Public safety facility could be Rochester’s ‘most expensive’ project to date

Feb 14, 2023

ROCHESTER — New facilities to house Rochester’s police and fire departments could cost an estimated $37 million.

That was the number presented to the Public Safety Facility Feasibility Study Committee on Feb. 14 by architect Ted Galante, who has been contracted by the town to study the feasibility of constructing new buildings for Rochester’s first responders.
If officials were to proceed and if Town Meeting were to approve the cost, it would be Rochester’s most expensive public works project ever, said Select Board member Bradford Morse, who also sits on the feasibility study committee.

The number is a “conceptual budget” for a proposed plan that would see renovations to the existing police station on Dexter Road, and the construction of a new fire station and fire substation.

“I want people to understand that this will cost a lot of money,” said Galante. “And I will try every possible way to save money.”

The proposed plan, which has not yet been accepted by the committee, would see portions of the current police station demolished and renovated at a cost of around $5.6 million, and a fire station and fire substation built on town-owned land that could cost nearly $32 million.

Galante stressed that the estimated cost for a potential new is a placeholder number. It assumes a new 30,000 square-foot building priced at a “conservative” $820 per square-foot of construction.

Galante also included costs for administrative fees, architecture and engineering fees, furniture, equipment, utilities and more.

“We're trying to establish a working budget that the town can move forward with,” said Galante. “There are not just construction costs, [there are] many layers to these types of things.”

Rochester Fire Chief Scott Weigel suggested the use of a prefabricated building to cut costs and house some of the fire department’s operations, noting that he is not “looking for the Taj Mahal, just a functional building.”

Another cost-cutting measure is the reuse of the current police department building. According to Galante, portions of the station could be demolished while other portions are renovated or extended.

“The [police station] is only 20 years old, it would be a shame to toss it and start from scratch,” said Galante. “From the town's perspective, it doesn't seem like it's a wise dollar spent — you can’t repurpose that building and sell it.’’

In order to pay for this project, the feasibility study committee will need to go before a Town Meeting. However, with the deadline to submit articles for May Town Meeting rapidly approaching, the committee doesn’t want to rush this project.

“I just got this information 45 minutes ago,” said town moderator and committee member David Arancio. “I understand time is somewhat critical, but we also answer to the public, the public needs a ton of information.”

The committee agreed that it would be best to hold a Special Town Meeting sometime this year, in order to give Galante more time to refine the study, and to give the public more time to learn about the project.

“This is such an important project for the town, it warrants a Special Town Meeting,” said Committee Chair Arnold Johnson. 

“I don't want to be rushing,” added Rochester Town Administrator Glenn Cannon. “I think it's a recipe for failure.”

Going forward, Galante will present a more detailed budget estimate and floor plan for a renovated police station, new fire station and fire substation at a March 14 meeting of the Rochester Public Safety Facility Feasibility Study Committee.