "educational expert" that it was "99% like the last one" (which was a lie). Only one member had the intelligence and ethics to say a great big "No"!
Someone correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that Mr. Trulli has been, while maybe not an "ardent" supporter of the Mayor, he has at least been "supportive". When even those who have been "supportive" start telling the Mayor that it's time to stop his fixation on the schools, and start thinking about what's actually in the best interests of the rest of the community, it's a milestone that shouldn't be ignored.
Buying the Deering property, putting a new Police Station (something sorely needed for over 20 years) there, and using the existing police lot and the rest of the Deering property for parking is a good solution to a problem that has been plaguing Melrose for years.
It should be encouraging to those posting here critical of the school system that other factions might finally be coming to the same conclusions - that another $5.3 million dumped into the schools is a waste of money.
Sorry to say, but there are more votes for the Mayor in school expenditures than more parking spaces.
You may or may not be right about that, but if the business community is beginning to publicly voice it's criticism of dumping millions more into the schools, he'll have to pay attention to it. Just maybe a corner can finally be turned.
Yes. Safer for the business community to criticize this foolishness than a school parent.
I'll 3rd the new police station and aquisition of the Deering lot. It will require approximately a $50,000,000 override, 10X the cost of the high school project. Add another $5,000,000 for Trulli's psrking garage at the site of the current police station. We would also have to plan on another $5,000,000 in legal fees and a 5 year delay from the Cronin family law suits after trying to take their property by eminent domain.
And if the voters have the stomach for that, really, whats another $2,000,000 for the school system. I'm all for it, a massive improvement in all areas for the City of Melorse. Lets get it on the ballot in November.
What Trulli fails to point out in his letter is he wouldn't even vote for the cost of his proposed plan. He also fails to understand that a school system is the responsibility of local government, or the fact that Melrose has invested heavily in infrastructure for the local business community.
Unfortunately for Mr. Trulli his plan is not only the "pipe dream" but its an impossibility. It delfects from the legitimate solvable problems in Melrose and gives the anti-everything in Melrose crowd a distraction to focus on...This plan will be supported by the haters everywhere but the ballot box, because not a single one of them would vote to finance the plan, not even its author...but it will give them plenty to run theor mouthes about.
Here are some facts to digest - listen up:
- Only 3% of the tax base in Melrose is commercial versus 97% residential - therefore we need to keep these business viable and expanding.
- There is a dire need for parking in the downtown area and everyone acknowledges this and that is why our local businesses lose potential dollars to local malls and shopping centers.
- The schools are poorly run by school senior management and the school committee - they are indifferent to parents, children, and the public which is evident by public sessions during school committee meetings. Any money you give them is just fritted away with poor management as described earlier.
- Our police headquarters on West Foster is a disgrace even though police management and staff do their very best to bandage the building and space- it needs to meet the 21st century standards.
- The joker above who claimed it will take 50 million plus to purchase land, to relocate police headquarters and build a parking garage and other parking spaces, is smoking pot - you can smell the smoke from his pipe!
- The suggestions made at the beginning of this posting make sense and should be pursued - and the joker who made the previous comment needs to stop smoking pot, get out of his parents's basement apartment, and get a job!
The last thing we need is to further increase the tax exempt properties in Melrose. For the City to acquire
the Deering property would only further add to the imbalance. The Y(MCA's purchase of two properties
for parking, mentioned by Mr. Trulli, took them off the tax rolls. The YCMCA pays no taxes on its properties
while competiong against for- profit child care centers, fitness clubs and personnel trainers.
Wait a Minute
Isn’t the Y creating additional parking simply by purchasing added space? I mean, if you purchase a property and convert it to, let’s say, twenty parking spaces, does that not free up twenty spaces for the Business Community customers to use? And if so, then isn't there a value to that?
If you assume the Y members were using the Public spaces and will not be when the land is purchased then, yes.
Good for Trulli speaking up!
I think the owner of Whittemore fails to see the irony of his message when he suggests that the City take the former Deering Lumber property by eminent domain. Deering was made obsolete by Lowes and Home Depot. Now he is suggesting that the city buy this location to help with his business, which is also under pressure from the companies that put Deering out of business. While perhaps not on point to this string; the fact is years ago there was a hardware store on Hurd Street; Whittemore hardware on main street as well as NHD hardware near Pine Banks. Lowes and Home Depot showed up and squeezed them and Deering out, only Whittemore survived. The market has spoken. Whittemore has done an admirable job staying in business and providing excellent service to the citizens of Melrose, however, I am afraid that the problems facing Whittemore extend well beyond the number of parking spaces. The article in the paper seems to suggest that Melrose should try to preserve the allure and charm of your local hardware store by building a state of the art parking complex. Again, very ironic.
