Letter: Former Chair on Public Safety Building says “Vote No on Article 1”

by beth on February 7, 2017

[Ed note: My Southborough accepts signed letters to the editor submitted by Southborough residents. Letters may be emailed to mysouthborough@gmail.com.]

To the Editor:

Over the past 2 years, no one on the Public Safety Building Study Committee has worked harder to move this project forward than I have. It is with deep regret that I have concluded that the building that has been designed is wrong for Southborough.

1. Silo Mentality – The building, as designed, reinforces functional silos when we should be attempting to break them down. In a building that will normally hold less than 10 people we have 3 separate kitchen and break areas. Each department has, in addition to a large common conference room its own conference room. In the private sector multiple departments regularly share conference space. Other examples of this wasteful silo mentality abound.

2. Expensive Financially Inefficient Spaces – The building is designed with a number of unnecessary complex exterior walls. The worst offender is the “hernia” a single story protrusion which holds the sergeants offices, and the Roll Call Room, (Yet another conference space). This single story protrusion has 3 exterior walls and its own roof. Visually appealing – perhaps, financially responsible – no.

3. Inappropriate For the Site – The building sprawls across the site when a less intrusive, more compact building is called for. Repeated discussions about the need for a more compact building to help preserve the site to the greatest have been ignored.

4. Lack of Cost Control – Throughout this entire process, the focus, has been on functional requirements unbounded by any consideration of cost. The results have been predictable. I have offered over a dozen suggestions on ways to reduce costs. These have been systematically ignored. 

5. Disrespect for the Board of Selectmen – The Board of Selectmen is elected to make policy for the town. Boards and Committees appointed by the BOS, particularly ad hoc committees, in my opinion, are honor bound to try and carry the policy directives of the BOS. Several weeks ago the BOS gave the PS Building Study Committee clear direction that the cost of the project was not to exceed $20.85 million. Regrettably, this directive has been ignored. No effort was made to even suggest what the trade offs would be to achieve this goal. Committee members might be excused for this behavior as they are private citizens volunteering their time. The same cannot be said for the town employees whose behavior borders on the insubordinate. Most of us understand the consequences of ignoring your bosses clear directives.

This building is not the right building for the site and at $22,629,500.00 is several million dollars over the target budget and unnecessarily expensive and wasteful. I know that all the member of the PS Building Study Committee have worked hard on this project, as have I, but this is the wrong program for the Town of Southborough and the ever generous taxpayers of this community. I deeply regret that, as currently proposed, I will be voting NO on Article 1 and recommend that others do so as well.

Al Hamilton

Editor’s Note: Hamilton is a member of the Public Safety Study Committee. Until recently he chaired the committee. In a comment on the blog, he wrote “I resigned the chair so I could be free to speak my mind on the merits of this proposal.”

{ 78 comments… read them below or add one }

1 TownieMark February 7, 2017 at 11:43 AM

Hello,

My first post here but just wanted to note how terrible it must be for someone of Al’s character and long service to the town to have to resign from the PSBSC to note the issues with the proposed Police/Fire building.

I for one will take Al’s comments to heart and will also be voting “No” to the design/use as it stands now.

Regards,

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2 beth February 7, 2017 at 12:00 PM

He didn’t resign from the committee (at least that I am aware). He resigned from the position as Chair to become simply a member.

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3 Al Hamilton February 7, 2017 at 12:27 PM

Thank you for the kind words. I continue to serve as a member of the committee and will continue to work for an appropriate solution that can meet the legitimate needs of each department and the needs of the taxpayers.

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4 Jonas February 7, 2017 at 3:41 PM

Al, can you then clarify if a NO Vote means that the Golf Course can be purchased by the town and then “left as is”

Not an option I’m in a favor of, but your points have merit.

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5 Al Hamilton February 7, 2017 at 5:14 PM

As currently packaged it is a combined vote. Article 1 authorized the golf course purchase AND construction of the PS Building. I agree with you that these should be separate but the packaging of warrant articles is the privileged of the BOS.

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6 southsider February 7, 2017 at 11:56 AM

well, very interesting… the fun is just beginning, it seems.

I still think the golf course land purchase coupled with the land swap is not best for us.
These two transactions need to be unbundled so we can protect the golf course land but not be pushed in to a public safety building decision.

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7 Doreen A Ferguson February 7, 2017 at 12:39 PM

What a shame. I will still be voting YES on this article.

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8 beth February 7, 2017 at 1:06 PM

For those unfamiliar, I wanted to point out that Doreen is the Director of Southborough Recreation (as well as a resident).

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9 Carl Guyer February 7, 2017 at 7:27 PM

Al, thank you for providing this insight into the proposed building. I do have one question. Is the building being proposed different from the customary design for buildings with similar requirements. It would be helpful to me to know whether the design unique or is it a “standard” layout. Thanks.

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10 Al Hamilton February 9, 2017 at 10:45 AM

Carl

The square footage of the building is roughly comparable to similar buildings built by communities of our size. The biggest square foot driver is the equipment bay and most communities that have a single fire department have a similar basic equipment sets that must be housed. There are some variations for example, we have a lot of 2/3 story commercial buildings and a disproportionate amount of state/federal highways (495, 90, 30,90) and need an equipment set that addresses those requirements.

If you look at the Donham and Sweeney web site you will see common design elements to the building proposed (no “Hernias” that I saw though”). There are examples on their site of designs that utilize the space over the equipment bays (Andover). I did not see any designs on their site or some others that I looked at that had “skins” that were as complex as the one proposed.

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11 Cynthia Foster February 7, 2017 at 8:09 PM

Your letter, Mr. Hamilton, sounds very much like a kid who is picking up his bat and ball and going home because the other kids won’t play your way. You say that the project focus has been on functional requirements unbounded by any consideration of cost. I believe the other six residents on the committee are well aware of the need to keep costs down. I am a lifelong resident as well as a Town employee who has worked in several departments. Too often I’ve seen projects get cut to the point that functional requirements for anything beyond the present need were not met. If we are going to finally build a badly needed Public Safety building, all efforts should be made to make sure that the building meets the functional requirements for the foreseeable future. A Town building is not like a private sector building where a company’s entire focus may change in a year or two and the building be sold off or rented out. The $20.85M is a number based on other solutions that were estimates, not budgets. Those estimates were at least two years ago and $22.63M is not several million over the $20.85M.
You are now advising people to vote no on Article 1. Selling the land to the Town is only attractive to St. Marks because of the swap portion of the proposal. My understanding is that St. Marks does not want to be in the golf course business. What if we don’t support this proposal and St. Marks decides to pursue other avenues to get top dollar for the golf course? I’m sure they wouldn’t have a problem finding developers who would want that property. If the Town proceeds with Article 1, the residents still have the say in any future development by simply not supporting additional buildings. The public safety building should be built as quickly as possible to avoid further construction increases.
I believe that if this building was so wrong for the Town, the other six members of the committee would not be agreeing to it. I have worked with the people that you are accusing of insubordination, and I know them as highly responsible individuals who care very much about the overall impact of their recommendations. I hope that Town residents look beyond your dramatic rhetoric and will seek more facts before making their voting decisions.

