WILLIAMSTOWN -- A request from the Fire District to purchase a property for a new fire station failed to receive a two-thirds vote during a special meeting Tuesday night.
A motion to purchase the Main Street site received 151 votes in favor and 94 against.
"I don't know what we're going to do at this point," Prudential Committee member John Notsley said following the vote. "We're just going to have to regroup."
The Fire District, an independent government entity from Williamstown overseen by a three-member Prudential Committee, has long searched for a site to replace its aging station on Water Street. The district agreed in June to a purchase and sales agreement for a 4.7 acre parcel at 562-580 Main St., owned by the late Kurt Lehovec's estate.
Tuesday's meeting requested approval for the district to borrow $575,000 for the purchase of the property, and to allow $400,00 from the district's free cash for structure removal and site cleanup.
Finance Committee member Dan Gendron encouraged residents to consider three other projects under consideration -- a new police station, high school building project and library renovation.
"It's going to be collectively $30 million for all of these projects, and that's not including interest," he said. "How will we pay for this without taxes so high that demographics of the town shift again?"
Gendron also serves on the Public Safety Building Study Committee, formed to explore sites for a new police station and a possible joint fire and police facility.
"As a member...I must look at sharing land resources and funds also," he said. "It's clear to me that compromise must happen concerning the four major projects."
Finance Committee Chairman Charles Fox stated it was "inappropriate and unwise" to acquire the property. Fox also expressed concern over removing the property for potential commercial use.
Principal Assessor Bill Barkin responded when one resident questioned why the purchase price was more than double the property's assessed value of $250,000. The property is in a "very distressed, obsolescent economic state," he explained. A developer trying to secure funding to rebuild the four existing homes on the site would likely not receive money from a lender. Barkin also stated the property was unattractive for commercial use.
"I don't think a company is going to come in and put the money into that property," he said. "What could it be used for? Who would build there, and for what purpose?"
The property would probably be "very good" for either a fire station or joint fire-police facility, he said.
Resident Donald Dubendorff stated though financing issues must still be worked out, and encouraged residents to vote yes.
"It would be a mistake to make no moves whatsoever because we don't know the ending," he said.
The future of the Lehovec property and the Fire District's attempts to build a new station were unclear following Tuesday's meeting.
Legal counsel for the district Mark R. Reich of Kopelman and Paige stated that other offers on the property have been made, but he was "not privy" to the details.
To reach Edward Damon, email