Quincy City Council Approves Bond For New Animal Shelter

ARCHITECT’s rendering of the planned new Quincy Animal Shelter on Quarry Street, which will also house the Police Department’s K-9 unit and the city’s animal control officer. The City Council approved a $15 million bond for the project on Tuesday. Rendering courtesy city of Quincy.

By SCOTT JACKSON

City councillors on Tuesday gave their approval to a $15 million bond to pay for the construction of a new building on Quarry Street that will provide a new home for the Quincy Animal Shelter, the city’s animal control officer, and the Police Department’s K-9 unit.

Councillors approved the bond in a 7-1 vote on Tuesday, one week after passing it out of finance committee. Councillor Anne Mahoney voted against the request and Councillor Nina Liang was not in attendance for the meeting.

Shortly before the vote, Council President Noel DiBona thanked supporters of the animal shelter – a dozen of whom were present that evening – for their efforts.

“I want to thank all the animal shelter folks who came out tonight – thank you for all the emails that have come through to me over the last few weeks. I appreciate all your support of it,” DiBona said.

“This is a long overdue process and…hopefully we can move forward and get this thing built. I just want to thank you for all your time and energy you put into not only the animals but for the city of Quincy.”

City councillors in 2017 approved a $3.55 million bond for the project, half of the money Mayor Thomas Koch was seeking at the time. Ward 4 Brian Palmucci made the motion to cut the bond in half, expressing concern over fully funding the project before the design was complete and about the size of the building, which he likened to the Taj Mahal.

After the $15 million passed on Tuesday evening, Palmucci said he was sorry the project has taken so long to get going.

“If I had known then what I know now, we would have got the Taj Mahdog that was presented that night. I’m very sorry that there has been such a delay, but [I’m] glad to see that it’s going through now,” Palmucci said.

Mahoney did not comment on the request during Tuesday’s meeting but did express concern about the cost of the building during the previous committee hearing. At that hearing on June 15, she noted the town of Milton had asked the architect – the same firm that designed the new facility in Quincy – to go back to the drawing board to try to reduce costs on an animal shelter proposed in that town.

“You are doing that for the town of Milton. You’re not being asked to do that for the city of Quincy,” Mahoney said. “I think this council needs to ask you to go back and do that. You need to tighten your belt and come back with something we can afford to do.”

ENTRANCE of the planned new Quincy Animal Shelter on Quarry Street. The building is “nestled” into the hillside in order to save on site costs, according to the building’s architect. Rendering courtesy city of Quincy.

The new Quincy Animal Shelter will be located at 99 Quarry St., adjacent to the city’s dog park, and will replace the current animal shelter on Broad Street, where the city is building a new public safety headquarters.

At the June 15 hearing, Sandra Sines, the president of the Quincy Animal Shelter, said the city’s residents and animals would both be well-served by the new facility.

“Since we began in 1999, the city of Quincy has changed in so many positive ways,” she said. “The residents of the city of Quincy and the animals we serve deserve this new shelter. The Quarry Street shelter will allow us to continue our work and support the community for generations to come.”

The new building on Quarry Street will contain about 14,900 square feet of space, down from the initial 21,000-square-foot facility that was presented in 2017. The building will have capacity for 84 animals when it opens: 30 cats and 8 dogs ready for adoption, 32 cats and 11 dogs not ready for adoption, and 3 of the Police Department’s canines at a given time. Each animal-holding area will have its own exercise yard for those animals.

The building will include a reception area, interview rooms where residents looking to adopt a pet can meet with shelter staff, and support areas, such as space for food preparation and bowl cleaning, laundry and administrative offices. It will also have space for sheltering the pets of evacuees.

The building will feature a clinic on site with an exam room – to be used by both the shelter and animal control – a treatment area, a surgery prep room, and a single room for spaying, neutering and surgery. The 2017 proposal had a larger on-site clinic than what is now included in the plan.

The city plans to go to bid for the building over the summer and begin construction in late September. It should be substantially complete in November 2023 and ready for occupancy in January 2024.

The $15 million bond includes $13.95 million for construction costs, $100,000 each for fees to utility companies, materials testing and geo-tech, and furnishings, plus $750,000 for contingencies. The $3.55 million bond approved in 2017 was used to complete the design of the project and also paid for site work.

Before the Quincy Animal Shelter can move into the new building, it will relocate to a temporary home on East Squantum Street, which Paul Hines, the city’s commissioner of public buildings, told councillors on June 15 is being renovated at a cost of $1 million. Those costs are being paid for with relocation funds included in one of the bonds for the public safety building, he said.

Workers in the Public Buildings Department will move into the facility on East Squantum Street once the shelter moves out, Hines said. They are currently based out of North Quincy High School.

In a separate 7-1 vote on Tuesday, councillors approved using eminent domain to acquire a leasehold interest in the building on East Squantum Street and 2.7 acres of nearby land. Hines on June 15 said the agreed-to fee for the taking is $150,000.

