Stewarding the place where Sudbury residents come together to work, play and learn.
The Fairbank Community Center has been a valuable community resource since opening its doors in 1983. The Center currently is the home to Park and Recreation, Atkinson Pool, the Senior Center, and the Sudbury Public Schools Administrative Offices. It is the site for the Town’s emergency shelter, an election voting location, and home to many of the Town’s summer camps.
A number of issues have arisen with the building over time, including leaking roof portions, failing climate control, and lack of usable space for programming. The Town has received recommendations on the best future solution for the center and anticipates a proposal to go before voters at the Fall 2018 Town Meeting.
On July 10, 2018, residents were asked to participate in a poll on the Fairbank Community Center project. Results from the survey can be found here.
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The Fairbank Community Center, which is located at 40 Fairbank Road, was built in 1958 as an elementary school. The Community Center was established in 1983, and there have been two additions: the 1987 Atkinson Pool and the 1989 Senior Center. The 40,900 square foot building is also used for voting and as the emergency shelter.
Use of the Building – Senior Center
The Senior Center serves many different factions and functions for Sudbury Seniors, a population that the Town is recognizing as continuing to grow. As we know from census data, when the Senior Center addition was built in 1989 there were 1,625 residents over 60. Today, the 60 and over population is 3,815 and makes up over 20 percent of the Sudbury population. Based on demographics data and population projections, the number of seniors is expected to continue to increase in coming years. The increased population has resulted in a greater demand for programming and staff thus exacerbating the space deficiencies. Currently approximately 1,600 different individuals use the Senior Center each year; and there are approximately 24,000 visits or service units per year (this is expected to increase every year).
Use of the Building – Park & Recreation
The Recreation Department of the Town of Sudbury serves all demographics. The Recreation Department provides 690 programs serving 9,700 participants. There were over 72,000 users of the pool in 2015. The current space is approximately 30,000 square feet including the pool and shared space. The Recreation Department runs not only regular recreation programming, but also houses a teen center, preschool, a pool, summer camp and increased programming on Wednesdays when Sudbury Public Schools have a half day. The Recreation Department is inclusive and welcomes all users.
The space consists of four rooms, a small gym, bathrooms and minimum storage. The rooms are categorized as a craft room with sink, a little gym, the arcade room and the preschool room. The gym is used as a multipurpose room and hosts most of the fitness classes. There is a front desk/reception area, three offices, two small storage closets, makeshift break room, 2 sets of bathrooms, pool, locker rooms and pump room.
State of the Building
As has been documented in various documents, the roof is in varying degrees of disrepair. Drainage and slope are both issues. The windows in some portions of the complex are in very poor condition and require replacement. They are single pane windows, the sealants have failed and there is deterioration of the frame and sash. There are some exterior wall issues and flooring issues, including some buckling. In some sections of the building, the underside of the roof panels and structure are exposed. The ceiling is stained due to leaking. The exterior walls show signs of deterioration. Space is unsuitable and limited, making programing limited and crowded. The Building does not have a sufficient generator, particularly important during states of emergency.
Issues – Senior Center
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has set guidelines that Senior Centers should have approximately five square feet per senior. The Town currently has approximately 1.25 square feet per senior, if we include the shared gym and the kitchen space. (The space is approximately 4,750 square feet.)
The Senior Center does not have adequate storage space and lacks a basement. Currently, the Senior Center is storing equipment in the Flynn Building cellar, where it is very difficult to retrieve.
Currently, the Senior Center has two program rooms, one reception area, four offices, and a small lounge area abutting the reception area. They share three programming rooms and the small gym with the other users of the Fairbank Community Center. The Center has six full time staffers (4 in the office, 2 driving the vans) and over a dozen part-time staff. The current office space is filled with the full time staff and there is not a space for part-time staff to effectively work.
Issues – Park & Recreation
The locker rooms receive the most complaints due to conditions and footprint. They are not accessible and there are no family locker rooms available. There is a lack of adequate programming space, and a lack of the type of programming space that is needed. The pool has been deemed to be in good condition, but lacks viewing space.