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12 Resident February 7, 2017 at 9:03 PM

Sounds like quite the ego trip. I will be voting yes on #1 for a multitude of reasons.

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13 AEP March 6, 2017 at 7:40 PM

Too bad you couldn’t explain WHY you are voting yes. On the surface carries little merit, you must not know Al or you wouldn’t make such a ridiculous statement. He has the residents best interests in mind, not his own.

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14 Matthew February 7, 2017 at 9:44 PM

The plan is good.
The land swap is good because we are getting land PERFECTLY situated for our emergency services. The pros outweigh the cons.

This is the first I have heard of the building design itself being a problem.
Who is telling the architect what the building should look like and why is it over budget?

I have seen several buildings in other towns like the one I though we were getting and none of them look like what Al has described. Where can the model or the designs be seen tomorrow? I would like to see for myself exactly what I am going to pay for.

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15 Al Hamilton February 8, 2017 at 2:03 PM

Matthew

You can see the schematic designs here, the Jan 30 files are the most recent:

http://www.southboroughtown.com/public-safety-study-committee/pages/schematic-design-study-st-marks-golf-course

A word of caution, this design was developed as a costing exercise to help us develop a proposed budget which will then be turned into borrowing and taxing authority. The actual design will most likely be under the control of a Building Committee which may be composed of different members (the desired skill sets may be quite different). There is no guarantee that the current architect would be the designer or that the final building would resemble this one.

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16 beth February 8, 2017 at 2:24 PM

You have criticized the footprint as too big, and wasted space by not building above the apparatus bay. The architect explained at Monday night’s meeting that it was mainly based on what he was told needed to be on the first floor and needed to be on the second. Is there anywhere to find that list or explanation of why certain rooms need to be on a specific floor?

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17 Al Hamilton February 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Beth –

The actual design of the building was done off line mostly between the architect and the chiefs. There was relatively little input from the committee on these subjects. Some are obvious, the storage areas for fire apparatus supplies should be next to the equipment bays. Some are less obvious (office space for example).

It should be remembered that this building is an expression of the requirements of the fire and police services. The specific building was designed over the course of about 12 weeks. When we took this building out to show the public, new requirements emerged relating to working better with the remainder of the site (eg golf course, costing less). This is normal, but for the most part these requirements are not expressed in the design.

For me the “ahah” or “oh my god what have we done” moment came about 10 days ago when I walked the site with David Parry and looked at the stakes he place that showed how the building laid on the land. After about an hour of study, I came to the conclusion that the building should be moved and it’s footprint should be reduced to the greatest extent practical to better co exist with the rest of the property. I believe that this change will also have the happy result of reducing the cost of the building.

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18 Resident February 9, 2017 at 11:58 AM

Mr. Hamilton, thank you for your time and valuable and appreciated feedback. Where do you think the building should be sited? Turned as in Mr. Parry’s proposal? Or an entirely different location on the property?

19 Resident February 8, 2017 at 7:30 AM

I personally would like to thank Al Hamilton for his honesty and his hard work for many years on behalf of our town. I quite often disagree with him but respect that he is unwilling to succumb to pressure, rather he fights for his beliefs even if they ruffle feathers. Unlike others, he is unwilling to accept a poor plan regardless of the pressure to follow the party lines. I watched the BOS meeting last night and was quite surprised and disappointed to see the insulting nature in which the citizens were treated by the BOS. Agree or disagree with proposed articles but please do not insult people with different opinions. Last I checked, the BOS was supposed to be working FOR the citizens not functioning as an autocratic group being both insulting and shutting down conversations. How disappointing.

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20 Townie February 8, 2017 at 7:54 AM

Al, thank you for all the hard work you have done for this project. We would not be here if it wasn’t for you voicing the concerns over the state of our public safety facilities. I hope you stick with it to the end and fight for what you think is in the best interest for the town.

I will still be voting YES for article 1. My main reason is I believe it has the lowest risk of becoming completely developed. The land swap, building the safety complex only, is our best deal. Is the complex the best fit for this town? I don’t know. I do share some of the same concerns you brought up in the last meeting, but I think it it far too late in the game for such big changes.

Again, thank you so much for all the time you have put in. You’re truly a resident that cares about the community and it’s best interests.

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21 Al Hamilton February 8, 2017 at 9:49 AM

Townie

To be clear, the current design is just a “schematic design” that is being used to develop a cost estimate. The final building may be designed by a different architect and may, I hope, be quite different.

The exercise here is to develop a budget. That budget will in turn be turned into borrowing and taxing authority. What I object to is that I believe the schematic on offer is unnecessarily expensive and that the very real needs of the departments can be supplied by a less complex more compact building at a lower cost.

What I do believe is that, in spite of our best intentions, is that whatever number we vote on will be spent in its entirety so we need to start from as frugal a place as practical. It is always possible to come back for more funds or transfer from Stabilization or the Reserve Fund if the legitimate needs cannot be met with the funds available but I firmly believe that once authorized the monies will be spent.

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22 JohnB February 8, 2017 at 8:03 AM

We don’t need an additional $20,000,000 in town debt! I would go along it’s purchasing the golf course to keep it as open land. I would not be for a police and fire complex. What’s wrong with what we have? We can’t all live in new houses. Fire and police stations where both sexes share a bathroom ( like many of the residents do) is no big deal.

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23 Mr. D February 8, 2017 at 9:07 AM

I’m still baffled as to why we are stuck on a number of $20.85 million as a hard requirement for this project. Is that number somewhat reasonable for a tax increase? What’s magic about it? I understand that was a number the Committee had arrived at a few years ago, but do construction costs not change over time and location? The more that keeps getting cut in this building the more the useful lifespan of this building gets reduced. I don’t enjoy paying more taxes, but I also don’t want to see this building fall short in the not so distant future costing us MORE.

It is clear that St. Marks has a put a higher value on the land connected to their campus. Many entities have master plans that mirror this value as well. For that they are willing to take LESS money to make that happen and that’s what they are offering the town here. It’s foolish to think we are not going to pay top dollar for the golf course if we don’t act on this swap deal. Then we could be stuck still spending money on improvements to our current police and fire or even building a new complex at a later date after spending money to buy this land. This, while paying considerably more for the land, if we can even execute the purchase. The urgency is locking up this land at a good price and still while the town has some ability to negotiate.

As far as open space, I have not seen any plans that Public Safety committee have put forth with taking part of the land on Main Street to expand the current buildings. For me, that land and the view at the intersection downtown is more aesthetically pleasing and desirable to preserve. The location where the current golf course clubhouse and such wouldn’t be that much changed with the Public Safety complex built there. The building, as drawn now, appears to fit the architecture of our town and could be modified to make it match even closer.

