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Williamstown Fire District Reviewing OPM Candidates
By Stephen Dravis, iBerkshires Staff
02:41AM / Monday, January 25, 2021
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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Fire District has received responses from nine architects interested in serving as the owner's project manager for a proposed fire station project and could have one on board as soon as March.
 
Treasurer Corydon Thurston on Wednesday reported to the Prudential Committee that members of the district's Building Committee have begun reviewing responses to its request for proposals and will meet next Thursday to begin discussing the applicants.
 
"The objective is that committee will determine how to evaluate proposals and narrow it to a couple of finalists," Thurston said. "We hope that will be done by the first week of February and they can begin interviewing finalists and conduct site visits the week of Feb. 8. The week of Feb. 15 might be an extension, if necessary, and they may be able to present to the Prudential Committee at our Feb. 17 meeting so we can review and begin a negotiation process.
 
"Hopefully, we can sign a contract at our March meeting."
 
The OPM would help the Building Committee and Prudential Committee solicit designs for a new station on Main Street and ultimately manage a construction project that could occur if voters approve a bond to replace the current Water Street facility.
 
In order to hit the ground running once an OPM is selected, Thurston asked the Prudential Committee to develop contract language the district can propose when the time comes to negotiate a deal. To that end, the Prudential Committee agreed Wednesday to authorize Thurston and Chair Richard Reynolds to look for a local attorney to help develop draft language.
 
"The Building Committee's got their work cut out for them, but they have a schedule and some objectives," Thurston said. "Hopefully, the contracts will be done by the first or second week of march. That's after an extensive review, interviews with the finalists and contract negotiations."
 
The Building Committee is just one ad hoc panel the Prudential Committee created last year to support its efforts to replace the current fire house.
 
On Wednesday, it heard from the chair of the second group, the district's Community Advisory Committee.
 
Jeffrey Thomas talked about the advisory body's initial activities and emphasized that its goal is to help the Prudential Committee engage the community and provide any feedback that might inform plans to build a new station.
 
"The remit of the committee is to review practices, policies, needs and future strategies so we can advise the fire department and make recommendations," Thomas said. "We have no authority. We can't make any binding votes.
 
"We can vote to make recommendations. We don't know that we will. The Fire Department can adopt our recommendations, reject or recommendations or ignore our recommendations. We can endorse — or not — the plans of the Prudential Committee or the Building Committee."
 
John Notsley, who asked Thomas to lead the advisory committee when Notsley was chair of the Prudential Committee, said he was impressed with the work Thomas' group had done so far.
 
"I listened in on their meetings to date, and there have been some very good questions," Notsley said. "This is not a rubber stamp. They're going to ask tough questions for us, and that's what we're here for. … We need a group such as the Community Advisory Committee to pick and pick and pick and ask questions. The answers that come out will further educate the people in town in what we do and why we're doing it."
 
In Wednesday's report to committee, Chief Craig Pedercini reported on what was a very busy December for the Fire Department, including three fires between Dec. 22 and 23 and another on Christmas Eve.
 
"Fortunately, there were no injuries with any of these," Pedercini said. "So, overall, I say good job to everyone who was involved."
 
In other business, the Prudential Committee unanimously agreed to a $1,489 expenditure to add to the health insurance policy offered to members of the call-volunteer fire department. The district is adding coverage for the 25-person roster that enhances the coverage for members who might be diagnosed with cancer by upping the annual premium from $13,855 to $15,344, an increase of about 11 percent.
 
"Personally, I think the $1,489 is a good buy," Notsley said. "And we should provide our members with it. I have no objection.
 
"Thank God we haven't had to go into this policy, to my knowledge, and let's hope we never have to. For $1,489, the guys are certainly worth it."
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