Quincy Public Schools EDI Director Hired

By SCOTT JACKSON

An administrator from the Boston Public Schools has been named the new director of equity, diversity and inclusion for the Quincy Public Schools.

Supt. Kevin Mulvey announced the hiring of the new EDI director on June 10 amid a flurry of personnel moves, which will also see the city’s two high schools welcome new principals. The hires are effective as of July 1, he said.

“Please join me in congratulating these administrators on their new roles in Quincy Public Schools beginning July 1,” Mulvey wrote in a message to the community. “Each of the principals will have the opportunity to meet with the school staff before the end of the school year and will meet with their school communities prior to the opening of school.”

Kim Ngo Connolly

Kim Ngo Connolly was hired as the district’s director of equity, diversity and inclusion. She previously worked for the Boston Public Schools, most recently as the director of recruitment, cultivation and diversity programs. She holds a bachelor of arts degree from Boston University and an MBA from Babson College.

Mulvey announced plans to hire an equity, diversity and inclusion director in December, after students at the city’s two high schools walked out of class to protest racism and hate speech. The new director will serve on the superintendent’s leadership team.

Approximately 15 candidates applied for the EDI director’s position, Mulvey said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon. A panel consisting of two parents, the president of the Quincy Education Association, and members of the superintendent’s leadership team interviewed the candidates, Mulvey said, and he conducted interviews with the finalists.

Connolly was chosen because of her experience as the Boston Public Schools’ director of recruitment, cultivation and diversity programs – which involved equity, diversity and inclusion work in grades K to 12 – and because her previous job in the BPS was focused on social and emotional learning, another priority for the Quincy Public Schools, Mulvey said.

Connolly will make $120,000 in her new position as the EDI director. The position will be funded with ESSER money allocated to the school district by the federal government.

In addition to the new EDI director, Mulvey also said on June 10 that Lawrence Taglieri would serve as the district’s director of academic programs. Taglieri has spent the past nine years as the principal at Quincy High School and was previously principal at Broad Meadows Middle School for eight years.

In his new role, Taglieri will join the curriculum team at the Coddington Building where he will work with Senior Curriculum Director Madeline Roy on the administration of the Art, Instrumental Music & Choral, Physical & Health Education, Technology Engineering, and Library/Media programs for grades K through 12, Mulvey said in his announcement.

In the phone interview, Mulvey said Taglieri’s new salary would be likely be similar to what he was making as the principal at Quincy High School, between $135,000 and $140,000. Like the EDI director, the director of academic programs is a new position that will be funded with ESSER money.

Keith Ford will replace Taglieri as the principal at Quincy High School. Ford is completing his first year as the principal at North Quincy High School and was previously the assistant principal at Needham High School for five years.

Daniel Gilbert has been named the new principal at North Quincy High School. He has been the principal at Broad Meadows Middle School for nine years and had been the principal at the Snug Harbor Community School for five years.

Michael Marani will become the next principal at Broad Meadows. He has been principal at Snug Harbor for five years after four years there as the assistant principal.

Courtney Mitchell has been named the principal at South-West Middle School. She has spent the past two and a half years as the principal at the Merrymount Elementary School and was the assistant principal at the former Sterling Middle School – which South-West replaced – for five and a half years.

Janet Loftus was named the principal at the Lincoln-Hancock Community School. She returned to the school in February after three years as principal at the Beechwood Knoll Elementary School. She was previously the assistant principal at Lincoln-Hancock for five years.

Marisa Forrester will serve as the new principal at Beechwood Knoll. She was named acting principal there in February and previously was the district’s coordinator of data and an elementary school teacher for eight years.

Susan Shea Connor has been named the acting principal at Merrymount. She has been an elementary school teacher and administrator in the district for eight years.

Scott Perfetuo has been named acting principal at Snug Harbor. He has been the assistant principal at the Parker Elementary School for ten years and a teacher in the district for more than 20.

Russell Park To Close For Two Months

By SCOTT JACKSON

Part of a Quincy Center roadway will be closed for two months this summer as work continues on a pair of nearby developments.

A portion of Russell Park will be closed starting on June 27 through approximately Sept. 2, the developer, FoxRock Properties, announced in a message to the community.

“We evaluated the possibility of keeping a portion of the street open to thru traffic, but it would have resulted in numerous changes to the traffic pattern over the course of the summer, which would be less safe and create other issues such as an increased roadwork duration by approximately 50 percent,” the company wrote.

“The street closure will allow our team to safely move between the two buildings, perform utility work in the street and make traffic improvements to the road without intermittent shutdowns and closures. It will also significantly reduce non-local traffic down Russell Park. We currently anticipate that this will be the only time this type of prolonged closure will be necessary.”

