GREENFIELD — The City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to allocate $500,000 to the new fire station being built on Main Street near Coombs Avenue.
“This approval goes a long way in helping them move forward with the (furniture, fixtures and equipment) pieces of the fire station so they can… bid on the things they need at that particular time,” said At-Large Councilor Christine Forgey Explains the motion to Council members before voting. “This loan permit is out there; we may never get around to borrowing that.”
Last month, the Fire Station Building Committee’s decision to award the $14.47 million contract to DA Sullivan & Sons resulted in a $2.75 million budget deficit for the project. DA Sullivan & Sons was the lowest bidder for general contractor at $14.47 million, including all alternatives, bringing the total cost of the project to $21.7 million, according to project manager Neil Joyce. Subcontractor bids were also received in August, covering masonry, glass and glazing, plumbing and electrical.
The previously approved $18 million budget included $2 million for the makeshift Hope Street fire station, which firefighters moved into in September 2021.
To make up the $2.75 million shortfall, Mayor Roxann Wedegartner last month asked the city council to pay $1.75 million — a sum made up of bond premiums and capital stabilization — and $500,000 in loans to provide. Wedegartner also plans to contribute an additional $500,000 in funding to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), bringing her contribution to ARPA funds for the fire station to $2 million.
In addition to approving last month’s $1.75 appropriation, the City Council accepted a $978,000 grant from the US Department of Agriculture, which will also be used to build the fire station. For further discussion of the $500,000 loan request and a separate but related vote to vacate the $500,000 loan permit for construction of the new library, both votes were voted at that time submitted.
“The two philosophies are borrow or pay as needed,” David Singer, co-chair of the Fire Station Building Committee, told councilors Wednesday, noting that he would support borrowing in that case.
“The (Greenfield Public Library Foundation) has given the city $1 million,” he said. “That means the library loan can easily go back and you have an extra $500,000. … There is no increase in borrowing at the net level.”
Ahead of the vote, Fire Chief Robert Strahan thanked councilors for their continued support of the project. He said he has confidence in the financial package put together by Treasury Director Liz Gilman.
“I do my budget and I create it and adjust it on a daily, weekly basis as needed,” Strahan said. “But Liz makes the whole town. If Liz is adamant that this is the best way, how can I argue that?
County Councilor Derek Helie was among those who supported the borrowing.
“It was already borrowed money,” he said. “With the free cash coming in, we need to build our capital stabilization and we need to build our accounts because we don’t know what’s in store for the fiscal years to come.”
At-Large Councilor Penny Ricketts also said she plans to vote yes.
“We have people here month after month for public safety,” she noted. “The fire station also serves to ensure public safety.”
Ricketts said she sees no reason for the city council not to support it.
“We’re turning a corner,” she said. “We take care of our infrastructure. Why should we stop now?”
District 5 councilwoman Marianne Bullock said she had hoped to see alternatives for funding but would support Wednesday’s motion in the absence of it.
“I also realize … the current fire station in my county is not adequate for the veteran firefighters to stay there for any length of time,” Bullock said.
Although she ultimately voted “yes,” District 1 Councilwoman Katherine Golub clarified that a “no” vote was not a “no” vote in relation to the fire station. She said she originally thought a “no” could lead to a new financial order of free cash.
“The reason I’m inclined to vote for it now is because I hope the money that would have been voted for free cash can go to the teachers,” Golub said, referring to an earlier conversation that evening , which referred to the Teachers Union Collective Bargaining Agreement. “I have no faith or faith that that’s going to happen, but … we have the power,[Wedegartner has]the power to decide where this money goes.”
Reporter Mary Byrne can be reached at [email protected] or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.