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24 mike fuce February 8, 2017 at 8:39 AM

1. Thank you Al, you are upstanding in all aspects 2. Never listen to the taxpayer funded government employees – I don’t mean to offend Cynthia, but you are protecting your silo and Doreen, the lights are obnoxious but you won 3. break out the land purchase/trade 4. break out the design and finance of a possible public facility 5. vote no on the existing warrant until the break out is done – I dont think we need an omnibus bill in Southboro 6. build a small facility for a small town on the existing land and location. We need 4 full time cops at all times. We need 3 full time firefighters at all times with a private back up citizenry for both. Thank you.

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25 Peter Goodney February 8, 2017 at 9:39 PM

Mr Fuce,
1.Need I remind you that all the members that serve with Mr Hamilton on the committee are in fact TAXPAYERS. They are there to verify the requests of the Chiefs. They have special expertise in Public Safety and will speak up if something is not necessary.
2. The proposed facility has been compared to similar size towns and departments and was not found to be excessive by any means.

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26 Al Hamilton February 8, 2017 at 8:40 AM

It has come to my attention that my use of the word “insubordinate” may have caused offense and that was not my intent and I regret any slight that may have been inferred. However, the underlying issue remains real.

3 weeks ago, the BOS was adamant that the program should not cost more than $20.85 million. Last night they waxed eloquent about a program that exceeded that number by $1.8 million in spite of the fact that no serious effort was made to see if a redesign could meet the specification and the cost target. Their unwillingness to insist that their own policy directives be treated seriously undermines their credibility. What are we to make of last nights policy pronouncement that the BOS will not renegotiate with St. Marks if article 1 does not pass? What will their position be in 4 weeks?

I know and respect each Selectman but they need to insist that when they do the job they were elected to do, make policy for the town, that their directives are treated with the respect they deserve. Too often this is not the case today.

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27 Resident February 8, 2017 at 9:11 AM

Al, again, I appreciate your feedback as noted in my comment above. I was shocked last night at the disrespect the BOS demonstrated to the citizens of this town. Again, agree or disagree, the BOS are supposed to be working WITH and FOR the town which means they should not be disregarding the opinions of those in town who disagree with their current policy. The vitriol in their statements and blatant disrespect and what I view as “strong arming” was unacceptable.

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28 John Smith February 8, 2017 at 10:27 AM

Al….thank you for your support and all the hard work. They had no right speaking to you that way last night, you have worked to hard and dedicated a tremendous amount of your time for the betterment of the community. It is a very expensive project and hard pill to swallow because most residents feel the Fire Department can wait, so, I think we should consider building the PD at the transfer station immediately.

As far as Mr. Rooney and BOS members saying they wont re-negotiate for Article #4, then we wont support article #1 and #2 unless they put a Conservation Restriction on the remainder of the land. This deal still remains open ended for future Town development and the destruction of the parcel.

I just read the letter Mr. Rooney presented at the start of last night BOS meeting from the Head Master of St. Marks, interesting how it just showed up before the meeting. However, the Head Master references preservation in two locations of the letter but again the BOS and the terms of the Article #1 don’t preserve a thing. If you back-out the setbacks, wetlands , PSC foot print and un-buildable land that makes up the 50% undeveloped and then the article is satisfied leaving the rest of the beautiful land open for town development. AS KOLENDA SAID “THE REST OF THE LAND IS PERFECT FOR FUTURE TOWN NEEDS”.

This take it or leave it attitude from the BOS invades preservation of cultural heritage land in the heart of town. DONT BE SCARED of a private developer be scared of the horrible deal that will destroy this land over the next 10 to 15 years.

Also, I’m further confused as to what conservation restriction / protection of land Article #3 has, it seemed very muddled but their was one resident who picked up on it. I think the golfers are being strung along to vote for #1 and #2, BIG MISTAKE. If Article #3 passes that golf course will be lucky to last a year or two especially if the land has no conservation restriction.

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29 Al Hamilton February 9, 2017 at 10:53 AM

John

Thanks, I have a pretty thick skin. I need to be clear about my concerns:

1. I believe the site is a good one for a PS building.

2. I believe a PS building is a reasonable solution to solving the legitimate space needs of both parties.

3. My only objections are to the sprawling nature of the current design which in turn has led to a cost estimate. If these concerns were addressed you would find me at the transfer station advocating for a more compact, less expensive building on this site.

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30 Concerned Voter February 8, 2017 at 9:44 PM

I’m am very confused as to how people can hear what the committee had to say about the building and not see that everything that is there is needed to function a highly effective public safety building? The other 6 committee members are made of police officers, firefighters, and an architect. All of them either know how a police station, fire station, or even building schematics work. Al’s monetary concern shakes out for me in a year, to be less than what I spend filling my gas tank in a week. And how can alternatives that are much more expensive then be given as a solution? We inevitably will need two new buildings and whether we do one now or later, the price will be going up the longer we wait. And combining them saves so much money for the town.
Additionally, to not be afraid of a developer is mind boggling. Brian Shea said last night that the town hasn’t built a building in 35 years and that was the fire station. Do you not think that 2/3 of the town would not support preservation? Why do you think a builder would do less damages than your community?

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31 John Wood February 8, 2017 at 10:35 PM

I need to add a disclaimer that I am on the PSBC as well as being an Advisory Committee member. I am speaking on my own behalf and these are my opinions and do not represent opinions or positions of either of my committees

I never post to the blog for fear that I will say something stupid or it will be misconstrued. I read Mr. Hamilton’s post last night and I feel I need to shed some light on his points. I agree that Al has worked tirelessly on this project as our whole committee has. We are all volunteers giving up our free time to try and do what we feel is in the best interest for the community.

1. Silo Mentality –
Watch the BOS meeting from Tues. 2/7/17. Jason Malinowski does a great job explaining this on our presentation to the BOS. There is a full size kitchen for the Fire Fighters who work 24 hour shifts. Keep in mind that this building will also act as one of the Town shelters in case of emergency. As such a full kitchen is a necessary to feed displaced citizens during a shelter activation. There is a small kitchenette at the central dispatch area. Currently only one dispatcher is working per shift. I don’t think anyone would want the dispatcher leaving the phone to go to the other side of the building if a loved one is having a medical emergency or if your house is being broken into. The other small kitchenette will be located at the Police side of the building. Please keep in mind, kitchenettes are not kitchens (coffee pot, microwave, utensils, etc.).

2. Expensive Financially Inefficient Spaces –
Watch our meeting from Monday 2/6/17 on SAM. I personally asked one of our member’s who is an architect by trade, as well as our professional consultant, if shrinking the footprint, squaring off the building and adding a second floor would save any money. I was told that this might actually increase the cost due to the addition of more staircases and potential elevator location.This is due to differences in the heights of the apparatus bays and the main building. It would also pose problem for secondary egresses.

