College to contribute $5 million to construction of new fire station, pending proposal’s approval

Ella Marx and Julia Goldberg

The College’s Board of Trustees voted on Jan. 20 to contribute $5 million, at a rate of $1 million per year for the next five years, to the construction of Williamstown’s new fire station — if Town voters approve the proposal to build the station.

President Maud S. Mandel announced the gift in an all-campus email on Jan. 26, noting that the College relies on the fire department’s first responders and is committed to assisting the district by providing it with a modern, safe facility. The Town’s current fire station at 34 Water St. is 72 years old and, as stated in a press release from the fire district, does not meet the standards of current safety codes. The new station, which will be located on Main Street, will be larger, safer, and carbon-neutral. 

The College’s gift and any other gifts or grants will be deducted from the proposal’s $22.5 million projected total cost. The remaining cost will be funded by bonds over a period of 25 years, according to the press release. 

Voters will decide on the proposal during a special Town Meeting at 7 p.m. on Feb. 28. At least two thirds of voters must approve the proposal for it to pass. 

iBerkshires reported that, although members of the Williamstown Select Board urged the district’s Building Committee to reduce the project’s cost, the committee remained in favor of the proposal. According to the Building Committee, the station’s size and cost per square foot, at 27,218 square feet and $706 respectively, would be at or below the averages of similar projects. 

Kendall Rice ’25, who serves as a volunteer firefighter for the district, found out about the College’s $5 million pledge through Mandel’s email. Rice said that she and other volunteer firefighters at the College, who texted each other as soon as they heard of the news, were all content with the announcement. “Williams is the biggest liability in town by far and has more money than a lot of the rest of the residents,” she said. “We all realized that it made sense — at least to us — for the College to pay for at least some of it.” 

The College has also pledged donations to other community projects in recent years. In 2016, the College gave $5 million to support capital projects undertaken by the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee, and from 2006 to 2010, the College built a fund of over $1 million for the Williamstown Elementary School. It also provided the Williamstown Police Department with $400,000 to assist with the opening of its new station in 2019.