DRACUT —The town's new fire station project is being placed on hold amid rising construction costs, and several officials are disappointed.
Town Manager Jim Duggan earlier this week said Dracut is approximately $5-600,000 out of budget for the multi-million dollar project, after bids were examined closely by himself and the Permanent Building Committee.
"We're going to put the project on hold temporarily and go back to Town Meeting in November to request to borrow up to another million dollars," Duggan said on Sunday. "It is not going to be part of another debt exclusion. Absolutely not. The debt obligation will be completely paid for through the general fund."
Dracut voters last September approved Question 1, which authorized a $4 million debt exclusion for constructing, equipping, and furnishing a new fire station at 539 Nashua Road in the town's Collinsville area to replace the current station at 1990 Lakeview Ave. An additional $1 million was going to be borrowed and paid through the general fund.
Duggan said members of the Permanent Building Committee opened up bids for the project approximately 30 days ago.
"I'm disappointed, of course, because I was looking forward to getting it done," Selectman Joseph DiRocco Jr. said Thursday. "We were hoping to start it within the next few months."
DiRocco said the new fire station is needed and hopes that everything will go well at Town Meeting this fall.
"I think it's fair that they ask the question 'Why?' and it's a reasonable explanation: the construction industry has just grown and it's booming," Duggan said about the possible pushback from residents. "It's more expensive. What was originally determined at a $5 million number was back in 2018, and that was still taking into account some growth in construction numbers, but it's really just continued to grow a lot faster than anyone could have anticipated."
The project would greatly benefit the town and especially the citizens of the Collinsville area, according to Selectman Tami Dristiliaris. She added that Dracut could get some money for the project by selling some town-owned properties like the Dracut Public Schools administration building on Lakeview Ave.
"It's just not appropriate for a fire station," Dristiliaris said of the current one. "We'll figure it out. We always do."
Selectman Alison Hughes said the goal is to get the station built in the most timely fashion because that is what's best for the town's firefighters and citizens.
"However, we have to be very conscious of costs and budgets, and I understand why they're slowing down the process," Hughes said.
Selectmen Vice Chair Tony Archinski said he was disappointed by the delay of the project.
"The rise in construction costs is something that we cannot control," he said. "I assured the fire chief at our last meeting that we will not compromise on the quality of the finished station. I think he was happy to hear that."
In a private Facebook message to a Sun reporter, Selectmen Chair Jesse Forcier on Thursday said the cost of building has continued to increase since the town's initial bids were answered.
"I am disappointed that the projections have now gone over budget," Forcier wrote. "We need to continue to look at ways to save and keep cost overruns at a minimum."
Amaris Castillo: @AmarisCastillo on Twitter