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Town Meeting: New Town Hall Plans Falls Short in Votes

For now, town hall will stand.

At last night's special town meeting, an article to appropriate $550,000 to create plans for a new town hall was was defeated despite earning the majority of votes. While the vote was 117 to 116 in favor of the article, a two-thirds majority was needed for the article to pass.

Before the vote, retired architect Dick Heydecker, who headed an ad hoc group on the issue of town hall, proposed an amendment to decrease the funding to $350,000. The amendment was defeated 147-163.

Those speaking against the article were weary of the size and price of the building. Permanent Municipal and School Building Committee chairman Bill Yukna defended the price, citing the town’s record on the renovation of the Ahern school, the high school, the Boyden Library, and the constuction of the Public Safety Building.

“So far on the four projects I’ve named, we’ve come under budget and usually the money rolls into the next project,” Yukna said.

Responding to recommendations for renovation, Yukna said the building may be too old and not constructed well enough to handle renovation.

“We started looking at the building and we started looking at the masonry work and it concerned us. The problem with a renovation project is once you start you’re too far in to stop,” Yukna said,

Heydecker however, argued that the content would be the same inside a renovated and a new building. 

“In the new building they’re all new, in the old building, they’re all new. The difference is the shell and the shell has value,” Heydecker said.

Former AdCom member John L Deris felt there were too many unknowns to take on a multi-million dollar project.

"Where has a reasonable detailed response to Mr. Heydecker been? I have not seen it," he said. "I feel it’s premature to approve the full amount, the homework has not been one."

Article 1 to pay a $28,000 bill from the Norfolk Country Agricultural High School based on the number of students from the town attending the school during the school year, to pay for the first six month of the new town manager’s salary, and to pay $8,046 for the new town manager’s health benefits all passed with large margins.

The new town manger’s pay was approved only after an amendment to decrease the amount from $84,808 to $77,000.

Selectman Jim DeVellis said the original amount was to give the town room to negotiate if needed.

As expected, no action was taken to transfer from available funds $600,000 for the construction of a modular building and appurtenances to house the Foxboro DPW staff at 70 Elm St. due to higher than expected bids.

With the approval of Article 5, Foxboro will adopt a sewer service area. The sewer service area would be defined as those properties currently hooked into the town’s sewer system and a specific geographical area surrounding the town common and not currently on sewer as identified by the planning board and included in the Master Plan.

Both articles by the planning board were passed with near unanimous votes. Article 6 allows the town to accept a grant  in the amount of $232,000 and to authorize the Board of Selectmen to administer if received. The grant will be used to improve the Payson Road Recreation Facility.

The final vote of the meeting and the second article from the planning board amended the Foxboro zoning by-laws to allow for dead-end roads in excess of 800 feet and shared driveways both via a special permit process.

