Williamstown Selectmen, Fire District will consider combining elections to boost participation


WILLIAMSTOWN -- Selectmen will invite Fire District officials to an upcoming meeting to discuss ways the two entities can work together.

Selectwoman Jane Patton said during Monday’s meeting she’s encountered many people that are unaware the district operates separate from town government.

The Fire District is an independent government entity overseen by a three-member Prudential Committee, with its own budget and taxing authority.

"The main goal is getting people to understand it’s just as important to vote [in the Fire District meeting] as passing warrant articles or our elections," said Patton, who chairs a committee looking into building a new police station or joint public safety building. "It’s sad when only 36 people show up to a meeting to vote."

Patton said preliminary discussions between her and John Notsley, chair of the Fire District’s Prudential Committee, concerned possibly combining the two annual meetings both entities hold in May.

Selectman Andrew Hogeland questioned whether both entities would continue to hold separate elections; the Fire District traditionally held elections at its annual meeting, and the town holds its election the week before town meeting.

Selectmen Chairman Ronald Turbin noted having more members voting at an election "enhances the democratic process." He said he would reach out to Notsley to learn more and try to create items for an upcoming meeting’s agenda.

The district’s search for a new fire station site sent tempers flaring last year, with numerous residents calling for the district to work with the police department to create a new facility. The discussion sparked the creation of the Public Safety Building Study Committee, which has since hired a consultant to evaluate several sites in town.

In other business, selectmen continued with a discussion on economic development.

Hugh Daley reported having been in contact with a Middlebury, Vt. official to learn more about that municipality’s development plan and that he expects to visit the town sometime this summer.

"They are similar to Williamstown, with a college as a primary employer," he said. "I feel like their experience will inform ours and we’ll be able to cut some steps out."

He referred to a goal of creating a "marathon pace" of development over the next several years and possibly creating an "ambassador program" designed to help local businesses wanting to relocate to Williamstown.


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