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A report on Williamstown's fire services will be presented by the Prudential Committee on Wednesday.

Williamstown Fire District Wednesday to Present Results of Study

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Prudential Committee on Wednesday evening will present the results of a study conducted by New Hampshire-based Municipal Resources Inc.
In a 7 p.m. session at Town Hall to be televised by WilliNet, representatives from MRI and the Williamstown Fire District will share the highlights of a 74-page report that looks at "the manner in which fire services are provided within the District, including a target hazard analysis, review of response metrics and a review of the current facility and apparatus."
The report goes into detail on a couple of issues that were raised by candidates in the recent special election to expand the Prudential Committee from three to five members: staffing and the need for a new fire station.
The three incumbents on the now five-member panel persuaded district voters a few years ago to acquire a Main Street parcel next door to the current Aubuchon Hardware with an eye toward building there a replacement to the district's cramped, outdated facility on Water Street.
The MRI report provides greater analysis to strengthen the argument for moving forward with that goal. And it ties the two issues together, saying that a new station should be built to allow for the possibility of augmentations to the current staffing, which uses call-volunteer firefighters who receive an hourly stipend for service time.
"MRI recommends that the Fire District continue to move forward with their efforts for the replacement of the Water Street Fire Station," the report reads. "MRI believes that the Maguire Group Feasibility Study dated December 22, 2008, still contains valid assessments and recommendations for a new fire station. Consideration of future needs beyond 10 years should be included in any future planning for a new facility. An example of this would be including dormitory rooms and office space should the district change over to a different staffing scenario."
Fire District Clerk/Treasurer Corydon Thurston said the Prudential Committee has not decided on its next steps to proceed, but one possible step could be issuing a request for proposals for design work on a new station.
"We're going to walk before we can run," Thurston said last week. "We're not going to jam it down people's throats. It would take six to eight months to get the RFPs out, get responses and have a committee to assess them."
In addition to finding that the Water Street station "no longer provides efficient and effective shelter for fire apparatus and equipment," MRI reached some sobering conclusions about the district's staffing.
"It is clear that the Department will be challenged meeting the expectations of the community, and if unchecked and in fact not quickly reversed, the Department will soon cease to be a viable emergency response organization providing consistent and equal levels of service," the report reads. "The Town of Williamstown has expressed a desire to retain a strong call firefighting force and MRI concurs, however, it may become necessary to introduce a different staffing model which will provide consistency in service delivered to the public. This will take a commitment from the Town, community, and strong leadership in the Fire District."
MRI suggested two possible staffing solutions: hiring two part-time firefighter/EMTs or per diem firefighters; or increasing the budget for "on-call personnel standby coverage during weekday hours, weekends, special events or during peak emergency call periods."
Municipal Resources Inc. was started 30 years ago by former municipal and state government managers. It has served clients in 14 states, including more than 100 municipalities in Massachusetts. Locally, it has served Cheshire, Lenox and West Stockbridge.

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Williams Anthropologist Receives Grant to Support Climate Change Research

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Kim Gutschow, lecturer in religion and anthropology at Williams College, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Geographic Society to fund a project titled "Climate Change Adaptation: By the People & For the People" in the Ladakh region of India.

The grant was co-written and co-conceived with Robin Sears, research associate in anthropology at Williams, and includes an international team comprised of Gutschow, Sears and four Ladakhi individuals who have been active in climate change adaptation and social justice work for the past 30 years.

Climate change and modernization have introduced unprecedented risk in high-altitude Himalayan societies such as Ladakh, which spans the upper Indus watershed. Gutschow and Sears will direct a team of Ladakhi youth and women to conduct research and advocate for specific interventions that can best address the local impacts of climate change in their region, such as water shortages from variably shrinking glaciers and reduced snowfall; declining food security due to rising temperatures and more frequent locust plagues; and occasional glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs) or floods from extreme cloudbursts.

The project examines local strategies for coping with the effects of climate change and modernization as men and youth have left villages to seek jobs and education in urban centers, leaving the bulk of farming in the hands of women and the elderly.

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