AN ARTIST’S RENDERING OF the planned new Fire Headquarters that would be built if voters approve the $63.5 million public safety buildings and Town Hall project during a Special Town Election on Tuesday, Dec. 6. (Tappé Architects Photo)



LYNNFIELD — Voters will decide the fate of the proposed $63.5 million public safety buildings and Town Hall project during a Special Town Election on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

Similar to the State Election in early November, the polls will be open from 7 a.m.-8 p.m. in the Lynnfield High School gym on Tuesday, Dec. 6. While there is no early voting for the Special Town Election, Town Clerk Linda Emerson informed the Villager that her office sent 1,770 ballots to the Lynnfield voters who requested to receive ballots for all elections. She noted that the last day to request ballots for the Special Town Election was Tuesday, Nov. 29.

The $63.5 million project entails constructing a new three-story Fire Headquarters that would have four bays next to the existing South Station. The current South Station will be razed once the new Fire Headquarters is built.

The project also involves renovating and expanding the Police Station, the current Fire Headquarters and Town Hall. The Town Hall component of the project will make it compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The Town Hall project includes installing an elevator and constructing a new H. Joseph Maney Meeting Room for municipal boards and community groups to use.

Fall Town Meeting voted 287-33 on Nov. 14 to send the public safety project to a townwide debt exclusion vote on Tuesday, Dec. 6.

The $63.5 million public safety buildings and Town Hall project includes $52 million for construction and $11.5 million for soft costs that include architectural and design services, dispatch equipment, furniture, technology and temporary facilities.

“We know these are very difficult and unstable times,” said Town Administrator Rob Dolan during Fall Town Meeting. “If we wait any longer, these costs are going to accelerate. It will never be cheaper than it is today.”

Town officials originally estimated that the public safety buildings and Town Hall project would cost $41.25 million last winter, but the price tag increased due to rising interest rates, supply chain challenges, construction cost escalations and inflation.

Dolan recalled during Fall Town Meeting that $33 million in debt from the early 2000s school projects and the Reedy Meadow Golf Course purchase will be expiring by the end of 2025. He said the tax impact will be based on $30.5 million instead of the full $63.5 million.

“In the most recent assessment, the average home value in the town of Lynnfield is $816,964,” said Dolan. “The average tax impact on each home would be $385 annually, or $32 per month. We understand these are difficult times, but we have a community problem that is not going to go away until it is addressed.”

Fire Chief/Emergency Management Director Glenn Davis noted during Fall Town Meeting that 70 percent of the Fire Department’s current calls are for emergency medical services.

“Neither fire station has adequate space to store or clean our EMS supplies and equipment,” said Davis. “Contaminated turnout gear worn by our firefighters has been linked to a significant increased cancer risk. Cancer is the most dangerous threat to firefighter health and safety today. Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer, and a 14 percent higher risk of dying from cancer than the general U.S. population.”

Fire Lt./Paramedic Jeff Fiorentino said during Fall Town Meeting that firefighters’ turnout gear is stored on the floor next to the apparatus in both stations.

“It was found that the exhaust was blowing all over the gear,” said Fiorentino. “We do have a piping system to try and mitigate that, but it’s not 100 percent. When our gear goes into a car fire or a house fire, it absorbs all of the carcinogens. We do have a means to try and wash the gear, but it’s not 100 percent. The gear never gets fully clean. After we put that gear back on the apparatus floor, it is off-gassing these carcinogens right into the stations. The new stations will have the gear go into a separate room so it doesn’t contaminate the rest of the station. We are doing our best to make our job safer from cancer, and this is something we need your help to fix.”

Davis also noted during Fall Town Meeting that Fire Headquarters and South Station don’t have adequate facilities for women firefighters.

“Neither station provides any separate space or private space of any kind for our female firefighters,” said Davis. “When these stations were built, there were no plans for firefighters to provide 24-hour service to the residents of Lynnfield. There are no gender equitable bathrooms, shower space or sleeping quarters at either fire station.”

Former Selectman Bob MacKendrick recalled during Fall Town Meeting that he began his 42-year tenure working for the Fire Department in May 1961 when both stations were “several months old.”

“These buildings were obsolete before they were even built,” said MacKendrick. “Even then, they did not meet the standards from 1936. The architect who designed these stations never designed a fire station in his life.”

Davis said during Fall Town Meeting that the new fire stations will be designed “not only for today’s standards, but 50 to 75 years from now.”

“Our current Fire Department staffing model will absolutely change in the foreseeable future,” said Davis. “Having additional firefighters on duty overnight requires additional sleeping quarters, office space, EMS space and training space. Our current police and fire stations are outdated, inadequate and unfit for all members. They are fraught with liability and safety issues. I cannot continue to ask our dedicated men and women to work in these buildings. Recruitment and retention of firefighters is becoming increasingly more difficult. I am personally embarrassed to continue recruiting and trying to retain members due these existing conditions. There is no Plan B. We need to move this project forward.”

Chief Nick Secatore told Fall Town Meeting that the current Police Station is “outdated and inadequate.” He recalled that police officers have to use a stairwell located next to the station’s garage to bring prisoners into the facility.

“We bring people taken into custody up a narrow, turning staircase and walk them into the center of the Police Station,” said Secatore. “This puts our officers at risk. We have no secure area to keep them until they are placed in a holding cell. If anyone is intoxicated or uncooperative, the officers are placed in a situation they should not be in. Not having secure processing is substandard and unacceptable for modern policing.”

Secatore also noted that the women’s holding cell is located in the women’s locker room.

“We need female police officers in Lynnfield, but how can we recruit women to come and work in a station with no separate facilities,” said Secatore. “It’s unacceptable for a community such as Lynnfield.”

If voters approve the public safety buildings and Town Hall project on Tuesday, the Public Safety Building Committee has recommended that the project be built simultaneously. The project’s final design will be completed in January 2023, and it will go out to bid in the fall of 2023. Tappé Architects Managing Partner Charlie Hay has recommended that the town proceed with a construction manager (CM) at risk procurement approach.

“It encourages greater competition, better stability and less volatility and risk in the bidding process,” said Hay during a joint Select Board and Finance Committee meeting in October.

If the project moves forward, public safety and Town Hall employees will work in temporary spaces from the fall of 2023 until the project is completed in late 2025 or early 2026.