The 2016 Annual Town Meeting is over, but its echoes were still reverberating over a week and a half later as the Board of Selectmen met.
In what was Assistant Town Manager John Mangiaratti’s final Board of Selectmen meeting before heading to Andover, several ongoing topics made it into the evening’s discussion.
Mangiaratti was pressed into service during a follow-up discussion of items from Town Meeting, specifically an examination on the future of the Roudenbush Community Center.
Town Meeting appropriated $270,000 to help plan an expected $7 million renovation of the historic building, which drew concern from Selectman Mark Kost.
For Kost, the appropriation drew parallels with the proposed Boston Road Fire Station, which has gone back to the drawing board after expected costs rose above amounts appropriated for the project.
In particular, Kost was not sure if the community even wanted to continue allowing the Roudenbush Community Center to lease the building, which was once the site of Westford Academy, or if it was the best site for Roudenbush.
Roudenbush Community Center Director Patti Pichette explained that the building is indeed the best site for the Community Center’s purposes, with a record 8,000 patrons using the facility so far this year.
Mangiaratti and Town Manager Jodi Ross also noted differences between the two projects and noted that the renovations were geared toward the building itself, regardless of whether it was being used as a community center.
Mangiaratti added that the main questions that need to be answered are whether structural deficiencies within the building will be replaced by costlier, but more historically authentic updates or if cost should be the driving factor, also noting that historical preservation grants could also come impact the price of the project.
Overall, the Selectmen told Ross that Roudenbush was an iconic building in town and that they believed residents wanted work done to preserve and improve the building.
They also briefly discussed next steps for the disposal of the Town Farm Building during the Town Meeting follow-up, but the follow-up hadn’t been the first Town Meeting discussion that occurred during the evening.
The first item was an unexpected one during public forum, as Boston Road resident Bob Krankiewicz voiced his concern over the future of the former Drew Gardens property.
Citing an Ebi Masalehdan quote from a recent WestfordCAT News Online article, Krankiewicz chided Masalehdan’s claim that it would have been beneficial to Westford to support the agricultural preservation restriction (APR) amendment that would have allowed him to build a restaurant with parking lots, an orchard and a greenhouse on the property.
“No one consulted us in the neighborhood, this is arrogance,” said Krankiewicz, holding a printed out copy of the article at the meeting. “This is, he’s a businessman and this is arrogance, and I resent that as a taxpayer.”
Krankiewicz also voiced frustration with the Selectmen’s decision not to purchase the property outright in 2015.
The Selectmen had no direct response to the criticisms, noting that there currently is no plan proposed for the property, as Masalehdan withdrew his initial design after the APR amendment request was defeated at Town Meeting.
Later in the meeting, the board also discussed a proposal to give $38,500 to TEC Inc. for the design of sidewalks on Main Street.
Selectman Don Siriani inquired how this funding could be approved after Town Meeting voters rejected funding explicitly for sidewalks during the upcoming water main and road reconstruction project in that area.
Ross explained that this funding had been part of unexpended funds from a previous Town Meeting that had been explicitly geared toward design purposes on the project.
The board unanimously approved the Annual Town Meeting warrant.