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Fire Station Cost Estimate Presented

The Board of Selectmen last night also responded to allegations of an Open Meeting Law violation.

Selectmen last night responded to an and heard about the updated fire station proposal and related criticisms.

Bob Joyce, who filed that complaint, spoke in the early open session. He said that while he agrees that the town needs a new center fire station, he disagrees with how the process has been handled recently, as outlined in his filed with the attorney general.

"Not that he has to, but I do wish the town manager had told me about the meeting, since I've been asking for such a meeting for weeks," said Joyce. "Maybe there's a gray area in the open meeting law? Were the selectmen notified? Are there minutes? Who went?"

Joyce spoke to several of the abutting neighbors who will be affected by the station and found that "more than half didn't want it, a few were on the fence and one said they didn't have a problem with it."

Joyce said concerns voiced by the neighbors included: the road that would have to be reconfigured; the flashing light at entrance to the station; the width of the road; the lack of backyard necessitating equipment maintenance in the front; and concern about funding. Joyce said that while the project isn't set to increase taxes, he wondered if an alternate plan could lower town rates.

As Selectman Jon Kurland began to reply to Joyce's complaints, Selectman George Dixon asked that they table the discussion until hearing back from the state attorney general.

Later in the meeting the selectmen passed a motion to find Joyce's letter as having no merit and submit a denial request to the attorney general. Town officials said town counsel's opinion on the matter was no rules were broken.

Fire Chief Mike Curran, Permanent Building Committee Co-Chairman Pat Maloney and Weston and Sampson's Jeff Alberti also presented the fire station conceptual cost estimate.

Before the presentation, Maloney responded to the "newest conspiracy of breaking the open meeting law" by responding to Joyce's complaint and a recent "Better Not Bigger" newsletter line by line.

Maloney and Cohen said that the March 19 meeting Joyce called into question was intentionally informal and an opportunity for the neighbors to express their concerns. Maloney said the responses were similar to those gathered by Joyce. 

Maloney said that the four selectmen and two members of his committee were there to listen and that several similar meetings have been held in the past. 

"Bob has attended many of our meetings, but we don't think we need him to tell us how to do our jobs," said Maloney. "Those people came out to be heard at the meeting. Don't let their voices be overpowered by a political zealot."

Fire Station Costs

Maloney showed the considered alternatives and related costs to , noting that the majority of the selection committee -- including firefighters and department of public works workers as well as Maloney -- chose the plan to build a new station next to town hall. The decision to take renovation of the current central station off the table was made by the committee, not Cohen, Maloney said.

Maloney said renovating and updating the current station would cost almost as much as building the new one and would not fulfill all of the needs of the town and firefighters.

The cost estimation now has the project at $7.8 million including contingency, close to the recent estimate of $7.5 million. If approved by voters in a non-binding ballot question and at Town Meeting, the station construction will cost roughly $624,000 for town in its first year.

Chief Curran presented on the current station, which was built in 1955 when there was one full-time employee, the chief. There are 58 now, he said. Issues include: some trucks don't fit in the bays; equipment is stored in the cellar that floods; communications equipment as well as plumbing and wiring are out of date are out of date; shoring keeping cement from falling in the cellar is keeping two bays from being used; and equipment that should be stored central has been relocated to other stations.

Alberti also ran through the financials for the project and said the town was in a good financial position to build due to low bond interest rates, the town's healthcare reforms and increased stabilization money.

The fire station's administrative offices will be moved to soon-to-be available office space in town hall to save space in the new building, Alberti said.

"The new building will be a 50- to 100-year-old building, as Chelmsford does," said Maloney. 

