Plaintiffs Decide to Drop Court Case Challenging Firehouse Site Selection

June 28, 2022

Another potential impediment to the construction of a fire station at 139 The Great Road has evaporated.

Middlesex Superior Court has dismissed—at the request of the lead plaintiffs—a suit contending that the town violated state procurement law in selecting the site.

Carol C. Amick said she and her spouse, retired Select Board member William Moonan, and 12 other residents who signed on to the suit “elected not to continue to pursue the case because it seemed unlikely that they would be able to obtain the relief they were seeking in a timely fashion if a preliminary injunction was not in place.”

The court issued a “stipulation of dismissal” on June 16, stating that the parties “hereby stipulate that said action be dismissed with prejudice, without costs, waiving all rights of appeal.

Select Board Chair Emily Mitchell, in an email, wrote, “We are pleased the lawsuit has been dismissed, and we look forward to continuing the next steps on the fire station project without delay.”

Amick and Moonan reside contiguous to the fire station site’s south boundary, though she has said her motive in trying to stop the project was preservation of the historic character of the area. The existing building is in the Bedford Center Historic District.

A petition for an injunction was denied in court on May 23; Judge Cathleen Campbell explained that she didn’t think the case would succeed on its merits.

“The question in the litigation was never whether 139 The Great Road is the best site for the fire station, but whether it is the only possible site,” Amick wrote. “We continue to believe that it is not.”

“The Select Board apparently intends to do great damage to our town’s beloved Historic District.  We will, of course, be speaking out against that effort in the months to come,” Amick wrote.

Annual Town Meeting approved the acquisition of 139 The Great Road as the site for a fire station by a margin of more than two-thirds.

There were an additional 12 plaintiffs who signed onto the legal action, including advocates of historic preservation and neighbors. Amick wrote that “some of them were concerned about threats from the Select Board to countersue them and to strip them of their appointed positions on town boards and committees.”

That prospect was on two Select Board agendas but never discussed in open session. The only plaintiff currently on an appointed committee is Moonan, who as a member of the Historic District Commission recused himself from this issue.

Around May 1, Amick and Moonan offered the property owner, Utah State University, $150,000 more to purchase the property than the price negotiated with the town last spring. The Utah System of Higher Education Board subsequently voted to sell to the town if it could match the higher offer, which it did, using American Rescue Plan Act funds.

The Utah board is scheduled to meet on July 15. Its ratification is required for the purchase-and-sale agreement to become final.

The sale price approved by Annual Town Meeting was $1.55 million, the result of weeks of talks between the town and the university. Amick in her email claimed that “USU was subject to a legal requirement not to sell the property for less than its appraised value.  When we submitted our offer ($1.7 million) — at what we believed to be fair market value — we had not seen the appraisal that USU had obtained.  However, once we received a copy of that appraisal, we realized that our offer complied with USU’s legal requirement, but the town’s did not.”

“We subsequently learned on June 7 that there was a competing offer to USU from another bidder that was higher than what we had proposed.  At that point, we decided not to try to match that higher offer, and we so informed USU by letter dated June 9.” The board ultimately voted to sell to the town for $1.7 million.

Meanwhile, the town manager’s office last week issued a 27-page request for qualification proposals for “owner’s project management services for the design, bidding, and construction of a new fire station.” Deadline for submission is July 5. The appointment is required under state law.

The criteria are specific. An applicant, to be considered, must be an experienced registered architect or professional engineer or have at least seven years’ relevant experience “in the construction and supervision of construction of fire station buildings over 10,000 square feet in a historic district.”

According to the request, the owner’s project manager will provide advice and consultation on design, bidding, and conformance with plans, goals, and budget.

The demolition of the existing building at 139 The Great Road must be approved by the Historic District Commission, which regulates exterior features of the district. That process is months away since the design of the replacement structure is an inherent part of it.

Mike Rosenberg can be reached at [email protected], or 781-983-1763

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