City Council approves request to move forward on West Side fire station

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A car drives past the intersection of Elm St and Bigelow St in Marlborough. City officials are currently working to build a new fire station near this intersection. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

By Vicki Greene, Contributing Writer

Marlborough—In a 6 to 5 vote, May 10, the Marlborough City Council approved an ordinance allowing Mayor Arthur Vigeant to move forward to negotiate and “acquire” necessary real estate to allow for construction of a fire station at the intersection of Elm Street and Bigelow Street.

The Council then referred the issue to both the Public Safety and Finance Committees for further discussion.

City councilors debate station location

The need for a West Side fire station has never been in question among city officials. But where to build it has been a bone of contention.

A fire station study committee started reviewing sites several years ago. After reviewing multiple sites, the committee deemed a location near the intersection of Elm Street and Bigelow Street as the most prudent choice.

Speaking, May 10, City Councilor and original study committee member Christian Dumais expressed his frustration with the process.

“We cannot delay this anymore,” he told his council colleagues.

“Let’s put the proof in the pudding.  There’s nothing moving forward until we approve this [draft ordinance from the mayor,]” he added.

Councilor Robert Tunnera, meanwhile, represents the West Side area. He made his intentions clear during recent discussions.

“I will do my best to delay [a vote] for my constituents,” he said. “We just don’t want it there.”

At a virtual public information session on April 22, Fire Chief Kevin Breen and Vigeant outlined the proposed project, detailing how and why the Elm and Bigelow site was the preferred location.

Councilors could listen in on that session but were not permitted to ask questions due to city meeting laws.

Neighborhood residents voiced concerns about traffic, sirens and property values while Breen offered reassurance that his department “wants to be a good neighbor.”

More land needed to make location viable

The criteria for the site selection included a recommended lot size of five acres.  To build the West Side fire station off Elm Street, therefore, the city would have to purchase land adjacent to a three-quarter acre plot they now own behind 481 Elm Street.

The City Council’s May 10 vote allows Vigeant to negotiate with owners of land adjacent to that Elm Street property the city currently owns. But the Council will still have to see this project again to approve the funds for a purchase.

If and when the funds for the land are approved, the project will move on to design and construction phases which is a multi-year process.

Original Study Committee report offers price tag for project

The original eight-member Fire Station Study Committee featured, in addition to Breen and Dumais, Police Chief David Giorgi, DPW Assistant Commissioner of Operations Ted Scott, former City Councilor and retired firefighter Peter Juaire, Patriot Ambulance co-owner David Walton, retired Natick Fire Chief Richard Fredette and firefighter Robert Dolan Jr.

The Study Committee’s final report recommended a minimum of $10 million be secured through bonding to cover anticipated construction costs. It estimated those costs to be approximately $500 per square foot. The bond does not include the cost to purchase land.