|Williamstown Fire District Forms Subcommittees to Advance Building Plan|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
01:23AM / Tuesday, August 25, 2020
|The Main Street parcel that Fire Distrct voters in 2017 agreed to purchase as a new home for the fire station.|
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The committee that governs the town's fire district last week announced two subcommittees to help advance planning for a new Main Street fire station.
Prudential Committee Chair John Notsley announced that he has named eight people to a tactical planning subcommittee and appointed a member of the town's Select Board to head up a community advisory panel.
The tactical planning group will include Fire District personnel and other community members in and out of town government as well as the assistant to Williams College's president for community and government affairs.
Jim Kolesar of the college will be joined by Elaine Neely, a longtime member of the town's Finance Committee, Town Manager Jason Hoch, local attorney Don Dubendorf, Fire Chief Craig Pedercini, Fire Department Engineer Mike Noyes, firefighter Ryan Housman and Prudential Committee member Ed Briggs.
The community advisory subcommittee is being headed up by Select Board member Jeffrey Thomas, who has asked anyone interested in serving to submit their names via email at email@example.com
, Notsley said.
Notsley noted that Hoch's input will be valuable to the tactical planning group because of the town's recent completion of another public safety building project, the police station on Simonds Road.
The fire district has a 3.7-acre parcel of its own on Main Street (Route 2) next door to the Aubuchon Hardware store. The $400,000 purchase was approved by district voters in 2017, and the Prudential Committee has been taking gradual steps toward building a structure to replace the aging, cramped quarters on Water Street (Route 43).
"I'm very excited with the building committee and also with the Fire District Community Advisory Board," Notsley said. "Probably the first order of business will be to go out for an [owner's project manager] search. Once an individual is chosen, then our work will begin."
The fire district is a separate municipal entity apart from town government with its own taxing authority and its own annual meeting where residents in the district approve the district's annual budget.
In recent years, the Prudential Committee has cooperated with Town Hall on projects like a Public Safety Building Study Committee and a Fire District needs assessment.
Next week the Prudential Committee and Select Board will collaborate once again by combining their annual tax classification hearings. That is when the panels will decide whether to again have a unified tax rate for the fiscal year 2021 property tax bills.
In other business on Wednesday, the Prudential Committee, which earlier this summer sent a townwide mailing to residents with photos of all the firefighters in the call-volunteer department, formed a working group to look at revamping the district's website and maintaining a presence on social media.
Pedercini shared some good news with the committee about staffing.
The department picked up one new member this summer and soon will be rejoined by another firefighter who sought additional training during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"When we sent the college kids home in March, one of our students was eager in trying to pursue firefighter experience," Pedercini said. "In his home in New Jersey, he looked into taking some programs. They ran for five weeks, 40 hours per week and included testing and the final exam — practical and on paper. He just informed me the other day he passed.
"I congratulated him, and we're looking forward to getting him back on campus so we can start putting him to work. I'm excited about that."
Pedercini's monthly report to the Prudential Committee included a couple of comments about how residents can help make life a little easier for firefighters in the field.
"If your house is over 50 feet from the roadway, our town bylaw requires you have your number posted at the end of the driveway," Pedercini said. "It can be on a post or a tree. Some people have them on the mailbox, though if your mailbox is across the street or you have multiple mailboxes in one spot, it's not quite as good.
"I just want to put it out that the owners of properties in town should check their properties to make sure the number is visible.
And when the firefighters get to a resident's home, they ask that the occupants do what they can to follow COVID-19 guidelines.
"When the Fire Department responds to your home or business, we're trying to take all the precautions we can," Pedercini said. "If there's no fire and there might be an odor going on, we're really only going to want to send one, maybe two people into the house.
"Our guys will put a mask on to protect the people there. We'd expect anyone in the home to step out for a short time, and we'd request people wear masks. … There's going to be a time when we can't social distance. Just wear a mask, and at the end of the day we'll all be safer."