By SCOTT JACKSON
Councillor Anne Mahoney on Monday said she was disappointed with Mayor Thomas Koch’s plan to use federal pandemic relief funds to acquire the Munroe Building in Quincy Center and a nearby parking lot.
Mahoney also said the city might not be able to use money earmarked for the college for property acquisitions.
Koch on May 27 announced he would use $15 million in funds the city and Quincy College, which is municipally owned, will receive from the American Rescue Plan to purchase the Munroe Building at 1227 Hancock St. and the parking lot at 1177 Hancock St. The mayor said the city should acquire those two parcels while they are available and was optimistic the land could be used to provide a new home for the school in the future.
During Monday’s City Council meeting, Mahoney said she has heard from a number of residents – who have called her, emailed or stopped her in public – that are opposed to Koch’s plan to purchase those two properties with the pandemic relief funds.
“People are upset, and they don’t want the Munroe Building purchased for Quincy College. They are even more outraged at the thought that pandemic relief funds are being used to take another building of the tax rolls of the city of Quincy,” Mahoney said.
“I must agree with the outcry. I am personally disappointed by the mayor’s choice to use federal pandemic money to purchase the Munroe Building. I do not believe the American [Rescue] Plan is intended for use for purchasing buildings to take them off tax rolls.”
Koch had previously sought council approval to borrow money to buy the Munroe Building and the parking lot, Mahoney noted, but withdrew the request before a possible vote on the matter on May 17.
“Listening to the overwhelming voice of the Quincy constituents, I believe a majority of the City Council was really ready to vote and reject the appropriation that was put before us,” Mahoney said. “Yet, this administration just did not want to hear the word ‘no’ and they removed it from our ability to vote and now he is using pandemic money for the mayor’s vanity project.”
Mahoney also said that colleges and universities cannot use money they receive from the American Rescue Plan’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund for construction or purchase of real property. She encouraged residents to raise their concerns with the U.S. Department of Education’s inspector general.
“I think this is a misuse of pandemic relief funds,” Mahoney said.
“This no longer resides in the City Council, but I still feel it strong that I needed to speak about it. For the folks at home, for the people who stopped me, do not let the ARP funds for schools and students end up in the wrong hands. You asked what you needed to do – you can file a complaint online with the inspector general or call their hotline at 1-800-MISUSED.”
Chris Walker, Koch’s chief of staff, on Tuesday said the mayor’s plan to use the federal money for the land acquisitions had been vetted by outside auditors.
“The use of ARP funding for this purpose was fully vetted by the City’s independent auditors, so any claim to the contrary is at best mistaken and at worst purposely misleading to score cheap points,” Walker said in a statement.
“Site control for this parcel is critical to the future of the entire corridor so the City can determine its own destiny – as we have done multiple times in multiple areas when it comes to economic development in the downtown. If Mayor Koch listened to chronic naysayers who would oppose a 75-degree sunny day if he proposed it, the City would look a lot different today and not in a good way.”
The city received $46.3 million in aid from the American Rescue Plan. Quincy College will receive $10.7 million from the ARP, half of which must be set aside for the benefit of the school’s students.