TS1013 November 05, 2013 at 08:00 AM
This is a travesty. My mother has worked in this "excuse" for a building for 28 years. She comes home in the summer, sometimes after a 14 hour work day, and looks like she has been in sweat shop. She comes home chilled to the bone in the winter, due to the heat loss from the front door right outside her office and the heating system that can't keep up. She has to put her handbag in her desk drawer for fear of bringing home cockroaches. They moved the employees from the basement to the meeting room because of mold/mildew. The wall beside her desk is literally falling down. There are holes in the gutters...on and on and on. People really believe this building can be renovated? We shell out the money for two Town Manager salaries and feel we can justify our employees working in such deplorable conditions? Something stinks in Foxboro and it is sitting on the lot at 40 South Street.
Chris A November 05, 2013 at 08:54 AM
I may not know all the complicated detailed issues as some, but the problem I have is a project costing close to $8 million for approximately 12-35 office workers. I still haven't heard an accurate head count yet. Anyhow, that's around the same ballpark as the library expansion for the entire town to use if not mistaken. I'm still not convinced the powers-that-be are being creative enough to try and save the town money and keeping in mind these are mostly admin people. Instead I keep hearing statements like "something we can be proud of". Why aren't we looking harder at this eye sore auditorium building on Payson Rd with an expansion for example (yes...I did read Dick Heydecker's comments on this who seems to have an opinion on everything I read)?
TS1013 November 05, 2013 at 09:52 AM
I really don't give a flying fig how they accomplish it but the fact of the matter is, the current Town Hall is a sick building and the employees are at risk. If the "powers that be" can find a less expensive SOLUTION, I'm all for it. The Town Hall project has been pushed back for over 11 years, first behind the P.S. building (which, the entire town does not use) and then behind the Library. "They" need to find a viable, safe building for these people and leave their personal and political agendas behind.
Dennis Naughton November 05, 2013 at 10:24 AM
I found the level of debate about town hall at last light's town meeting disappointing. A town hall should be a symbol of civic pride. Our current building is not. It is a civic embarrassment. Further, the building is sick and a clear danger to the health of our town employees. These are things we citizens should care about. Yet the few non- town meeting regulars who got up to speak expressed only one value---the cost. A town hall is not to be measured by the number of public employees who work there. It represents the character of a community and belongs to every member of the community. In this case, whole is not equal to the sum of its parts. It represents much more.
TS1013 November 05, 2013 at 10:27 AM
Very well said, Dennis, and I could not agree with you more. I am sorely disappointed with this town that I once loved so much. We are a shadow of the community that we used to be.
Chris A November 05, 2013 at 10:54 AM
Dennis, The people who work there deserve a safe working environment and I hope they work it out. I really do. However, "civic pride" and "non-regulars" aside....you're forgetting one thing: that's our money! It's not just the people who go to all these town meetings and write up opinions and editorials all the time in the local papers. So, if the non-regulars have a problem with the cost they sure have right to express that opinion. I'm sure if it was held up to public vote you would find this opinion is not all that unpopular.
Dennis Naughton November 05, 2013 at 11:45 AM
Chris, as a retiree and senior citizen, I am not discounting the cost of a town hall. On the contrary, cost is very much a concern to me. My point was that that should not be the only consideration, as it was last night at town meeting. My reason for mentioning "non-regulars" was to distinguish those speakers from people regular speakers, not to discount the former's right to express their views. Based upon my reading of your comment, it seemed you mistook my intentions, so I wanted to clarify them.
Steve November 05, 2013 at 11:49 AM
In my opinion there were several reason this article failed. First and foremost- Why were we voting on $550,000 for design plans when the larger question of do we want to spend 8.6 million on a new town hall has NOT been answered? Mr. Yukna spoke very well, explaining how his committee has brought in several large projects, over the last decade or so, on or under budget….so why all of a sudden do we need to spend $550,000 to get an accurate number??? I trust that the number his committee came up with is reasonably accurate and good enough to offer up at the ballot to see what this town really wants to do. This process worked for all of those previous projects, why not for this one??? Was it because $550,000 at town meeting is easier to pass than 8.6 million at the ballot box and if we invest the $550,000 now the argument could be made later that if the ballot vote does not pass we wasted $550,000???? Kind of devious I think. Step 1-form a committee to decide what are ALL of the options to address the issues with our current town hall, with reasonable estimates for ALL solutions. This step was almost done except not all options were vetted including leasing office space and building a not so extravagant building. Yes I said extravagant, which I believe there was in excess with the building of the Public Safety building. Give us options and let the public decide. Do we want to Lease (no), Do we want to renovate (maybe), do we want to build a bare minimum new building or one that could be the envy of all the surrounding towns….or maybe, just maybe something in the middle. Step 2- settle on a direction to go with a good estimate and put the question in front of the voters to decide. Step 3- with support of the town go ahead and put the job out to bid….that’s a formula to get the public to support whatever needs to be done at town hall.
TS1013 November 05, 2013 at 12:17 PM
It's very interesting to me that the majority had no issues with the massive expense associated with either the P.S. Building or Boyden but have all kinds of issues with going ahead with the Town Hall. I have my theories about why but I am not going to go off topic. Anyway, while you all hash out the details and nickels and dimes (we are taxpayers, too) I'll just keep sending up prayers every night that someone whom I love dearly does not end up with a respiratory illness...or worse.
Ken B. November 05, 2013 at 06:59 PM
I believe the sentiment of the majority is that something needs to be done with the TH....and soon. Last night's meeting was to start the process on a new building for which the cost and funding mechanism is still not entirely clear. Since discussion of other ways to go were off the table, it is more than reasonable that people would speak solely to the issue of cost alone. That is the message that the BOS and Building Committee need to take to heart.....and it starts by listening.
Dick Heydecker November 06, 2013 at 05:30 PM
Dick H. everyone above is correct, and most everything mentioned has been laid on the table; unfortunately this table was never in public view. We are offered but ONE option. Much as the televised walk-thru by Cassbarra indicated, the quarters are tight, boxes are everywhere, wiring is all over the floors , heating sucks, as does the air conditioning (never part of the original design) and the cells exist downstairs. He did note some plaster peeling on the parking lot side. All true. Both options solve these issues as they must be new. And the two reports detail the upgrading and replacement of systems equally. This includes the insulation, the windows, the heating and air cond, the handicapped, ... equal work for both options. The one letter noting the cockroaches is interesting, ... what do they find to eat in this facility, do they just travel across the street for food, and return for sleep? Let's not forget the fire and police took two years to get a bid, and three Town Meetings for the money. And I shouldn't comment on the 'wish list money' spent on the High School without the voter authorization. They had needs, and why weren't these included in the original package? This building is not sick; the negligent maintenance has produced sick items which the proponents are using to influence everyone. If the facility is a disaster waiting to happen, I must agree with Kevin P (and I can't normally) that the building should have been vacated 30 months ago; but we don't even have the plans for the rental, its cost, location, office layouts, and where the storage will be stored. Nothing is planned!!! Chaos, bluster, pats on their own backs, and errors in the data are outstanding!!! It is 97 days since Solbo was pictured in a bucket looking at the holes in the Gutters, when is work to begin, or not? My motion was an attempt to get some money to begin the process, of examining ALL of the options, while still proceding on at least one of the options. Instead it is put off again!
TS1013 November 07, 2013 at 07:03 AM
I have no idea what the cockroaches are eating, Dick, but my mother took a picture of it and if it is still on her computer, she will send it to you. I don't find humor in this. Of course the building is sick...did you read what you wrote? As I have already stated, I don't care if they gut the building or build a new one. I understand the concern about cost but why is there not more concern about the health and safety of the Town Hall employees? THAT should be first and foremost. The one thing we do agree on: the process needs to be set into motion immediately.
Steve November 07, 2013 at 08:18 AM
If conditions at town hall are as bad as you say, please have your mother file a complaint, get the place shut down and repairs start immediately..... better that than a lawsuit for someone getting sick. I bet every issue on the table could and would be addressed within a week if that happened.

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