3. Inappropriate For the Site –
We have continuously had discussions within the committee, with abutters and the public on how to site this building for the least amount of impact on the remaining land for future uses as well as visual impact to the Latisquama residents. As I am fortunate enough to be on 2 committees that I feel are some of the most transparent out there please refer to all information which is on our website

4.Lack of Cost Control –
I totally disagree that there has been a loss of cost control. I will agree, throughout this entire process, the focus has in fact been on the functional requirements. As a committee we voted unanimously to meet the space needs as given by the Police and Fire Chiefs recommendations, not for just today but as a 50+ year building. I will add that not only are we consistent with comparable communities but our space needs are 2,000 sq feet less than what the previous PBSC study from 2007 came up with. I for one would rather build it right the first time, meeting the program requirements, than to realize years later that we in fact need more space and have to add a few million dollars to the cost.

5. “The results have been predictable. I have offered over a dozen suggestions on ways to reduce costs. These have been systematically ignored.”

Not True. As a committee we went over every item on a list that Al had supplied us at our 1/18/17 meeting.We discussed all and voted on them. I would also point out that we’ve had two public meetings post that meeting that Al could have brought these items up again if he felt they were still being neglected.

6. Disrespect for the Board of Selectmen

Several weeks ago the BOS gave the PS Building Study Committee clear direction that the cost of the project was not to exceed $20.85 million. Regrettably, this directive was given by the BOS who had been given incomplete information. That information was given to them in a letter from the then Chairman. Al told us that he sent the letter as a resident, not as the committee chair. We as a committee never discussed or had an opportunity to go over any presentation that was to be given by the then chair at the BOS meeting. We, the rest of the committee, actually found out the day before the BOS meeting that we were even on the agenda. In his presentation there was no mention about escalation in cost of 4-5 % due to project being delayed over 1 year or the cost for utilities to be brought to the site.

As for the Police and Fire chiefs being insubordinate, that to me, is total BS. We are lucky to have such dedicated professionals working for Southborough! They have been to all of our meetings every week for 4-5 hours each as well as countless hours on the phone with the consultants trying to lean down the program requirements. All while managing their respective depts.

Sincerely,
John Wood

If you want to blast me personally, as I am sure is going to be coming on this blog, I will be at the transfer station Saturday morning trying to garner support for Article 1 and a much needed and long overdue Public Safety Building.

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32 Resident February 9, 2017 at 11:46 AM

What I find deeply disturbing is the BOS’s blatant disregard for citizens with whom they don’t agree. At the BOS meeting the other night they could not have been more gracious to those who tried to further their efforts but were rude to those opposed. So you’re telling me that because I don’t agree with Article 1 like MANY other residents, that I have to vote “yes” anyway because the BOS told me they refuse to work with the rest of the town? And that is PRECISELY what they are saying. They are issuing the townspeople ULTIMATUMS using scare tactics rather than giving us OPTIONS based on their job which is to work WITH and FOR the citizens. I thought this was a democracy? I cannot begin to express my deep disappointment in our BOS. They should be ashamed of their refusal to work for the citizens because they want to push their own agenda. I look forward to the next election cycle for sure.

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33 John Smith February 9, 2017 at 1:35 PM

Town of Sutton is building a New 12,500 SF Police Station for 7.5 Million……lets start with that at the DPW / Transfer Station……I wont charge the Town any fees for this bit of information.

WAKE UP……WE DON’T HAVE TO PAY 30 MILLION FOR LAND AND CONSTRUCTION COSTS

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34 Michael Moorehead February 9, 2017 at 2:38 PM

Hi John,
I don’t know the specifics of Sutton’s Police station. But those numbers you’ve provided come out to $600 per sq foot, which is right in line with our all in number, as of now, of $634 per square foot. All projects have different stories, so they’re not always apples to apples. We’re looking for a combined facility, whereas they’re just building a Police station. We’d be at $756 a square foot if you include the cost of the golf course at $4.5 million, but that’s not fair as other uses will be able to enjoy the remaining land.
Thank you,
Michael

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35 Concerned Voter February 9, 2017 at 1:44 PM

Dear Resident,

I couldn’t disagree more. What I saw in Al’s message and tone was insulting and disrespectful to everyone involved. Something had to be said and I commend the BOS for addressing him. I thought they were also classy because they could have defended themselves…instead they stood up for only the fire and police chief. They did say he had every right to disagre. The letter he wrote sounded like an attack. He could have voiced his opinions in a much more appropriate way. I was very disappointed to see this letter from someone so respected in town. He can have his opinions, but he lost credibility in my book for the way he went about it.

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36 Michael Moorehead February 9, 2017 at 2:29 PM

Hello to everybody involved.
I too am on the Public Safety Committee, these are my comments alone.

My family and I are 3-year residents of Southborough, and I’m an architect. I’ve worked in Boston for the past 16 years and have been involved in roughly $350 million dollars worth of construction over the past 8 years alone. That $350 million dollars, surprisingly, is only 4 buildings that have ranged from academic ($30), to residential (2x $130), to a hotel ($60). Not all buildings are alike, and as such, have different costs and efficiency associated with them. As an architect, you’re the client’s representative to do what’s right functionally, fiscally, and for the life of the building and it’s future users. I’m extremely proud of the work that 7 (10 with the chiefs and TA) strangers have been able to accomplish since we’ve been together. At least everybody was a stranger to me when we started. It’s been educational for me as I hear their perspectives and priorities for this project. It’s also been a juggling act as I offer my professional opinions as architect, a taxpayer, and committee member. I feel very confident in the building we’ve sketched out thus far, and we as a town, have several months to work out the kinks of the design. I’m glad to see so many voices speak up and be heard.

I encourage everybody to learn as much as possible about this project, both the proposed site and the building itself. The information is out there: http://www.southboroughtown.com/public-safety-study-committee

I too will be at the Transfer Station on Saturday 2/11, 1-3:30. Thank you for the dialogue and I look forward to continuing the conversation.
Michael

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37 John Kendall February 9, 2017 at 4:02 PM

First, Welcome to $outhborough. Look back at projects such as Trottier and Woodward schools. They cost a lot of money. It seems to be that we always hire the most expensive consultants and designers. We need to get practical, and yes, I’ve seen the schematics for the proposed building and space.

Second, St. Mark’s School no longer has any interest in being in the golf course business. They will dispose of the land one way or another. If the town doesn’t buy it, someone else will. Assisted living? Cordaville Central? We as a town could never support any of that.

Construction on the current fire station began in 1978. While the shell and steel were contracted out, all of the flooring, wall structures, and plumbing was done by members of the department to save the town money. I was a department member and put in countless hours, as did many others, unpaid, because we needed a bigger station. At the time of construction, the design was supposed to last fifty years. Unfortunately, due to improper maintenance (I’m not knocking any of the chiefs, it was always a money issue), and changes in apparatus, as well as an increase of the number of full time members of the department, it no longer fits the needs of a modern fire department. Could it be refurbished? Of course. But it won’t provide the much needed space. And of course, it would cost millions. The police station is what it is….an old school that no longer fits the needs of our police department, or any other department. Again, the building is no longer practical, and should be disposed of.

