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Police station project revisited

Low bid too high; $1m cut planned

Holliston officials, stunned last month when the lowest bid for a police station came in about $800,000 over the town's budget, plan to slash about $1 million off the project and hope to begin construction in the spring.

Selectmen earlier this month formally rejected the bids, and the Police Station Building Committee is now working to trim the project by about 2,400 square feet.

"We have no choice," said Jon Juhl, chairman of the committee.

Committee members also hope to save money on the project by opting for cheaper electrical, plumbing, and heating and cooling systems, he said. Also, the town is under budget on some nonconstruction expenses, such as moving the department to a temporary location, and that money will be applied to the construction costs.

The town is still waiting to hear whether it will receive a construction grant of about $240,000 from the state.

Holliston will consider using volunteer contractors, officials said, and Lieutenant Keith Edison said the department would gladly accept cash donations. "Name rights are up in the air," he quipped.

Officials will put the project out to bid again in January, with plans to start construction in the spring. Although they need to close a gap of about $800,000, officials are aiming to cut a full $1 million to be safe.

"It would be a huge disappointment" if the next round of bids still came in over the town's budget, Town Administrator Paul LeBeau said.

Voters last year shot down a $7.38 million station with nearly 22,000 square feet of space, but later approved spending $6.6 million on one with about 18,000 square feet. Police Chief Thomas Lambert said the building's size has already been reduced slightly, and he is expecting a facility of a little less than 15,000 square feet when officials are finished.

Although the station is slated to end up nearly a third smaller than the original proposal, Lambert said, the building would still be "state-of-the-art."

"I would hate for people to think that they're settling for something less," Lambert said. "A lot of people are getting hung up on the square footage thing. I think you really need to focus on the usability, as opposed to the dimensions. That's the most important thing."

Lambert said the building will meet the department's space needs for at least 20 years.

"We're not sacrificing on the needs right now," he said, adding that the plans would allow for additions if the department expands.

Lambert said construction of the station is expected to take 12 to 14 months with the spring start date, although officials hope to save some money by getting the major construction done before next winter.

Lambert said he is now hoping for an opening date in the spring of 2009. Officials had previously planned to have the station up and running by next fall.

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