The following is a press release from the Mayor’s office issued before 6:30 on Friday nght, April 12. It is responses from Mayor Yvonne Spicer and her team to the questions raised at the Counil on Aging meeting on Tuesday.
FRAMINGHAM – On Tuesday, Mayor Yvonne M. Spicer and her staff attended a packed meeting of the Council on Aging to hear from concerned Framingham residents regarding the potential decision to relocate the Department of Health to the Callahan Center on an interim basis.
Over the course of two hours, Mayor Spicer and her team heard comments and questions about the potential decision.
“I’d like to thank the residents of Framingham for their thoughtful input and questions,” said Mayor Yvonne Spicer. “I decided it was important to take in your feedback. I want to say that ‘I heard you.’ There has been no final decision made regarding the relocation of the Health Department, and my team continues to explore every option.”
As many of the comments and questions were not addressed in real time at the meeting, below are answers to the some of the comments/questions from Tuesday’s Council on Aging meeting.
Questions asked by Council on Aging meeting attendees:
- Will the proposed changes to the Callahan Center jeopardize future accreditation? The intent is not to disrupt programming or change the mission and purpose of the Callahan Center and therefore would not to jeopardize future accreditation. The intent of the potential decision was twofold – find an interim home for the Health Department and build synergy between the Callahan Center and the Health Department.
- Is the former Marian High School an option?
Unfortunately no. The building is not handicapped accessible. If the City used even a portion of the building, we would be obligated to make significant improvements to many areas to make it accessible. Additionally, the layout is configured as a school with large rooms and wide hallways, which would require the City to pay for large amounts of space that we do not need or use in a productive manner.
- What about the Perini Building?
Unfortunately, the only portion of the building that is available for the Health Department is not handicapped accessible. Currently there are 3,000 available square feet in the back of the building, and the rear entrance is not accessible. Moreover, the available office space cannot be accessed by going through the front of the building.
- How do you answer the people when we were all under the understanding that Callahan Center was given to the older adult population?
When the $1 million donation was given to assist in the purchase of the building for a senior center, there was a negotiation between the town leaders at the time and the contributor. The agreement, which is documented in the minutes of the Board of Selectmen meeting and voted at the Annual Town meeting it states that the Callahan Center would primarily be used as a senior center as a condition of the donation. However, the Town reserved its rights to have other uses in the building so long as it continued to be used primarily as a senior center. The Town/City has also invested several millions of dollars into the purchase of the building and has expended hundreds of thousands of dollars in the building’s ongoing maintenance, in addition the installation of a new roof and new HVAC system. Given that the amount of space being proposed to be used by the Health Department was only 11% of the total space, that the Health Department also provides services directly to older adults and that no programs were being eliminated as part of the move, the City determined that it met the requirements of the agreement.
- I don’t understand that if you have to put money into renovating space here and renovating permanent space. Isn’t that wasteful? Wouldn’t you be better find the permanent place first?
We agree that we want to spend our tax money wisely to solve the immediate issue of finding an interim home for the Health Department being dislocated due to the Fuller School Building
project, as we work to develop a comprehensive strategy for all of our City-owned buildings. Any improvements made to the Callahan Center to support the Health Department, such as improving the internet access in the building, would stay with the Callahan Center when the
Health Department was located to a new permanent location. This is why locating the Health Department in an existing municipal building was more desirable than leasing non-municipal space, as we would lose our investment when the Health Department would be moved to a more permanent space. Part of the vision of investing in a City-owned facility is that the investment was going to positively impact one of our own buildings.
- Can’t you work out something with the (Fuller School) construction company to start later?
The Fuller School Construction schedule is negotiated and agreed to not only with the contractor but also the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) that is contributing a significant portion of funding for the project. It would require renegotiating with the MSBA for new schedule. Given the complexity of doing so, the impact to getting the foundation work completed before next winter and the potential of exponential cost increases to delay the project, changing the Fuller School construction schedule is not feasible.