The street will be closed between roughly 18 Russell Park and Hancock Street, the developer said. Vehicles traveling toward Hancock Street on Russell Park (westbound) will perform a U-turn where the median currently breaks. Vehicles traveling from Hancock Street will need to use Whitney Road or alternate routes to access Russell Park.

The road closure is related to FoxRock’s ongoing work at 1170 Hancock St. and 1200 Hancock St., which are located on either side of Russell Park. FoxRock has dubbed the two developments Center & Stone.

The company plans to restore the two-story main entrance to the Masonic Temple building at 1170 Hancock St. and create a six-story addition in the rear. The existing part of the building will house a restaurant and 66 apartments will be located in the new addition.

The Masonic Temple was originally built in 1926, according to the city’s online property records. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1989. The rear portion of the building was gutted by a four-alarm fire in 2013.

The property at 1200 Hancock St. was formerly home to a Citizens Bank branch, which was demolished earlier this spring. In its place, FoxRock will construct a six-story building with 135 apartments and 3,700 square feet of retail space.

The former Citizens Bank building was constructed in 1974. It had been home to the Quincy Savings Bank before the company was acquired by Citizens Bank.

A total of 234 parking spaces are included in FoxRock’s plans for the two sites on Hancock Street.

The work at 1170 Hancock St. is slated for completion in the fall of 2023, the company said in its update, and the whole project will be finished by early 2024.

QC Nursing Students Eligible For On-Campus Housing At ENC

In a unique partnership between Quincy College and neighboring Eastern Nazarene College (ENC), a limited number of students enrolling in Quincy College’ s nursing programs for the 2022-23 academic year will be eligible to live in a dedicated housing area on the ENC campus.

The announcement was made June 9 in a Quincy College press release.

Up to 40 Quincy College nursing students will be able to apply for ENC housing (and flexible meal-plan options) at rates well below rental housing costs in the region. ENC has set aside a private-access floor in the historic Munro Hall for Quincy College nursing students; ENC will also provide them with access to ENC campus parking, the Nease Library and exclusive access to a study lounge. Quincy College will provide limited free shuttle service covering the two miles between its downtown Presidents’ Place location and ENC’s Wollaston campus.

“This is a partnership that will strengthen both of our hometown colleges,” said Quincy College President Dr. Richard Decristofaro. “The opportunity for our nursing students to experience residential life in a safe, convenient and affordable environment while earning their nursing degree will strengthen connections to their fellow students as well as to the Quincy community. And we envision that the availability of housing will appeal to potential students from outside our area who may not otherwise have considered Quincy College for their nursing education.”

“Partnering with Quincy College is not new to us,” said Eastern Nazarene College President Dr. Jack Connell, citing an existing athletic collaboration that has featured Quincy College’s men’s basketball team playing occasional home games at ENC’s Lahue Physical Education Center. “But advancing our partnership to a higher level in order to benefit Quincy College’s nursing students gives us particular satisfaction. We know the benefits they’ll enjoy from a living-learning experience and we look forward to welcoming them to campus this fall.”

Students currently enrolled or applying for acceptance into Quincy College’s ten-month Practical Nursing certificate program or two-year Associate in Science in Nursing degree program are eligible to be considered for the ENC on-campus housing program. Those interested should visit www.quincycollege.edu/ housing for more information.

Restaurant To Replace Quincy Center Bar

By SCOTT JACKSON

A local restaurateur plans to convert a long-time Quincy Center barroom into a new restaurant specializing in pub fare.

The Board of License Commissioners on Tuesday approved the transfer of the all-alcohol license held by Tully’s Café to the new restaurant, Kilroy’s on the Square, which will move into the former home of Tully’s at 24 Cottage Ave.

Kerri Delaney, who runs the nearby restaurant 16C, will be the manager of the new restaurant. She is in the process of renovating the space at 24 Cottage Ave to add a kitchen.

“We are pretty much doing the whole thing over because we’re going to put a very small kitchen in with a very limited menu – more pub food as opposed to 16C, which is more entrees,” she said.

The new restaurant will be open for lunch and dinner, she added, and will stay open until 1 a.m. seven days a week.

There is no opening date yet for Kilroy’s on the Square with the renovations still ongoing, Delaney said.

The board members approved the transfer of the liquor license in a unanimous vote.

“If it is half as good as 16C, it will be a success,” said Police Chief Paul Keenan. “You run an excellent business.”

“Good luck,” added City Clerk Nicole Crispo, the board’s chairperson. “I’m sure it will be wonderful.”

In other business on Tuesday, the board:

Granted a special-use permit and one-day beer and wine license to the Thomas Crane Public Library for its After Hours at the Crane: The Jazz Age event scheduled for June 17 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

Approved the transfer of the all-alcohol license held by Presidential Pub, 29 Temple St., to a new ownership group led by manager Harvey Guilbault. Guilbault said he’s not planning to make any changes to the barroom, other than cleaning it up a bit.

