Boston officials say they plan to go to court - and to state environmental officials - to try to overturn a decision by the Quincy Conservation Commission to reject plans for construction of a new bridge to Long Island, where Boston wants to build a new addiction treatment campus.
Boston health and construction officials, meanwhile, are racing to firm up plans for just what sort of facilities to put on Long Island to help grapple with a still growing opioid crisis in which they said Boston is now being flooded by residents of surrounding communities and states because Boston is where the services - and the drugs - are.
City officials spoke at a hearing chaired today by at-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George on the bridge.
They got only support from city councilors for Mayor Walsh's plans to spend an estimated $90 million replacing the bridge, shut four years ago, to connect to a new state-of-the-art treatment campus that could ultimately include everything from short-term drug detox programs to long-term residential treatment to help people not just kick their habits but get ready for life on the outside again.
City officials have set what they called an "aggressive" schedule to replace the bridge over two years - starting with bid solicitation next year and using most of the support piers that still remain from the old bridge.
The new bridge would have one lane in each direction, along with sidewalks and a system to treat rain runoff before it goes into the harbor. After Quincy vowed to ban trucks on the road leading to where the bridge used to be, Boston said portions of the 3,300-foot span would instead be built onshore and floated on barges to the site for construction.
But City Councilor Michael Flaherty criticized officials for not yet having specifics on what sort of services and buildings the island would have, how many people they would treat or, really, much of anything having to do with the island itself, rather than the bridge - save for an announcement to not use the island for a homeless shelter again.
"We're in a fight with Quincy," Flaherty said. "We're going to look pretty stupid if we can't even answer basic questions. ... We're just going to go 'hummina, hummina, hummina."
City Councilor Tim McCarthy (Hyde Park, Roslindale, Mattapan) said his counterparts in Quincy are looking at allocating $250,000 to fight the bridge, atop whatever they've already spent on legal bills.
Marty Martinez, Walsh's health and human services chief, acknowledged Flaherty's criticisms, but said he would rather spend the time to figure out a long-term plan that will truly help addicts become healthy. And designing that sort of complex, he said, is simply going to take some time, even with what he said was an "all hands on deck" approach in Boston city government to the problem - which he said has claimed he said 1,000 lives since 2013.
He said the city tomorrow will also Boston neighborhood associations and residents to submit their advice and concerns. And he said the city needs to be careful to design a center that can handle whatever future drug epidemics might hit us.
Boston Public Facilities Director Trisha Lyons said she hopes to have a study done by the end of this year on the state of the current buildings and facilities on the island - to see which ones can be re-used and which need to be bulldozed.
Martinez agreed to a request from Flaherty to try to gauge just how many people who now congregate at "Mass and Cass" - the methadone mile centered on the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard - come from which specific suburban towns. Martinez said he knows that more than half the addicts there now come from outside Boston, but Flaherty said he specifically wants to know how many come from Quincy and more specifically from Squantum and Hough's Neck, the two Quincy neighborhoods through which the road to the old Long Island Bridge goes.
Even as they talked about the ideas of creating a new model for addiction treatment, officials kept having to return to the issue of Quincy's opposition to the bridge - and possible ways to convince surrounding communities and even employers to help kick in for what is a regional problem.
Sue Sullivan, director of a business association in Newmarket Square, which has been particularly hard hit by the epidemic, said lived for seven years in Quincy on the road to the bridge when it was open and said there was absolutely no impact on her or her neighbors.
"It's sort of NIMBYism at its worse," especially because Boston is now paying to care for so many addicts from elsewhere, City Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain/West Roxbury) said.
City Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester) suggested an education campaign to show surrounding communities that a new regional center on Long Island would help their residents as much as Bostonians - because it's not just Bostonians flocking to Mass and Cass.
Martinez added that existing programs that continue to operate on the island - Camp Harborview and a b.Good farm - would remain. In response to a query from at-large Councilor Michelle Wu, he said city officials, at least right now, are not looking at any private development on the island.