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Sue Bush
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Williamstown Selectmen Seeking Grant For New Police Station

By Jen Thomas
05:29AM / Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Williamstown Selectmen's Chairman David Rempell [Photo by Jen Thomas]
Williamstown - During last night's Selectmen's meeting, Selectmen voted unanimously to authorize Town Manager Peter Fohlin to pursue a state grant focused on financing the repair, renovation and construction of municipal police stations.

A proposed project would move the police station from the northeast corner of the Municipal Building at 31 North Street to a proposed new west wing. Fohlin said that the change is sorely needed.

"The current station is 40 years old and should have been upgraded at least 20 years ago," said Fohlin at the meeting.

Selectmen Ronald Turbin, Richard C. Steege, David A. Rempell and Tom Costley said the police deserved a new space, calling the current station "cramped." Selectwoman Jane B. Allen was not present at the meeting.

"They do a wonderful job, but under hardship," said Steege.

According to Fohlin, the current station does not meet current regulations that require men and women be separated and not within visual or audible distance of each other. The site also fails standards for “toilet destructibility” in cells. Fohlin said the Massachusetts Board of Health has given the department waivers for the last several years because they failed to meet public health standards for correctional facilities.

After considering several locations, including the Spring Street post office and the David and Joyce Milne Public Library, Fohlin, along with representatives from the police department and Department of Public Works Director Timothy Kaiser, recommended the Municipal Building as the right home for the police department. The move would require the construction of a 3,000 square foot, two-story addition to the building along with the conversion of the current Town Manager’s office into a “sally port,” which would allow police cars to safely unload passengers inside the station.

Fohlin said the proposed renovation would has three distinct advantages. Along with an up-to-date facility, the police department would be able to expand the space used to house necessary municipal records, which currently take up space in one small room in the basement. Lastly, Fohlin believes the construction would provide a "larger, more comfortable meeting room" for the town committees.

"The primary logic behind preferring a police station [at the Municipal Building] is that we don’t have to buy new land," Fohlin said.

The grant, made available when Governor Deval Patrick freed up $2 million in state capital funding, requires action by July 20, 2007 with funds to be allocated after September 1, 2007.

Neither Fohlin nor the Selectmen are overly optimistic about receiving grant funds, but Fohlin said applying was the first step in an ongoing effort to finance the expected $3.5 - 4 million project.

"We need to think long term about the needs of our police department irregardless of whether or not we get this grant," said Rempell.


Cable Mills Almost Ready to Move Ahead

The Selectmen reviewed documents associated with the purchase of the Cable Mills property located at 160 Water St.

160 Water, LLC is working to convert the three mill buildings into 82 units of homeownnership housing, 12,000 square feet of commercial/rental space and a “river walk” pedestrian along the Green River behind the property. Construction expects to begin in the spring of 2008 with the expected completion in the spring of 2009.

The Selectmen asked clarification questions of Fohlin during the meeting but passed on signing the community preservation funds grant agreement, the affordable community housing deed rider, the historic preservation restriction and open space preservation restriction until the July 9th meeting when Allen will be present for more discussion.

Other Business

Also at the meeting:

* Selectmen unanimously re-appointed Carolyn Henderson to the Affordable Housing Committee and the new appointment of Judy A. Giamborino to the Sign Commission.

* Selectmen unanimously approved signing onto the Western Massachusetts Intergovernmental Emergency Mutual Aid Agreement with 12 other Berkshire County towns to insure each town has mutual aid assitance from the others in case of emergencies.

* Selectmen heard a presentation from Fohlin that clearly outlined that he is not interested in developing the empty parcel the town owns at 59 Water St. The lot holds up to 143 parking spaces for cars and Fohlin is content leaving the lot for vehicular use.

"Right now, my dream for that property is to do nothing," Fohlin said.

"We’re actively doing nothing," said Costley.

* Selectmen unanimously approved allocating $300 to creating a banner that reads “Williamstown Selectmen” for use in parades.

* Selectmen unanimously approved the adoption of the Premium Only Section 125 Plan which requires employers with 11 or more full-time employees to provide health care benefits on a pre-tax basis to employees who are over 18 and not eligible for the employer’s contributory group plans.
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