I for one do not want more parking in Melrose. It is crowded enough. Whether Whittemore can sustain itself remains an open question. I enjoy the store and enjoy having it in Melrose and appreciate the expertise they can provide in certain situations, but I also shop at Lowes and HD and not just for the parking. I’d rather see the money invested in our school system.
I bigger issue here is should the City of Melrose spend public dollars supporting for profit businesses before they spend public dollars supporting the local school system. City government cannot be in the business of taking a property by eminent domain in order to create more money for local businesses. However, the bottom line is this issue was just another red herring thrown out by a person who does not support Melrose Public Schools. These choices are not mutually exclusive.
I think the other issue is that it isn't parking that is the problem - frequently the lots behind Memorial Hall have plenty of spaces - it is the parking where everyone wants to park - behind Shaw's, and behind Starbucks, that is a nightmare. So unless we plan to build a 3 floor parking monstrosity behind Shaw's, taking parking over by Deering Lumber won't help because it is 2+ blocks away from downtown. People just don't want to walk a block or two - if they did they would drive into the Memorial Hall lots instead of circling around Shaw's for 15 minutes. And if he is talking about using the space that the police station is for parking - it is not exactly a huge building so I don't think it will impact the number of spaces that way either.
Also, the high school almost lost accreditation due to the physical plant - so unless we feel like risking that again there is some dire need of renovations there.
It's easy to take issue with Mr. Trulli, as he is advocating for something that would benefit his business. We have heard the Mayor talk on any number of occasions about the necessity of assisting downtown businesses so they can prosper and so the downtown doesn't end up as a ghost town of closed businesses, with the resulting loss of tax revenue. Taking Deering by eminent domain is a can of worms, but the basic point, that there are not enough parking spaces downtown to support those businesses, is valid.
The secondary point he made is that throwing another $5.3 million at the school department is ignoring every other issue in town that needs to be addressed, not just the downtown. The schools already get 65% of the entire town budget - I can't cite stats, but I'd bet you'd be hard pressed to find another community that spends that percentage on their schools.
I used to live in Melrose, still have my bank there, and lurk on here sometimes because, well, I'm nosy. If you don't mind an out of town perspective, Mr. Trulli is correct about the parking. I was having trouble with my plug-in Toro snow blower, and was delighted to find Whittemore listed as a service place for Toro. I drove down Main St. one day shortly after, and saw absolutely no parking spaces. I decided that maybe I should take it apart and try to fix it myself instead because it would be easier. I'm not sure whether the parking issue should be connected to the schools issue, but someone qualified needs to be doing a parking study for the city to come up with some ideas.
Per pupil expenditures throughout the state as of 2013
Municipalities figure out their percentages a lot of different ways. Our mayor's methods are not the only ones out there.
Looking only at the parking issue, if you look at the area between City Hall and Marathon sports, I don’t see very many vacant store fronts. Inevitably, when something closes, another small businesses take its place. If there is a market for a small shop (like Marathon, Beacon Hill Wine, Comella’s, Madison Ave, etc.) Melrose will support it. While it may be true that more parking may increase downtown revenues; is that what Melrosians want? I am not troubled by the fact that an out of towner can’t find parking for their snowblower to be delivered to Whittemore. I had my snowblower serviced there after the first big storm this year. Yes it was an inconvenience, but one I can live with. Putting in a parking garage will attract bigger businesses to downtown. I am not in favor of that. I like the feel of downtown right now. If I want the big store experience, it is only a very small drive away. That is the charm of Melrose. We have a quaint downtown area and the convenience of the big malls very close by.
Don't disagree with what you had to say, but I think you might have missed the point. It's isn't parking, it's throwing another $5.3 million at the schools thinking it's going to change anything.
Downtown Milford is a good example of the bad things that happen when you don't provide adequate, convenient and free parking for your downtown business district. Sure, the empty storefronts in Milford Center were eventually occupied by other small businesses: tattoo parlors, hair and nail salons, smoke shops, pizza shops,Psychics and Tarrot card readers. Melrose is well on its way, now featuring no less than six nail salons and a number of pizza places. I don't know what the solution is but it could start with having designated parking for employees furthest from the middle of the business district, like way behind City Hall.
