|Williamstown Prudential Committee Looks at Adding Members|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
01:07AM / Monday, June 25, 2018
|Prudential Committee Chairman John Notsley, left, and Fire Chief Craig Pedercini participate in Wednesdsay's meeting.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The committee charged with overseeing the town's fire district wants to look at expansion.
Not the fire station this time, but the committee itself.
At its monthly meeting on Wednesday, the three-person Prudential Committee discussed taking steps to increase the panel to five members.
Chairman John Notsley brought the recommendation to his colleagues.
"With what's coming down the road — getting a [needs] study done and looking at a new station, there's going to be a lot of work involved," Notsley said. "I think it's prudent that we look down the road a little bit. I think adding two individuals to the committee would be to our benefit.
"I've done some checking and most of the districts are five-member boards."
And in Williamstown, boards and committees of at least five members are the rule. The only panels listed on the town's website with as few as three members are the Mobile Rent Control Board and the Sign Commission.
Notsley pointed out that the fire district's charter dates back to 1912 and called for three commissioners. Changing that charter will require a vote from the full district — either at its annual meeting or a special district meeting — and an act of the Legislature in Boston, which issued the original charter.
Notsley said he would like to not wait until the May 2019 annual meeting and instead get the ball rolling with a special meeting in the fall.
The committee agreed that if the district is going to go through the process of a charter revision, it should go through the entire charter and make sure there is nothing in there that needs updating.
Corydon Thurston, who was filling in for the district's clerk/treasurer at Wednesday's meeting, recommended that the committee consider splitting that position.
"In theory, they're separate skill sets," said Thurston, who served in the position up until this May's district election.
"Let's think about it as being two people and give the committee the option," Thurston said. "We want to do all [the changes to the charter] at once. We don't want to have to do this very often."
Prudential Committee member Ed Briggs noted that a change from three members to five members would make it easier for committee members to avoid even the appearance of an Open Meeting Law violation.
"If someone sees Ed [McGowan] and I talking after church, they might think we're talking about fire district business," Briggs said.
"And we're talking religion," McGowan added with a smile.
In other business Wednesday, the committee talked about developing a request for proposals to find a consultant for the needs analysis that district voters authorized at last month's annual meeting. And the committee discussed how to account for expenses for the Main Street property the district purchased earlier this year.
The district has been making progress cleaning up the former Lehovec property, which officials hope to use someday for a new firehouse.
On Wednesday, Briggs questioned whether it was appropriate to use money from the department's maintenance and operations line item to pay for brush clearing and tree removal.
Notsley said that while the district does have $14,000 set aside for site work, that money likely will need to be used on engineering studies on the property and more specific expenses related to the future station. General groundskeeping work, on the other hand, can be treated like any other maintenance.
"Whether it's the building here or new land we own, it's a maintenance item," Thurston agreed. "We ought to start thinking in future years about a maintenance item for the new property."
Thurston also reported that the district is realizing a net savings of about 24 percent — so far — on its electric bill thanks to the town's solar photovoltaic project on the capped landfill near the transfer station. The Williamstown Fire District is responsible for the town's street lights, a major expense for the district each year.
The committee agreed to work on lowering those costs further by exploring grants to replace the street lamps with more energy-efficient fixtures.