|Williams College Commits $5 Million to Fire Station Project|
|By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff|
12:21PM / Thursday, January 26, 2023
|A rendering of possible configuration of a new Williamstown fire station. |
Updated at 1:18 p.m. to clarify the level of bonding authority that Fire District officials plan to seek on Feb. 28.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Williams College on Thursday morning announced it is committing $5 million toward the cost of building a new fire station on Main Street.
College President Maud Mandel announced the result of this past weekend's meeting of the college's Board of Trustees in an email to the college community, and the district issued a news release shortly after.
"[T]he board agreed to contribute a total of $5 million toward construction of Williamstown's new fire station at a rate of $1 million per year over the next five years," Mandel wrote. "Our campus community relies heavily on local first responders, including student and staff volunteers, and it is important that Williams help the district provide them with a modern and safe facility."
At its meeting Wednesday afternoon, the Prudential Committee, which oversees the Fire District, decided to reduce the amount of money that the district wants to spend on building a replacement to the cramped, outdated facility on Water Street.
Currently, the Prudential Committee plans to seek $22.5 million
to build a new station.
That is the number that voters will be asked to approve at a Feb. 28 special Fire District meeting. But district officials intend the $5 million from the college or any other gifts or grants to reduce the amount of that $22.5 million that ultimately will be borne by taxpayers.
A two-thirds majority at the Feb. 28 meeting, being held at 7 p.m. at Williamstown Elementary School, will be necessary for the project to move forward.
On Thursday, the chair of the Prudential Committee applauded news of the college's donation.
"For more than a hundred years, the college has voluntarily contributed annually to the
district's operating budget, and it now caps our long relationship with this remarkable gift," David Moresi said in a news release.
"Adding even more meaning to their announcement is that it comes while the college, because of the current economic climate, is having to tighten its belt. It would have been understandable if in that situation Williams' leaders had concluded that they couldn't help out at this time. But instead they did this."
Williams has a payment in lieu of taxes agreement with the Fire District under which a contribution from the school each year goes to support the fire department's operational expenses.
In recent years, Williams also has provided financial support to capital projects for the Williamstown Police Department and Mount Greylock Regional School District.
Moresi on Thursday noted that the college's support of the fire service in town goes beyond writing a check.
"Williams has been a close partner of the Williamstown Fire District for many years," Moresi said. "The college has long let its staff members who serve as volunteer firefighters leave their jobs to respond to fire calls. This significantly shortens our response times to call scenes.
"Williams students actively volunteer with the district as firefighters."
On Wednesday evening, Fire Chief Craig Pedercini informed the Prudential Committee that the department recently added three more college students to its roster of call-volunteer firefighters.