By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough ?The town's residents, for the most part, unilaterally agree that the current Town Hall is in need of repair. ?What nearly 100 residents who attended a public hearing at the Forbes Municipal Building (FMB) Sept. 12 also agree on is that they do not want the Town Hall to be moved to a vacant space at the Bay State Commons.
Town Manager Jim Malloy, along with the Municipal Building Committee, held the hearing to discuss a proposal to move town offices currently located in Town Hall and in the FMB to the Bay State complex.
Last spring, voters had rejected at the Annual Town Meeting an article that would have appropriated $22 million for renovations at the Town Hall and FMB and to build a new Recreation Center. The estimate to renovate the Town Hall is approximately $6.4 million and to build a new Recreation Center, $4 million.
At the same meeting voters had approved a separate article for an $11 million debt exclusion for a new fire station but that proposal was then rejected in a ballot vote May 15. A new request that would have the project be paid for within the Proposition 2 ? levy limit will come before the voters at the Oct. 15 Special Town Meeting.
Malloy said during his Sept. 12 presentation that the town had obtained a quote for a 20-year lease on 11,000 square feet of office space located in the far end of the Roche Bros. store block, across from the Boston Sports Club building. The cost to renovate this space would be approximately $2,388,640, he said, with a first- year lease cost of $345,780.
Many residents at the Sept. 12 meeting said they were not opposed to the funding for Town Hall renovations but were irked at how officials had grouped the three projects, particularly the new Recreation Center, into one article.
Many also spoke of their desire that the town retain the current Town Hall.
“One of the reasons I came to this community was because of the downtown historic character,” Leslie Leslie said. “Our Town Hall is a center of pride. It's only the fourth town hall our community has ever had.”
Resident Carolyn Spring agreed.
“It's a treasure,” she said. “To have that not be ours is disturbing and distressing.”
Resident Paula Less noted that she had done an analysis of the town's available space, which she had then passed onto the Board of Selectmen as well as the Municipal Building Committee.
“There's a lot of space in this town. Can's we utilize that without incurring extra costs?” she asked.
Other residents expressed discomfort with the possibility of the Town Hall being located on private property.
Another resident, Tim Buckalew, said he worried that residents would not be able to protest or hold other forms of “public discourse” outside a town hall that was on private property.
“We's lose that right,” he added. “To my mind, it makes the whole thing constitutionally questionable.”
Malloy and the other officials in attendance thanked the audience for their participation and stressed that they would continue to pursue different options.