By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – At the Saturday, March 17 Special Town Meeting (STM), voters will decide whether they should approve the funding to renovate two town buildings – the Town Hall and the Forbes Municipal Building (FMB). They will also be asked to approve funds for construction of two new buildings – a Fire Station and a new community recreation facility.
Article 1 concerns renovations of the Town Hall and FMB, and the construction of a recreation facility. (The FMB is currently home to the Police Department, Public School Administration and Recreation Department, among others.) The cost is estimated to be just over $22 million.
Article 2 is a request for funding for a new Fire Station. That cost is estimated at $11.2 million.
As of the March 13 Board of Selectmen's (BOS) meeting, the board and the Advisory Finance Committee (AFC) said they were uncertain how the two requests would be presented: either a debt exclusion or Proposition 2 ½ override.
For a Proposition 2 ½ override to pass, it must first be approved at the STM and then via a ballot vote. Debt exclusion does not require a ballot vote.
The AFC is due to discuss the matter on Thursday, March 15 and the BOS was due to meet on March 17 before the ATM began.
Town Manager Jim Malloy had initially recommended that Article 1 be debt exclusion because that debt would fit under the levy limits. For the first year, which would be the highest, the debt service is estimated to be approximately $1,871,956 or $239 for the average single family home.
For Article 2 he recommended that the funding be via a Proposition 2 ½ override. The first year, which would also be the highest, the debt service was estimated to be approximately $952,680 or $122 for the average single family home.
The selectmen voiced concern about the consequences if Article 1 passed but Article 2 did not. Not only would the town not get a much needed new Fire Station, the Recreation Department would also lose their offices, storage space and basketball court, they said.
New board member George Barrette, who is also a member of the Municipal Building Committee, said that he was “not comfortable” with one article being a debt exclusion and the other not.
“The need for a new Fire Station was what started this whole thing,” he said. “It's huge.”
Malloy reviewed a PowerPoint presentation that showed the town's projected debt over the next two decades. At this point, the only other major looming project, he said, was needed renovations for the Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School.
Additionally, Selectman Ian Johnson noted, there was a chance the town may have the opportunity to purchase the former Westborough State Hospital property. Malloy said that there is no proposal from the state (the property's owners) yet.
The STM will be held prior to the resumption of the March 17 Annual Town Meeting (ATM). The ATM starts at 1 p.m. and breaks at approximately 6 p.m. The STM will start at 7 p.m. and then the ATM will resume. For full reports of the buildings projects, go to http://www.town.westborough.ma.us/Public_Documents/index.