Public-Safety Plan Begins to Take Shape

Select Board member Brad Morse told Tuesday afternoon’s meeting of Rochester’s Public Safety Building Feasibility Study Committee that he wouldn’t be surprised to hear suggestions at the annual Town Meeting that Rochester resign its status as a Green Community in Massachusetts.

            At issue is the cost of doing business, and in this case, the cost of a major upgrade to Rochester’s public-safety facilities.

            Having established a common direction toward expansion and renovation of the Rochester Police station at 29 Dexter Lane and new Fire Department facilities, including a potential “substation,” architect Ted Galante was back at Town Hall on Tuesday to update the committee with conceptual floor designs and corresponding development of a budget.

            Morse said he has been hearing complaints from taxpayers about the impact of being a Green Community and Stretch Code town. He asked Galante if it would cost the town less money to build new public-safety facilities if Rochester was not a Green Community.

            Galante said, “Yes,” stopping short of making any kind of recommendation. But he did offer examples of rising “R values” (measuring different construction materials’ ability to retain heat.)

            Town Administrator Glenn Cannon asked how being a Green Community impacts the current estimation of $820 per square foot of new construction in the project as conceptually presented.

            Galante did not have that answer, in part because there are too many moving parts at this point, but he did note that the $18,040,000 price tag on a new, 22,000 square-foot fire station could come down should Rochester go with a prefabricated construction. He conceded that at this point, he does not know if any vendors in the prefab building business can meet the latest energy codes.

            The Mendell Road land presently considered for a new fire station is not yet owned by the town, so a land acquisition would become necessary.

            A potential Fire Department “substation” at 6,300 square feet off Neck Road is estimated to cost $5,166,000.

            The police station at 29 Dexter Lane would see a 7,000 square-foot expansion costing $3,500,000, which together with an $11,000,000 renovation adds up to $14,500,000 over a two-year period.

            Committee member Andrew Daniel, the town’s Facilities manager, said the expansion, “would trigger the whole building coming up to code.” He would later argue that soft costs and project management would drive up estimated costs.

            In seeking consensus on locations, Galante displayed maps estimating travel time from each proposed location to town borders in all four directions.

            Morse would also ask if, by moving the main fire station closer to the center of town, the substation would no longer be needed. Galante indicated that the substation is essential.

            When it comes to financial planning and strategizing a construction sequence, Galante told the committee to think of construction in two-year blocks.

            Sequencing construction was also discussed, and Galante suggested a next step of spending one-on-one time with Fire Chief Scott Weigel and Police Chief Robert Small in an effort to better understand the needs of each department.

            Committee Chairman Arnie Johnson said that debt is soon to come off Rochester’s books, and that should be taken into the committee’s consideration while scheduling new borrowing.

            The next meeting of the committee will not be set until after Galante has met with Small and Weigel.

Rochester Feasibility Study Committee

By Mick Colageo

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