|Williamstown Fire District Voters to Select New Board Members|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff |
01:15AM / Monday, November 18, 2019
|From left, David Moresi and Gerard Smith are running for 18-month term and Bruce MacDonald and Richard Reynolds for the 30-month term on the Prudential Committee.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — None of the candidates in Tuesday's special election for the Prudential Committee has direct experience with the town's fire department, but each brings his own unique skill set to the table.
Last month, the four candidates sat at the same table to make their case to voters in a forum
organized by the town's chapter of the League of Women Voters and televised on community access television station Willinet
On Tuesday, voters will choose either David Moresi or Gerard Smith for an 18-month term on the Prudential Committee, which governs the town's fire district. Richard Reynolds and Bruce MacDonald are the two candidates for a 30-month seat on the committee.
Eventually, the two new seats on the expanding committee will be three-year terms, like the current three spots on the panel.
Of the four candidates on Tuesday's ballot, three have experience in the construction trade and the fourth has experience as president of a volunteer fire department — at Rutgers University.
That construction experience could come in handy for whoever joins incumbents John Notsley, Ed McGowan and Ed Briggs on the Prudential Committee. One of the big near-term challenges for the town's Fire Department is a pending project to build a new station on a Main Street parcel district voters agreed to purchase in 2017.
Moresi is the principle of Moresi & Associates, a North Adams-based real estate development firm; among its highest profile projects are 296 Main St., in Williamstown, a site once eyed by the town as a potential public safety building location. His opponent, Smith, has worked in construction since 1986 and served as president of the Williamstown Board of Trade, antecedent to the Chamber of Commerce; he has a track record of purchasing and rehabilitating properties in the Village Beautiful.
MacDonald is a real estate developer known locally for his renovation of the historic Nehemiah Smedley House. His rival, Reynolds, is a program manager at Hewlett Packard and, hence, the only candidate without construction experience on his resume, but he does have a track record as a volunteer firefighter as an undergraduate at Rutgers.
Although no decisions have been made yet about the timetable for replacing the current fire station on Water Street, several of the candidates talked at the October forum about their priorities for a new facility.
"When I started in the moving business in 1976, the largest trailer allowed by the Department of Transportation was 40 feet," MacDonald said. "The largest allowed now is 53 feet long, and there are tandems on the Turnpike. There's been a similar change in fire departments.
"Anything built today should be built with a minimum of 25 percent expansion room so its relevant for 10 years. There are different ways of building a good, safe, solid structure that is more fiscally responsible. I'd look toward that to sell to the community that we're being fiscally responsible on their behalf."
Reynolds and Smith each emphasized that a new fire station needs to bring the district into compliance with state standards.
Moresi talked about the possibility of building a fire station that can double as space for community meetings and help make the fire station a hub for the town.
A former paramedic in New York and North Adams, Moresi also said the new fire station will help the Williamstown Fire Department address its need to bring in new recruits.
"To attract, you need to be attractive," Moresi said. "To attract and recruit new volunteers, you need to have an attractive facility that is safe with the latest and greatest equipment … that will help in bringing the Fire Department into the next decade and beyond."
All four candidates said they anticipate a learning curve if elected to the committee.
"I think part of it is learning — listening and learning," Reynolds said. "Other [committee] members have been part of the department for a long time.
"Something I could help with is in developing a plan. I think it would be best if there was a strategic plan behind things. What is the objective? What are the goals when equipment is acquired?"
While each of the candidates would bring his own perspective to the committee, all three shared similar thoughts on the challenges facing the fire district. Smith reflected that commonality in his closing remarks at the forum.
"I hope the people of Williamstown heard how much the candidates want to work to cooperate to get along to make this better," Smith said. "I think whoever is elected will do their due diligence for the best of the town."
The special election to fill the two new seats on the Prudential Committee will be held Tuesday, Nov. 19, from 3:30 to 7:30 at Williamstown Elementary School.