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Members of the Building Committee and owner's project manager Anthony DiLuzio of Colliers International, front right, meet at the fire station on Wednesday. Chief Craig Pedercini joined the meeting by phone.

Williamstown Fire District Building Committee Makes Choice for Architect

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williamstown Fire District Building Committee voted Wednesday to recommend the partnership of Mitchell Associates Architects and Pittsfield's EDM to design the new Main Street fire station.
In a narrow vote of the seven-member committee, the Mitchell/EDM group ranked slightly ahead of Cambridge's Galante Architecture Studio, the clear second favorite among four firms who responded to the district's request for proposals.
Last month, the Building Committee, which was appointed by the elected Prudential Committee that oversees the district, heard in-person presentations from the four respondents, a group that also included Cranston, R.I.'s, Saccoccio and Associates and Chcopee's Caolo and Bieniek, the firm that designed Williamstown's police station on Simonds Road.
At Wednesday afternoon's meeting, they discussed their impressions from the 45-minute presentation and Q&A sessions they held with each candidate. And four members of the committee reported to the group the results of reference checks they did on the firms.
"I think we can work with any of these firms," Building Committee Chair Elaine Neely said toward the end of the discussion.
But knowing that it needed to recommend just one to the Prudential Committee to be the district's architect of choice, each member of the committee reported his or her ranked order of preference for the proposals.
Mitchell Associates of Voorheesville, N.Y., and EDM were rated first by five of the seven committee members. TGAS or Galante, was ranked first by the other two, Prudential Committee member David Moresi and Neely.
All but one member ranked EDM and TGAS in their top two; Neely ranked the ultimate winner fourth. After Anthony DiLuzio of Colliers International, the district's owner's project manager, tallied the votes, Mitchell/EDM ended up with 11 points to 12 for TGAS. Caolo and Bieniek and Saccoccio finished with 21 and 26 points, respectively.
All of the feedback the committee received from its reference checks was positive for the firms under consideration, which was not surprising, considering the firms were asked to provide the references.
Mike Noyes, an assistant chief in the fire department, said that a former client of Bob Mitchell, principal of Mitchell and Associates, "eats, drinks and sleeps fire station design."
"Almost all said they would not trade him for anyone else and would use him again," Noyes said.
He also checked references on EDM. Past clients reported that the Pittsfield firm was always looking to find ways to save money and was communicative throughout the process.
"All of them said they would use EDM for another project if they had the opportunity," Noyes said.
Unlike the other three respondents, Mitchell and EDM were proposing to share the Williamstown fire station projects between two different architecture firms.
"One of the things that came out of their interview for me was, because they've done so many diverse projects, they're comfortable working with someone else who owns the design," DiLuzio advised the committee. "They're going to let Mitchell do what Mitchell does … and say, 'You give us where that needs to be, and we'll figure out the engineering to the electrical panel.' "
Firefighter Ryan Housman, who works in construction and serves on the Building Committee, told his colleagues it is not uncommon on bigger projects for a second architect to handle construction services once a design is in place.
Neely expressed concern about the fact that EDM and Mitchell had not worked with one another on such a project, but other members of the group sought to allay those fears.
"Mitchell, being highly rated, I take some comfort in Mitchell's own comfort about the ability of the marriage to work," Don Dubendorf said. "He could have put his own package together [without EDM]. It gives me comfort that he's so well regarded and he's comfortable with this assembled team."
"[Mitchell's] staking his reputation on it," Moresi added.
Jim Kolesar and others in the group commented that the Mitchell/EDM presentation had the advantage of including Williamstown's Guntlow & Associates on their team. Not only is engineer Charlie LaBatt familiar with the challenges of the Main Street site, LaBatt is familiar to the town boards that the district may face in the permitting process for a station at the Main Street (Route 2) site.
Mitchell/EDM also appeared to earn points with Building Committee members for their attention to Williamstown project going into last month's presentation.
"The other [presenters], the first 15 minutes were: These are the stations we've built," Housman said. "EDM said, ‘Here's your project. Here's what we're thinking about.' … I felt like EDM and Mitchell really thought about our project the most."
The Building Committee's recommendation goes to the Prudential Committee for ratification, a similar process to the one the district used to bring on Colliers as the OPM. Moresi said he thought the Prudential Committee would be able to call a special meeting as soon as Aug. 11. DiLuzio said he would ask Mitchell/EDM to work on a fee proposal in anticipation of the Prudential Committee vote and with the hope that the Building Committee could review the contract on Aug. 18, possibly lining up final ratification at the Prudential Committee's regularly scheduled meeting that day.

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'Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone' at WCMA

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) announced "Mary Ann Unger: To Shape a Moon from Bone," a project consisting of a retrospective survey on view from July 15 through December 22, 2022, as well as a publication. 
Organized by Horace D. Ballard, former Curator of American Art at WCMA and currently the Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. Associate Curator of American Art at Harvard Art Museums, the exhibition and catalog offer the first curatorial assessment of the entirety of Unger's practice and highlight key works as culminating examples of her material experimentation.
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