Approved the transfer of the retail beer and wine license presently held by Quincy Market, 33 Washington St., to a new ownership group led by manager Hugh MacDonnell. The store could open in mid-July. A Marylou’s Coffee store will operate at that location as well.

Approved the transfer of the retail all-alcohol license held by 2030 Ocean St. LLC to Bhudevi Inc. d/b/a Wine & Market. The license is for a planned store at 67 Billings Rd. The board had granted the license to the former license holder in January for the same location.

Granted one-day liquor licenses to Heritage Sports Ventures for New England Free Jacks playoff games at Veterans’ Memorial Stadium on June 19, 25 and 26.

MA Dept. Of Public Health Offers Summer Safety Guidance

With summer weather approaching, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) reminds residents to take recommended precautions to keep everyone, especially young children, safe this summer.

Prevent Tick Bites

Ticks can make you sick when they bite. They most commonly live in grassy, brushy, or wooded areas. Ticks only attach when you come into direct contact with them — they cannot jump or fly. Follow these steps to help protect yourself from tick bites:

  • Check yourself for ticks once a day — it’s the single most important thing you can do.
  • Use repellents that contain DEET on your exposed skin and those that contain permethrin on your clothes.
  • When walking or hiking, stick to main pathways and the center of trails if you can. Brushing against tall grass and bushes will increase your exposure to ticks.
  • Weather permitting, wear long-sleeved, light-colored shirts and long pants tucked into socks. This will help keep ticks away from your skin and make it easier to spot ticks on your clothing.

Because dogs and horses are particularly susceptible, talk to your veterinarian about the best ways to protect your animals from tick-borne disease.

Prevent Mosquito Bites

Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE) was not detected during the 2021 arbovirus season in Massachusetts. This followed the 2019-2020 seasons during which intense activity was detected. EEE appears generally in 2- to 3-year cycles, traditionally peaking during August. The absence of EEE last year, may signal a lower likelihood of activity this year. There were 10 people infected with West Nile virus (WNV) during 2021 and WNV activity occurs every summer. Mosquito surveillance is essential to monitor activity as the summer unfolds and updates about activity are posted throughout the season at https://www.mass.gov/info-details/massachusetts-arbovirus-update.

While the risk for human infection of EEE or West Nile Virus won’t occur until later this summer, people have an important role to play in protecting themselves from these illnesses, which can be very serious. To prepare for mosquito season:

  • Drain standing water in and around your house or yard to prevent mosquito breeding.
  • Repair window and door screens to keep mosquitoes out of your home.
  • Use a mosquito repellent with an EPA-registered ingredient according to the directions.
  • Wear clothing to reduce exposed skin when weather permits.

For more about preventing mosquito and tickborne illness, visit www.mass.gov/mosquitoesandticks.

Water and Pool Safety

Drowning is a leading cause of death among young children, nationally and in Massachusetts, with backyard pools posing the highest risk for children under age 5. To ensure a child’s safety around water:

  • Supervise children in and around water at all times.
  • Whenever infants and toddlers are in or around water, including the bathtub, an adult should be within an arm’s length at all times providing “touch supervision.”
  • Completely separate the house and play area of the yard from the pool area with a fence. Consider automatic door locks or alarms to prevent access.
  • Remove floats, balls, and other toys from the pool after use so children are not tempted to reach for them. After children are done swimming, secure the pool so they cannot get back in.
  • Keep rescue equipment (such as a shepherd’s hook or life preserver) and a phone near the pool.
  • For children who cannot swim, use a properly fitted U.S. Coast Guard-approved life jacket. This video, created by DPH in cooperation with the USCG, can assist with proper fit testing of life jackets: https://youtu.be/1I3VZf-NqPc.
  • Do not use toys such as “water wings” or “noodles” in place of life jackets. These are not designed to keep swimmers safe.

In public swimming areas:

  • Select swimming sites that have lifeguards whenever possible, and swim only in designated swimming areas.
  • Always swim with a buddy.
  • Look for signage at beaches. DPH collects beach water quality data and notifies the public about bacteria levels to minimize swimming-associated illness and injury.

Window Safety

Falls are the leading cause of injury to children. Falls from windows involving young children are especially serious — and preventable. Screens are not strong enough to protect children from falling out of windows. To prevent window falls, parents and caregivers should:

  • Keep furniture — and anything a child can climb on — away from windows.
  • Open windows from the top, not the bottom, when possible and lock all unopened doors and windows.
  • Be sure children are always supervised.
  • Install quick-release window guards, which can be found in most hardware stores.

To learn about childhood injury prevention, visit the DPH injury prevention and control program website.

Additional tips on preventing falls among children can be found on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fall prevention website.

Car Safety

Vehicles can be very dangerous for children and animals left inside. In the summer months in New England, the temperature in a closed car can rise quickly, and the vehicle can become a deadly place for a child or animal left, even for just a moment.