- Did we look at the Woodrow Wilson or Juniper Hill schools?
There is no space available.
- What about Nobscot chapel?
Through and RFP, it was awarded it to developer.
- What about the brick building in Nobscot Plaza?
The building is not for lease. Plus, the location is not readily available by public transportation.
- Has there been an impact assessment of the Health department moving in?
There was not a formal study.
- What is so sacred about leaving that school? Why can’t the Health department stay there?
The area where the Health Department is located at the Fuller School will become a construction zones in June, eliminating all parking and making it unsafe for employees or residents. Also, the other side of the school is not handicap accessible, and it would not be worth the expense to make any improvements on a building that is soon to be torn down.
- What about SMOC? They have multiple properties and are non-tax paying. Why can’t we talk with SMOC?
There is no available space.
- Did we reach out to MWRTA?
We did not. In previous visits to the MWRTA main building, it was obvious that they would have very limited, if any, amount of space for the Health Department.
- Can we put the Health Department in trailers or modular units?
We would have to find space to locate these trailers. The trailers would have to meet accessibility requirements and be connected to utilities such as water, sewer and electricity. All of this would create a more expensive option.
- Will you reimburse the monies raised by the heritage gift shop help fund the Callahan Center?
No. The funds raised by the Heritage Gift Shop are used for programs above and beyond those the City already funds through the annual budget. It is our understanding, the Heritage Gift shop was scheduled to be relocated. If the Health Department were to move into the Callahan Center, it would have accelerated the schedule. The City was prepared to make other improvements to the Callahan Center to make sure all current programs that were impacted by the Health Department would continue. The goal was to not eliminate any existing programs and to make improvements to the building to ensure any programs that were relocated within the building would continue.
- What about St. Stephen’s? It is a usable space. And it has a parking lot.
The space is currently rented to the Boys and Girls Club, and the second floor is not ADA compliant.
- What about Cushing Hospital?
The Parks and Recreation Division runs programs out of these spaces, it is not large enough and cost for fit up is extensive.
- You did not contact City Council or the Callahan. You should have started in December when you found out. Why didn’t you bring City Council and Callahan Center?
It wasn’t until a construction phase schedule for the Fuller School was determined that we confirmed a date for the Health Department’s departure from its current location. That schedule was accelerated when it was decided by the Fuller Building Construction Committee to use that space for the contractors during the construction of the new school. From that time, the administration started to look for options. There were several options considered, many of the same that have been raised by residents. The City vetted the various options and came to the determination that the only two viable options was either the Callahan Center or City Hall. Both were challenging, and it was determined that the Callahan Center was a better option and
would have the added benefit of creating additional health programs beneficial to older adults. There was a meeting involving several city staff that determined that the Callahan Center was the better option, and we were finalizing plans and intended to brief the Council on Aging and Callahan Center staff before letting the City Council know and announcing the decision publicly. In fact, the Mayor and her team were already scheduled to attend the Council on Aging meeting
when the issue went public.
- Have you assessed the infectious disease risk of mixing immuno-compromised population with people who are symptomatic?
The clinic operated by the Health Department is not an acute care site nor a doctor’s office. Clients of the health clinic are going there for a variety of public health nursing services and not for treatment of any infectious disease.
- What is the infectious disease risk?
The infectious disease risk for visitors of the Callahan Center is no difference than any other public space. Clients of the health clinic are going there for a variety of public health nursing services and not for treatment of any infectious disease.
- What about using Nevins Hall and setting it up with partitions for the Health Department?
This space already has programs and events scheduled, and the HIPPA law would be violated due to a lack of privacy and security. There are also building codes that would need to be met for converting the space as office space, creating additional costs to make this a viable option.
- What about 135 Newbury St. (next to Christa McAuliffe Charter School)?
Cost and procurement were prohibitive.
- What about a mobile health clinic that can travel to different parts of the City?
Cost and usability were prohibitive.