Selectmen hit pause on Town Common gazebo

Sep 9, 2020 by

Published September 9, 2020


LYNNFIELD — The proposed Town Common gazebo is on hold for the time being.

The Board of Selectmen hit the brakes on the project during a Sept. 3 meeting. The board first approved the gazebo project in 2013 and voted in favor of the project again in March 2018.

In a review of the initiative, Town Administrator Rob Dolan recalled that Town Meeting approved appropriating $200,000 this past June in order to make improvements to the Town Common. The project includes constructing new walkways and curbing, installing a new electrical system, new lights and making sidewalk and crosswalk improvements. He also said the town’s portion of the project includes constructing a concrete pad for the gazebo, but said the Historical Society would be paying for the structure. Historical architect Matt Cummings, who has worked on a number of historical homes in town including Centre Farm, created free architectural drawings for the gazebo late last year.

Dolan said the town’s component of the project is going out to bid this week.

“The issue we have right now is that although the other pieces have been put together, the one piece that hasn’t is the gazebo,” said Dolan.

Dolan said local officials have discussed the gazebo with Historical Society officials several times. He said local officials were “pretty clear” during a late August meeting they needed information about where the pad would be located.

“I think everyone has a lot of good will here, but we are not at a place where we should be,” said Dolan. “I can’t tell the board there is a surefire complete plan to build the gazebo on the Common.”

Dolan told the selectmen that if the issue did not get resolved, the entire Town Common improvement project would get delayed until 2021.

“That would be unfortunate,” said Dolan.

DPW Director John Tomasz agreed.

“If we don’t get it done now, we are looking at the fall of next year,” said Tomasz.

In response to a question from Historical Commission member Roy Sorli, Dolan said the town planned on paying for the concrete pad.

“The issue is we don’t feel comfortable putting the pad down without a surefire plan for a gazebo,” said Dolan. “We don’t want the pad to be sitting there for months or years.”

Historical Society President Linda Gillon said she believed the nonprofit organization would be paying for the pad. She said she raised questions about the pad’s size during the late August meeting, and claimed she was told the size of the pad “could not be changed.” In a follow up phone call with Selectman Phil Crawford the next day, she said she was given “the impression that we aren’t going to be able to build the gazebo.”

“That is contrary to what we wish,” she said. “We are ready to go. We have a contractor and we have someone to put the cement pad in.”

Historical Commission member Steve Todisco, who resurrected the gazebo project in the summer of 2017, asked who gave the society the pad’s specifications.

Lynnfield Historical Society Treasurer Bob Gillon said Town Engineer Charlie Richter gave the specifications to the nonprofit organization.

“I am surprised because we had a contractor from Peabody who specializes in cement pads,” said Todisco in response. “We submitted a price to Charlie and were told the cost of the pad would be absorbed into the budget for the improvements to the Common that the town would be picking up. Rob Dolan just confirmed that.”

Linda Gillon said she was not given that impression.

“For two months, I have been working my butt off trying to get cement contractors to do this,” said Linda Gillon.

Dolan said he has been stressing to Historical Society officials that the town needs information about the gazebo’s contractor, the project’s cost and the timeline for completing it. Tomasz added that the DPW needs information about the pad’s size, its design and its location before the Town Common improvement project could begin.

Bob Gillon said the Historical Society hired local contractor Gary Hathaway to serve as the gazebo’s project manager, and said he was going to get vocational school students to build the gazebo next spring.

Dolan expressed doubts that vocational school students will be able to undertake any projects outside of school in the near future due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. He also said the Historical Society was still debating the gazebo’s design as of late August.

“We were very clear at the last meeting that we had 30 days to put this together,” said Dolan. “I think we are somewhat together, but I don’t think we are any farther along than we were a month ago.”

Linda Gillon said she was never told the Historical Society was given 30 days to finalize the project.

Selectmen Chairman Chris Barrett said the Historical Society would need to present a finalized plan for the gazebo before he would consider voting to authorize the town to construct the concrete pad.

“We need to have a firm plan in place,” said Barrett. “I think it’s important that we pause and do the improvements that we need, and take a look at the gazebo down the road.”

Selectman Dick Dalton said he is “not comfortable with where we are at right now.”

“I wouldn’t want to risk going forward with a pad that could be there for an indefinite period of time,” said Dalton. “I would like to see the improvements done and then address the gazebo at a later point. And in my personal opinion, I would like to see the gazebo across the street. As I look at the Town Common and the small triangular piece of land that it is, I think the gazebo is out of scale for that parcel. I support a gazebo 100 percent, but I don’t support it on the Common itself and I certainly don’t support us going forward at this point without clarity and commitments.”

Crawford echoed Dalton’s viewpoint.

“There is absolutely no confidence at all in my mind that this could get done in any reasonable amount of time,” said Crawford.

Sorli asked if the Historical Society has a budget for the gazebo.

Bob Gillon said the Historical Society anticipated spending between $25,000 and $30,000 on the project. He said the society received cost estimates from Todisco that he said were as high as $75,000.

“That is a little bit more than we had committed to spend on the project,” said Bob Gillon.

Todisco said he also sent the Gillons a $30,000 cost estimate. Bob Gillon said they never received that estimate.

“I sent it to you,” said a frustrated Todisco in response.

After the selectmen authorized the town to proceed to the bidding process without the pad, Linda Gillon read a statement expressing disappointment in the board’s vote.

“We would like it to be known that, if circumstances should change, the Historical Society would be ready and willing to revisit this project at any time in the future,” she said.

Barrett said local officials and the Historical Society “both want to do what is best for the Town Common.”

“For the Board of Selectmen right now, we have to make a decision,” said Barrett. “And with the indecision we see tonight, the three of us can’t move forward currently. We will make note of that comment as we move forward in the next year.”

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