Another Go for Forest Park Middle School

This evening, the City Council will again take up a vote that would move forward long-in-the-works plans to expand and renovate the Forest Park Middle School.

The Council was supposed to vote on the matter at its meeting last Monday. But that vote was postponed by a controversial decision by Amaad Rivera, the newly sworn-in Ward 6 councilor, to invoke “Rule 20,” a measure that allows any single councilor to put off a vote until a financial report on the matter is produced. The project will necessitate the city taking several nearby properties by eminent domain, and Rivera has expressed concern that the owners of those properties will not receive fair compensation. He’s also charged that there haven’t been enough public meetings on the issue.

Rivera’s move caused an uproar in Forest Park, where many residents have been anxious for the $43.4 million school project to proceed, and in City Hall, where officials warned that a delay could cause the city to miss out on a 90 percent cost reimbursement from the state.

Adding fuel to the fire, Rivera did not appear at the annual meeting of the Forest Park Civic Association on Sunday, where the middle school project was the hot topic. Rivera, who had originally been expected to attend, reportedly had a commitment in Boston and instead sent a representative to the civic association meeting in his stead—a move that didn’t sit well with many who attended the meeting.

Rivera took office last month after the mid-term resignation of Keith Wright, who beat Rivera for the Ward 6 seat in the 2009 election. Rivera’s entry to the Council was marked by challenges to his residency. (In the end, the city’s Election Commission ruled that he does, indeed, live in the ward.) Already there have been rumblings from some unhappy constituents of an election recall effort; more likely than a recall—which can be a cumbersome and lengthy process—however, is the likelihood that critics of the new councilor will find an opposing candidate to back in this fall’s election.

But first things first: this evening, the councilors will again take up the middle school project, at a special meeting where they will vote on the land-takings and financial allocations. The meeting takes place today, Feb. 15, at 5 p.m. at City Hall.

Author: On Springfield

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