By Bonnie Adams, Government Editor
Westborough – Last spring, voters turned down a request to fund $11 million for a new Fire Station. At the Oct. 15 Special Town Meeting (STM) they will be asked to consider it again. The main difference this time, officials said, is the prior request would have funded the station through Proposition 2 ? debt exclusion*. The new proposal would require the debt principal and interest be paid within the levy limit, according to Town Manager Jim Malloy.
Most voters have stated at Board of Selectmen (BOS) and other town meetings that they agree the Fire Station is in rough shape. What they don's agree with is how town officials had presented the prior request at the March 17 STM. At that time, officials had asked for $22 million (appropriated within the levy limit) to fund renovations at the Town Hall and the Forbes Municipal Building (FMB). In a separate article, they requested $11 million to be funded through a debt exclusion for the Fire Station.? Voters turned down the request for the Town Hall and FMB; the Fire Station article was approved but then was rejected in a ballot vote.
Officials, including BOS chair Leigh Emery, have stated that the Fire Station, which was built in the late 1880s, is not amenable to the needs of the 21st century. It has a number of code violations including mold, water damage and structural cracks throughout the building. The bays can only accommodate trucks of a certain height – and when the trucks are in the station space is so tight that the doors cannot be fully opened. ?Additionally, when trucks are taken out of the station for maintenance they are too large for the driveway so they block the sidewalk. The department cannot use the fire whistle because the tower housing it shakes too much from the whistle's vibrations.
Vinnie Borkowski is one Westborough resident who has been vocal about how the new station should be funded.
“I support the construction of a new Fire Station, but not funded as debt exclusion,” he said prior to the May election. ?”I support it within the [Proposition] 2 ? levy limit.”
If approved at the Oct. 15 STM the new station would be built on the lot adjacent to the current station's 42 Milk St. location. That new lot was purchased at a prior town meeting.
The STM will start at 7 p.m. in the Westborough High School auditorium, 90 West Main St.
*A “Debt Exclusion” is an action taken by a community through a referendum vote to raise the funds necessary to pay debt service costs for a particular project from the property tax levy, but outside the limits under Proposition 2?. By approving a debt exclusion, a community calculates its annual levy limit under Proposition 2?, then adds the excluded debt service cost. The amount is added to the levy limit for the life of the debt only and may increase the levy above the levy ceiling.
**An “Override” is a vote by a community at an election to permanently increase the levy limit. An override vote may increase the levy limit no higher than the levy ceiling. The override question on the election ballot must state a purpose for the override and the dollar amount. (For more information go to www.mass.gov).