Controversy over a proposed senior center at Endicott Estate and a proposed police station on High Street may have become moot.
Selectmen Chairman Carmen Dello Iacono put forward a tentative plan to explore the possibility of a combined municipal building including those uses and many more at the recently sold building at 100 Rustcraft Rd.
The facility, which now houses the Red Cross and has more than 200,000 square feet of vacant space, could serve as home for police, town offices, a senior center, public works, central vehicle maintenance garage, a central fuel depot for town vehicles, infrastructure engineering offices, parks and recreation maintenance garage, and/or other leased facilities, Dello Iacono said.
“To build single facilities for each of these identified needs would require a long-term financing and building plan,” Dello Iacono said. “To build one single facility that could accommodate many of the identified municipal needs is another option to be considered.”
Dello Iacono had pushed for investigating a combined facility in October 2011 with a PowerPoint presentation that led to a vote for requests for proposals. No one responded with bids at the time, but Davis Companies in Boston took notice, and reached out to the town after closing the deal on the Rustcraft property on March 8 of this year, Dello Iacono said.
Davis Companies bought the property for $21 million at a public auction as part of a foreclosure from the previous owners, according to Dello Iacono. The property is about 50 acres, according to Selectman Michael Butler.
Dello Iacono invited chairmen of the building, planning, and construction committee, the finance committee, the planning committee, and the conservation commission, along with the town moderator to a selectmen meeting Thursday to discuss the possibility of using the building.
He repeated that the project was at extremely preliminary stages, with the sale of the building completed only six days before the meeting. The presentation he delivered had just been completed five minutes before the meeting, he said.
Advantages of a multiuse facility included efficiency, increased interaction between departments, and a shortened list of facility needs in the town. The site on Rustcraft Road also provided ample parking and minimal effect on the surrounding area, Dello Iacono said.
In terms of financial considerations, Dello Iacono said buildings such as the Town Hall, public works facility, and police station could be liquidated, leased, or in some other way draw revenue for the town.
Ideally, Dello Iacono said he would like to see a plan ready for a Town Meeting vote by November’s Special Town Meeting.
Building, planning, and construction committee chairman James Sullivan called the situation unique and said it was one he did not expect to come along again.
“I think an opportunity to consolidate or buildings is an opportunity you cannot pass up and I think it should be pursued aggressively,” Sullivan said.
Planning Board Chairman John Bethoney thanked selectmen for being proactive.
“A municipal campus has always been a proposed consideration, and if we can’t do it on 50 acres, I don’t know if we could do it any time or anywhere,” Bethoney said.
Russell Stamm, chairman of the Finance Committee, said he believed having multiple departments under one roof would be cheaper than having separate facilities for each.
The question was whether the town would be able to afford the up front cost, he said.
Butler suggested the need for a professional services firm that could perform a financial analysis of such a project’s viability.
“We’re part time; we’re not experts; we’re not professionals,” Butler said. “It’s a challenging project and if we want to get this rolled up by November, we’d like to have a lot of public input.”
John Sisk, a real estate consultant for the town, said that Davis Companies would go through the building with the town to assess how it could best be utilized. He also said the town would be a valuable tenant or business partner for Davis.
Selectmen voted unanimously to authorize the town administrator and Dello Iacono to conduct a preliminary meeting with Davis to determine options.
Meanwhile, the building, planning, and construction committee will work to update a facility needs study last updated in 2004 by Earth Tech.
“This is an opportunity that is still in infancy stages,” selectman James MacDonald said. “We feel as though it is our duty and role to investigate the option and tonight is the first step in doing that.”