The logical solution is to purchase the golf course. Much to the chagrin of many naysayers, it’s an appropriate spot. There will be plenty of land left over for open space and passive recreation. Cost of the building? I’m sure some of the things are not absolutely necessary and can be done away with to get the price down. And I’ll tell you this: I think our taxes are too high for what we provide to the residents. We get too little for too much money. But, even though I’m not a fan of higher taxes, I am in FULL support of a new public safety building. I’m not leaving town anytime soon, so I’ll be around to help pay for it.

Finally, I would like to thank all of the Public Safety Facility Study Committee members. I don’t fully agree with all of Al Hamilton’s nor John Wood’s thoughts, but as committee members, they certainly have come up with some great ideas. I think people underappreciate this committee and what they do. Let’s not be like our current US Congress. Talk everything out, take the best of all sides, and put a plan together. It’s in everyone’s best interest.

Dart board will be on my front door for those who want to take shots!

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38 John Smith February 10, 2017 at 7:16 AM

Michael……thank you for volunteering for this committee……as a resident we ere truly lucky to have a group as dedicated as yours. However, I really think your group should think about decoupling FD / PD and address our immediate concerns which is a police station. The program for the Sutton Police Department seemed substantial but perhaps your group needs to evaluate a handful full of Police Stations that have been built over the last 5 years. Building a stand alone Police Station on Land we already own should be our top priority and will ease the pain for those who don’t want the cost associated with a combined complex.

A couple years ago David Perry ran a campaign for selectmen indicating the existing Peters Annex was a “sound structural” building and should be renovated, have you ever looked into a complete gut of Peters Annex / Add-Reno for the Fire Department and put the Police Station at the DPW / Transfer Station? I understand that Peters Annex would require code upgrades but a foundation and solid structure / facade should be worth something especially if we are talking about, kitchens, sleeping quarters, meeting rooms, non technical areas. Then, add on to that for the high bay areas.

I understand your committee has a charge for the St. Marks Golf Course but I don’t believe your committee has looked into separate facilities hard enough. I understand theirs temporary facility cost but from what I’m seeing the cost for stand alone PD are between 5 million and 12 million. I could be wrong but I did not see a scenario / option based on what I mentioned above.

Furthermore, we still have an issue with finding Fire Department temporary space ($) if we build on its current location. However, the renovation of the Peters Annex if logistically planned properly may not impact the day to day operations of the current Fire Department Building.

Thanks for your patience throughout this process.

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39 M February 13, 2017 at 3:31 PM

Al,
Thank you for your hard work. I am sorry you felt the need to step down as chair. To all the committee, thank you. But as I read this and try to keep up with the constant changes and new warrant articles, I fear that the Special Town Meeting will just be another railroading. Chaos! as the rules are not understood and votes are called, etc. . Is it possible to still propose thru an Artcle that the purchase from St. Mark’s be made now separate from the approval of the building design but contingent on the Town citizenry voting on conservation or use of the remaining land? Can this Article (or perhaps this is 2-3 separate Articles) then be moved to be the first vote or else table Article I from the floor, or would the BOS be able to override such action during the Special Meeting? (Someone needs that blue book of rules)

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40 Al Hamilton February 14, 2017 at 11:52 AM

M

Please see my previous post regarding “Dividing the Question”

I am not sure about the procedure for reordering articles. I believe that the Moderator has a lot of discretion but I will check.

Once Town Meeting is called to order, the BOS has no special privileges. Town meeting is a legislature and all member are equal. There are some courtesies that are extended to town boards (like the courtesy of speaking before the topic is opened to the hall) but these are courtesies not requirements.

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41 beth February 14, 2017 at 12:02 PM

But can the approval of the land purchase without the building be forced on selectmen? Would voters’ approval require selectmen to go through with executing the deal, or does it only serve to give them permission to execute?

Are you really suggesting this as a way for voters to pressure the Town to reevaluate the design and cost of the building between STM and ATM?

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42 Mr. D February 14, 2017 at 2:08 PM

Wouldn’t splitting them up and leaving the option of not building the complex there create a problem? Since the land would have to be turned over as part of the agreement for the reduced price and leave us with no Fire and Police stations.

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43 Al Hamilton February 14, 2017 at 3:52 PM

Mr D

If the deal closes (60 days after approval of the Special Act) we have the right to continue to occupy the premises (at our expense) for 3 years at no rent with an option to extend for another 3 years at $10,000 per month rent. So we have 6 years to find new homes for the Police and Fire Departments.

I would still prefer to build a more compact, less expensive building on the Golf Course Site and that might be one of the options considered if the PS building fails. There are other options each with its pluses and minuses none are perfect. They include:

1. Building a more compact, less expensive facility on the Golf Course near the present proposed site.

2. Building a PS building on either St. Marks Meadow or Choate Field (there are no per

3. Building Separate Facilities at the same time. The location of a Police Station is far less location sensitive than a Fire Station as the Police Department is “forward deployed” so there are a number of good sites where a police station could be located. Location of a Fire Station is more constrained to the central part of town. (Roughly between the current location and the Transfer Station). The current site with some modest additions of land or on the Golf Course in the current proposed location or Choate Field. There may be one or two other sites that could be made to work.

4. Building a police station first followed by a fire station. This course would have the advantage of allowing us to demolish the old police station first and then make the most of the current site as one option. It also spreads payments out over a longer period of time. It of course delays dealing with the real shortcomings of the existing facility.

If the deal closes and for some reason we have not found the required space in the 6 years we could, as a last resort, take the property by eminent domain, unpleasant as that would be.

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44 Mr. D February 14, 2017 at 5:00 PM

In your options, 1 is the only option that would really seem to work. Still not sure why we keep getting hung up on a cost estimate that was done in the past for a building being built in the future… I agree that paying more in taxes isn’t a good thing and costs should be kept down, but costs do rise from year to year.

2. Requires taking back land we agreed to trade/sell. Choate Field seems like a strange place to now suggest to use for this whole complex. Was Choate Field a site the Public Safety Committee considered before?

3. if it requires using current site, it would again be land agreed upon to trade/sell. Even if you found two new sites wouldn’t the cost of 2 buildings exceed the cost of one single building?

4. Unless the fire station is located somewhere else it would be on the same land agreed to trade/sell.

These options need to be considered while taking a look at the past work of the Public Safety Committee. I thought before the Golf Course plan, the recommended location was to acquire more land next to the current location and expand. This was the reason the Selectman were negotiating with St. Marks. Did the committee find a location for a new fire station that was not an expansion of where it is now and not on the golf course?

If we don’t have anywhere to go after this deal closes and 6 years expires, eminent domain of the land the town traded/sold and then MORE land to cover the needed space seems a bit more than just unpleasant.

45 Al Hamilton February 14, 2017 at 6:36 PM

Mr. D

I am hung up on the cost because the specifications were developed in the absence of any any cost constraints or guidance and I know what you get when that happens. At some point, the cost exceed the benefits and for me that line is $21 million. This building will not on average get the ambulance to your house faster (If you live North of Rt 9 it will be 1-2 min slower South of Rt 9 1-2 min faster), it will not reduce the crime rate. It will increase taxes which will put downward pressure on operating budgets. Fixing the real housing needs of the departments is necessary but I do not believe the current design and budget are appropriate.

