WESTBOROUGH – A former school building near downtown Westborough could become home for the new regional emergency communications center.
During its Jan. 23 meeting, the Select Board heard from Fire Chief Patrick Purcell and Town Manager Kristi Williams on why Westborough and Grafton were seeking other sites for the center.
According to Williams, the original site chosen — a building on the south side of Hocomonco Pond — may have environmental issues.
She said when town officials entered the building “there was an odor.”
Grafton Town Administrator Evan Brassard said the pond, which is a former Superfund site, still poses a risk for contamination. He said the Environmental Protection Agency is requesting a secondary study, “which could take up to two years.”
Williams and Purcell said they want the project to move forward, so officials in both communities began exploring alternate sites.
Williams said Grafton “did not identify any buildings in town” that would be a suitable alternative.
The Harvey building was constructed in 1883, and it was used as a school until the 1980s. The building is currently being used by the Boy Scouts and the Westborough Community Chorus. Williams said the town will work with them to find new space, perhaps at the Community Center once it opens.
The basement is currently used for storage, utilities and a workshop area for the chorus.
In 2022, the town had an assessment conducted for the building. The assessment reported water stains on the roof and in the attic; damage to the flashing and shingles; stairs that are not compliant with current codes; problems with the plumbing and electrical systems; and no automatic fire sprinkler system.
Williams said the Harvey building has “potential.” Purcell said the Harvey building could provide about 5,200 square feet — not as large as the site at Hocomonco, but it’s a “doable project.”
The building is close to the fire station, which means the building would not need its own tower.
“It’s one of our top choices,” said Purcell.
The building would be leased from the town. State grants will cover most of the initial costs, including the conversion of the building.
“It’s beneficial to the town in so many ways,” said Purcell.
The Select Board voted to authorize Williams and Purcell to develop plans for the center at the Harvey building.