Fire department looks for land to build new station

The Williamstown Fire Department, faced with expanding equipment priorities and aging facilities, is on the lookout for a suitable space to build a new fire station. Though efforts to find suitable space nearby – which included an inquiry at the College – have been unsuccessful so far, the department sees a new station as an eventuality and is continuing its search.

Williamstown Fire Company No. 1 is currently housed at 34 Water St., a property abutting the Green River to the south and a small commercial plaza that includes Water Street Books and Mezze Restaurant to the north. The Prudential Committee, a three-person board mandated by the state legislature to independently oversee the fire district’s needs, is the main force driving this effort to expand, and Fire Chief Craig Pedercini has been working alongside the Committee.

Attempts to find suitable property in a usable location around town, however, have come up short so far. The lack of large-scale commercial space in the Williamstown downtown area led the department to seek help from the College, which is the town’s largest property owner.

Director of Public Affairs Jim Kolesar spoke agreeably to the fire department’s line of reasoning. “Since fire stations are generally located in the centers of their towns and the College owns much of the property in the middle of this town, it made good sense for them to talk with us,” Kolesar said.

According to Kolesar, however, the fire department will probably have to turn to alternate solutions. “The College doesn’t currently see any of its property as being expendable,” Kolesar said.

Foremost among the department’s concerns is the need for more space to accommodate the more comprehensive equipment and training standards that have been implemented since the present building’s construction in 1951. “Everything is being utilized at 120 percent right now in the existing station,” Prudential Committee Chairman John Notsley told the North Adams Transcript last week.

According to Notsley, the Committee briefly considered a major expansion of the existing property, but rejected the idea due to concerns about land stability at the riverside site and the lack of structural support for a second story in the building itself.

Pedercini also noted that a new building would ease the pressure on the department to hold back on updating their inventory because of space concerns.

“Part of it is we’re buying equipment to fit the station. We should be buying equipment to fit the task at hand,” Pedercini told the Transcript. Williamstown Fire Company No. 1 currently has three fire engines, one aerial (ladder) unit and a forest unit in its vehicle fleet.

The district commissioned a feasibility study for what sites in the Williamstown area would be viable for the new station in May 2007. The study is still ongoing.