There are no perfect choices here only hard decisions that will not please everyone.

The committee did not seriously consider Choate Field because at the time we believed it was deed restricted. We have since found out that the restriction can be overcome. Regardless, choosing that site would require finding new playing fields which would complicate the process.

Some of these options are viable if the land deal is not approved or if all of the golf course is preserved. Like I said, there were no choices that jumped off the page and said this is obvious, including the one on offer.

46 Al Hamilton February 14, 2017 at 2:14 PM

Good question.

1. I believe that the BOS will sign the P&S agreement prior to town meeting. I do not think they could go back on the deal in good faith.

2. The P&S is contingent on 2 things happening. Town Meeting approving the deal and a “Special Act” being approved. The “Special Act” wording is to be agreed to prior to town meeting and must be approved by the Legislature before the end of 2017.

3. A “Special Act” is a law passed by the State (legislature and governor) that permits something new or unusual. In this case, we are trading land rather than putting it out to the highest bidder and there are some offsets against the back taxes due on 61b conversion to cover demolition costs. Both these items might not be kosher under existing state law. The Special Act sanctions these items and make them legal.

4. There is nothing I saw in the P&S that refers to the form of the approval by Town Meeting so it could be approved in a stand alone motion or as park of a package with the PS building.

5. Note that I did not see anything in the agreement that would make the funding subject to a Prop 2.5 debt exclusion. So, once approved by Town Meeting it is approved. I believe that the 4.5 million in debt could be funded “within the cap” so a prop 2.5 debt exclusion vote at the polls is not necessarily required.

My conclusion is that if Town Meeting approves the purchase the Selectmen, if they are to honor their agreement with St Marks would have to submit the Special Act and once that was approved the deal would be done. I have no reason to doubt that they would do so.

It should be noted that by the summer we may have a recall by law on the books which could provide added incentive.

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47 M February 16, 2017 at 1:08 PM

Arrrrrgh. Is anyone else confused or is it just me?

1. If we have 6 years to stay and do a more thorough building design, and then also have time to pursue more options that have recently come to light, then I would like us to do the swap with St.Mark’s before they decide to sell it to a developer. A very HIGH priority in my eyes. Is there a stand-alone Article to do that?

2. If Choate field is now an option, I would like to see plans for that and look for other land for recreation fields. That is a prime location for the new PS building! What does the committee think of that space?

3. Perhaps keeping the golf course as a town course with some recreational space and some conservation land would be a great solution and compromise. What are the costs associated that? Do those various related committees have an objection?

4. Finally, is there any way to vote on the existing articles to accomplish these ideas? I am unclear what is binding for The BOS, what is dependent on other Articles, and what St. Mark’s will do if we vote down Article 1 as is.

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48 M February 16, 2017 at 1:14 PM

On another note, I thought St. Mark’s wanted the current PS land in the swap because they intended to build on it for the school’s use. Rumor now is running that they may actually sell it. ?? Whether or not the rumor is true, how is that land zoned after the sale? I doubt St. Mark’s wants a Starbucks there, but it would be a goldmine. Is that legally possible? Can they sell it and who could develop it?

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49 Al Hamilton February 16, 2017 at 7:54 PM

I want to be clear with regard to Choate Field – Yes, I believe that the area, on a purely technical basis could support a fire station or PS building but I am not advocating this I merely suggest that there are other options and none of them are perfect. I continue to believe that a more compact, less expensive building on the proposed site is a good solution as is a PS building on St. Marks Meadow.

Regarding St. Marks use of the land they buy. I am not aware of any plans but they will own the land and have the same rights that any property owner would have. The land is currently zoned Residence A. If we pass the by law that allows for re purposing of historic buildings they may have more options.

Of course an interesting thing is that St. Marks has put conditions on our use of the land we buy but we have not placed similar restrictions on the land they get.

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50 Frank Crowell February 16, 2017 at 10:42 PM

Well, I am shocked that St Mark’s placed restrictions on the property they sell but we set none on ours.

I wonder how much smaller the new firehouse would be without a ladder truck? May be a smaller fire vehicle would work just as well for the town. Never thought we needed one anyway. But I bet St Mark’s would like us to keep it.

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51 Mr. D February 17, 2017 at 10:47 AM

You make it sound like St. Marks threw an offer down and the selectman just accepted it as written. Personally, I could see that the restriction on the use for the golf course being something that both sides negotiated to make it more palatable to the population.

I’d like to see more than 50% be blocked off, but it’s a start. Article #3 seeks to move that number closer to 93% instead of 50% and would be a good compromise.

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52 Frank Crowell February 17, 2017 at 3:13 PM

When it comes to anything dealing with the schools in town (public or private) I generally believe that the Southborough taxpayer gets the short end of the stick every time.

I would like to see the golf course remain as is with maybe a community recreation center at most built on the property. The public school system should be made to come to grips with over abudance of class rooms and give up one of the buildings to the town where a public safety building could be built. And to make my fantasy complete, the private schools in town would have to pay for the services rendered without exception and teacher’s union grip on the school budget would be rolled back. My fantasy will never come true but it is nice to daydream.

53 Al Hamilton February 17, 2017 at 3:17 PM

My understanding was that this was a condition put on the negotiation by St. Marks. My only point was that in the transaction, St. Marks gets land that is unrestricted (and in deed appears to be exempt from any demolition by law that the town might pass in the future) while Southborough gets land that is heavily use restricted. I leave it to the public to weigh the value exchanged.

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54 ConcernedTownie February 26, 2017 at 12:27 PM

I’ve been living in Southborough for over 15 yrs. and yet again I’m hearing about the need for another financially-irresponsible project. This one is even more grandeur – modern Southborough Public Safety Building — at the total project price of 27MM. During this period, my tax bill went up three times from $2200 to almost $6,600, an average annual 8% increase for a 1,700 sq.ft house on 1/3 acre. Wish I could get a similar return rate on my retirement account and a matching salary increase.
Do we have so much fire and crime going on in the town that we need such a state-of-the art Safety Building at the insane price of $27 MM? How many conference, meeting, and administrative & auxiliary rooms and kitchens should a public safety facility have? What’s next – an indoor swimming pool or an emergency helicopter? There’re many private companies that do not offer their employees such facilities.
I get that we all want to have the best for our kids, for our senior citizens, for our residents, for our firefighters and police, yet it would be great if one could afford living in this town to enjoy all of bests. How many other projects besides building public schools, buying an old church across from Woodward, purchasing of Chestnut Hill farm, repairing of the Old High School located at the 21 Highland, etc. could our town force at the expense of its residents, with small contribution from limited in-town businesses? How come the 2 affluent private schools could not substantially contribute for the goods of the town while benefiting from the services of Southborough police, fire-fighters and other department for almost 150 years?
As a responsible tax payer who wants to afford living in this town, I urge ALL its citizens to wake up and vote ‘NO’ on this ridiculously expensive project. Enough is enough – we’re getting taxed out of town!
For the concerned citizens, who want to ‘Save Our Heritage’ by buying St.Marks’ golf course and building the advanced public facility, STOP your ‘doom & gloom’ propaganda. Instead volunteer to pay more of your own money, raise funds/donations, or help bring more businesses into the town to completely pay for this insane project. Don’t forget to also raise money for the golf course upkeep & maintenance – that will require hiring an army of specialized staff, special equipment, etc. Saving a heritage does not mean building a modern police/fire station on a golf course. Once that is done, what’s next more modern town hall, library, DPW?

