Will impact many departments
By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – The Municipal Building Committee Feb. 23 laid out the long-discussed plans to renovate the Forbes Municipal Building to create a new police station and upgrade other town offices, a project for which voters at next month’s Town Meeting will be asked to allocate $15 million.
“We finally got to this point,” John Arnold, acting chair of the committee, told the Board of Selectmen during its meeting. Since 2002, we’ve been working on the fire station or Town Hall and we finally got to the police station.”
The project will require all departments to move out of the building for about a year and the town is budgeting $600,000 for relocation expenses, including rent on temporary space in town for the police and school departments. Town Manager Jim Malloy said he has reached out to some of the town’s private landlords, including the managers of Bay State Commons.
The police department would likely not have its own holding cells but instead would transport prisoners to a neighboring town during that time, Malloy said.
“Once again we will be playing musical chairs, musical departments,” said Selectman Chair George Barrette, referring to the logistics required to make the project happen.
Architect Brian Humes said the project will upgrade police facilities to address deficiencies in holding areas that have led to the department being cited in the past but also create a safer work environment for all number of town departments.
“This is not just a police station project,” he said.
The vast majority of the work will be interior renovations, Humes said. Police holding cells will upgraded in place and new evidence storage and lab areas will be created, as well as training space and separate male and female locker areas.
Upstairs, the large two-story meeting space is currently “very beautiful but not too well utilized,” Humes said, with poor lighting and acoustics. That space will be renovated and the existing stage removed and transformed into a meeting room.
The project will eliminate the gymnasium in the building, with recreation department programs that use the space dispersed to existing school facilities.
Under the proposed schedule, the Forbes building would be ready for use again early in 2019.
In other business, the board voted to close the warrant for the March 12 Town Meeting. Voters will decide 40 articles at the meeting.
Police Chief Alan Gordon also told the board that he was not in favor of establishing an Internet sales drop-off site at the police station at this time, as other communities, including Marlborough have done recently. Gordon had looked into the idea at the request of Selectman Ian Johnson but said other area departments that offer the option have security cameras outside their departments, something Westborough currently does not have.
“With the potential renovation, it’s something we could look at in the future,” Gordon said.