Updated cost projections for the pending Boston Road Fire Station have risen to just over $16.7 million, $4 million more than what voters appropriated at Town Meeting. The Selectmen will discuss what to do next on Tuesday, but first came what the Permanent Town Building Committee decided to recommend to the Selectmen during their meeting on Monday.
Due in large part to escalating construction costs and an architectural design that was larger than expected, the project began to see problems in late December as details from the project’s 30 percent design were unveiled. This was followed by news that soil testing on the site revealed higher concentrations of arsenic and lead than expected.
The unexpected series of events led to a freeze on additional design work and an analysis by the Permanent Town Building Committee on what can be cut from the project to bring it back to its original cost, whether additional funding should be sought, or some combination of both.
Over two dozen key line items within the building’s construction budget were analyzed in three separate options for the station: the new cost projection given by project architects Dore and Whittier with minor reductions, needed cuts to get back to the original $12.7 million appropriation given by Town Meeting and a middle ground that would require additional funding but also cuts from the Dore and Whittier plan.
Within the “middle ground” plan, the largest cut agreed upon by the Permanent Town Building Committee was reducing the building’s size back to 22,300 square feet, as envisioned at Town Meeting before requested station needs expanded its footprint in the design stage.
This would save $650,000 on the station’s cost, but it was not the only large potential cut.
The largest potential cut was a $1.2 million reduction in the station’s apparatus bays, followed by a $500,000 cut in removing the new training room facility.
Both items were non-starters with the Committee, who believed that not including both items would defeat the purpose of the project.
“I think it comes down to that we’re building a fire station, not just a random $12 million building,” said Ingrid Nilsson, the Finance Committee’s liaison to the Permanent Town Building Committee.
In particular, the training room was off the table due to the fact that the Police Station had given up its training room for an incoming joint dispatch center, with the expectation that it would be using the training room inside the proposed Boston Road Fire Station.
Opinions were mixed on changing the roof style from sloped to flat roofs, which would save approximately $200,000.
Combined, the “minor reductions” plan proposed $1.3 million in cuts while the middle ground plan’s cuts totaled $2.7 million. However, some committee members believed that each line item is better viewed as a range than as an individual figure as construction costs continue their rapid change.
All three of the plans did not include cutting the arsenic and lead abatement, which is expected to cost $150,000.
Without a consensus on a recommended dollar amount, the Permanent Town Building Committee voted unanimously to recommend reducing the square footage of the building back to approximately 23,000 sq. ft.
The Committee also agreed to move ahead with work on the proposed joint dispatch center, the design phase of which had been initially tied to the fire station.
If the Selectmen agree to seek additional appropriation from Town Meeting voters, it is unlikely that new drafts for the station’s plans would be ready by Annual Town Meeting in early April. Permanent Town Building Committee Members projected that a vote would be required during Fall Special Town Meeting in October, with another referendum to be held on the same day as Federal elections in November.
Earlier in the meeting, the Permanent Town Building Committee voted to recommend Community Preservation funding for renovation of the running track at Westford Academy.
The track is the first phase of an athletic facility renovation at the school. Other future improvements include new lights, bleachers for visiting fans, a bathroom/locker room facility and changes to adjacent fields.
CORRECTION: Reduction of the bays was in the $12.7 million column.