Newton City Council unanimously voted to allocate over $11 million in available funding to improving city infrastructure and Newton Public Schools (NPS) at its meeting Monday night.
“Over 5 million is for roads, traffic calming, and you can go anywhere Newton and see that we need that,” Ward 2 Councilor David Micley said.
The item appropriates about half of its $11,475,000 sum to improving Newton roads, the police headquarters’ parking lot, and the heat pumps in Fire Station 2.
The other half will be devoted to improving various school facilities, including the air handling unit in the Newton North High School (NNHS) pool area, the bathrooms in various elementary and middle schools, and the roofs of two elementary schools, among others.
Ward 4 Councilor-at-Large Leonard Gentile noted that the investment in the NNHS air handling unit garnered a lot of attention from residents.
“I want to highlight there was a lot of attention paid to the air handling unit for the pool,” Gentile said. “We heard from a lot of folks that were concerned about that condition. So, glad to see that that was in there.”
Micley and Ward 7 Councilor-at-Large Becky Walker Grossman had abstained from voting on the item at their Finance Committee meeting on Jan. 22 due to the teachers’ strike occurring at the time.
“I did abstain and my reason was very simple—I did not feel comfortable approving this amount of an allocation from free cash when our kids were locked out of school … I’m thrilled that they’re back in school, I’m thrilled to support these investments in our infrastructure,” Grossman said.
Micley said he followed Grossman’s lead on the abstention due to the urgency of settling on the teachers’ contract. The teachers’ strike ended Feb. 2, and the union ratified the new contract on Sunday.
“The reason we have schools, the reason we have buildings, the reason we have roofs and all these things in the first place is for people to be learning in person together, teachers and students,” Micley said. “And as we were talking about all these issues with teacher pay, compensation, the needs of kids—it felt like we had to get that sorted before we sorted this.”
The council also approved the scheduling of a mayoral listening session regarding the FY25 budget and City Council priorities sometime before the end of the month. The session had initially been scheduled for Feb. 15.
“It is important if this is to work properly that we have an opportunity to have this listening session with the mayor in February, so the mayor and her team can do the appropriate budget planning before they present the budget in mid-April,” Ward 7 Councilor-at-Large Marc Laredo said.