WORKING TOWARDS A SOLUTION
In 2012, Town Meeting opted not to repair the roof and to explore alternative options for the building. As a result, the Board of Selectmen created the Fairbank Community Center Task Force. The Task Force was asked to provide a preliminary assessment of the capacity of the existing building to identify a solution that would meet the current and future program and office needs and goals of:
- Park and Recreation Department (including the Teen Center and Atkinson Pool)
- Council on Aging
- Sudbury Public Schools Administration (currently housed at Fairbank)
The mission of the Task Force was to advise the Board of Selectmen as to the best options for dealing with the failing roof on the non-Pool section of the Fairbank Community Center.
In 2012, the Town engaged Russo-Bar to advise on roof repair needs and costs for the center. The Task Force determined that some repairs should be made to the roof, and that the town should undertake a feasibility study addressing the needs of the community and the future structural options for the facility. Their recommendation can be found here: https://sudbury.ma.us/facilities/final-report-2-12-13/
Since that initial recommendation, the Town has undergone two separate feasibility studies to develop conceptual designs, one with Boston-based design firm, Bargmann Hendrie & Archetype, Inc. in 2015 and one with Pros Consulting in 2017.
Feasibility Study 1: Bargmann Hendrie & Archetype, Inc. (2015)
Feasibility Study 2: Pros Consulting (2018)
Pros Consulting presented to the Fairbank Community Center Task Force three separate scenarios, based on the information they gathered from interviews with town staff, stakeholders, committee and commission members, and from residents. The Fairbank Community Center Task Force voted to select scenario 2, which was very similar to the recommendation made in the first feasibility study. Following that recommendation, the consultant worked on a schematic design and a theoretical operational pro forma for scenario 2. A report was submitted to the Town in February 2018, and was presented at a public meeting.
In April 2018, the Fairbank Community Center Study Task Force brought forth a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen that received support from both the Park and Recreation Commission and the Council on Aging. The Board of Selectmen accepted the recommendation of the Task Force, approved their findings, and subsequently dissolved the Task Force with their thanks to the volunteers for their time and dedication.
The recommendation of the Fairbank Community Center Task Force includes a 62,800 square foot building. It includes a full-sized gymnasium, walking/running track, a pool and diving well, locker rooms, dedicated Senior space, dedicated Park and Recreation space, a shared common space, and exercise space. It includes an indoor play space, a kitchen area, and room for the preschool.
Part of the Pro Consulting report included an operational and financial plan. It should be stressed that this is merely a suggested plan. Over the next several years, as the final Fairbank design takes place and the building is constructed, those plans will change to reflect the needs and wants of the community as well as the financial capabilities and programming needs of the Town.
The report suggests an increase in staffing from ten full time employees to eighteen full time employees. Since the existing facility is almost doubling, the report calls on the town to almost double the staff to run most efficiently. This will require further study to determine what the actual programming needs are at the time of opening.
The report also accounts for increases in utilities, capital maintenance and repairs, as well as services and goods increases. The growth rates accounted for are higher than what is typically forecasted by the administration.
The report assumes that the Town will charge a membership fee to use the Park and Recreation portions of the facility. Currently the Town has a membership fee for the pool and utilizes other revenue mechanisms, including user fees and the tax levy for other costs.
The report reflects a 90% cost recovery, this means that the facility will have revenues that are 90% of its expenditures. Currently, a portion of the Park and Recreation and the Senior Center are paid through the tax levy. The report also shows the total cost recovery decreases from year 1 to year 6. This assumes that the Town would not increase the membership fees to match the increase in expenditures. In other accounts that are based on user fees, the Town strives to increase the membership fees each year to reflect the increase in expenditures. This is good practice and helps avoid large increases in single years.
The report also has the Town performing functions such as the sale of concessions, running one hundred birthday parties a year, running a fitness center and implementing drop in childcare. These are all good revenue building programs, but the Town would need to vet each of these ideas and determine the manpower needed to properly manage them before committing to them.
The report also supplies a cost estimate for the construction of the proposed facility.
The total cost of the project including design costs, construction costs, fees and contingencies is $32,770,340. The contingency is almost $3,000,000. These costs could change significantly as the project progresses further into the design process and when the project is publically bid. Massachusetts General Laws require all municipal projects to undergo a competitive procurement process, and includes the use of prevailing wage for workers.
The timeline for this project is approximately two and a half years. The next step is a vote at October 2018 Town Meeting to obtain design services for the proposed facility.
A press release called “The Future of the Fairbank Community Center to be Considered at Town Meeting,” was sent out on Thursday, September 13, 2018. Click title for the full story.