Town may be looking at St. Mark’s Golf Course for Public Safety Building site

by beth on September 6, 2016

Post image for Town may be looking at St. Mark’s Golf Course for Public Safety Building site

Above: According to rumors, Town officials are negotiating acquiring land at St. Mark’s golf course for a potential public safety building (image posted to Facebook by Charles Kerbel Sr.)

Rumors have been swirling about the Public Safety Building.  So far, the talk is unsubstantiated, but also notably not denied. And now an unofficial Neighborhood Meeting is lending credence to the talk.

Residents on Latisquama Road and offshoots* are talking about the “imminent” move by the Town to relocate the Town’s police and fire stations to St. Mark’s Golf Course. The rumor has a curb cut being sought on the residential back road.

Some residents are concerned that losing the golf course and gaining vehicles with sirens speeding to emergencies would completely change the nature of the road.

Past public presentations by the Public Safety Committee looked at options for siting the building. In the end, the focus was on keeping the station at its location (though expanded) or next to it on St. Mark’s Meadow. Other sites were considered and ruled out. The golf course wasn’t on the list of properties considered.

But giving credence to recent rumors of the location change is a flyer inviting area residents to a Neighborhood Meeting “with Selectman” on the issue. It’s scheduled to take place a the Senior Center tomorrow.

An update on the issue isn’t on the agenda for tonight’s Board of Selectmen meeting. But it could be covered by the Chairman’s Report.

Selectmen have been in property negotiations with St. Mark’s School since last fall. But the board had indicated it would be looking at land abutting the current stations. (All presentations of the Public Safety Committee had focused on land overlapping the site or adjacent on the corner meadow of Route 85 & 30.) 

The most recent update by former Chair John Rooney only shared that the board was continuing to negotiate and hoped to share an update soon. (That was a month ago.) He outlined the new target date for a Town Meeting vote as April.

The board is entitled to negotiate purchase of real property in Closed Executive Session. But I’m skeptical that it keeps them from being able to share a change in the location they are pursuing. After all, they were public about their intent to negotiate for property at the St. Mark’s “meadow” (and past negotiations for a preservation restriction at 84 Main Street).

(Open Meeting Law is likely on their side. But keeping mum on the Board’s intent isn’t consistent with past promises of increased transparency.)

This weekend, I emailed the question to BOS Chair Brian Shea, Public Safety Committee Chair Al Hamilton, and Town Administrator Mark Purple.

Hamilton deferred to Shea and Purple for an answer, citing confidentiality. Shea has yet to respond. Purple’s response shows the Town is relying on the confidentiality around negotiations, and may not be saying more until October:

To your inquiry, the Selectmen are currently involved in negotiations with St. Mark’s regarding land as it impacts our ability to properly site a Public Safety Facility. These discussions remain the subject of Executive Session until they are concluded, successfully or otherwise. The Selectmen are hoping that they will be able to make comment publicly about the negotiations at the Special Town Meeting in October, if not before. Given the age and condition of our Police Station, this is something that we need to keep moving forward.

Tonight’s meeting will be followed by another Closed Executive Session to discuss the purchase of real property.

Selectmen have spoken of the need to get community support for a new public safety building. (After all, they want the vote to pass.) So it would seem an odd choice to relocate to a new spot by a neighborhood likely to raise a ruckus.

But St. Mark’s School may have reason to incentivize a land swap. The school’s board could see the Town’s abutting parcel as an ideal addition.

*[Editor’s Note: I should disclose that my parents still live in the house where I spent the last half of my youth, on Birchwood Drive off of Latisquama.]

1 Stu Evans September 29, 2016 at 3:14 PM

The “swirling rumors” (above, concerning a possible public safety complex on St Mark’s Golf Course) were written and published by the editor, many weeks ago.

The rumors appear to bear some truth. I say this because I just heard a further rumor — that a subsequent meeting took place between town officials and a few , selected residents of Latisquama Rd, telling them more about the matter, but also asking them to keep it hush hush.

This raises some questions.
How can information from Executive Sessions be passed on, in this manner, legally?
Where is openness in Government?
Why has there been no-follow-up story in MySouthborough?

It is notable that there has been no follow-up story, because the issue of development of the golf course (for condominiums) was a huge issue a decade or more ago. It created a storm of protest. Latisquama Rd residents, in particular, were upset. The proposal was withdrawn.

So it seems more than appropriate to ask the editor — Since you wrote about this matter and as a result you stirred the public interest, surely it is your responsibility to follow up with more news.

Or, have you been asked to keep quiet, too?

Please keep us informed. We depend on you, Thank you.

2 beth September 29, 2016 at 3:58 PM

Actually, I did post again, here.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the Public Safety Building Meeting I refer to in that story. And, unlike their past meetings, this one wasn’t recorded by Southborough Access Media. So, I don’t know what was said to residents there.

I followed up with Chair Al Hamilton to try to find out. His response:

We had a productive interchange with some of the Latisquama residents but we are not in a position to comment on the site of public safety facility. The BOS is the proper body to comment on this.

Frankly, I didn’t bother to reach out to selectmen again since they already made it clear they aren’t talking.

As for depending on me – people shouldn’t. I do my best to keep on top of what’s going on in town. But I am a staff of one, who is doing this part-time. I’m not an investigative reporter. And unless people are willing to pony up subscription fees (which I’m sure they are not) I can’t dedicate more hours to this than I already do.

That said, I want to keep residents informed. But it requires community engagement. If readers in the know are willing to post what they know, I’m happy to share. If you want to show up at a selectmen’s meeting and question them on the issue, I’m happy to write about the exchange.

Previous post:

Next post: