Westbay Community Action won’t be moving its offices from Buttonwoods Shopping Plaza into the former Randall Holden School this month as hoped, but depending how matters play out before the zoning board and the City Council the relocation could happen before the end of the year.
Westbay director Paul Salera remains confident Westbay is a good fit for the school and the neighborhood. He has not seen a lease, although the agency is moving forward with the plan as it is slated to appear before the Zoning Board of Review on Oct. 8 on a petition to use the school that is in a residentially zoned area.
Asked about a lease, Mayor Joseph Solomon noted Wednesday that a neighborhood meeting was held where concerns were raised.
“Those concerns have been incorporated into the proposed lease,” he said.
Solomon did not disclose the terms of the lease, saying that would come before the council but reassuring, “I can tell you this much; it will generate much more revenue than it’s generating now. And the expenses for carrying the building will be significantly diminished. It’s a positive for the taxpayer; it will be a positive for the taxpayer.”
As for the length of the lease, Salera said he suggested at the neighborhood meeting that it be for a couple of years so if there were issues the city could easily terminate the agreement.
“I think the timeframe, in the long range, if things were to work out between neighbors and occupants, can be as long as everyone is happy with the situation. In the short term, I think it’s a two- or three-year option on our side…That benefits both the community and the entity. Maybe the entity has second thoughts because it’s too big – we just want to make sure things mesh together properly and everyone is good neighbors,” the mayor said.
Solomon said the lease would hold a renewal clause.
Concerns the lease will address are a shelter for homeless and the distribution of medications or a health facility at the former school. Salera said there would be no overnight use of the offices and that the hours of operation are from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays. He said there would be no weekend use of the building. He said Westbay is not licensed to distribute medications and there is no plan to expand operations with a health center.
While Westbay’s current lease with Stop & Shop expires early next year, Salera does not foresee an issue remaining where it is in the short term.
The city has relocated three offices – personnel, MIS and community development – from the former Greene School to Holden. Greene School was hastily converted into municipal offices after a burst pipe forced closure of the Annex in January 2018. The remaining annex offices are now housed at the Buttonwoods Community Center.
Solomon said the city continues to hold talks with the Interlocal Risk Management Trust on a claim settlement over the annex.