Marlborough fire station project on hold, mayor says

515

A proposed new fire station at the intersection of Elm Street and Bigelow Street would improve response times to rapidly growing commercial and residential parts of Marlborough’s West Side. Some living near the proposed site, though, have raised concerns.
A proposed new fire station at the intersection of Elm Street and Bigelow Street is on hold, according to Mayor Arthur Vigeant. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough’s proposed West Side Fire Station project is now on hold, according to Mayor Arthur Vigeant.

Vigeant detailed his plans in a recent letter to the City Council before confirming his intentions in comments to the Community Advocate on Tuesday.

“We can’t have twelve people negotiating with different entities and that’s what it’s turned into,” Vigeant said, referring to recent debates with the City Council. 

Contacted on Tuesday afternoon, City Council President Michael Ossing said that the Council would continue to support the fire station project regardless.

“The Council is on board to support a fire station,” Ossing said, citing recent votes by the Council.

Project ‘insurmountable to achieve,’ mayor says

Vigeant wrote in his letter that he saw no path forward for the fire station’s construction. He listed a number of variables in the project including negotiations with the state, negotiations with local communities and finding agreements with a reluctant seller.

This comes after a series of disputes between the City Council and the mayor in City Council meetings, written communications and other public comments.

“I was more than willing to take on the challenge and had begun the process,” Vigeant wrote. “But a non-committed City Council for this project at this location at this time makes it insurmountable to achieve.”

Mayor, City Council debate funding question

Vigeant and the City Council initially clashed earlier this year over how to allocate $1.4 million in regards to this project. 

The City Council specified that the money, which originated as a mitigation payment from a special permit for a housing development, should be transferred to the West Side Fire Station Stabilization Account for use in the fire station’s construction. 

Vigeant had previously not transferred the amount, instead saying that he wanted to transfer it directly to an account to purchase the land at 100 Locke Drive for the proposed station.

This led to multiple chapters in the ongoing dispute, with the City Council at one point making the authorization of money to purchase the fire station land contingent on transferring the $1.4 million. 

Vigeant issued multiple vetoes in response to that order.

The council continued discussion, voting earlier this month to ask the mayor to submit a new request to the City Council seeking approval to buy the property while sending the $1.4 million to the West Side Fire Station stabilization account.

“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,” Ossing said at the time.

As the City Council voted on what Councilor Samantha Perlman called an “olive branch,” Councilor Laura Wagner questioned whether the stabilization account transfer was necessary. 

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

Vigeant did eventually submit a transfer request to move the money as the City Council had requested last week. He discussed the larger project’s status in the same message to the council though.

“I have been consistent since the beginning of discussions on this project,” he wrote in his letter. “If it appeared there was no path forward for the building of the fire station, I would request the transfer. The time is here.”

Fire station project dates back multiple years

A fire station on Marlborough’s West Side has been a major priority for Vigeant and various city officials since the construction of the Apex Center in the area and a larger expansion of residential development in that part of the city.

Fire Chief Kevin Breen has noted concerns about the response time for calls in the West Side.

Prompted by some of these concerns, the city formed a fire station study committee, which identified a site by the intersection of Elm and Bigelow Street as the best location for a new fire station.

Backed by city officials and a number of city councilors, the station site has prompted debate. 

At a listening session held last year, some residents said they were worried about increased noise, traffic and light pollution as a result of a new fire station in their neighborhood. 

A City Council vote to allow Vigeant to negotiate and acquire necessary real estate last year was then decided on a narrow 6-5 margin. 

At Vigeant’s inauguration earlier this year he urged the Council to approve a separate request for funds to purchase the land for the fire station, saying that there was no perfect location but that the station should be a priority. 

On that same day, Ossing said that community members were supportive of a West Side fire station, saying that he expected the station to be funded in the legislative session.

RELATED CONTENT

Marlborough Mayor, City Council members clash over fire station funding question

Marlborough City Council approves fire station purchase as disagreement with mayor continues

Marlborough mayor vetoes proposed fire station land purchase order

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