Kathleen J Murphy March 27, 2012 at 02:08 PM
I would rather see the fire department on Route 110 amongst the businesses and the girls softball field moved to behind the Town Hall. The plot of land at the softball field is flat and would need a lot less structural work than the land next to the Town Hall. This would also place the girls field in a safer location.
Bob Joyce March 27, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Jeff: No one is being accused of stealing !!
Bob Joyce March 27, 2012 at 02:52 PM
Jeff: Are you accusing me of "spreading misinformation and lies" ? Because everything I have said has been true. They held a public meeting and did not post it. It's funny that the meeting tonight to discuss this is posted. They wanted this to be a secret meeting because most neighbors are opposed to this plan.
Bob Joyce March 27, 2012 at 02:58 PM
Kathleen: I agree with you. This is the right place. The reason it got turned down was not location, it was because the voters "dis-trusted" our public officials because they threw costs into that proposal that were not Fire Station related. I agree that we needed to find a place for the girls softball taem (who only use the field for about 4 weeks a year) But the first priority was to build the fire station. Last years proposal could have been done for $8 million if they took all the "Fat" out of it. Now they are looking for $7.8 million only $200k less for a building that is ugly and in the wrong place.
Jeff Hardy March 27, 2012 at 03:00 PM
It was an analogy Bob, and it was not directed at you More of an example of a reaction to constant accusations
Jeff Hardy March 27, 2012 at 03:16 PM
Bob, as was mentioned, this is normal proceedure to meet with direct abutters, why have you never raised a concern in the past? And AGAIN my comment to Barbara was NOT ABOUT YOU.
Mark March 27, 2012 at 05:16 PM
Maria, Where there is smoke, you need to check to make sure there isn't a fire. (insert fire station joke here) Bob, thank you for providing an alternate view and ensuring the open meeting laws are followed. For those who don’t think the law applies here, what is your concern with the request that Bob has made? Where is the malice? Mark Dolat
Barbara Quinn March 27, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Jeff, Who said anything about stealing? Do you have some inside info you would like to share? I think you should run for selectman you would fit in well!
Krista Perry March 27, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Hi all: Just a general reminder to please keep conversation on topic here and not personal. Thanks.
Barbara Quinn March 27, 2012 at 06:06 PM
Maria, I agree with you ! Politics is rough and if they can't take what people say without getting mean and defensive they should find another job! I have lived in Chelmsford for 44 years and have never seen our elected officials act like middle school students until recently. We need to get back to business and stop the nonsense!
Jeff Hardy March 27, 2012 at 06:23 PM
AGAIN Barbara, it was an analogy. Believe what you want....
Kathleen J Murphy March 27, 2012 at 06:31 PM
Is there enough room behind the Town Hall for a softball field? Anyone know? I do know that field is used for young girls, so it does not need to be very large.
Jim Murray March 27, 2012 at 06:33 PM
I am inclined to agree with Kathleen and Bob on moving the location back to 110, as you would disturb no residents (It's abusiness area), there would be less structural work (like a high foundation behind the parking lot) and the traffic stuation is less problematic. The only thing I would insist upon is a square foot per square foot exchange of land for the ballfield and station. Considering the latest proposal is 19,000 square feet minus out 4,500 square feet for renovated offices in the town hall, I would expect additional savings.
Kathleen J Murphy March 27, 2012 at 06:33 PM
Would it not be possible for some of the offices for the fire department to still be located in the Town Hall if the station was on route 110?
Jeff Hardy March 27, 2012 at 06:41 PM
There is another informational session at town hall this evening, People with questions can stop by and get their answers directly from the fire chief and the permanent building committee
Kathleen J Murphy March 27, 2012 at 06:47 PM
time?
Jeff Hardy March 27, 2012 at 06:49 PM
From Chelmsford Patch facebook page Everyone: There is a public information session at 7 tonight on the fire station in room 204 at town hall. It will be broadcast live on Chelmsford Telemedia. Town Manager Paul Cohen is hosting the meeting and he will be joined by Permanent Building Committee chairman Pat Maloney, Fire Chief Mike Curran, and Jeff Alberti, the Weston & Sampson engineer.
Kathleen J Murphy March 27, 2012 at 06:59 PM
Thanks Jeff!
