By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Echoing concerns raised by the chief of police at Town Meeting earlier this month, selectmen March 24 asked for a closer look at the financial impact of moving forward more quickly with plans to renovate the Forbes Municipal Building.
“We know this work needs to be done,” said Selectman Denny Drewry. “I think this is something we should be taking another look at now, rather than waiting a couple more years.”
Other board members agreed, asking Town Manager Jim Malloy to prepare a presentation on the financial implications of the move.
“I don’t want this to be back burner,” said Chair George Barrette.
The Forbes Building houses the police department and is not ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant or up to current code, according to Police Chief Alan Gordon – which could put the town at risk for litigation.
At Town Meeting, the issue of the Forbes project being delayed as a result of the $27 million Sarah W. Gibbons Middle School renovation project was raised. At least one voter voiced concern that the police department would have to wait longer than expected for new space as a result of the school spending.
In response, Gordon said he supported the school project, but that the town is exposed to more risk the longer the Forbes project goes uncompleted.
As part of a series of financial policies, selectmen have sought to cap how much the town spends on debt services annually as a percentage of the total budget.
With the Gibbons project growing in scope over time and the town hall and fire station projects still ongoing, Westborough will be close to or over that threshold, especially if new projects are added.
A long-discussed recreation center has also been pushed into the future indefinitely as the town looks to spread its debt out and minimize impact on taxpayers. Officials have said a major driver of that project – the need for additional basketball court space – has largely been addressed in the meantime by using existing school facilities.
Barrette said the renovations at Town Hall should be wrapped up over the summer, allowing the offices moved into Forbes during that work to return and possibly clearing the way for the Forbes work.
Selectmen also learned the town will receive just over $116,000 in additional funds from the state to repair potholes created by the extreme winter weather. The funds are the town’s share of $30 million recently released by Gov. Charlie Baker for roadwork statewide.