Nahant Special Town Meeting to decide Coast Guard housing borrowing

Nahant's Coast Guard housing. (Spenser Hasak)

NAHANT — Voters will decide whether to authorize the town to borrow up to $1 million to demolish 12 houses in the Coast Guard housing neighborhood at a Special Town Meeting.

In 2021, Town Meeting voted to approve the clearing of 12 town-owned properties lining Castle Road and Goddard Drive, known as the Coast Guard housing neighborhood. At the time, the demolition project was budgeted at $300,000.

In October 2022, the Board of Selectmen authorized Town Administrator Tony Barletta to begin the process of evicting Coast Guard housing residents. After putting the project out for bid, Barletta said the lowest bidder, American Environmental Inc., offered to undertake the demolition and hazardous-material removal of the nine currently-vacant units for $669,000.

Barletta listed rising inflation and unforeseen costs associated with clearing large subterranean oil tanks as reasons for the jump in cost. The $1 million estimate, he said, was based on an estimated cost of $70,000 to clear each house.

“We were wrong about what we estimated (in 2021),” Barletta said at last week’s Board of Selectmen meeting. “You probably don’t hear that often from the government, but it was a bad estimate in the sense that we couldn’t account for those market changes, and because those units had not been vacated at the time, we weren’t able to do the level of building materials assessment that we were able to accomplish earlier this year.”

The Town of Nahant purchased the Coast Guard housing land from the federal government in 2004. The town still owes $1.8 million, which is due by January, 2025, on a loan used to purchase the property, and plans to pay off the loan by selling the property.

With the ability to fund the demolitions, the Board of Selectmen wrote in a supporting statement, the town would be able to demolish and sell the standing properties and pay its loan on time.

“This borrowing article of up to $1 million allows the Town to continue towards selling properties in time to pay off the original loan. Even with the added borrowing, the Town projects to raise enough revenue through the sale of these properties and anticipated new growth to pay down this loan without any added cost to the residents of Nahant,” the Board of Selectmen wrote.

Barletta said that after reviewing the options available to rectify the project’s budget concerns, borrowing roughly $1 million through a Town Meeting vote was the most cost-effective. He said the choice also best fulfills the Town’s obligation to carry out a Town Meeting-approved project. The meeting is being held Tuesday, Sept. 12 at 7 p.m.

“We’re trying to carry out the wishes of Town Meeting from 2021,” Barletta said. “To me, this isn’t a pet project, it’s not a legacy project. It’s not a housing issue or an open space issue. This is a pivotal point in the town’s finances and it’s extremely important to how our finances are going to look in the future based on the decisions we make at this Town Meeting and the decisions we make surrounding this project.”

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