"it's throwing another $5.3 million at the schools thinking it's going to change anything" Correct. It'll still be a sinking ship. It desperately needs fixing, facilities, faculty, administration. That 5.3 mil isn't going to begin tackling the real problems.
Mayor is now in defensive mode, with op-ed pieces. Read between the lines folks! And with every bit of jargon, think about it and see if it actually makes sense--things like "blended learning" (nothing wrong with this in districts that have good teachers doing actual teaching; here it's just a euphemism for sticking a kid in front of a device to teach him or herself, which doesn't need a $5.3 million room).
And Mikey/Brigid, we know you have a tough job spinning all this stuff and trying to stomp on all the "haters".
It is not throwing 5 mill at the schools. It is spending on a badly outdated facility from the 1970's that is in dire need of physical rehabilitation. The administration made the decision to update the building piecemeal, athletic facilities, science wing ,HVAC and the current plan. this was all done with bonding and no override of taxes. They could have opted to tear it down, start with a brand new building at many times the cost and a huge increase in taxes and put students in double sessions but they opted for the fiscally responsible solution. As far as parking yes downtown needs more, but a parking lot at Deering two blocks away is not going to make me want to shop downtown a parking deck should be put up behind the Shaws. That being said I dont think there is the interest in town in raising taxes to fund that parking structure. The removal of a few properties , like the two houses behind the y and perhaps the dilapidated white house offering tax services across from Shaws, near by to slightly increase parking is perhaps the best we can hope for.
"They could have opted to tear it down, start with a brand new building at many times the cost and a huge increase in taxes and put students in double sessions but they opted for the fiscally responsible solution. "
You have heard of Prop 2½, right? How could "they" institute a "huge increase in taxes."????
The MM Clown Patrol is at it again.
First, lets not turn this into a mutually exclusive situation. The down town parking and capital improvements at the High School have nothing to do with each other. Here is an idea. Lets make the City employees pay 50% of their health insurance costs instead of 20%, (saving $5,000,000 a year) and take the Whittemore Hardware Building over by eminent domain, and build a parking garage there. Trulli's argument is just as inane. Any @sshole can throw out a crazy idea, but only on MM will the clowns jump on it like it came down from Mt. Sinai on slabs of granite.
Second, comparing Melrose and Milford is ridiculous. Melrose's downtown is the envy of the North Shore. Milford is a sh*thole. Why not compare it to the projects on 8 Mile in Detroit.
We had an alderman(woman) many years ago that thought like the MM crowd. She actually put forward a motion to sell Memorial Hall instead of fixing the roof. She didn't want to approve the money to fix the roof. The good news is the town did the responsible thing, and generations of Melrosians have benefited since.
The same crowd wanted to close down and sell the Middle School instead of rebuilding it.
Only the clowns on MM would choose a Melrose without the new middle school and Memorial Hall. They would have been happy with the old Lincoln and Roosevelt School, and a Horace Mann and Hoover that leaked money and left kids frozen in the winter. Why? because it doesn't cost them anything.
The long term capital needs of the school department need to be addressed, whether its Windows at HM or Hoover, a new Lincoln School, Roosevelt School, Middle School or renovations to the High School. The only clowns that feel differently are the regular contributors of hate and garbage on this site.
A coincidence that there are 6 posts within an hour on a website that gets a several hundred views a day? I don't think so. A coincidence that Mikey (WOW)is monitoring activity on Melrose Messages for RD and trying to figure out if MFD and two of his friends could possibly generate this many views a day without getting carpal tunnel Syndrome? I don't think so.
You have heard of Prop 2½, right? How could "they" institute a "huge increase in taxes."????
Its called an override and the last time it occurred was to replace the middle school, Which was another school building that had long been a pit. If we dont keep up and maintain what we have it costs more in the long run.
Override. Right. Agenda exposed.
I had posted this response in the business thread before I saw this here:
I agree with some of his points, but disagree with more. The renovations to the high school are definitely worth it. I attended in the mid to late 2000s and the building was struggling. The new plans are amazing and I can't wait to see the finished product.
