Williamstown Select Board Allocates ARPA Funds to Fire Station Project

By Stephen DravisiBerkshires Staff
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Select Board on Monday voted to allocate $225,000 in American Rescue Plan Act funds to the Williamstown Fire District's new station building project.
The rest of the town's remaining unallocated ARPA funds, nearly $1.2 million, will go toward general town infrastructure projects, according to votes taken by the board on Monday.
Those projects will be determined by the town manager, who may need to come back to the board for subsequent votes to approve specific actions to obligate the money, Andy Hogeland pointed out during Monday's discussion.
Select Board Chair Hugh Daley pushed for the board to at least earmark all of the town's remaining proceeds from the federal stimulus bill so that the Fire District and Town Hall could rely on allocations in their budgeting.
In the case of the fire district, the $225,000 allocation amounts to 1 percent of the $22.5 million bonding authority officials are asking residents to approve at a Feb. 28 special district meeting at Williamstown Elementary School.
David Moresi, the chair of the Prudential Committee that oversees the fire district, addressed the Select Board before it took its vote on Monday.
"There has been a lot of work done just in the last week on this project," Moresi said. "The firefighters have come together, and there has been a lot of collaboration as they worked with the designers to reduce the overall square footage [of the proposed station].
"There has been 5,000 square feet in reductions. A bay has been eliminated. Some bunk rooms have been eliminated. The building orientation might change a little. All of that will be presented to the community in the coming weeks."
Hogeland began the meeting by saying he was disinclined to allocate town funds to the district's project, arguing that as a separate taxing authority apart from town government, the district should raise the money to pay for the bond on its own.
Most of the Select Board, though, agreed with Daley, who implied that the separation of the district from town government was an anachronism and noted that if the building project in question was a town project, the ARPA allocation might look like a no-brainer.
"If this was a town department, we would fund it like a town department," Daley said. "It's a little bit of a quirk of time that it's a whole separate fire district. It's a crazy New England thing the way this is set up."
Most of the Select Board members, including Hogeland, said they would be voting in favor of the fire station project as private citizens attending the special district meeting on Feb. 28.
Although Daley went into the meeting pitching a higher level of ARPA funding, $400,000, the board settled on a lower number after Jane Patton suggested tying the town's contribution to a percentage of the total project cost, namely 1 percent.
Don Dubendorf, who serves on the Fire District's Building Committee, told the board before its vote that any significant show of support from the town could help the district in its argument as it pursues more grants and gifts from outside funding sources.
Randy Fippinger told his colleagues that the board's support of the fire station through an ARPA allocation would send a message of support to the voters who attend the meeting on the 28th.
"I think us not contributing in some way sends a disproportionately loud signal, more than $400,000 or any amount would change the bottom line," Fippinger said. "I think it's important for us to signal that support."
Hogeland joined in 5-0 votes both to send any ARPA money the district's way and to set that number at $225,000.
On the other hand, the board split, 3-2, on whether to maintain a commitment it made two weeks ago to allocate $150,000 to supplement the Affordable Housing Trust's home ownership program.
Daley suggested that the board rethink that allocation in light of last week's decision by the Community Preservation Committee to send a $120,000 request from the Trust to town meeting for its approval in May.
Daley voiced his support for the work of the housing trust but said the town had scarce resources to allocate.
"I think we have over-allocated to our affordable housing mission, which deserves to be funded but doesn't deserve to be funded more than things that are equally important," Daley said. "I was surprised and somewhat disappointed that the Affordable Housing Trust continued with their ask [for Community Preservation Act funds] and the CPC supported it."
Daley and Jane Patton voted to pull back from the housing trust $120,000 from the previously agreed to $150,000 ARPA allocation.
Fippinger, Hogeland and Jeffrey Johnson voted against the clawback.

Tags: ARPA,   fire station,   

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In addition to influencing care within the organization, SVMC emergency staff are empowered to be leaders beyond the health system, impacting nurses and other health-care providers throughout the state and country. In the last three years, SVMC's ED nurses have presented at local, regional and national conferences on topics including cultural humility, harm reduction, design considerations for emergency psychiatric care, and orientation strategies for new emergency registered nurses.
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