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Local News

January 10, 2013

Council again mulls annex lease

SALEM — The lease of 120 Washington St., an issue that has stirred controversy in the past, will come before the City Council tonight.

Mayor Kim Driscoll hopes to sign a three-year lease of the City Hall Annex at 120 Washington St. To do so, she’ll need a two-thirds vote of the City Council, or eight councilors.

The board will convene for its first regular meeting of 2013 at 7 p.m. at City Hall, 93 Washington St.

The city has taken one-year extensions of its lease of 120 Washington St. after Driscoll’s proposal to sign a five-year deal with the building owner was rejected by the City Council. At the time, Driscoll said the five-year lease would save the city $42,000 per year.

The issue came to a boiling point in March 2011, when the council invoked a rule that blocked the mayor from addressing the council in support of the lease.

The annex, a stone’s throw from City Hall, has housed various city departments, including licensing, planning and community development, since 2001. The city’s initial, 10-year lease of the space expired in February 2011.

This fall, the city requested proposals for annex office space but received only one reply: RCG, the landlord of 120 Washington St. The request sought a 20,000- to 25,000-square-foot space located 700 feet or less from City Hall.

Signing the proposed three-year lease for 120 Washington St. would save the city $65,000 in rent and give officials time to find a new, long-term office space, Driscoll said.

City-owned land downtown, vacant court buildings on Federal Street or other properties could all be possibilities, she said.

“I don’t think anyone has a desire, myself included, to stay at 120 Washington St. long-term,” Driscoll said. “I’m proposing a three-year lease to (have time to) review all the possibilities. ... We do need to get moving on it — take advantage of savings while we explore alternatives.”

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