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The property at 562 Main St. that the Williamstown Fire District purchased as a home for a new fire station.

Williamstown Fire District 'Slows' Building Project in Light of Economy

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Prudential Committee on Wednesday discussed the need to slow down in its quest to replace the Water Street fire station in light of the current state of the economy.
 
But fire district officials will continue to try to get their project "shovel ready" in case federal grant money becomes available to support infrastructure projects in an attempt to spur that economy.
 
Prudential Committee Chair John Notsley opened Wednesday's monthly meeting with a statement about the project.
 
"With everything that's going on in the country today, based on the current situation with the [COVID-19] virus, we are experiencing layoffs, business closures and a questionable economy," Notsley said. "I believe we should take, at this time, a slower pace with regard to a new station.
 
"That does not mean everything should come to a halt. But we should proceed slowly and methodically.
 
"Planning will continue, as the need for a new station is a must."
 
The bulk of Wednesday's meeting was spent reviewing the warrant articles that the committee will put before district voters at the June 30 annual Fire District meeting.
 
One of those articles relates directly to the planning process Notsley mentioned.
 
Article 6 on the nine-item warrant draft asks voters to OK a $20,000 appropriation from free cash to go toward "study, engineering, project management, architectural services, or other costs, including legal and processing fees, associated with the analysis, planning and design work" for a station at 562 Main St. (Route 2), the former so-called Lehovec property.
 
Treasurer Corydon Thurston noted that the district does have some carryover from past appropriations for design work, but it also is anticipating bills for consultant work currently being done by the Maguire Group.
 
"We gave [Maguire] a job four or five months ago," Ed Briggs told his colleagues on the committee. They're not going to push it anymore, but they've been working with [Guntlow & Associates'] Charlie LaBatt on site work. We're committed to do that … but I told them there wasn't a great rush."
 
Thurston noted that the district can begin the search for an owner's project manager without incurring any significant cost beyond the fee for advertising the position in the commonwealth's central register.
 
But some of the OPM fees, if incurred in fiscal 2021, could come out of the $20,000 named in Article 6.
 
"In either case, this article will provide support for any movement we have in the course of the year," Thurston said. "Again, it's from free cash, not taxation, so it won't impact the tax rate."
 
Later in the meeting, Notsley clarified his desire to keep the fire station project alive -- just not, perhaps, on the front burner.
 
"We're not dropping this by a long shot," he said. "It's just the fact there's so much out there right now. There's so much upheaval.
 
"I don't want you guys, or anyone, to get the impression we're giving up on this thing, not at all. It's just a little slower pace."
 
Notsley said he thought the district might be able to issue a request for services for an OPM as soon as July.
 
"Between now and our next meeting on the 10th of June, we should have a better idea of what's going on," he said.

Tags: fire district,   fire station,   prudential committee,   

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County's Colleges Train Workers for Post-Pandemic Economy

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The county's institutions of higher education are ready to do their part to help their students navigate their way through a post-COVID-19 economy.
 
On Friday, the presidents of Berkshire Community College, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and Williams College and the provost of Bard College at Simon's Rock participated in a virtual town hall hosted by 1Berkshire.
 
Johnathan Butler led the hourlong conversation, which focused largely on how colleges are adapting to the current closure of their physical campuses and making plans for the fall 2020 semester.
 
But at one point Butler asked how the schools are situated to help address workforce development needs at a time when Berkshire County has nearly 30 percent unemployment.
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