By Heather McCarron; August 9,2017; Country Gazette
PLAINVILLE — There was a lot of dirt slinging going on among town and state officials Monday, and they couldn’t have been happier about it.
It was all part of the official groundbreaking for the town’s new town hall and public safety facility at the old Wood School site on South Street/Rte. 1A, where much of the once verdant lawn late last week was turned over to dirt in preparation for the project.
A crowd of current and past town officials, police and fire personnel, as well as state officials and residents gathered at the site next to the town library for the occasion, many taking shelter from a pattering rain under tents while speeches were made ahead of putting the ceremonial shovels to the ceremonial pile of earth.
The mood was one of excitement for the much-anticipated project, which has been on the town’s blue sky list for many years.
“Today is a milestone moment in Plainville’s history, not just because we will be getting a shiny new bauble, but because we will now have a central hub that will bind our residents together, making us a stronger community,” said Selectman Rob Rose.
Rose credited voters for putting “the final piece of the puzzle” in place by approving borrowing for the buildings at the June Town Meeting.
“Before that clinching event, there were a number of obstacles that were thrown in our path, critical moments when circumstances could have derailed our efforts,” Rose said. “Personally, I didn’t believe I would see this day in my lifetime. But Plainville’s citizens and leaders took the right course.”
Plans call for a new 21,350-square-foot town hall to replace the current facility — a former firehouse built in 1938 with only 5,000 square feet of space available. Town officials have long lamented the cramped space, which makes it difficult to conduct the business of a town in the 21st century. The new facility, which will occupy the front part of the old Wood School site, will have larger offices for the various town departments and ample public meeting space. The new public safety building will occupy the back of the site where the school building now stands, offering 43,527 square feet for police, fire and dispatch.
The general contract for the project, budgeted at $27 million, was recently awarded to CTA Construction of Waltham. Some of the funding for the project is coming from the capital improvement fund the town created to hold fees collected from Plainridge Park Casino.
While briefly recounting the potential pitfalls for the project, Rose noted that it would not have become a reality had voters not approved the host community agreement with Plainridge’s parent company, Penn National, back in 2013. He said voters’ “foresight in looking to the future and what it would bring was dead solid perfect.”
The dream of a new municipal complex came another step closer when Town Meeting later voted to establish the Host Community Stabilization Fund, which “allowed us to squirrel away the Plainridge funds so that they can be used for capital projects like this one that will endure and benefit future generations,” Rose said.
At the groundbreaking, Commissioner Gayle Cameron of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission congratulated the town on its upcoming new municipal complex, and said she is impressed with the foresight and planning that went into it.
“I’m so glad to see that Plainville is putting the host community agreement funds to such good use,” she said, going on to note “that’s exactly what those funds were designated to do.”
Selectman Matt Kavanah recognized the many people who were involved in making the project happen.
“A lot of people spent countless hours and labored… to bring this day to fruition,” he said, going on to add, “we’re building something great for the future.”
State Rep. Shawn Dooley, R-Norfolk, called the upcoming municipal complex a true centerpiece for the town. With that in the works, and other pieces already in place — including the casino, and the Unlikely Story Bookstore and Cafe downtown, he said, “this town is up and coming, and coming fast.” He offered congratulations to the town both from himself and from state Sen. Richard Ross, R-Wrentham, who was unable to attend the groundbreaking.
Selectman George Sutherland told those gathered that there were plenty of times he didn’t think a new town hall and public safety building would happen.
“But thanks to the citizens of this town, 9,000 strong, we made it happen,” he said. “It’s now the bookend to the renaissance of our downtown.”
Sutherland recounted how he and his wife would watch their kids walking home from school across the street when the old Wood School was still in operation years ago.
“Now when this is done she is going to be able to see me walk home from selectmen’s meetings,” he quipped.
Besides some tree clearing and turning over the old school’s lawn, site work so far has primarily included hazmat abatement in the former school building, according to site supervisor Chris Dennis. Some of the larger trees, marked with orange tape, will remain in place. Demolition of the old school is expected to begin in the next three to six weeks to make way for the public safety facility, and work on the town hall foundation will begin at the front of the site.
The target date for completion of the project is November 2018.
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