Residents Question Town Hall-Bay State Commons Plan
Municipal building committee urged to explore other options.
Residents urged the committee Wednesday night to consider other options, such as moving town offices to other town-owned buildings while renovating town hall, perhaps in phases.
Six months ago, voters at the March 17 special town meeting rejected a proposed $22 million plan for town hall and Forbes Municipal Building renovations, as well as a new community center.
The municipal building committee held the meeting to get public input on the plan, which Town Manager Jim Malloy presented. The crowd was so large that the Forbes building meeting room divider was moved to accomodate it. A number of residents stood, even after that.
Committee Vice Chairman Bob Brown said his board had not voted on an option, and was "still wide open to other suggestions."
"We're going to take a careful look. It's going to be a long process," Brown said.
Malloy presented a plan for Westborough to lease about 17,499 square feet at Bay State Commons for 20 years; move the recreation department to the Forbes building, alleviating the need for a recreation center; and selling town hall.
This plan would cost Westborough $2,605,252 less over 20 years than "to renovate Town Hall and build a Recreation Center," according to a notice posted on the Westborough town website.
However, residents said using vacant space at town-owned buildings would save Westborough from paying rent. The town also would keep town hall, which, one resident said, would need a substantial investment to be brought up to the current building code.
"I think this is ridiculous," she said. "I'm sorry, but I do."
One resident said Bay State Commons' owners could prohibit "public discourse" outside their building, which is private property, preventing people from picketing their town offices.
"I personally think that it makes the whole thing constitutionally questionable," he said.
Another resident called town hall "a symbol of town pride."
"That's what we need to hear: all kinds of opinions," Brown said.
One resident said town officials should "let the revenue push the project, not the project push the revenue."
"The tax rate is the highest of any surrounding town already," she said.
"At what point are we going to stop?"
Let Patch save you time. Get great local stories like this delivered right to your inbox or smartphone everyday with our free newsletter. Simple, fast sign-up here.