Public Safety Building Study Committee Chairwoman Jane Patton and member Andrew Hogeland review the minutes of its last meeting.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The town's Public Safety Building Study Committee on Tuesday decided to take two steps that it hopes will move it closer to making a decision on a potential site for a joint fire-police facility.
The committee will ask the estate of Kurt Lehovec whether it will allow town-hired engineers to do test borings and wetlands delineation on the 3.7-acre Main Street parcel the estate owns.
And the committee decided to ask the town's procurement officer, Town Manager Peter Fohlin, to consult with the attorney for the Williamstown Fire District to decide whether the town can move forward on the property without issuing a request for proposals.
Generally speaking, municipal entities need to issue an RFP when acquiring real property. But the Fire District — a separate governmental entity outside of town government — conducted its own failed acquisition
of the Lehovec property after declaring it was unique to its purposes.
Chairwoman Jane Patton consulted with Fohlin on the question of whether the town could use a similar exception to the RFP rule, and Fohlin indicated he needed to better understand the legal reasoning for the uniqueness exception.
"[It means] the property you're seeking — whether how much or the location or something about the property — is unique to your needs and it's the only piece available," Patton said. "It's kind of subjective ... but in this case, we need a certain amount. There's not many [lots], and we've been told one of the two won't be usable for our purpose."
Ed Briggs of the Prudential Committee, which governs the Fire District, noted that the uniqueness argument only will work if the town pursues land for a joint fire-police facility.
Finance Committee Chairman Andrew Hogeland, who also serves on the ad hoc committee, agreed with Briggs.
"By contrast, if we were looking at a police-only site, we couldn't say [it is unique]," Hogeland said. "But if we could piggyback on what the Fire District already did, that would be great."
Assuming the town can move forward on the Lehovec site as a "unique" property, the next step would be to get permission from the owners to see if the land is suitable for a police and fire facility.
Patton said she would contact the estate's attorney to see if the town could get permission to have an engineer evaluate the soils.
Another member of the committee, Planning Board member Ann McCallum, talked about what kinds of things the engineer would ask.
"You're looking for whether there's ledge, whether there are soils that are clay ... when you have a tremor, is there a liquification worry," said McCallum, an architect by trade. "And you're looking how much weight you can put on it. ... You design your footings based on the quality of the soil underneath."