WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Members of an environmental action group Wednesday pressed the fire district to incorporate the advocates into the early planning for a new fire station on Main Street.
Stephanie Boyd and Susan Abrams of the Carbon Dioxide Lowering (COOL) Committee addressed the Prudential Committee at its monthly meeting to ask how COOL Committee members best can engage with the district's Building Committee and its designers to make sure the planned station is in line with the Net-Zero Carbon Emissions pledge overwhelmingly passed at this year's annual town meeting.
"We're saying that we have knowledge or services that might help you with your project," Boyd told the panel. "From the experience we have, we know you need to have these conversations early."
Prudential Committee members, who earlier had received an update that the programming stage of the design process was "wrapping up," told the COOL Committee representatives that it was premature to get into specific discussions about design elements that would make the building more efficient.
But Chief Craig Pedercini invited Boyd and Abrams to attend the next Building Committee in December, and Assistant Chief Michael Noyes recommended that the COOL Committee prepare an outline of discussion points for that meeting to help guide a conversation with the designers.
At the outset of Wednesday's discussion, Prudential Committee member David Moresi, who serves with Pedercini and Noyes on the Building Committee, told the COOL Committee members that the time to have conversations about green engineering was down the road and appeared to dismiss some of the experience that Boyd brings to the discussion.
"Right now, as you heard from the officers and the chief, before we even get to MEP, which is the mechanical [electrical and plumbing] side of the project, which obviously involves the equipment, which is going to be energy efficient and involves the net-zero goals, we need to get to the first step, which involves these officers telling the designer, the architect, exactly what we're looking for," Moresi said.
"I think it's great that your goals are to build a sustainable building," Boyd replied. "I've been a part of many green buildings at Williams College. …
"Green public safety buildings?" Moresi interjected.
"No, buildings of different types," Boyd responded. "Athletic buildings, academic buildings, libraries … "
"Big differences," Moresi shot back.
"I understand there are different challenges in all types of buildings," she said. "But I've also been a [Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design]-certified professional. I have acted as a green consultant. I've trained architects and designers in green certification, so I have a little bit of experience in this. I'm also an engineer.
"One of the key things when you're trying to design a sustainable building is to start as soon as possible. You can start before you do programming. One of the more successful buildings we did at Williams, when we put the RFP together to find the design team, we stipulated the energy use intensity we wanted to have for that building … so that architect team knew when they came on they had to be designing a building that was really, really energy efficient. So there are lots of things you can do even you're at the programming or schematic design stage."
District Treasurer Corydon Thurston later said he thought Abrams, Boyd and Moresi agreed with each other more than they realized but that the district is "not quite there yet," when it comes to bringing in outside expertise on energy efficiency goals for the project.
Thurston also said that the fire district's request for proposals to find an owner's project manager for the new station project was modeled on the RFP issued by Greenfield, which earlier in the meeting had been referenced by Abrams as a model for building a net-zero station.
"Our pledge from the beginning has been to make [the station] as sustainable as possible because we've got to pay the bills, all of us, as taxpayers," Thurston said.
The taxpayers also were on the mind of the last member of the public to address the Prudential Committee on Wednesday at Town Hall.
"I'm concerned about cost," said Jeffrey Thomas, who serves on a community outreach committee for the fire district. "The fire station is, first of all, about how do we suppress fires in the community. That's priority No. 1, No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5. We have to think about staffing, we have to think about safety of personnel, equipment, capital needs. There are a lot of things to consider.
"Cost is another important thing to consider. I'd like to ask that as you consider how to make this a green building that there be transparency about the cost. Just because we voted at town meeting to be a net-zero community doesn't mean that we — it certainly doesn't mean that I — signed up to spend an extra 25 percent or 40 percent on a fire station so that we can achieve that goal."
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The initiative grew out of a recent listening session several DIRE Committee members conducted at the Harper Center. They heard a number of concerns, including issues with parking, interpersonal conflicts in the apartment complex and the need for cooling station access during extreme weather.
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