To keep young children and animals safe in and around cars:

  • Never leave children or animals alone in a parked vehicle, even when they are asleep or restrained, and even if the windows are open.
  • Always check inside the vehicle — front and back — before locking the door and walking away.
  • If a child is missing, check your vehicle first, including the trunk.
  • Do things to remind yourself that a child or animal is in the vehicle, such as placing your purse or briefcase in the back seat so you will check there when you leave the vehicle.
  • Always lock your car and keep the keys out of children’s reach.
  • Ensure adequate supervision when children are playing in areas near parked motor vehicles.

If you see a child or animal alone in a hot vehicle, call the police. If they are in distress due to heat, get them out as quickly as possible and call 911 immediately.

Remember, all children ages 12 and under should ride in the back seat, properly restrained, even during quick errand trips. Infants and toddlers should remain in rear-facing car seats until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car safety seat manufacturer. At a minimum, children should ride rear-facing until they are at least 1 year old and weigh at least 20 pounds. You can find more information on child passenger safety on the DPH website.

City Commissioning New Abigail Adams Statue For Hancock-Adams Common

Mayor Thomas P. Koch announced this week that the city will shift gears in its planning and will commission a new statue of Abigail Adams to be placed on the Hancock-Adams Common.

The mayor said creating a place of prominence to honor Abigail and her role as a defining voice of the Revolutionary Era has been through a number of iterations over the years as new public spaces in the downtown have taken shape. Most recently, Koch discussed dedicating a proposed performing arts center in the southern area of downtown for both Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams, first lady to John Quincy Adams.

But he said listening to recent dialogue about Abigail’s absence from the current Hancock-Adams Common prompted him to reconsider the City’s plans. Last week, the mayor met with a group of residents leading the recent advocacy efforts for Abigail to be incorporated into the Common, which opened to the public in 2018.

“I listened, gave it a lot of thought, and really had a great discussion with the group. The bottom line is the arguments I’ve heard are right. That Abigail’s been part of our planning is not good enough.  She’s not there now, and she belongs on the Common near her husband. There is not a marriage that, as a couple, has had a greater influence on who we are as a people than John and Abigail Adams, and the Common is absolutely the right place for both of their contributions to be recognized,” Koch said.

Sergey Eylanbekov, the same renown sculptor responsible for the John Adams and John Hancock statues on the Common, will create a statue of Abigail on the same scale as his existing sculptures, and an area of the park will be redesigned for her to be placed along with the interpretive artwork detailing her legacy. Eylanbekov is already under contract with the City, and has the historic material and images necessary from existing plans for an Abigail statue.

Because the framework is largely in place and Eylanbekov is not starting from scratch, Koch said he is hopeful that the new Abigail statue will be ready for a fall dedication.  He noted that timeline is contingent on avoiding major supply chain hiccups. The planning pivot will only require reprogramming of existing funding sources, the mayor’s office said.

The original statue commission for the Hancock-Adams Common dating back nearly a decade contemplated an Abigail Adams statue, with its placement coming in a second phase to be finalized when redevelopment plans for the Quincy Center MBTA station and its connection to the Common became clearer. In the meantime, a pair of existing statues, one of John Adams and one of Abigail with a young John Quincy, commissioned by local business leaders in the Quincy Partnership, were incorporated into the design of the Common’s first phase.

The Partnership asked that those statues, created by Boston sculptor Lloyd Lillie, be eliminated from the park design and be located in a place of prominence of their own.  After several years pursuing locations not overseen by the City, the Partnership requested that the statues be placed on the Adams Walk of Upper Merrymount Park, part of a sprawling, centralized open space complex donated to the City by Charles Francis Adams. The statues are anticipated to be installed this year.

As the first concepts for a major theater and performing arts center in the downtown started to take shape, Mayor Koch eyed the location of the existing glass City Hall building for that facility and for the monuments for Abigail and Louisa Catherine Adams to be included there.  When plans for the performing arts center shifted further south down Hancock Street, so did the plans for honoring the First Ladies.

Koch said the various intricacies of downtown redevelopment and long-term planning can’t replace what people see with their own eyes.

“Here we have this wonderful new public space, befitting of the national monuments in Washington, honoring our founders. But there is no representation right now of very likely the most important woman of her generation, whose actions and words continue to hold great influence even today,” the mayor said. “Good intentions and planning for the long-term are fine, but I’m truly grateful for the perspectives shared with me and very happy to be moving forward immediately with a beautiful sculpture of Abigail on the Common.”

The City is also in the beginning stages of planning monuments in the downtown for John Quincy and Louisa Catherine Adams.

