Public Safety Building: Public tours this weekend; Selectmen push back on rising estimates

Above: This Saturday, residents are invited to tour the current police and fire stations to find out why a new complex is needed, and ask questions about the project. (photos by Susan Fitzgerald)

It’s time for an update on the Public Safety Building project. But first. . .

The Public Safety Committee asked me to remind readers about their open house this weekend.

The police and fire stations will be open for tours to show the current working conditions for emergency personnel. The Public Safety Committee will also answer questions about the proposed combined police and fire complex. That takes place on Saturday, January 21 from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm.

Now to the update. . .

On Tuesday night, the committee gave selectmen unwelcome news that estimates for building the new complex increased significantly. It’s something they are trying to reverse. And selectmen made clear that costs need to go back down.

In a joint meeting, Chair Al Hamilton informed the Board of Selectmen about the increased estimates. The current estimate is about $23 Million. That’s down from the $25 Million they were alerted to last week. At that time, Hamilton says,

The committee sent consultant and chiefs back to sharpen their pencils and put the building on a diet.

The improved figure is still almost 15% higher than had been discussed over the past year.

Committee member Jason Malinowski characterized discussions about the cost increase as “very preliminary”. He claimed that the architect is shooting from the hip a bit with the new costs. Specific costing out of every wall and every stud is a project that is due the beginning of February. That’s something that could come back with a higher or lower cost.

Selectmen were adamant that it be lower. Selectman John Rooney said that the architects “need to understand that they are not operating with an open checkbook.” He echoed past statements by Hamilton that this project is the “biggest ask” they have ever made of residents that isn’t for the schools.

Malinowski explained that most of the rising estimate is based on inflation. He pointed out that the $20.8 Million estimate had been given before the Town began negotiations with St. Mark’s over land the year before. That delay added 5-6% to the cost. (That does take into account that actual construction wouldn’t begin until 2018.) 

Rooney rebutted that the $20.8 was already the highest of the 5 options the committee had presented at the time.

Additional expenses include about $500K resulting from the site change to St. Mark’s Golf Course. Those are for bringing utilities to the site and dealing with wetlands crossings. Though Hamilton claimed those were offset by not needing to temporarily house police and fire while building a new station on the current site.

Malinowski said that other costs included “big ticket items” that the board had yet to discuss and vote on. They still need to refine those and are trying to stick with the originally defined space needs. Selectman Paul Cimino asked if cost savings that Hamilton had suggested were incorporated in the lowered estimate. Hamilton said he didn’t know yet.

The committee was scheduled to meet last night. The main topic was public outreach. But they also planned to discuss cost issues.

Fellow selectmen agreed with Rooney that they need to be firm with the architect about lowering costs. Otherwise they would pursue other options.

No mention was made in the joint meeting of residents working to oppose siting the course at the golf course. (For more on that story from earlier today, click here.)

In addition to this weekend’s tours, the Public Safety Committee will hold a Public Info Session next week. It will take place at the Southborough Library, Thursday January 26th from 7:00 – 8:30 pm.

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Al Hamilton
7 years ago

On behalf of the Public Safety Building Study Committee, I would like to invite folks with questions to come to any of our events either at the Fire Station tomorrow, The Library next Thurs or coming soon to a Transfer Station near you.

We have a lot of information on our web site:

If you have questions and can’t attend, we have developed a Frequently Asked Questions Section that can be found here:

If there is a question you have that was not addressed send the committee a question here:

We are committed to making this process as transparent as possible.

Kathy Cook
7 years ago

It is not credible that costs have increased in part because of 5-6% inflation on every component of cost. CPI increased by 2.1% in 2016. Whomever is using inflation as a basis for a significant part of the increase needs to provide details to back up their claim. Employees were generally not given 5-6% increases over the past year.

7 years ago

A $20-$23million dollar building?!! that simply seems like an enormous sum for a building that – at peak – will be hosting less than 10 associates at a time. What are they trying to build? I just have a much simpler vision in my head of what is needed there.

