Marlborough City Council offers ‘olive branch’ to mayor over West Side fire station purchase

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The Marlborough City Council met on Monday to discuss recent disagreements with Mayor Arthur Vigeant over funding the purchase and construction of the city’s proposed West Side fire station. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

MARLBOROUGH – The Marlborough City Council voted 9-0 on Monday to approve a motion asking Mayor Arthur Vigeant to submit a new version of an order to purchase land for Marlborough’s proposed fire station.

This vote came after Vigeant vetoed previous orders from the City Council that authorized the city to buy land contingent on Vigeant’s transfer of more than $1.4 million to a stabilization account to pay for the eventual construction of the station.

City councilors have been frustrated with Vigeant’s refusal to transfer that $1.4 million sum. Vigeant, however, has explained the decision, saying that he wants to instead transfer the amount directly to an account to purchase 100 Locke Drive.

“This do-over will demonstrate the collaborative working relationship between the mayor and the city council with the goal of both parties, which is to move the West Side fire station forward,” City Council President Michael Ossing said on Monday.

Councilor Samantha Perlman also backed the move as an effort to make sure both the mayor and City Council are working together for the fire station.

“I really hope the mayor takes this opportunity as an olive branch to move forward,” Perlman said.

Council to still pursue stabilization account transfer 

Ossing’s motion calls on Vigeant to submit a new order to city council asking for approval to buy the property, appropriating the $5 million for its acquisition and transferring the $1.4 million to the West Side Fire Station stabilization account.

Councilor Laura Wagner asked how critical the fire stabilization account transfer was, saying that it had already been the source of significant disagreement between Vigeant and the City Council.

“If that thing’s going to kill the whole deal again, why are we still talking about it?” Wagner asked.

Ossing said that he would support an order if Vigeant sends one with everything except the stabilization account transfer.

He added, however, that he will be putting that amendment on every free cash transfer in an effort to still make the transfer.

Later in the night, Ossing indeed amended a transfer request to fund various purchases, including a fire squad truck, school HVAC upgrades and public works equipment. Ossing’s amendment asked that Vigeant make the fire station stabilization account transfer before fulfilling the other departmental requests. 

Councilor Sean Navin supported Ossing’s amendment. He said that, while he does not want to hold up any important projects, the City Council’s ability to negotiate special items in special permits is also important.

In this, he referenced the source of the $1.4 million that the City Council has been ordering transferred to the stabilization account. That money came as a mitigation payment through negotiations with a developer in Marlborough in 2019. 

“It sets a dangerous precedent if we go forward and we start negotiating things with developers to help this city, and then we are not able to follow through on that,” Navin said.

Both the amendment and the transfer request passed 9-0.

Council delays action on veto

The City Council and the mayor have engaged in several weeks of at times tense disagreement, spanning multiple meetings. 

Councilors and the mayor have exchanged words in public and individual meetings, through at least one formal letter and in other public comments. 

These debates initially emerged around the topic of the West Side fire station. 

There’s also been disagreement, however, over recent ARPA spending plans and a vote by the City Council to rescind a previous vote on ARPA.

Meeting this week, the City Council voted to delay action on the veto until its next meeting, at which point it can either override the veto or take no action.

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