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55 Frank Crowell February 26, 2017 at 6:56 PM

ConcernedTownie – Add to the future town list of “needs” that our superintendent and her staff have shabby offices in an outdated school building. No state money for that little upgrade, but it will be for the kids.

Yep, the old tax rate just keeps on climbing. Of course it will do that when all major spending bills are passed. Just say no should have happened a long time ago.

A good compromise would be to off load some town properties like the Old High School as well as some others. That would require us to give up some “historic” buildings and a fair one to save a very large open space – golf course or not.

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56 ConcernedTownie February 26, 2017 at 8:43 PM

Frank Crowell, cannot agree with you more. Similar to the people in private sector – school administration need to earn the upgrade. Our schools are decent, but no near the ones in Shrewsbury, Westborough, Hopkinton, etc. despite the high taxes.
I noticed all spending are all about the preservation of something – BreakHill cows, Chesnut Hill farm, Old High School and now St.Marks’s golf course. How about preserving an average tax payer? Half of Southborough is historical; does it mean we have to preserve it all? Why cannot we offload Old High School for new development to bring in more taxes or build much less luxury and fiscally-responsible Public Safety building in the place of old church? New citizen center can be built in place of the current fire & police station.
Yet, no alternative solutions as above along with fiscal long-term impact are being presented by the Committees and Special interest groups that want to preserve anything and everything in town, but our taxes. Where would we get a budget to operate the golf course (staff, equipment, insurance, etc.) – doubt that ongoing golf operations would cover all the expenses? The answer is easy – taxpayers money.

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57 WorriedTownie February 27, 2017 at 11:49 PM

Finally somebody like ConcernedTownie makes sense out of all in this irrational campaign. I cannot believe we are buying “Historical property” again. Nobody other than a few people with special interests can be “addicted” to this piece of land. Most residents had never been there and do not have any plans to use it. We should STOP promoting this type of spending taxpayer’s money forward buying “historic landmarks”. How about bringing business, luxury properties and generate more taxes to cover inflated budget. Southborough needs newcomers, new businesses to catch up with increasing town needs. Only “NO” should be an answer to this question.

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58 John March 6, 2017 at 9:01 AM

Very interesting to hear the tax increase proposal considering all expenses for the next 5 years at least. Did anybody run any numbers? I am looking for specific number for each household. Looks like it is all hiding and people are blindsided. Town needs to know the truth behind this acquisition. Does anybody have an answer?

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59 Al Hamilton March 6, 2017 at 10:24 AM

John

You are correct, there is some “slight of hand” going on. Here are the facts as I see them.

1. Regardless of the status of the PS building and Golf course our taxes will be going up by less than they might otherwise go up because we are finally paying off some of our debt (primarily schools). For example, we will have to pay out about $325k less this year in debt obligations so our taxes will only go up about 2% as opposed to more. Your taxes are not going to go down because we have paid off our debt unless we have a serious change in leadership.

2. There are those in town hall that believe that because we have gotten used to paying a certain tax rate, which includes operating budgets and debt, we should be happy to continue to pay that amount even if the debt obligations decline or are paid off.

3. My own estimate is that the cost of the land and building (borrow $2,750,000 for 30 years at 4% level funded) will cost taxpayers about $0.67 per thousand of assessed value. If your house is worth $300,000 that would be $203/yr for 30 years, $500,000 $339/yr, $750,000 $507/yr, $1,000,000 $677/yr.

Make no mistake about it a Yes vote will increase your taxes by roughly these amounts vs a No vote. There are expenses that would be required in the event of a No vote but these are modest by comparison.

There are less expensive options that have not been addressed.

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60 AEP March 6, 2017 at 8:34 PM

I’ve been a resident for nearly 25 years — we built our home on just under 2 acres in 92/93. Our taxes started at less than $4K a year the first two years, then began to rise steadily and significantly. We now pay just shy of $14K a year in property tax. That’s a 250% increase. The cumulative rate of inflation over the same period of time is 68%, our property value has grown just slightly more. The town has therefore taken nearly a 3X multiple on inflation and more than 2X multiple on the inflation adjusted property value.

As much as we enjoy living here, I honestly can’t say that the schools improved 3X, or that we realized benefits of town services improving 2-3X. The BOS track record with regard to managing revenue has not delivered a positive ROI.

Thanks for your years of service Al, appreciate your candor and the context. Your comments requesting a little more attention to fiscal responsibility are spot on!

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61 John March 6, 2017 at 3:44 PM

Al Hamilton – thank you for your estimate but it makes no sense as honestly it does not include annual operating budget to have Golf Club up and running by a taxpayers of Southborough. Is it profitable? Nobody would unload a profitable business. What is a reason for town of Southborough to own that land? Are we going to make a lot of money from that purchase? If not, then why did town decide to move forward with this acquisition? How a regular household family who never used any Golf Club would benefit from that purchase? I guess residents of Southborough are very confused by this decision. Usually the rule is if you are not going to make any profit from the purchase then just simple move on and looks like this is one of that example. Can you explain the reason behind this decision please?

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62 D. McGee March 6, 2017 at 5:00 PM

The purpose of municipalities buying property is almost NEVER to make a profit, as they are not in the business of speculating on real estate. Rather, it is almost always for the purpose of fulfilling a strategic goal, such as:
(a) maintaining the look and feel of the town by ensuring open space
(b) acquiring land necessary to construct municipal buildings
(c) parks and recreation fields and facilities
etc.

I don’t have a problem with the basic idea of the town buying property. I just want to make sure the purchase is at a fair price, there is a reasonable plan for its use, and the plan is fiscally responsible.

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63 John March 6, 2017 at 6:40 PM

In this case this project sounds like completly opposite with the goal of preserving something with no real funds for that. We can not buy something if we cannot afford it. Regular Southborough taxpayer cannot afford such increase in taxes and have no interests in this purchase. I really can not understand the need to preserve this open land for town residents. Sorry, but it just does not make any sense. Luxury SP building is nice to have as well as everybody would like to live in luxury houses but not everybody can afford it. I am going to vote “NO” unless somebody can convince me that it is absolutely nesessary for majority Southborough residents to complete this swap/sale and build a new PS building with no really crime in Southborough.

