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Residents Question Town Hall-Bay State Commons Plan

Municipal building committee urged to explore other options.

Moving some town offices to leased space at , and selling , would be too expensive, residents told the municipal building committee Wednesday night.

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?"

 

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Rich September 13, 2012 at 12:25 PM
Has anyone looked at the 2003 Town of Westborough Master Plan? It strongly supports keeping town buildings in the center of Town and renovating and using under-utilized space already owned by the Town before considering moving. It also recognizes the need to re-vitalize the area within 1250 feet of the Rotary ("the core downtown area", Sec. 10.2) to encourage new destination businesses and finds that Town investment in that area can encourage private investment for that revitalization process. Has the Town Manager explained how the Bay State proposal complies with Sections 10.2 and 15 of the 2003 Town Master Plan?
Annie Libbey September 13, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Good point and let's not forget that we spent money to produce that master plan (I believe about $80,000 was spent to update it). The town would save money over 20 years by going to leased space. However, if we did go ahead with town hall renovations the debt would be repaid after 20 years. Over 20 years, we'd save $2.6 million but every year after that our lease payment would eat away at those savings. How does it look when you calculate say a 30 year period?
Andy Koenigsberg September 13, 2012 at 05:37 PM
Until I went to the meeting last night, I thought this was an idea worth considering. When one business owner told the audience how the owners of Bay State Commons are very difficult to deal with (I think he would rather eat glass than deal with them again), I reconsidered the whole proposal - especially in the light of the number of people who strongly thought Town Hall should be kept as is. One thing I that has been on my mind regarding the Forbes Building is whether the second floor auditorium could serve as an auxiliary basketball court. The dimensions are about 44 x 48 feet.. When I was a boy way back when, our elementary school's auditorium doubled as the gym. From what I can tell, this space is extremely under-utilized. Is it regulation size (94 x 50 ft)? No, but neither is the court in the basement of Forbes (about 56 x 64 ft). If the rec dept is strapped for space - here is another space. Of course it is not perfect - but as long as the building committee is thinking outside the box - here is another box.

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