Hoping to address two longstanding needs, Randolph is exploring a pair of related projects that would provide the town with an intergenerational community center and a combined police and fire station.
The town recently launched separate feasibility studies into the potential development of the community center and the new public safety complex.
The plans are interrelated because officials are eyeing the existing downtown fire headquarters as a potential spot for the community center. The fire station site would become available if the town were to construct the new public safety building, which would be built in north Randolph.
“I think the two things happening concurrently is a good thing,” said Town Council president Paul J. Meoni, noting that the planning for the two projects comes as the town is completing state-funded infrastructure improvements to Crawford Square and north Randolph and a year after opening a new community park at the former Powers Farm.
“We are excited about the future of our town,” he said.
There has been talk of building a youth center in Randolph for some years, and prior to that planning studies pointed to the need for a community center.
“It never really got off the ground, so this is long overdue,” Meoni said.
Town planner Michelle Tyler said that Randolph provides services to the community through its senior and veterans center, its Recreation Department, and its library, “but the services can be disjointed and disparate. There really isn’t one central location to provide services to the entire community.”
She said combining those services in one facility would be a convenience to residents and cost-effective for the town. She said it could also allow Randolph to provide more recreational activities for young people, which are currently minimal.
Randolph formerly had a youth center on Lafayette Street, but it was not in a central location and the town had to sell the building more than a decade ago due to its poor condition. Apart from the town ice rink, the Recreation Department does not have its own programming space and as a result has to use borrowed space in other buildings, primarily the schools.
Tyler said under the plan being explored, the community center would be an intergenerational “civic campus” that would provide space for teen activities and also become the new home of the senior and veterans center, and potentially also a site for library programs.
“The goal is to bring all members of our community together, regardless of ages,” Tyler said.
One benefit of an all-ages center, she said, is the potential for developing programs that could be offered at different times for different age groups, and intergenerational activities such as computer classes for seniors taught by teens, or home economics classes for youth taught by seniors.
The existing fire headquarters, on Memorial Parkway, would be an ideal location because it is near town hall, the library, and the high school, and is on the two bus lines that run through Randolph, Tyler said.
As part of the planning process for the possible center, town officials have been seeking community input at forums and through a survey. Some concerns have been raised, including about whether enough parking would be available for a center at the fire headquarters site, but Tyler said there is considerable enthusiasm “especially from the younger set.”
The dilapidated condition of the town’s second fire station, in north Randolph, is a key factor prompting Randolph to consider the construction of a new combined public safety facility, according to Brian Howard, the town clerk and assistant town manager.
“It was built in 1950 and it’s a building that is in significant need of repair and quite frankly replacement,” Howard said of the station, located on North Main Street (Route 28).
He said building a new, larger fire station in north Randolph would also allow for enhanced coverage of that section of town, which is where Randolph has seen most of its residential and business growth the past few decades. The current idea is to build the new public safety facility near the existing fire station site, which Howard noted is also near the interchange of Route 24, Route 128, and Interstate 93.
Howard said the project would also allow the town to provide enhanced space for the Police Department. Currently the police are located in part of town hall, a former school building that Howard said is not ideally suited for the department’s needs.
Should the combined public safety building be constructed, Howard said, the town would maintain a second fire station downtown to serve south Randolph. He said one option would be to convert the existing Police Department space for that purpose.
He said the impetus to look at a combined police and fire station project is also the space that would be freed up for a community center.
“There’s a definite synergy between the two,” he said of the projects.
The Town Council authorized $25,000 apiece for the two feasibility studies to cover the cost of hiring consultants. Both studies are targeted for completion in late May.
Howard said that town officials are actively exploring funding options, including potential grants, for the two projects. There are no clear cost estimates yet, but the town in its request for proposals for a consultant for the public safety study said that project could cost $7 to $13 million.
A community meeting on the public safety building project is set for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Chapin Hall in town hall.