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64 ConcernedTownie March 7, 2017 at 2:35 PM

Doing my research, I came across an insightful data form Golf Benchmarking, which is an online publication that works with managers and controllers, board and committee members, and audit firms for hundreds of golf clubs to allow them assess their financial and operational performance against industry benchmark.
• The median club in the country spends close to $1.2M on course maintenance alone, with the range of expense from $700K to $1.7M for 18-hole course. For ‘Golf Only’ club (i.e no clubhouse or restaurant,) which is what St.Mark’s is, the course maintenance is about 37% of the overall cash use. The other 63% are for G&A, Fixed charges (tax, insurance,), buildings maintenance and golf operations labor. Assuming St.Mark’s spends a minimum of $700K a year or 37% on course maintenance, it will require $1.9MM a year to operate.
• So will the St.Marks’ golf club generate enough revenue in the 7 months it operates per year? According to St.Mark’s ‘Green Fees’ for ’17, maximum amount that an average golfer (who’s NOT in a league, senior/junior or plays after twilight, the rates for which are cheaper) can spend is $29 green fees + $14 on golf cart for 18-hole game. Hence, a maximum total of $43, which assuming every golfer spends to play 18-holes, 6,285 golfers a month or 210 golfers every day (shine or rain) during the 7-month season will be required for the course to breakeven. Passing by the course on a daily basis, I don’t believe the course attracts these many golfers. Hence, the town payers will need to cover an annual shortfall of funds that can range from a couple of hundred thousand to at least a million a year? Could it be the reason why St.Mark’s has decided to sell the course? I don’t believe it’s fair and responsible to expect Southborough taxpayers to subsidize the ever-increasing course operations in perpetuity.
• As a reality check to my last point, Forbes in its article at the end of ’14, wrote ‘New data from Sageworks, a renowned financial information company, show that U.S. golf courses and country clubs, on average, face persistent unprofitability.’

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65 ConcernedTownie March 7, 2017 at 2:38 PM

The bottom line to my previous comment – I get that that the purpose of municipalities buying property is almost NEVER to make a profit, however, not to ‘loose a shirt’ either a year after year at the Southborough taxpayers expense. Vote NO to buying Golf Course!

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66 beth March 7, 2017 at 3:02 PM

It should be clear that voting yes for article one even with the conservation restriction does not cause the golf course to be renovated and supported. Even article 3 doesn’t.

Any funding would still have to go back to a town meeting for voters to support. The conservation restriction would stop other buildings from going up, and allow for golf, but not mandate golf.

And supporters of golfing there have claimed that the course does cover it’s costs currently and they believe they have a plan that would in the long term cover the initial costs of renovating the course. But once again, that is the case they would have to make to the voters.

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67 southsider March 7, 2017 at 5:30 PM

Just saw an email from Selectman Kolenda that said the golf course would undoubtedly be sold to developers if we turn down the proposed Article #1.
That’s speculative at best and downright misleading to those who haven’t been following the issue closely.
That kind of exaggerated veiled threat- for lack of a better word – is what turns so many of us off on this entire proposal.

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68 southsider March 7, 2017 at 5:34 PM

Just re-read the letter. He actually says this “..sold to developers” outcome happens if Article #4 is passed. A subtle difference but shame on me if I don’t acknowledge it.

I’m pretty sure he believes passing Article #4 and rejecting Article #1 go hand in hand.

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69 John March 7, 2017 at 8:40 PM

Beth – sorry, but do you think it is ridicules to put “golf supporters” interests on town taxpayer shoulders. What is bad about building up? How come town is not interesting in additional money flow? It seems like group of people with special interests in this “deal” is trying to push hard and get the result they want. Actual OFFICIAL dada is clearly showing that golf club as St. Mark is not profitable in any shape of form. Why should we believe “town golf supporters”? How you can go against official numbers and researches? Can “these” people buy this golf club, own it and enjoy but not using public funds if they really like it and think it is profitable? STOP using Southborough resident’s money for very suspicious deals. Vote ‘NO’ to support special interests!

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70 Mr. D March 8, 2017 at 12:25 PM

The majority voice of the people who showed up to public hearings were in support of golf and open space. That’s why the St. Marks Master Planning Committee came up with that recommendation coupled with the fact that the town owns more appropriate options for other possible projects.

What “actual official data” do you have showing that the course is losing money?

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71 John March 7, 2017 at 8:50 PM

That is what is HIDING! Next year we will be back voting again for improving and restoring Golf Club! Why town is pushing for more and more tax increase? How about spending tax dollars wisely? Town activists are blindsiding taxpayers. That is so sad. They suppose to work for town residents and not against.

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72 southsider March 8, 2017 at 10:26 AM

Is there official data that shows that St. Mark’s was loosing money at the golf course?
I don’t recall seeing it.

And although it may cost some money to run the golf course at a loss, there is some math that suggests allowing a bunch of 4 bedroom colonials or apartment/condo complexes to be built might cost more because of the added burdens placed on to town services.

I’m still voting NO and assuming we can buy the land later without trading off the police and fire stations. Bundling these two transactions was simply a mistake.

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73 Mr. D March 8, 2017 at 11:07 AM

What cost do you find acceptable to buy the land alone? If you are basing your assumption of being able to buy it later on the right of first refusal, I think that might be flawed. It is my understanding and others have pointed this out as well, that if St. Marks wanted to sit on the property and pay rollback taxes, they could do this transaction without giving the town the right of first refusal. The town would then have to exceed the best offer, if St. Marks even wanted to deal with the Town.

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74 southsider March 8, 2017 at 11:22 AM

Not necessarily assuming a “right” but I am assuming that a fair market value offer from us would be well received. As they have stipulated in their current proposal, it is in their best interest to keep the land from being developed and we would be the only purchaser would be willing to certify that as our intention.
And I think the folks running the school would consider that promise to have some added value when considering our offer. I’m not buying the ” they have to take top dollar or they’re violating some fiduciary responsibility” argument. Taking soft considerations into account certainly falls within any normal Board’s span of authority.

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75 Mr. D March 8, 2017 at 1:56 PM

I think the soft considerations were the “value” they placed on getting land contiguous to their current space. If that goes away, maybe they don’t want to sell to us.

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76 southsider March 8, 2017 at 4:33 PM

maybe… but there must have been a reason for them to include the 50% undeveloped clause in the proposal.
Would they still want to impose that on a later purchaser?
Would a developer tolerate such a requirement?

77 John March 8, 2017 at 12:19 PM

southsider – I agree with you that all data regarding St. Mark’s profitability is hiding from town residents and never been officially published that is why it is better to do your own research and not rely on “golf lovers” to make you believe in what they want. I also did not see a math that would prove that bringing taxes from luxury properties would cost town residents to increase their own property taxes. I do see however that closing this deal would clear force town to increase taxes and to own something that majority of residents have no plans to use. I am still struggling to understand the need of buying this land in an expense of town taxpayers. .

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78 southsider March 8, 2017 at 2:47 PM

the math relates to the idea that we don’t collect enough in taxes from most individual homes in town to cover the services consumed by the people who live in the home.
if we could be sure the land would be covered with just several five acre multi-million dollar estates whose owners sent their kids to private schools, that equation would change a lot; but counting on that seems a bigger risk.
Covering the golf course with 4 bedroom, 2 1/2 bath colonials or a number of condos or apartments would have a cost to us, I think.

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