MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough’s proposed West Side fire station project is now on hold, according to Mayor Arthur Vigeant.
Vigeant detailed his plans in a recent letter to city council before confirming his intentions in comments to the Community Advocate on Tuesday.
“We can’t have twelve people negotiating with different entities and that’s what it’s become,” Vigeant said, referring to recent debates with the city council.
Contacted Tuesday afternoon, City Council Speaker Michael Ossing said the council would continue to support the fire station project regardless.
“Council is on board to support a fire station,” Ossing said, citing recent council votes.
Project “insurmountable to achieve”, says the mayor
Vigeant wrote in his letter that he saw no way forward for the construction of the fire station. He listed a number of variables in the project, including negotiations with the state, negotiations with local communities and finding deals with a reluctant seller.
This development also comes after a series of disputes between the city council and the mayor during city council meetings, written communications and other public comments.
“I was more than up for the challenge and had started the process,” Vigeant wrote. “But a city council not committed to this project in this location at this time makes it insurmountable to achieve.”
Mayor and City Council debate funding issue
Vigeant and the city council initially clashed earlier this year over how to allocate $1.4 million for the project.
The city council clarified that the money, which came from a special permit mitigation payment for a housing development, should be transferred to the west side fire station stabilization account to be used in the construction of the fire station.
Vigeant had previously not transferred the amount, instead saying he wanted to transfer it directly to an account to purchase the land at 100 Locke Drive for the proposed station.
This led to several chapters in the ongoing dispute, with the city council at one point making the money authorization to buy the fire station land based on the transfer of the $1.4 million.
Vigeant issued several vetoes in response to this order.
The council continued the discussion, voting earlier this month to ask the mayor to submit a new application to City Council seeking approval to purchase the property while sending the $1.4 million to the West Side Fire Hall Stabilization Account.
“This renovation will demonstrate the collaborative working relationship between the Mayor and City Council in the goal of both parties, which is to move the West Side Fire Station forward,” Ossing said at the time.
As city council voted on what Councilman Samantha Perlman called an “olive branch,” Councilwoman Laura Wagner wondered if the transfer of the stabilization account was necessary.
“If this thing is going to kill the whole thing again, why are we still talking about it?” asked Wagner.
Vigeant eventually submitted a transfer request to move the money as the city council requested last week. He did, however, discuss the status of the larger project in the same message to the board.
“I have been consistent since the beginning of discussions on this project,” he wrote in his letter. “If it appeared that there was no way forward for the construction of the fire station, I would request the transfer. The time has come.
The fire station project dates back several years
A fire station on the west side of Marlborough has been a top priority for Vigeant and various town officials from the construction site of the Apex Center in the area and further expansion of residential development in this part of town.
Fire Chief Kevin Breen raised concerns about call response times on the West Side.
Motivated by some of these concerns, the city formed a fire station review committee, which identified a site by the intersection of Elm and Bigelow Street as the best location for a new fire station.
Supported by elected municipal officials and several municipal councillors, the site of the station has sparked debate.
To listening session held last year, some residents said they were worried about increased noise, traffic and light pollution due to the construction of a new fire station in their neighborhood.
A city council vote to allow Vigeant to negotiate and acquire needed real estate last year was then decided by a narrow 6-5 margin.
To Inauguration of the Vigeant earlier this year he urged council to approve a separate request for funds to buy the fire station land, saying there was no perfect location but the station should be a priority.
That same day, Ossing said community members favored a West Side fire station, saying he expected the station to be funded during the legislative session.
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