Editor’s note: Select Board Vice Chair Tom Clay serves on the WestfordCAT Board of Directors and serves as WestfordCAT’s liaison to the Select Board. WestfordCAT News maintains editorial independence and this relationship does not impact our reporting.
Editor’s note: added additional clarity regarding the $900,000 figure in reference to the design and testing of the 51 Main St. site.
WESTFORD — A proposed Town Center building — which would have replaced a decommissioned fire station at 51 Main St. — has failed to gain enough support at Annual Town Meeting.
Proposed town center building
This station has been vacant since its replacement in 2018 when the town completed its fire headquarters located on Boston Road.
Select Board Chair Andrea Peraner-Sweet notes the fire station is of “no use” and is “not worth renovating.”
Among four separate town meetings, approximately $900,000 has been allocated toward a needs study, design and testing of the site, as well as additional demolition and construction of a communications tower among other items to accommodate the proposed building. The study found the town has a need for greater office and meeting space.
The proposed building would have housed a new multifunction space that could serve as a 100-seat meeting room, community room or police training room, as well as office space for the Technology Department, Veterans Services Department and the Facilities Department. The building would also provide office space for the Sustainability Coordinator and Wellness Coordinator.
Voters dismissed the proposal in a 319 to 259 vote at Special Town Meeting and rejected creating a Proposition 2 1/2 exclusion for the project in a 5,567 to 5,076 vote during a Nov. 8 Special Town Election.
The proposed project was projected to cost $12.1 million in October, but that cost had risen to $12.4 million. The proposal in October was unanimously recommended by the Finance Committee and the Select Board.
Under the new price tag, the proposal was unanimously recommended by the Select Board and recommended in a 5-3 vote by the Finance Committee during a Feb. 16 meeting.
Voters reject proposed building
Voters rejected the proposal 241-162 with 403 total votes counted. Residents cited a number of concerns with the scope of the project, believing additional meeting space was unnecessary for town departments.
“This is piecemeal work,” said resident Doug Burns. “What’s wrong with all of the meeting space that we have at Westford Academy? We keep adding meeting space that doesn’t get used around the whole time.”
Resident and Finance Committee member Heather Fitzpatrick acknowledged a need for greater space but believes funding should be used on other projects that may arise in the future.
“There’s no denying that we need extra space for our town employees but after many years of delay, it only provides a solution for a few of the people in the Millennium building that need space,” she said.
She continued, “in a few short months, we will have answers from the school feasibility study, I am not privy to what those results may be, but there may be room in a school for some of this administration.”
Select Board Vice Chair Tom Clay noted the board was “disappointed” with the outcome of the vote.
“We feel there are some important town needs [to address]. We’ll have to take a step back to meet with our town partners to continue to discuss their needs.” Select Board Vice Chair Tom Clay told WestfordCAT.
A question of whether or not to create a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion for the project will still appear on the May 2 town election ballot.