WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — Residents of Westborough gathered Wednesday evening to hear a presentation from Town Manager Jim Malloy about the proposal to move town offices into Bay State Commons, and then they responded in full force.
"Our tax rate is the highest in any surrounding town already," said Paula Less of Blake Street. "The people who live in this town, you're asking them to live with this commitment for the next 20 to 30 years."
The public meeting, held in the packed meeting room of the Forbes Municipal Building, was meant to obtain an understanding of the town's climate toward the proposal. Residents brought up several concerns, including taxes, the historical value of the property, the difficulty in selling or leasing the town hall and dealing with the landlords at Bay State Commons.
Gerry Gross said he owned a Verizon Wireless franchise in Bay State Commons until mid-2010. According to Gross, the property managers and landlords were a a key component in forcing him to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. He said he doesn't want the town of Westborough "to give them a single dollar."
"If I have to be Scott Brown and knock on everyone's door to tell them, I will," Gross said.
The plan would be to lease a portion of the Roche Bros. building for 20 years, which would save $393,000 in the first year and in the area of $3 million over 20 years. Those numbers are judged against the plan to renovate the Town Hall, Forbes Municipal Building and to build a recreation center, which was voted down at the spring town meeting.
"One of my concerns is that we don't own the building," said Leslie Leslie of the Westborough historical society. "I champion the renovation of the Town Hall and to keep it in the center of town."
Malloy, along with several other town representatives, did their best to answer questions and concerns in advance of any official proposal.
"I didn't hear anybody speak in favor of this project. Hopefully this has raised awareness," Malloy said. "I don't see this as a negative thing, this is what we wanted. We got to hear a lot of different opinions." He added, "Eventually we have to deal with this."
Malloy said it is still undertermined when the official proposal will be brought to town meeting.