WILLIAMSTOWN — The Williamstown Select Board allocated $535,000 of its federal relief money to various town projects Tuesday night, but balked at the prospect of allocating a large sum to the proposed fire station.
The topic of providing American Rescue Plan Act money to the fire district’s fire station project, with proposals ranging from no money to $400,000 to $1 million — the latter of which is the fire district’s ask — proved controversial. This is not a Select Board or town project but rather a fire district project.
Monday night's meeting was tangentially related to the spring budget process, but that doesn't begin in earnest until the Finance Committee meets in late February.
The board mostly agreed that Williamstown should contribute to the project, but not on how much.
"I think allocating $1 million, while it’s the biggest bang for the buck, we have other needs to spend money on that will be of benefit to our taxpayers in a real way, save some of that money," Board Member Hugh Daley said Monday night. "I prefer tonight to agree to grant $400,000 for the fire station. Let them add it to the pile while they go and collect more money."
Members disagreed on whether board member Jane Patton should be present to vote on something as significant as the fire station. The board will revisit the question at its next meeting.
"I'm uncomfortable voting for things important to the town that Jane may have an opinion on," Board member Randal Fippinger said. "Voters voted her in also, and I’d like her vote."
Williams College has pledged to pay $5 million toward the town's proposed $22.5 million fire station
The existing 5,000-square-foot station was built in 1950. The three-bay station isn’t big enough to house the department’s four fire trucks and, at the same time, safely accommodate firefighters gearing up for a call.
A 2019 report by Municipal Resources Inc. evaluated buildings in town and the department’s facilities, apparatus and operations. It found the town to be at “moderate to high level of risk” of firefighter or civilian injury due to issues related to the inadequate and outdated fire station.
The facility has no room for expansion, is not energy-efficient and lacks space for larger firetrucks and storage. Heating, electrical and plumbing systems are outdated and in violation of Occupational Safety and Health Administration and building codes.
The board budgeted for the following purposes:
- $150,000 toward Affordable Housing Trust home ownership programs.
- $80,000 toward pandemic pay.
- $70,000 toward Affordable Housing Trust rent and mortgage assistance.
- $50,000 toward police equipment (including body cameras).
- $50,000 for Willinet equipment and upgrades.
- $35,000 for design of the White Oaks/North Hoosac Water System.
- $30,000 for design of Hoosic/North Street/Syndicate Road Erosion Control, which would go toward a permanent solution for a Hoosac River erosion problem near the intersection of North Street and Syndicate Road.
- $25,000 for electronic voting equipment at Town Meeting.
- $25,000 for Unemployment Deficiency Payment, which is an outstanding unemployment payment to a town employee from several years ago the town had originally challenged.
- $20,000 for the town’s move to Microsoft from Google, which includes email and other services such as Microsoft Word.