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Williamstown Prudential Committee OK's Contract for Station Project Manager

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The fire district's Prudential Committee on Wednesday approved a contract with Colliers International to serve as the owner's project manager on a new Main Street fire station.
The contract anticipates a total project budget of $10 million and a total fee to Colliers of just more than $311,000 with construction expected to be completed in August 2023.
For now, the district is on the hook for just less than $63,000, the cost of the schematic design phase to be conducted through May of next year, according to the contract OK'd on Wednesday.
The preliminary project timeline reviewed by the Prudential Committee on Wednesday would put shovels in the ground at 562 Main St. in the fall of 2022, after the committee takes a bonding request for the new station to district voters, likely next spring.
Colliers was selected from among nine firms to guide the district through the building process, including selection of an architect and a general contractor and supervision of the construction process.
Two members of the Prudential Committee, Ed McGowan and Ed Briggs, were unable to attend Wednesday's special meeting. The remaining three members voted unanimously to approve the master agreement and the first of what are expected to be three riders that the district will need to execute with Colliers during the project.
The pre-construction costs already are making their way into the fire district's preliminary fiscal year 2022 budget, which the Prudential Committee took a pass at on Wednesday.
Overall, that preliminary budget is calling for a 10.61 percent increase in the fire district's budget, but only part of the increase is attributable to work on the building project.
The spending plan reviewed on Wednesday, which will be revised over the next month before presentation at the annual district meeting in May, would seek $625,881 from taxation, a rise of just more than $60,000 from the FY21 budget voters approved last spring.
District Treasurer Corydon Thurston said that based on current estimates, an increase of that amount would add between 6 and 6 1/2 cents to the town's property tax rate.
One of the big changes in the budget is the result of an intermunicipal agreement between the fire district at the Town of Williamstown that transfers responsibility for the town's street lights to town hall and moves the forest warden to the fire district.
That swap, though, turns out to be a net decrease in the fire district budget. The street lights were budgeted for $72,000 in FY21; the forestry department is penciled in at a cost of $19,500 in the FY22 preliminary budget.
Any savings there are balanced by increases in the district's operational costs elsewhere in the budget.
The FY22 plan allocates $6,600 more for the pay of firefighters, $4,400 more to dispatch services, $4,000 for for maintenance and operations of equipment and $3,300 more for insurance.
The spending plan developed by Thurston and Prudential Committee Chair Richard Reynolds includes a new allocation of $3,750 in a stipend for an administrative assistant and bumps the stipend for the district treasurer from $3,500 to $15,000, an increase of $11,500.
Reynolds said the district needs to adequately fund the treasurer position to ensure that it keeps receiving the services it needs into the future to keep the fire department operational.
"I've asked the treasurer to do a job description," Reynolds said. "When we looked at 560 hours to deliver that service, the compensation in the past was no more than an honorarium for a volunteer activity.
"We have to anticipate Cory might retire. It's probably around an eight-hour-a-week job. So we need that in the future if he decides to leave — hopefully not."
The preliminary budget includes a new $10,000 line item for outreach and recruitment of new firefighters, which Reynolds said dovetails with the recommendation of the community advisory panel the Prudential Committee created last year.
"All we've seen is a downward trend [in recruitment] the last couple of years," Reynolds said. "The alternative to finding more volunteers is going to a full-time firefighter. If you look at a recruitment budget of $10,000, I think there's a relatively low-cost investment to keep the team in place so we can have the department we have now."
Another increase in the preliminary budget is for the appropriation to the district's stabilization fund, which always has been used to replace apparatus without having to borrow money. In FY21, voters approved adding $50,000 from new taxation to the stabilization fund, which should stand at $370,000 at year-end, after a new tanker is paid for.
On Wednesday, the Prudential Committee penciled in $60,000 for the stabilization outlay for FY22.
"People in the community might think that's a lot of money, and it is, but the reality is the cost of apparatus has grown rapidly," Reynolds said. "$370,000 is going to be a good portion of a truck, but that's not going to pay for a truck."
Then, there are the costs associated with the building project.
The budget presented on Wednesday includes an increase from $5,000 to $15,000 for the district's legal services in anticipation of costs associated with signing contracts with architects and contractors.
The district anticipates needing $105,000 to cover pre-construction costs in FY22, including the OPM fees from Colliers. Toward that end, the FY22 preliminary budget calls for $80,000 in the new station budget line (up from $30,000 in FY21) and a $25,000 allocation from free cash.
The $50,000 increase in appropriated funds for the building project, on its own, accounts for 83 percent of the $60,016 increase in the preliminary budget's bottom line from FY21 to FY22.

Tags: fire station,   prudential committee,   

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Hasty Wants Williamstown to Do the 'Hard Right'

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Forget forsythias.
The real harbinger of spring in small towns is the political lawn sign.
And this spring, Wade Hasty livened up Williamstown's curbsides with distinctive bright yellow and green signs carrying a simple message, "Electorate leads the way," and bordered by images of flowers.
"I'm anti-partisan," Hasty said in explaining his choice in color scheme. "At this time in the American social climate, a large grouping are hyper-partisan. I chose two colors that represent the two largest third-party organizations. The mayflower outlines the sign as it is the Massachusetts state flower. I'm a 'transplant,' and I thought, 'how fitting.' "
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