WOBURN - Mayor Scott Galvin earlier this week revealed he hopes to obtain both special permits and some $23.5 million in funding in 2020 to construct a new fire department headquarters off of Main and Forest Streets by the Showcase Cinemas complex.
During his annual State-of-the-City address before the City Council on Monday night, Galvin — having already filed a special permit application for the modernization project days prior — explained the latest request is based upon the recommendation of the Fire Station Building Committee.
Late last summer, Galvin and Woburn Fire Chief Stephen Adgate launched an initial public relations campaign to pitch the larger modernization plan, which includes both the construction of a new headquarters and major renovations at three other city firehouses.
The Fire Station Building Committee, which is further recommending the closure of two of Woburn's most antiquated firehouses (Stations 2 and 3), first endorsed the proposed plan in July after considering five other fire department modernization scenarios.
According to the mayor, the entire capital investment project will end up costing roughly $30.5 million. Before stepping up to the dais this week for his annual speech to citizens and elected officials, Galvin had already ensured an initial special permit application had been filed for the new central headquarters by Route 128.
"This year, in accordance with the five-year capital plan, we will seek funding and approval for the construction of a new central headquarters for the Woburn Fire Department and renovations to the remaining stations," the city executive explained.
"To move this important public safety project forward, I have submitted an application for approval by the City Council of a special permit for the construction of a 36,000-square-foot fire headquarters on 3.5 acres of existing City land at Forest Park abutting Main Street," he further elaborated.
According to a narrative attached to the recent special permit application, a new two-story headquarters building with three garage bays would be erected on approximately 3.5-acres of land with frontage by Middlesex Canal Park and Main Street.
Proponents of the project, who filed initial paperwork with City Clerk William Campbell's office last Thursday, explained the site is part of a larger 35-acre property that was first donated to the city in 1895 for either a new cemetery or use as a public park.
With a net square floor area of 20,690 square feet, the main headquarters structure will also contain new administrative offices, storage and locker areas, a new fitness room, and living quarters for shift commanders and as many as 15 rank-and-file firefighters. The project would also entail the construction of a second support building, standing 22-feet tall and containing 6,130 square feet, would would be used for maintenance of fire department apparatus and equipment.
The initial project design documents, prepared by DiNisco Design Architects, note that potential stormwater runoff issues will be addressed by installing a new drainage system that includes two underground infiltration systems by the headquarters' parking areas.
A total of three entrance/exits will be created at the site, where firefighters will be able to drive fire engines and ladder trucks directly into the building through a secondary rear garage accessway — thereby eliminating the need to back trucks into the bays.
Local officials say vehicular impacts can be managed through new light signal posts, which will be tied into pre-existing traffic controller system.
"This intersection is controlled by a traffic signal and the fire station driveway will be incorporated into the signal. Traffic modifications will include additional traffic signal posts and signal heads for the station," the narrative attached to the special permit request explains.
The new public safety building will eventually replace the community's existing headquarters in Woburn's South End. The new facility would tentatively open in Sept. of 2021, based upon plans circulated by the Fire Station Building Committee last summer.
The antiquated condition of the fire force's infrastructure and equipment was listed as a major area of concern in a public safety study commissioned back in 2012, when Galvin was in the midst of his second-term as the city's top executive.
That report, first released in draft-forms during the spring of 2013, was compiled by consulting firm Management Resources Inc. (MRI). Describing issues with mold growth, major fire code violations with some fire houses lacking secondary building exits, and a somewhat embarrassing mention of absent smoke detectors, the authors of the MRI study concluded a major fire department overhaul was needed.
Since the MRI findings were released, the mayor has repeatedly tried to address other deficiencies that related to the fire department's equipment needs. In fact, since 2013, Galvin's supplemental capital budgets have included millions of dollars for the acquisition of two new fire engines, a new bucket truck, two new ladder trucks, new turnout gear, and various command vehicles.
However, the mayor, worried about straining the city's finances, had until his 2019 State-of-the-City speech been reluctant to act on the second major component of that MRI analysis, which recommended a massive investment into building infrastructure.
Local firefighters, as well as their union representatives, have criticized the multiple year delay in responding to the MRI findings. Last winter, as local officials solidified plans to begin the feasibility study, Galvin acknowledged the community's first responders have shown incredible patience in waiting for the needed funding for the modernization effort.
"The city has a budget and [financial restraints] it has to live with. The fire stations are deficient and were always equally deserving of being addressed. But sometimes, with timing and state funding, you have to go with what you have. I would have liked to do everything at once, but from a budget and oversight perspective, that's pretty tough," the mayor said at the time.
Some firefighters have continued to denounce the mayor for not committing sooner to the fire station modernization effort. Last fall, West Side resident Liz Pedrini, Galvin's 2019 election opponent, seized on that criticism in a failed attempt to unseat the popular city executive.