Williamstown Passes Fire District Budget

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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Prudential Committee Chairman John Notsley, right, and Clerk/Treasurer Corydon Thurston were reelected on Tuesday.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — In a sparsely attended annual Fire District meeting, voters Tuesday OK'd a modest budget increase and re-elected two district officials.
The budget for fiscal 2015 is up by just $8,827, a 1.8 percent hike to $479,827. District voters also were asked to approve two new warrant articles: an $11,000 expenditure to go toward new personal protective equipment, also known as "turnout gear" for the district's call volunteer firefighters and $12,000 for engineering and installation of new dry hydrants in areas not covered by town water.
The two-hour balloting that preceded the annual meeting attracted just a few dozen voters, who returned John Notsley to the Prudential Committee, which oversees the district, and Corydon Thurston to the position of clerk/treasurer.
The fire district is a separate governmental entity with its own power of taxation apart from town government. By tradition, it holds its annual meeting the week after the annual town meeting.
After the brief annual district meeting that drew about a dozen voters, the Prudential Committee held its regular monthly meeting, at which the committee members discussed the FY14 budget and the progress of the town's Public Safety Building Study Committee.
Ed Briggs, who served on the PSBSC for a few months while Notsley was out of town for the winter, informed his colleagues that the joint town-fire district committee is in a holding pattern while it attempts to gain access to the Main Street parcel where the town wants to pursue a joint police-fire facility.
The committee believes that the parcel would be large enough to accommodate a building to house both agencies, but it wants to do seismic studies on the lot to determine its buildability before entering a purchase and sales agreement.
Briggs shared a portion of an email he received from PSBSC Chairwoman Jane Patton about the progress of negotiations on the so-called Lehovic property, which the fire district attempted to purchase itself earlier this year.
"[The owners] say they would allow work to be done, provided an upfront fee of $15,000 is paid for permission to do site work," Briggs said. "Half of the $15,000 would be refunded if a purchase and sales agreement is done."
Earlier on Tuesday evening, the Board of Selectmen accepted Briggs' resignation from the public safety committee and appointed Notsley, the chair of the Prudential Committee, back to the ad hoc committee.
The Prudential Committee heard a report from Thurston on the FY14 budget. He said the numbers are tracking well with the spending plan approved last May. The district is on track to finish its fiscal year with a small surplus of about $8,000.
"That could get thrown off a little bit, but we still have a reserve fund," Thurston said. "We have about $23,000 in reserve. All in all, we're in good shape this year even though we had some unusual maintenance issues come up."
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