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Williamstown Fire Committee Talks Station Project Cuts, Truck Replacement
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
05:17AM / Friday, April 26, 2024
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Some of the cuts include shifting from a metal roof to asphalt and not finishing off bunkrooms and bathrooms on the second floor.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Prudential Committee on Wednesday signed off on more than $1 million in cost cutting measures for the planned Main Street fire station.
Some of the "value engineering" changes are cosmetic, while at least one pushes off a planned expense into the future.
The committee, which oversees the Fire District, also made plans to hold meetings over the next two Wednesdays to finalize its fiscal year 2025 budget request and other warrant articles for the May 28 annual district meeting. One of those warrant articles could include a request for a new mini rescue truck.
The value engineering changes to the building project originated with the district's Building Committee, which asked the Prudential Committee to review and sign off.
In all, the cuts approved on Wednesday are estimated to trim $1.135 million off the project's price tag.
The biggest ticket items included $250,000 to simplify the exterior masonry, $200,000 to eliminate a side yard shed, $150,000 to switch from a metal roof to asphalt shingles and $75,000 to "white box" certain areas on the second floor of the planned building.
The white boxing means the interior spaces will be built but not finished. So instead of dividing a large space into six bunk rooms and installing two restrooms on the second floor, that space will be left empty and unframed for now.
District officials long have talked about the need to provide bunk space in the station, particularly as it anticipates a future need to hire full-time firefighters with a steady decline in the number of call-volunteer first responders nationwide. But, for now, the Building Committee and Prudential Committee agreed it is worth eliminating the bunk rooms in order to get the project closer to its budget.
"We need to get the budget down to around $17.5 million for a guaranteed maximum price," district consultant Bruce Decoteau told the Prudential Committee. "$18.9 million was Allegrone's bid."
Last year, district voters authorized a project costing up to $22.5 million, including so-called "soft costs," like engineering and design.
There are more potential cuts to come. The Building Committee addressed more than 60 value engineering steps, dividing them into three buckets: accepted, potential and rejected.
Among the items rejected by the Building Committee were removing one of the apparatus bays and reducing the amount of paved space around the building, a step that would have impacted truck maneuverability, overflow parking and outdoor training space.
Among the items still under consideration is a reduction in the living/exercise area for firefighters by 600 feet, a step that would save a projected $200,000.
The four members of the Prudential Committee at Wednesday's meeting voted in favor of the value engineering cuts proposed by the Building Committee. Prudential Committee member John Notsley did not attend Wednesday's meeting.
Decoteau told the Prudential Committee that all the cuts they approved and the potential cuts will be reviewed again once the district identifies and retains a construction manager at risk.
The district's request for qualifications for a CM is due on April 30. Decoteau said they will be reviewed on May 2.
"We can't afford to keep rebidding this [project]," he said. "There could be $60,000 a month in escalation costs. The goal is to get the CM on board in June, work through the budget and get in the ground in September."
After the meeting, Decoteau said a fall ground-breaking is realistic and important to avoid having to miss a construction season.
He also Wednesday delivered some good news on the building project.
Decoteau said the district was approved by National Grid for interconnection to the electric grid at the kilowatt level the district proposed. That means the building project will be able to have the solar electricity capacity proposed and necessary to meet the district's energy usage goals.
The Fire District is a separate taxing authority apart from town government, even though it has the same constituency.
The February 2023 special district meeting approved the bonding authority for a new station to replace the aging, cramped facility on Water Street. The district also, like the town, holds annual elections and an annual meeting for voters to approve the next fiscal year's budget.
The FY25 annual meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, May 28, at 7:30 p.m. at Williamstown Elementary School, a half hour after the polls close for the district election, which is scheduled for 4 to 7 p.m.
On Wednesday, district clerk Sarah Currie said only incumbents Lindsay Neathawk and David Moresi returned nomination papers for the two Prudential Committee seats on this May's ballot.
At the meeting on the evening of May 28, voters will be asked to approve the Fire Department's operating budget for the year that begins on July 1 as well as any special, one-time expenditures to be paid for from FY25 taxation.
Fire Chief Craig Pedercini told the committee that he will ask for a warrant article to authorize the district to purchase a "mini rescue truck" to replace the department's Engine 1.
Pedercini said he knows that the Prudential Committee has talked about not replacing apparatuses until after the new fire station is built, but he asked the members to reconsider.
"Engine 1 is starting to get old and crappy," he said. "It's getting bad. We don't want to fix that. The cost will be substantial."
Assistant Chief Michael Noyes told the committee that more than half the thickness of the engine's original frame is gone in some places and showed the panel photos he took of the apparatus' underbody.
Pedercini said it could take a couple of years to order a replacement truck, and he hopes the Prudential Committee will agree to start the process with a vote at next month's district meeting.
The good news for taxpayers is that the proposed replacement is estimated to cost in the neighborhood of just less than $400,000, far cheaper than the seven-figure replacement cost if the district opted to buy an apparatus the same size as the current Engine 1, Noyes told the committee.
The light rescue mini pumper that Pedercini is proposing would allow the district to continue providing fire coverage and have a smaller response vehicle for some of the medical calls that increasingly are part of the district's service, Noyes said.
All the warrant articles and the budget for FY25 will be on the agenda when the Prudential Committee meets on Wednesday, May 1, at 4 p.m. at the Water Street fire station.
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