Mr. Trulli is taking an "old school" stance on Downtown. This isn't 1955. Parking doesn't have that much effect on business. As the parking studies have found, there are usually plenty of spaces open in certain lots Downtown. The only one that ALWAYS fills up is behind Shaw's because it's the most convenient and accessible to the hot spots. What would reallocating the money from the high school to parking really do? Build a tiny ugly parking garage? Does he realize how much upkeep would cost?? A recent study of several large cities where parking was removed from a business district for a bike lane found no change in business. I'm definitely not saying eliminate the little parking we have, but it just goes to show how insignificant parking really is, especially when most of it is taken up by employees. On top of that, Mr. Trulli's business is a dying breed. He owns a hardware store with overpriced merchandise that can be bought much cheaper down the street at the mall or online. His store is a convenience that also offers other services like screen replacement and lawn mower/snow blower repair. Services like that are unique and will keep him there. With more people walking, biking, and taking transit every year, the City should be looking into how to make Downtown more accessible for these growing modes.
I agree with the Deering Lumber comments. Senior housing is an odd choice. I'm not retiring ANY TIME soon and I understand Melrose has an aging population, but we have no obligation to provide senior housing, just because. Being along the commuter rail corridor, the site would be great for mixed use. Heck they could even through in some senior apartments alongside it. What it comes down to is that assisted living buildings are dead properties. They just house people and don't add much to the neighborhood.
I was surprised to see the buildings behind the Y torn down, but it sort of makes sense since they were a little out of place. But think of it this way, they paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide parking for 12 or so single occupancy cars. 12 more people dispersed around all the businesses Downtown. Worth it?
Perhaps business would improve for Whittemore if they could just manage to keep the doors open past 6pm on a weeknight. People with disposable income don't arrive home from work until then. Nothing is more emblematic of stagnation than an actual unwillingness to compete, bordering on lazy. I love the nostalgia of the downtown hardware store, but this one's future is not bright.
One more time - it's not about Whittemore's future. That discussion belongs in the business threads. This is about tossing another 5.3 mil at the schools. Trulli just offered his opinion on an alternative way to spend that. Follow the money.
If this discussion should be limited to schools then it is a no brainer. The high school needs to be renovated so the $5.3 million needs to be spent to do it.
Except the $5.3 million isn't for renovating what needs to be fixed. It's about building a new technology center. Usually it's a good idea not to comment if you don't know what you're talking about.
Administration looked like the supremely arrogant fools that they are when they marched into Appropriations Committee last night and acted like they did during SC mtg when the mayor's cabal presented the $5.3 million project as if it was a slamdunk that deserved nothing more than King Rob's wave of his scepter (SC apparently had never seen it before their meeting either). They didn't even have all of the latest revisions in whatever glossy garbage they expected the BOA to swallow and approve on the spot. Bird asked what kind of public process had led to the finality of this presentation, and of course the cabal had that deer in the headlights look and couldn't figure out what she was asking (meaning that there had obviously been no public process before coming up with this $5.3 million dollar boondoogle that was supposed to be a fete accompli with no accountability or appropriate review).
The plan was flimsy and leaves that cavernous space of the High School "Resource Center" with a lot of the millions going towards "movable furniture" and lots of other really questionable aspects. Boisselle asked a lot of good questions and some really dumb ones, like about eliminating all books from the library. (Apparently he's never had occasion to learn whether students or teachers in the serious institutions of learning still access real books. Dumb as dumb gets!)
Bird and Conn and Boisselle shut it down last night with a big fat NO after hours of questions and made it clear they did not appreciate having this thing shoved at them at 5:00 with the arrogant presumption that it would get a glowing vote, end of story. They voted to keep it in committee, meaning that BOA would not just rubberstamp a $5.3 Million Dollar Appropriation and pass it along for the "aggressive schedule" that Gaffey and Rob want and had expected to act on. Rob and Cyndy and the cabal made all kinds of unprofessional faces and comments next to the Free Press reporter when they didn't get their way. Good for BOA for holding it there (despite the nauseating BS from MB Crocodile Tears MM, or the meaningless twaddle from FW, GI, PM).
Margolis thinks that the kitchenette inclusion in the new design is "intriguing and acceptable". Such profound insight ! DEFEAT this hack!
When is the police station ever going to be replaced ?
This should be the top priority building project in the city.
I see comments about the difference between this being bonded rather than an override. From my perspective, the mechanism is irrelevant. Someone still has to pay for it, whether it's debt service or not, and bonding is actually more expensive than an override because of the interest costs.
Here's the bottom line - they're still, whichever way you present it, asking taxpayers to spend another $5.3 mil on the schools, over and above the 65% of the city budget that already goes there. I'm sorry, but the money tree in my yard has died.