On Monday night, the Permanent Town Building Committee voted 5-0-1 to recommend a new architectural firm for the proposed Boston Road Fire Station.
Until this point, the town had been utilizing the services of Dore and Whittier of Newburyport. However, things began to sour between the firm and the Permanent Town Building Committee near the beginning of 2016.
That was when the committee revealed that cost estimates for Dore and Whittier’s fire station plans had grown approximately $4 million above the amount given by Westford voters in 2015.
Efforts to pare down costs provided difficult as several new fire station plans either removed or limited key portions of proposed station, such as a four-bay fire engine garage and a joint police/fire training room.
On Friday, Permanent Town Building Committee Members Tom Mahanna, Kirk Ware and Town Manager Jodi Ross held a conference call with Don Walsh of Dore and Whittier to express the committee’s concerns on the project.
Noting several issues, particularly additional design fees Dore and Whittier required to provide new plan schematics and extending the design phase past Special Town Meeting in October, Mahanna requested that the committee recommend a termination of further collaboration with Dore and Whittier to the Board of Selectmen.
Members of the board had a general agreement that the fire station should provide everything that the Westford Fire Department needs to fulfill its duties to the public for the next 50 years, but there was discussion over whether the station would need to be as large as the 22,000 sq. ft that Dore and Whittier recommended.
There was some discussion of the recently constructed fire station in Andover, which cost just under half of the proposed Boston Road station, but also had some slight differences in terms of equipment requirements.
Town Manager Jodi Ross recommended that a subcommittee of the Permanent Town Building Committee be established to create a new Request for Proposals for new architects.
She also recommended adding a commission cap of approximately 7 percent, which could save as much as $500,000.
The committee’s vote also will recommend that the Selectmen terminate further collusion with Dore and Whittier on the combined dispatch center, which will replace the Police Department’s current training room.
That project did not have the same difficulties as the fire station, but Mahanna told the committee that the town will retain the rights to schematics made up to this point on both projects, which could be used as a starting point for the next architectural firm.
If approved by the Selectmen later this month, the town will owe one last payment of $150,000 to Dore and Whittier.