And I wonder about the way this whole thing will eventually be presented to Town Meeting.
I would certainly hope we could have some choices to debate rather than a single article to buy the land from St Mark’s and approve the construction of the public safety building all with one vote.
Buy the land …for sure. We certainly don’t want it sold to a developer. But I’d also be curious about what it would cost if we didn’t swap off some of our land as part of the deal?
I’d be very supportive of a deal more along that line so that we can better determine just what we want done with the new land. Trading off our land and the buildings on it forces our hand and reduces the opportunity for discussion of alternate plans.

I foresee another one of those slick parliamentary maneuvers like we had at last TM that cut off debate and alternative discussion on the Main Street changes.

Al Hamilton
7 years ago
Reply to  southsider


While I chair the PS building study committee the following comments are mine and mine alone and do not reflect the polices of the committee:

1. I believe we will have separate articles for the purchase of the land and the construction of the PS building.

2. The only deal on the table is the $4.5 million + the “Stump Dump” and Fire/Police station lot. It is not clear what a standalone deal for the golf course would be as it is not on the table. Best guess would be several million more. The only comparable is the Millwood Golf Course in Framingham (66 A with developer promising to preserve 30 A) that went for $5.5 million. Framingham declined to exercise it’s 61b option. I would assume that a comparable if Southborough would go for considerably more.

3. One of the reasons to hold a separate Town Meeting is to provide the time for a full explanation and debate. Remember, that it was not the BOS or Town Moderator that ended debate at the last town meeting, it was Town Meeting that voted to end debate.

4. I share your concerns about the cost of the building. Public Sector construction is heavily stacked against the tax payer. The building is pretty specialized. In addition to housing employees it has to provide space for peak needs in emergency operations, space for fire/ambulance equipment, secure evidence storage, cells, interview rooms, and other specialized areas. Other towns of our size (populations of 5000 to 15000) are building facilities of approx the same size. I for one am working hard to keep the costs down and each citizen concerned about the cost should express themselves on the same subject.

Mark Fallon
7 years ago
Reply to  Al Hamilton

Mr. Hamilton – thank you for the comprehensive explanation on this and other threads. It’s been very helpful. And thank you for the hard work you do as a volunteer member of Public Safety Building Study Committee.

7 years ago

thanks for your work on this and other committees. And thanks for focusing on keeping the costs of this new building under some kind of control.
The word has always been that if we didn’t execute the purchase and land swap, St. Mark’s would simply sell the golf course anyway. We should ask them for a price. Maybe we’d get a bit of a good neighbor discount and then the Town could go about deciding how to use the property and what to do about Public Safety buildings as separate decisions rather than one that has to be made quickly because we swapped away existing space.

And, sorry, but you’ll never convince me that the Main Street opponents were given a fair shake at the last TM because a parliamentary maneuver by a selectman curtailed all discussion. I had been in favor of the work at our regular TM until John Butler spoke. Many in attendance at the special TM never got that chance.

Al Hamilton
7 years ago
Reply to  southsider

“The perfect is the enemy of the good”

While I currently chair the PS Building Study Committee the following comments are mine alone and do not reflect the position of the committee.

I believe that St. Marks has made it clear that the Golf Course is not part of its future plans and that it plans to monetize this asset. From what I know of the negotiations, there is no reason to believe that we will receive a “good neighbor discount”. We will have to at least match the high bidder or be the high bidder. I am pretty sure that would be a number well north of $6,000,000.

Those that want to pursue the wait and see plan should consider the that they will need 2/3 +1 vote from town meeting at a minimum (Land transactions require this) and if a borrowing is proposed a vote at the polls. Defeating the current plan may well leave a bad taste in some folks mouths who may be unwilling to step up for a more expensive bite at the apple. 1/3+1 is a lot easier to get than 2/3+1.

Finally, as the assessor has stated there is no guarantee that the town will get a 61b option to purchase. From the owners perspective, taking the land out of 61b and holding it for the required period would maximize the value of the land as would reduce the risks faced by any prospective developer. It is what I would do if I was in their position.

The only rational way to view this understand that St. Marks is going to get top dollar for the parcel. We have some land that is contiguous to the their main campus that is valuable to them that is what makes the cash price attractive.

If we do not do this deal then we have options to take care of our Public Safety needs but there may not be another chance to purchase this property.

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