Bronze statues of John Hancock (left) and John Adams (right) will be joined by a new statue of Abigail Adams on the Hancock-Adams Common in Quincy Center. The new Abigail statue commissioned by the city will be created by Sergey Eylanbekov, the same renown sculptor responsible for the Adams and Hancock statues that bookend the park near City Hall and United First Parish Church. Quincy Sun Photos/Robert Bosworth

 

 

Quincy Votes! Group Aims To Increase Turnout, Civic Engagement; Announce Logo Contest

QUINCY VOTES! co-founders Maggie McKee (left) and Liz Speakman (right) say the newly formed group will strive to increase civic engagement and turnout in future local elections and has five working groups: voter education and engagement, voter registration, community building, data, and youth. Quincy Votes! is non-partisan and will not be endorsing candidates in future campaigns, the founders said. Quincy Sun Photo/Robert Bosworth

By SCOTT JACKSON

Last fall, fewer than 17 percent of Quincy’s registered voters went to the polls in a municipal election that included contested City Council and School Committee races. A new group formed following the election hopes to change that.

Liz Speakman, who ran for School Committee last year, and Maggie McKee, a volunteer on Speakman’s and other campaigns, formed the group Quincy Votes! following the November 2021 election in which 16.9 percent of registered voters cast ballots. The group, which is non-partisan and will not be endorsing candidates in future campaigns, was established to help increase engagement and turnout in future elections.

“I was just kind of heartsick when I saw how few people were voting in this municipal election,” McKee recalled in a recent interview. “I was trying to post on social media – Facebook and stuff – to be like, ‘OK, this is today, this is voting day, this is preliminary day,’ and a lot of people didn’t know about it and to find out fewer than 17 percent of people turned out – I was watching the results come in and I was like ‘no!’

“Whoever they vote for, we both just want people to be more engaged in the process and following local news and stuff.”

“I moved here in 2009 and for the first few years really didn’t know anything about Quincy, didn’t really follow local politics. I was just sort of commuting to work,” McKee continued.

“Thanks to The Quincy Sun and other groups that I’ve gotten involved with, I’m starting to understand more about the city, and I think we just felt like this was really needed – some way of engaging more people in the process of voting and just paying attention, and also just community building.”

While she was on the campaign trail last year, Speakman said she learned many residents aren’t tuned into what is happening locally.

“When I was running for School Committee, similar to Maggie I learned how many people just didn’t know what was happening locally whether it was Cleaner, Greener cleanup days or the City Council meetings that were happening that people could watch virtually. I think a lot of parents got more involved in School Committee and watching those meetings when COVID hit and paying attention to decisions that we’re being made,” Speakman said.

“But, it feels like there is a small group in Quincy who know everything about what’s going on and then a big group in Quincy who know almost nothing about what’s going on locally. We really want to expand that and figure out ways to not only let people know about what’s happening locally in terms of civic engagement but also get them excited about participating and feel like they have ownership and they can make a difference in their community.”

“I don’t think it’s just Quincy that a lot people just feel like their vote doesn’t matter, their voice doesn’t matter, politics is useless to get involved in,” Speakman added. “[We’re] really wanting to shift that narrative and have people feel like it does matter when you write a letter to the editor or you write a letter for open forum to a meeting or you run a campaign.”

When asked why people might not vote in a local election, based on her experience last year, Speakman said even some regular voters were unfamiliar with the School Committee, its members, and who was running in the election, while other residents felt their vote did not matter.

“My campaign had access to the voter database and so we primarily knocked on doors of people who were regular voters. Even those folks who vote like every time in a municipal election didn’t know really what the function of School Committee was, and they didn’t know who was running, they didn’t know how long the terms were, they didn’t know who the incumbents were. So even among regular voters, there was just a real lack of information about the specifics,” Speakman said.

“A lot of people know the mayor and they know what the mayor does and they know what that function is and follow along, but almost every other elected office or even appointed office people just didn’t really know much about it.”

“When we were out sign holding…and out at community events talking to a lot of people who don’t vote, they really felt like they either didn’t know enough to make an informed decision about voting or they really felt like it didn’t matter – that there is power that exists in the city, and again, I don’t think it is unique to Quincy, but there is power that exists in Quincy and there is no way to change that, so they sort of disconnect and disengage,” Speakman continued.

“We were really trying to, with my campaign and then with this group, show people that it does matter. There are a lot of people that I talk to who are much more engaged on the state level or national level who feel strongly about big issues that are happening nationally – the presidential election or the governor’s race – and those are the people I really tried to engage locally and say you’re doing all this stuff on a bigger level, this is amazing, we need you here in Quincy too. We need your voice in Quincy, we need your expertise, your skills, your interests, your knowledge in Quincy.”

Following the election, Speakman said she posted on the Facebook page for Quincy For Transformative Change, asking if anyone would like to get together to talk about ways to boost voter turnout and engagement. About 50 people came to a meeting in early December at the Wollaston Congregational Church, the first meeting of Quincy Votes!