Andrew Giannino March 27, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Let me invoke some Spock logic since it was just recently his birthday " The needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few" this town has over 30,000 people in it. I know I will sound completly insensitive to the surrounding residents, but we can not weigh the much needed firestation against the few residents on Billerica rd. The town has put a great presentation together, as far as I am concerned my daughter plays softball in those fields so should I say you are inconveinancing (SP) the girls. I guarantee there are more girls that play softball than there are abbutters to the proposed fire station. People it has to go somewhere. Have you polled the buisnesses on RT110 they are abbutters they should then have a say, or how about the seniors. This will now affect them more with the firestation on Wilson st. There are more residents at Wilson ST than there are abbutters to the proposed new fire station. You can not please every one all the time, someone is going to be upset, it is not a perfect world. let's just stop procrastinating, sueing, and outright just being nit picky and get this done. "IN MY OWN OPINION"
Tom Christiano March 27, 2012 at 07:47 PM
Thanks for the info on the meeting tonight. I'll also post a reminder on the "Chelmsford Resp & Residents" group page on Facebook now.
Kathleen J Murphy March 27, 2012 at 08:19 PM
@Andrew, I am not completely against the fire station on Billerica Rd. I am questioning the actual costs having to build the structure on a large hill. I was suggesting a field for the girls too. I have children too and would be very against the girls not having a field. I am looking for solutions to SAVE the town money and still have a new station.
Bob Joyce March 27, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Andrew, I'll bet there are more girls that play softball on the field than there is abutters. One big difference, the abutters PAY TAXES and the baseball teams pay nothing. And don't tell me about improvements to the field. It was neglected for years by those who used it until there was a threat that the Fire Station would be built there. Now they are pouring $$$ into so no one will want to take it for another use. I will be at the meeting tonight, let's see how they treat me tonight !
Andrew Giannino March 28, 2012 at 12:11 PM
Excuse me Bob, I pay taxes and every parent of a girl that plays Softball pays taxes, so your point is invalid. For many years Ken dews has upkept those fields for the use of girls softball so another mute point. As for how they treat you, grow up and welcome to the world of politics. you brought this upon yourself by jumping in the water before putting your bathing suit on and not investigating further. You had 30 days to put questions forth to the town manager and the selectman before bringing forth your legal action. This is one problem in this town, Sue, litigate, bring action. The old adage it's my ball and if you don't play by my rules I am taking my ball home. "IN MY OWN OPINION"
Barbara Quinn March 28, 2012 at 02:57 PM
Andrew, I think to play fair what you say must be on both sides of the aisle. It seems to me that the BOS and the town manager have filed their share of law suits, instead of trying to correct anything that was false by taking 30 days to discuss!
Christina Walsh March 28, 2012 at 03:09 PM
It is my understanding that the BOS and town manager have only filed lawsuits in response to legal action that was brought against them.
Barbara Quinn March 28, 2012 at 05:11 PM
Christina, Even if your statement is true, why would they have to countersue? If I had a lawsuit against me and it wasn't true I wouldn't counter sue I would go to court and state my case. Maybe it doesn't work that way I 'm not into law.
Brad Rigby March 28, 2012 at 06:11 PM
It's possible I've missed something, but I'm not aware of any countersuits filed by current Selectmen, and certainly not by the Town Manager. Does someone have specifics to the contrary? I was aware that town officials had filed paperwork with the court in response to various litigation, including such actions as a motion to dismiss - but I wouldn't have considered such actions to be "countersuits." I think what they have done is, in fact, to do as Barbara suggests she would do, which is to go to court and state their case. Please help me out here if I've mis-stated the facts?
Paul E. Cohen March 28, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Brad, the Board of Selectmen/Town of Chelmsford has not filed any lawsuits/litigation. As you noted we have defended claims against the Town.
Barbara Quinn March 28, 2012 at 07:27 PM
Thanks for clearing that up.
Christina Walsh March 28, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Paul, thanks for clarifying. I guess the point I was making was that you and the BOS did not initiate any lawsuits. I knew that anything you did was to defend yourself and the town. I wanted to mention that I watched the public input session on the Fire station last night and I thought you and Pat did a great job. It was very informative and I thought you addressed the questions well and in a thoughtful manner.

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