Fire Chief Craig Pedercini provides information on articles at the Fire District's annual meeting. Right, Markus Burns, a member of the district's Community Advisory Committee, gives an update.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — After decades of service to the town's fire district and decades more to the protection of lives and property, Ed Briggs said an emotional goodbye at Tuesday's annual district meeting.
"I've enjoyed every bit of it," said Briggs, who decided not to run for a 14th consecutive three-year term on the district's Prudential Committee. "I've spent most of my life involved in fire departments, so that will be a change.
"I appreciate the voters electing me for 13 terms. I don't know if that's good or bad. But it's gone in a flash."
Briggs will not truly be gone from Williamstown's fire service, and his service will involve a flash.
Prudential Committee Chair John Notsley told Tuesday's meeting that he has appointed Briggs the district's official photographer, a title that is more meaningful than one might think.
"It's kind of an important role because when we have a bad situation and call in the fire marshal, they want to see what we saw when we arrived," Briggs said. "I've gotten to know some of the marshals, and when they arrive, I give them the chip out of the camera or – in the old days – got the film developed as fast as I could so they could start their investigation."
In addition to his service behind the lens, Briggs has played an integral role in advancing the district's efforts to build a new fire station, Notsley said.
"We're going to miss Ed's expertise and thoughtfulness," Notsley said. "He's been a fantastic guy. He kept the board rolling along."
Notsley is the sole remaining member from the Prudential Committee in its days as a three-member board; it was expanded to five in 2019. Last year, another longtime public servant, Ed McGowan, stepped down after serving 18 years on the committee and 50 as a firefighter and chief in the town.
Prior to the start of the annual meeting, the district held its election for new committee members to fill Briggs' seat and the one vacated during the year by former Chair Richard Reynolds.
Alex Steele and Joe Beverly, the only candidates on the ballot, were elected with 36 votes and 33 votes, respectively.
Thirty-eight voters participated in the election from 4 to 7 p.m., and 25 residents checked in to the annual meeting in the Williamstown Elementary School gymnasium.
The meeting members needed to take care of one bit of business to bless the results of the election. At the end of the meeting's previously warned agenda items, Notsley sought a vote to allow Steele, a call volunteer firefighter in the district for 18 years, to serve on the Prudential Committee in light of what could be seen as a conflict of interest.
Like the other 11 votes in the meeting, which took a little more than half an hour, the motion passed unanimously.
None of the meeting members spoke from the floor to question the articles crafted by the Prudential Committee over the last couple of months. But Chief Craig Pedercini went to the podium a couple of times to provide additional information on some of the special fiscal articles outside the district's regular operating budget.
Before a vote on a $120,000 appropriation for a new brush truck for the Forest Warden, Pedercini explained the current truck is nearly 30 years old and actually broke down last year during the fight to contain the East Mountain wildfire.
Likewise, Pedercini said his primary vehicle, known as "Car 1," recently broke down during a call. The Prudential Committee sought and received from the meeting approval to spend up to $70,000 on a new command vehicle to replace the 10-year-old rapid response command vehicle.
Tuesday's meeting included reports from the district's Building Committee and Community Advisory Committee, who both received thanks from Notsley for their service to the district.
In turn, the advisory committee's Markus Burns thanked the department's firefighters.
"As a town, we kind of take it for granted that when there's an emergency, the district shows up," Burns said. "We don't necessarily consider everything else that goes into the work done by the district. [The advisory committee has] learned about the limitations of the current space and also the staff and recruitment challenges.
"We've been happy to try to help think of different ways to adapt to the availability of volunteers."
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