McKee said Quincy Votes! has formed five working groups: Voter education and engagement, voter registration, community building, data, and youth. Each of those groups is working to address that particular topic.

The voter education and engagement working group, for example, is compiling information explaining what the City Council and School Committee do. The working group is also reaching out to underrepresented communities and explaining how residents can register to vote in future elections.

Quincy Votes! has grown since December and there are now 110 members signed up for its email list, McKee said.

“We’re still growing, but having been involved in a couple of other environmental groups, I’m really impressed about how passionate people are, really excited to work on these things,” she said.

“Between meetings people are working in the working groups and then give us updates at the bigger meetings,” Speakman added. “I’m so impressed with the amount of work all these volunteers are wanting to do. I feel like there has been this energy and excitement to do something and there just needed to be a structure around it.”

Speakman said that while she and McKee cofounded the group, it has been a team effort.

“We’re not leading it. We’re behind the scenes saying what do you need from us,” Speakman said. “One of our members put together a Discord server so we could all communicate. Another member put together a calendar that has all the city meetings and community meetings that are happening in the next several months so people can access that.

“We are basically saying what do you need from us from a technical standpoint or resources or whatever to help you actualize the ideas that you have. So much of the activism I’ve seen in Quincy has been on Facebook and I feel like it didn’t translate in the election. There is a lot of active people on Facebook that aren’t necessarily voting so my hope, and I’ve been saying this at every meeting, is we need to not just be on Facebook. Certainly some being on Facebook is helpful to get information out, but we need to be in the community talking to people where they are at.”

Quincy Votes! has been meeting on the first Saturday of each month and will meet virtually this Saturday, March 5. McKee said residents looking to join Quincy Votes! can email quincyvotes@gmail.com for more information.

In future elections, McKee said Quincy Votes! plans to put together voter guides, explaining candidates’ positions on particular issues; she had done something similar ahead of last year’s School Committee race, posting them on social media.

The group could also potentially host a candidates night in the future as well, Speakman added.

One thing Quincy Votes! will not do is endorse is candidates.

“We’re not going to endorse candidates,” Speakman said, adding that she would step aside from the organization should she run for office again.

“This group is purely civic engagement, getting people aware of what’s happening in the city, how they can get involved. If they find a candidate that they love, we want them to feel like they know how to help whoever that candidate is, how to get involved, but we are not going to say, ‘you know who you need to support is this person.’ That is not our goal.

“Personally, yes, I am going to support different people and I am going to volunteer and do different things, but that is not the role of Quincy Votes! But we want people to feel like they do know how to plug in if they do decide there is a candidate or campaign or ballot question or something they are excited about.”

Quincy Votes! is also holding a logo design contest.

All high school and colleges students in or from Quincy are invited to design a logo for the new group. The top three designs will win cash prizes, and the winning design will become the group’s new log.

First place will receive $250, second place $100 and third place $50.

The community, including Quincy Votes! members, will vote on the designs, taking into consideration how well the entries represent the group’s goal of encouraging civic engagement in the city of Quincy.

Entries must be original and, if chosen as the logo, must not be used for any other purpose (that is, the designer agrees to turn over the copyright to Quincy Votes!).

Specifications: 300 dpi in .jpg format, 6 x 6 inches in size, CYMK for settings. In additon to any color versions, those submitting entries should include a black and white version on a transparent background.

Entries must be submitted by April 15. Email entries to quincyvotes@gmail.com.

 

Local Group Aims To Open New Hospital In Quincy

By SCOTT JACKSON

A local group led by the former chief of surgery at the now-closed Quincy Medical Center hopes to open a new acute-care hospital within the city.

Steward Health Care, a for-profit company, closed most of the hospital on Whitwell Street in 2014. The company kept the emergency room on site open as a satellite facility of Carney Hospital through late 2020.  The closure made Quincy the largest city in Massachusetts without a hospital.

Dr. Tony Dragone, who recently turned 80, spent decades working at the hospital as surgeon, including as its chief of surgery from 1991 to 2000. In a recent interview, Dragone recalled being there Quincy Medical Center closed in 2014 and saying to himself, “this can’t be forever.”

In the interview, Dragone said he is now the head of a 14-person commission, dubbed the New Quincy Medical Center Commission, that has set out to construct a new hospital in Quincy. Dragone said he is undertaking the endeavor as a way to give back.

“I’m not looking to have a legacy here. I’m just looking to give something back that the hospital gave to me,” he said. “They gave me a life of fullness, happiness, prosperity and I am very gifted to have that in my life, really.”

The former hospital was a like family for the employees who worked there, he explained.

“I love the hospital. Quincy Medical Center itself is a unique place – it was a unique place. It is the alter ego, the other family, for many, many people who worked there,” Dragone said.

“It was like living with your friends and your mother and your father…We would just all sit down and talk. We were all friends…A friendship developed over the years, and I liked that. I liked that a lot.”

