Voters Opt Against 57 Main Street Purchase
The measure was the only warrant article not approved by voters at last night's Special Town Meeting.
Westford voters were in an approving mood at Special Town Meeting when it came to warrant articles with one exception.
Article 4, a citizens petition introduced by J.V. Fletcher Library Trustee Hajo Koester to allow the town to purchase the 57 Main St. property next to town hall at the cost of approximately $400,000, was defeated in a non-unanimous voice vote.
Koester, who noted in earlier discussions on the article that he brought forth the petition as a private citizen rather than as a member of the Library Trustees, wanted the town to purchase the property for the goal of consolidating town services near the town center as well as adding approximately 10 to 15 parking spaces to the town hall parking lot.
Although he was unable to attend the Special Town Meeting due to a medical procedure, fellow Library Trustee Jack Wrobel explained in a letter from Koester delivered to the meeting why this action should be taken now.
"This is in the best interests of the town," said Wrobel, citing Koester's delivered remarks. "The costs of this acquisition will likely rise as the economy recovers."
The Selectmen voted not to recommend the measure recently, claiming that a purchase of the property was a luxury the town could not afford during difficult economic times, particularly given the fact that extensive upgrades would be needed to make the building usable for town office space.
That opinion was also shared by the Finance Committee, which voted against the measure by a 7 to 1 margin, as well as many voters in the audience.
"It's $5 for this, and soon it will be $10 for something else," said Sandy Martinez, replying to Wrobel's estimate that the purchase would cost each household in Westford $5 per year for 10 years on their tax bill. "Alot of people are out of work, and there are continual foreclosures. This is just something we can't afford to do."
However, the measure did have its supporters.
Leslie Thomas, secretary of the Westford Board of Water Commissioners, didn't think money should immediately go into upgrading the building on the property, but that the property itself presented a golden opportunity for the town.
"The Sullivan family (owners of the property) are willing to negotiate, our master plan wants town facilities near the center of town, and this opportunity may never come again," she said.
All other motions before the Special Town Meeting were either approved by a simple voice vote or were dismissed, with the exception of a resolution on the World Flag which was defeated, and an article relating to a transfer of free cash and tax reductions that passed 177-44 after a hand count.