Updated with final certified results June 10 at 1:21 p.m.
The voters have spoken: After years of delays, Lexington is getting a new police station.
In Monday’s Special Town Election, 56.6% of voters approved a debt exclusion to fund a roughly 34,000 square foot, $35.2 million new police station at 1575 Massachusetts Avenue for the Town, according to preliminary results emailed to LexObserver Monday evening by Town Clerk Mary de Alderete. Polls closed at 8 p.m.
Lexingtonians cast 1,615 ballots in favor of the debt exclusion and 1,236 against it, as well as 2 blanks, final results certified Wednesday confirmed. Final results differed from Monday’s preliminary results by a single additional ‘no’ vote.
A total of 12.48% of voters cast ballots in Monday’s election. That’s less than half the turnout in Lexington’s last debt exclusion Special Election nearly five years ago, in December 2017, when 28% of voters cast ballots for and against three separate public infrastructure projects: A new elementary school, a new preschool and a new fire station. All three projects passed by differing margins.
Monday’s townwide referendum was far closer than Town Meeting’s near-unanimous vote this March (with 174 votes in favor, 1 against and 6 abstentions) to appropriate $32.4 million for the design and construction of a new police station, contingent on Monday’s result. This debt exclusion is the culmination of more than a decade of efforts to approve a new police station for Lexington, dating back to a space needs study in 2011 which concluded that the current police station does not meet the needs of a modern police force.
On the precinct level, Precinct 1 saw the lowest turnout with 10.52%, while Precinct 4 voters turned out the most, with 14.75% casting ballots. ‘Yes’ votes outnumbered ‘no’ votes in all nine precincts — but there were nail-biter margins in some cases, especially in Precinct 4, where 195 residents voted yes, and 190 voted no. Precinct 3, on the other hand, demonstrated the most support for the project: 216 voters cast ‘yes’ ballots, while just 63 voted no.
The debt exclusion approval means residents’ property taxes are expected to temporarily increase, starting in FY25, until debt to fund the new building is repaid, per Town Manager Jim Malloy’s May memorandum to the Select Board. The cost to taxpayers will peak when the debt is first issued; for residents owning homes of average value, the current projected cost is $258 in the first year, which is estimated to decrease over time to $149 in the 20th year. The Town offers a calculator residents can use to figure the personal cost to them in the first year. Malloy estimated that the debt issuance would be for 20 years at a 4.0% interest rate in a March memo, but noted that the exact interest rate and “segmenting of the debt into 10, 15, 20 or 30 years” will not be known “until such time that the borrowing occurs.” In a forum last week, Malloy said that because Lexington has a Triple-A bond rating, the Town is not concerned about interest rates increasing, and considers 4.0% a conservative number.
Back in December 2017, Lexington voters approved three debt exclusions for projects with a collective price tag more than double the cost of the new police station, or about $85.78 million in total, per the Lexington Minuteman. These projects comprised: a new Maria Hastings Elementary School for about $63 million, with a Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) reimbursement of up to $16.5 million; a new Lexington Children’s Place for $14.8 million; and a new fire station for about $22 million, along with $2.14 million for final design and remodeling work for a temporary fire station. By vote tallies, the fire station was the best-supported project, with a nearly 2,000-vote margin (3,971 yes v. 2,090 no); Lexington Children’s Place passed by far a narrower margin of just over 200 votes, or 3,138 yes v. 2,913 no.
Construction on the new police station is expected to start in late summer, and will likely continue for about 16 months, concluding in January 2024, per Public Facilities Director Mike Cronin’s estimate last week. The Lexington Police Department will operate out of temporary headquarters at 173 Bedford St. during demolition and construction.