The group has had discussions with various stakeholders about opening a new hospital, Dragone said, including the state’s Department of Public Health. Before completing a determination of need analysis, an initial step in the permitting process, Dragone said the DPH asked the group to find a potential site where the hospital would be built.

“We’ve spoken to the Department of Public Health and discussed a determination of need. They have said to us, ‘Doctors, get the land and then come back and we will work out everything together,” he said.

“The DPH has been very comfortable with us. They’ve been very polite. We’ve had Zoom meetings with them,” Dragone added. “They said listen, we can’t do anything with the DON right now. You need l-a-n-d – land – purchased. Where’s it going to go?”

The group also has been promised up to $150 million to finance the project, Dragone added.

“We’ve got financing promised to us. The biggest issue right now, I will repeat, is the l-a-n-d,” he said. “That’s what is holding us back right now.”

The commission sought assistance from the public last month, asking residents for help finding a five-acre site in Quincy where a hospital could be built.

Dragone said the commission has identified two potential sites – one near Crown Colony and the other near Marina Bay – that fit the criteria. The Fore River Shipyard has also been suggested as a possible location. The commission plans to meet in the near future to begin reviewing those possibilities, Dragone said.

While the location of the potential new hospital is yet to be determined, Dragone already can already picture what it would look like.

“I have the building already in mind. I know exactly what I want. It’s going to be an ER, pediatrics to geriatrics,” he said, adding that the hospital would also have a maternity ward, like Quincy Medical Center once did.

“I want full-fledged acute-care hospital. I want an outpatient department also that can do many outpatient surgeries as they are today. I want an acute-care hospital, five or six floors. I’m looking for a 125-bed buildout.”

Dragone added that he would like to dedicate the lobby of the new hospital to his late wife, Carla.

The construction of the new building could take approximately a year and a half, he said, based on conversation he has had with people familiar with such projects.

The new hospital, a non-profit, would be overseen by a board of managers comprised of members of the Quincy community and Dr. Roberto Feliz would serve as the hospital’s CEO, Dragone said.

“There would be a director of the hospital – a CEO. This young man wants to be the CEO. He’s had a lot of experience with it. He’s board-certified in anesthesia, pain control, et cetera, and he has a business degree also,” Dragone said of Feliz.

“I have said to him, Roberto, I want you to be CEO. I have told him I would be there, I want a little small office. I will not get paid anything. I do want to teach. That’s what I want to do.

“I’m not getting paid. I don’t need it – I’ve gotten enough money over the years.”

FoxRock Removes Residential Units From Ross Lot Plans

By SCOTT JACKSON

FoxRock Properties no longer plans to include any residential units in its proposed development on the former Ross Lot in Quincy Center. The company will also no longer seek permission to construct a 20-story building on site.

In September, FoxRock went before the Planning Board with a proposal to construct a 150,000-square-foot office building, a 490-car garage, and the 20-story building containing 125 hotel rooms and 200 apartments.

At Wednesday’s Planning Board meeting, David Mahoney, the attorney representing FoxRock during the permitting process, withdrew the company’s request for a special permit to construct the 20-story building. Mahoney told the board the company would be removing the residential units from the project.

“There won’t be a residential component of the project any longer,” he said.

The company is still seeking a certificate of consistency for the overall project. Mahoney had sought a continuance of the public hearing on the certificate of consistency to December or January, allowing the developer time to revise its proposal for the site.

Board members, however, continued the public hearing on the certificate of consistency to Feb. 9. Gregory Galvin, the board’s vice chairman, said moving the hearing to February would give board members enough time to vet the latest proposal.

“It’s a significant project and if we get it right the first time, we won’t to keep continuing it,” he said.

Mahoney objected to the continuance to February.

“It’s not going to get approved in January, but it is very important to my client that it is heard in January for a variety of reasons,” he said.

FoxRock’s development would be located at 37R and 86 Parkingway, which is within the former Ross Lot in Quincy Center. The roughly triangular parcel – which is bounded by General Dunford Drive to the south, Granite Street to the north, General McConville Way to the east and the MBTA tracks to the west – contains 117,366 square feet of land and is located within the Quincy Center Zoning District-15, where buildings can be constructed 15 stories tall by-right and 20 stories high with a special permit.

FoxRock and Mayor Thomas Koch had negotiated a land disposition agreement, which the City Council approved in June 2019, allowing the company to acquire that portion of the Ross Lot from the city and to redevelop it. That LDA also allowed the company to buy out the city’s right of reverter at 114 Whitwell St., formerly home to Quincy Medical Center, freeing it up for a residential redevelopment. The developer agreed to pay the city $4.25 million as part of the pact.

FoxRock’s initial plans for the Ross Lot, as presented to the City Council in 2019, had called for the construction of 110 units of affordable or workforce housing on site.