WILLIAMSTOWN -- A new fire station for the town is moving closer to becoming a reality.
At this week's Fire District meeting, Prudential Committee member Edward Briggs said the hope is to have a purchase and sale agreement ready by early March for a 3.7 acre parcel at 562 to 580 Main St. The site is currently home to four rental houses and is part of the late Kurt Lehovec's estate.
Committee members voted unanimously to take several steps needed to close the sale. Members approved a preliminary grading plan -- required by the building inspector and Conservation Commission to determine whether the land can be built on -- and an environmental study to determine whether oil and hazardous materials are present at the site.
"We're not sure what may be in that ground or what may not be," Briggs said at Wednesday's meeting. The study is commonly referred to as a "21E report" after the chapter of Massachusetts General Law that governs the cleanup of contaminated sites.
In addition, the committee voted to engage an attorney for navigating local issues such as permitting.
The Fire District has been exploring the possibility of a new station since 2006. Officials have expressed concern that the current station, built in 1951, is antiquated. The quarters are so tight that firefighters put on gear within inches of the trucks, and the doors to the trucks can't be fully opened in the stations. In addition, the District has the need for another tanker truck but has no room to store the vehicle.
Briggs said a study by the Maguire Group Inc. suggested a new station be approximately 21,000 square feet to serve the district's need, carrying a price tag of $8 million to $9 million. The station would be paid for by a 30-year municipal bond, which at the Jan. 16 meeting, Briggs said would have an insignificant impact on the tax rate. In addition, the district would utilize existing funds to offset the amount of money it will borrow.
Officials also addressed the possibility of creating a joint police and fire facility, which residents raised at a meeting on Jan. 16. Briggs said officials met with the Town Manager Peter Fohlin and Selectmen Chair David Rempell to discuss prospects of a joint building.
"We found there was a lot of support for us to continue in the direction that we're going," Briggs said Wednesday, adding the 1.5 to 2 acres of buildable land on the Lehovec parcel wouldn't be enough to support a joint facility.
"It's almost a moot point unless you can come up with a property that could accommodate both," Briggs said.
Briggs said the project will continue in two phases, the first dealing with acquiring the land. If the environmental and grading studies come back positive, he said, a special Fire District open meeting will be held asking voters to approve the purchase of the property, the borrowing of funds needed to buy the property, and the demolition of the existing buildings.
The district could close the sale by mid-June, he said.
"Then the next step for this committee would be preparing a request for proposals for demolition of buildings on the site," Briggs said. He added that once the site is clear, the district hopes to use donations, grant money and other government funding to reduce the amount of money it will have to borrow for construction.
Conversation also concerned what the district will do to inform residents about the proposed new station, and the conditions of the current station. A website for the fire department is being developed, Briggs said.
"We're hoping we can use that to disseminate information to anyone on the web and be able to provide current updates," he said.
To reach Edward Damon, email