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rudential Committee members Ed Briggs, left, and Ed McGowan review minutes from a prior meeting.
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Fire Chief Craig Pedercini gives his monthly report to the Prudential Committee.

Williamstown Fire Committee OKs Budget Request to Voters

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Fire District clerk/treasurer Corydon Thurston discusses a proposal to install a new radio antenna at Mount Greylock Regional School.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Voters in the town fire district next month will be asked to approve spending for fiscal 2015 that is 7.7 percent higher than the current budget.

The Prudential Committee, the elected body that oversees the district, on Wednesday voted to approve the budget that will be submitted to voters at the annual Fire District meeting on Tuesday, May 27.

The district's projected operating budget for next year is expected to be a modest 1.6 percent higher than FY14; the big difference comes from three separate warrant articles that total $33,000 in increased spending, bringing the grand total from $541,000 in this year to just shy of $550,000 for the next fiscal year.

In addition to the district's regular costs, voters will be asked to approve warrant articles that buy personal protective equipment and Class B uniforms for member of the call volunteer department ($11,000); install one dry hydrant on the new Hopper Road Bridge and design one for the intersection of Torrywoods Road and Oblong Road ($12,000); and cover engineering and legal expenses related to the district's efforts to build either a new fire station or a joint public safety building in conjunction with the town's police department.

Dry hydrants are devices installed in bodies of water that allow fire trucks to draw water from the lake or river to use during a fire. They are particularly needed in South Williamstown to protect residences outside the area covered by hydrants.

The Williamstown Fire District is a separate governing entity apart from town government with its own power of taxation and its own annual meeting, similar to the annual town meeting. The district's annual meeting is traditionally held the week after town meeting; this year the Fire District will hold its meeting on Tuesday, May 27, at the fire house.

Apart from the three warrant articles, most of the district's cost centers are level funded in the budget approved by the committee on Wednesday night. Only five of 18 line items are slated to go up in FY15.

The biggest jump is in the maintenance and operations line item, slated to go from just over $40,000 this year to $45,000 next year, a jump of 12.4 percent. This year, the district is projecting a deficit of nearly $14,000 in maintenance and operation, while the total district budget is on track to finish with a $25,000 surplus.

"Forty-five thousand for M&O should do very well," Fire District Clerk/Treasurer Corydon Thurston told the Prudential Committee on Wednesday.

The pay raises authorized by the Prudential Committee last month — $1 per hour for call firefighters, $250 per year for officers and 2 percent for the fire chief — have a combined impact of just $500 on the budget.

In other business on Wednesday night, the Prudential Committee revisited plans for a new radio repeater and antenna that the district wants to install at Mount Greylock Regional School. Earlier this month, the committee OK'd $16,000 for the purchase of the radio equipment, which will have more than twice the output of equipment currently at the school.

The district is talking with the state police and Williamstown Police about sharing the cost of installing the new equipment at the school. Thurston told the committee that plans currently call for a new tower bolted to the side of the building on one of its interior courtyards.

Originally, there was thought that the three agencies could share space on a "sled" mounted to the roof of the junior-senior high school, but both town police and fire departments operate on the same frequency and therefore can't have equipment in the same horizontal plane. A tower would allow one department's repeater to be mounted above the other department's equipment.

Thurston said installation of the tower would cost about $6,000. Putting the repeater on the school building will allow the police and fire communications to tie into Mount Greylock's broadband connection in the future, Thurston said.

Tags: annual meeting,   fiscal 2015,   prudential committee,   

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