Advisory committee split on community center purchase

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Advisory committee split on community center purchase
A car passes in front of Westborough Town Hall in December. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

WESTBOROUGH – Most town boards have voted to support a Town Meeting warrant article to have the town purchase 1500 Union St. and convert it into a community center.

After a lengthy discussion on Oct. 5, committee members split 4-4. Chair Walter Leslie, Beth Blumberg, Thomas Dolan Jr. and Andrew Bradley voted in favor of supporting the article; Joshua Brandt, Jane Clapp, Gene McMahon and Rod Shaffert voted against.
Member Melanie Board did not attend the meeting.

The Advisory Finance Committee decided to make no recommendation on the article, but the committee may revote at Town Meeting.

According to Leslie, the committee will include a report about the split in its R&R, as well as a “synopsis of reasons for and against.”

He added that the committee may revote Article 3 at “our meeting concurrent with Town Meeting when we may have an odd number of members that may create a majority opinion.”

Even those voting against the article said they like the idea of a community center, but said they struggled with the purchase price, potential costs for the fit up and what to do with the space.

“I struggle with paying 50 percent more than [the building] was appraised,” said Shaffert.

“I love the idea, but are we going to get our value?” said Clapp. “This is a massive building.”

Clapp also questioned purchasing 1500 Union St. when the town has several underutilized sites, such as the Harvey building.

Leslie said he favors the article because of the opportunity to have a community center close to downtown, with parking.

“I see a lot of value,” he said.

While the committee split on whether to support Article 3, it did vote 8-0 to support Article 4, which is a request to transfer funds from free cash to cover due diligence, community engagement and other costs.

Other articles

The committee decided to hold off on a vote for Articles 11 and 12. Sponsored by the Department of Public Works, these articles would establish zoning regulations (building height, setbacks, etc.) for the DPW building on Oak Street and town-owned property at Upton Road and Morse Street (the Morse and Hopkinton wells).

During a Planning Board public hearing on Oct. 3, neighbors who live near the wells had questions about chemical storage at the site. The chemicals are used for water treatment, according to the DPW.

Advisory Finance will hold a vote on these articles on the Town Meeting floor. Other articles received support by the committee.

Here are the votes taken by Advisory Finance over several meetings, hence the different votes:

Article 1 (prior year bills) – Since there are no prior year bills, this article may be passed over.

Article 2 (fiscal 2024 budget adjustments) – support (cable TV budget enterprise, 9-0; Country Club enterprise expense, 7-0; Finance Department salary/wages, 9-0; Finance Department expenses, 7-0; Fire Department salary/wages, 7-0; Fire Department expenses, 7-0; landfill budget, 8-0).

Article 3 (purchase 1500 Union St. for community center) – no recommendation (may vote again at TM)

Article 4 (funds for due diligence and other costs associated with purchase of 1500 Union St.) – support, 8-0

Article 5 (transfer from free cash for Affordable Housing Trust) – support, 9-0

Article 6 (opioid settlement funds) – support, 9-0

Article 7 (public safety radios) – support, 7-0

Article 8 (library building system upgrades) – support, 5-2

Article 9 (funds for Lake Chauncy water quality checks) – support, 6-1

Article 10 (acceptance of Quick Farm Road) – support, 9-0

Article 11 (zoning regulations, 131 Oak St.) – Advisory Finance will vote at TM

Article 12 (zoning regulations, Upton Road and Morse Street) – Advisory Finance will vote at TM

Article 13 (water treatment system improvements) – support, 8-1

Article 14 (Affordable Housing Trust/Housing Partnership Committee) – support, 6-0

Article 15 (Housing Partnership Committee – appointing authority) – support, 6-0

Town Meeting will convene on Monday, Oct. 16, at 7 p.m. in the high school auditorium.

See the full warrant at www.westboroughma.gov.

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