WILLIAMSTOWN -- With as many as five significant capital projects potentially on the horizon, the Finance Committee is looking for a way to address them all while putting the least amount of burden on the taxpayer.
Charles Fox, chairman of the Finance Committee, said Tuesday that local taxpayers won't want to take on paying for all the projects at once without some internal balancing of the total obligation the town is going to face over the next three to four years.
"The collective tax burden is simply not possible to bear without some internal adjustments, and I dare say postponement of accomplishing things seems very necessary. There is only so much we can do in a given period of time, say five to 10 years," he said.
The projects the town faces include a new police station, a new fire station, renovations to the David and Joyce Milne Public Library, a renovated or possibly newly constructed Mount Greylock Regional High School, and upgrades and repairs to the Hoosac Water Quality District wastewater treatment plant.
While the wastewater treatment plant is in Williamstown, the Hoosac Water Quality District is funded by both Williamstown and North Adams, and is subject to regulatory conditions set forth by the state Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Plans for renovated or new high school building are still in the discussion phase, and have yet to be considered by
"Not one of these projects is superfluous. That is a critical part of the problem, as each one has a significant necessity associated with it," Fox said.
It's an "obvious necessity" that Mount Greylock is either going to need a major renovation or a complete rebuild, and there are some pressing upgrades and repairs that are going to have to be accomplished at the wastewater treatment plant, he said.
"Our police station is a very limited and dysfunctional facility, and obviously our fire station also has significant limitations, and needs to be upgraded," he said. "Finally there is the Milne Library, whose user demand has made it highly desirable to increase the space at that facility."
In order to address the situation, the Finance Committee plans to host a public forum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 20 at Town Hall, where it intends to bring together residents and the relevant town officials to discuss the projects.
Fox said the first forum will focus on the new fire station project, which seems to be the project moving ahead most immediately.
Officials with the Prudential Committee, which is the governing board of the Williamstown Fire District, have been invited to attend the forum, he said. He expects other forums, which will focus on the other projects, will take place in October and November, he said.
"I'm not aware that the Finance Committee has done this sort of thing in the past -- certainly not the recent past -- but it's something we really need to assume as part of our responsibility to the taxpayers of Williamstown," he said.
The committee's technical role has been to review budget proposals that come before it from the various town cost centers, and make recommendations at the annual town meeting regarding those matters, he said.
Besides educating residents about the projects that lie ahead, the Finance Committee would also like to see coordinated reflection on a timeline for moving the projects forward result from the forums, Fox said.
"There definitely needs to be some scheduling of this tax burden," he said.
To reach Meghan Foley,