WESTFORD -- Following news that plans for the center fire station project came in at $4 million more than what was appropriated at last year's annual Town Meeting, the Board of Selectmen has asked the Permanent Town Building Committee and architects from Dore & Whittier Inc., find ways to further cut costs and prove their credibility to taxpayers.

Upon realizing that the cost of the facility had risen to more than $16 million, the PTBC and Dore & Whittier presented a list of cost-saving measures to selectmen Tuesday night, identifying nearly 40 places to cut costs. Last year, voters appropriated $12.7 million for the project.

The high cost estimate was attributed to an addition to the size of the building, as well as an increase in construction costs, said Don Walter of Dore & Whittier.

In addition to those issues, about $200,000 in additional funds was needed for arsenic and lead abatement on the project site.

To help cut the price, reductions by Dore & Whittier include bringing the station back down to its original size of about 22,000 square feet, making some parts of the roof flat rather than sloped, and reducing by 30 percent the amount of brick exterior.

Reducing the square footage of the building would save $650,000, making parts of the roof flat, about $200,000. However, even with the cuts proposed by Dore & Whittier, the project was still expected to cost more than $15 million.

Chairman Kelly Ross and Selectman Mark Kost said they'd like to see the cost reduced to $13 million.


However, Selectman Andrea Peraner-Sweet said she was more flexible with that number.

"To me, this is all about credibility," Kost said. "I think we owe it not only to ourselves, but also the taxpayers."

Town Manager Jodi Ross asked if metal siding could replace the brick, which would save about $100,000.

With the fire station project also came plans for a new training room, which the police station gave up to make room for a combined dispatch center. Selectmen discussed ways to bring down the price of the new station, or perhaps use an existing space. However, there was hesitation because the Police Department was promised the new training room.

"Politically, this building project didn't pass by that much," Selectman Don Siriani said, referring to the vote at last year's Town Meeting. "I think it would be very difficult to get more money."

Selectmen also asked if reducing the number of apparatus bays in the plan, which now has four, would be a possibility. The bays planned for the new center are 20 feet deeper than the ones at the existing station.

Dore & Whittier architects said that would not present significant savings.

"If I had the choice of keeping the bay or the training room, I'd go for the extra bay," Fire Chief Joe Targ said.

Jeanne Drula, chairwoman of the Finance Committee, stood up at the meeting asking for the price to stay close to what was appropriated last year.

Ross said that when recently discussing the inflated cost of the station, he asked about the possibility of removing an executive washroom and was told it was a "critical need."

If more money is needed for the project, it will have to go to Town Meeting. For now, the PTBC and Dore & Whittier will try to find a way to get closer to $13 million.

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