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Williamstown Fire District to Vote on Land Purchase

By Stephen Dravis
Williamstown Correspondent
04:00PM / Monday, December 02, 2013
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The Williamstown Fire District has scheduled a vote on Tuesday asking voters to approve the purchase of land on which to build a new fire station.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Fire District voters Tuesday night will consider once again whether to authorize the purchase of a Main Street parcel where district officials would like to build a new fire station.
 
The Prudential Committee, which governs the district, is asking voters to borrow $575,000 to purchase 562-580 Main Street (Route 2) from the estate of Kurt Lehovec. The 3.7-acre parcel is just east of the former Agway.
 
The committee needs a two-thirds majority vote of the district's voters at a special Fire District meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the auditorium of Williamstown Elementary School.
 
The same question was put to voters at a special Fire District meeting on Oct. 15, and although a majority of voters favored the land purchase, the vote fell just shy of the two-thirds "super majority." The vote that night was 151-94, or 62 percent in favor.
 
The members of the three-person Prudential Committee maintain that the Lehovec property represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the town to acquire an ideally suited property near the town center.
 
Critics of the proposal have maintained that the Fire District should not move forward unilaterally on a capital project while the town also is faced with the prospect of other sizable building projects: a new or substantially renovated Mount Greylock Regional School and a new police station. And while the land cost for the Lehovec property will not hike tax rates in and of itself, a new building could substantially raise Fire District tax rates.
 
The Fire District is not part of town government; it is a separate taxing body with its own annual meeting, its own elected officials and its own taxing authority.
 
To address opponents of the land purchase, the Prudential Committee included language in the warrant for Tuesday's meeting that specifies the Fire District is open to coordinating its project with the town's efforts to build a new police station.
 
"The district will confer with appropriate officials of the Town of Williamstown, regarding combined uses of said property and will fully cooperate in a feasibility study, to be undertaken by the Town of Williamstown, with respect to the possible creation of a joint Public Safety facility," the warrant reads.

Tags: capital projects,   fire district,   fire station,   land sales,   

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