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Williamstown Voters to Decide Tuesday on Fire Station Project
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
01:19PM / Monday, February 27, 2023
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The Fire District has reduced the overall size of its fire station proposal, including eliminating the tower and a conference room and repurposing one of the equipment bays.

Updated Monday evening to include information about a donation from the Clark Art Institute and confirmation from district officials that the meeting is still on schedule for Tuesday evening.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Residents on Tuesday will decide whether to authorize up to $22.5 million to build a new fire station on Main Street.
The Williamstown Fire District will hold a special district meeting at 7 p.m. in the gymnasium at Williamstown Elementary School with a single question on the warrant: whether voters in the district, which covers the entire town, will authorize the necessary borrowing to build a station at 580 Main St. (Route 2), on property the district acquired with authorization from a special district meeting in 2017.
Like the 2017 decision, fire officials will need a two-thirds "super majority" of attendees at Tuesday's meeting to go forward with the building project.
The fire district is a separate municipal entity apart from town government with its own taxing authority. Residents receive two property tax bills each year — one from the town and one from the district — although for the sake of convenience, they are included in one annual statement.
The residential tax rate for the current fiscal year for the Fire district is 61 cents per $1,000 of property value. District officials have estimated that bond payments to cover the cost of a new station would add, on average, between 89 cents and 94 cents per $1,000 to the district's tax rate over the life of the bond.
The property tax bill for a single-family home with a median value of $358,600 would go up by between $319 and $351 over the life of a 25-year bond, depending on the payback scenario, according to figures released on Feb. 9.
Although the district must, by state law, seek bonding authority for the full projected cost of the station project, the district already has received a $5 million gift from Williams College that will reduce the amount it ultimately needs to borrow. The tax rate increases cited by the district's Community Advisory Committee earlier this month take that gift money into account.
It did not include the $500,000 in support that the Clark Art Institute announced on Monday afternoon for the fire station project.
"We are deeply appreciative of the work done by the members of our community who serve as volunteer firefighters, and we are proud to support the important work of the Williamstown Fire Department by joining the effort to ensure that they have facilities that are efficient, appropriate and safe," Clark Director Olivier Meslay said in a news release announcing the gift.
And Fire Department officials continue to pursue other revenue streams in the form of gifts from private entities and state or federal grants.
Officials also have responded this winter to concerns about the projected cost of the project, scaling back an initial cost. It started the year talking about a $25 million price tag, but the final warrant article approved by the Prudential Committee, which oversees the district, reflects the $22.5 million cap the chair of that committee suggested in late January.
Last week, the Prudential Committee discussed ways that the building project has been scaled back to meet that 10 percent reduction in the initial cost estimate. Cuts include the elimination of an apparatus bay and removal of items like a training tower and conference room. In all, about 4,700 square feet of space have been removed from the updated design.
"I do want to thank the officers and the firefighters for taking the time ... to revisit these plans, revisit this design and revisit overall this project to go through and reduce its size and costs," said Prudential Committee Chair David Moresi at last week's meeting. "As we pledged to do from the start for this project, do it responsibly for the town and on target and to the benefit of all the residents of this community." 
At the Feb. 22 meeting, viewable on the town's community access television station, Willinet, Fire Chief Craig Pedercini also talked about the discussions that led to the cost savings in the new design.
"It was a challenge," Pedercini said. "It wasn't easy. Maybe some tears were shed. But you've got to do what you've got to do, and we've got to make this happen. I think we're in a good place right now."
Despite anticipated snow on Tuesday, both Moresi and district Moderator Paul Harsch confirmed as late as Monday evening that officials have no plans to reschedule Tuesday's 7 p.m. meeting, where all registered voters in the town can weigh in on the project.
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