Westford (MA) Fire Station Cost $4 Million Too Much

Officials are scrambling to decide how to bring down the cost of the new center fire station without cutting programming or efficiency.

The cost of the schematic design plan has come in at about $4 million more than taxpayers appropriated.

When $12.7 million was appropriated at last year’s annual Town Meeting, the fire station was planned at 22,000 square feet.

When architects from Dore & Whittier, Inc., took to the drawing board to design a plan for the station, they increased the size of the building to about 25,000 square feet, which came at a cost.

That is just one feature that will be slashed from the plan as the Board of Selectmen waits for architects and the Permanent Town Building Committee to bring the cost of the facility closer to the amount appropriated. Bringing the size back down saves $650,000.

The square-footage of the station increased because the size of hallways got wider in the design and the size of common spaces increased, PTBC Chairman Tom Mahanna said.

“The size may have grown. It was not because we went back and added facilities,” Mahanna said at the meeting Tuesday.

Upon realizing the budget issue, some rooms have been combined to save space.

Another measure driving up the cost was an increased price to construct the building, which could become even more inflated if the design process continues to drag on.

The plan Dore & Whittier presented is a 30 percent design of the building. The first plan presented to selectmen in November had 37 rooms on the first floor and 16 on the second floor. The updated schematic plan presented Tuesday had 33 rooms on the first floor and still 16 on the second.

The bathroom and a smaller conference room for the chief and deputy chief were cut in the second plan. The square-footage of other rooms was reduced, and the training room for both fire and police was moved to the rear of the building so that it could go to bid separately as a cost-saving measure.

“We tried to fine-tune the floor plan as much as possible,” Mahanna said, “make cuts we felt were appropriate without sacrificing the overall program.”

Plan alterations the PTBC and architects intend to make to drive down costs include:

— Site changes to include removing four benches and a bike rack, making concrete sidewalks asphalt, reducing the number of flagpoles from three to one, reducing landscape plantings and changing granite curb to concrete.

— Architectural changes like removing more than $65,000 in brick features, removing granite sills from the windows, deleting the premium integral gutter system, making commercial refrigerators residential, reducing the number of washers and dryers and more.

— Instituting a simpler heating and ventilation system, which would save $46,000.

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