Petition for Warwick Fire Station on Town Meeting warrant

By DOMENIC POLI

Staff Writer

Published: 04-27-2023 7:02 PM

WARWICK — A quarrel about the new Fire Station’s condition has made its way onto the Annual Town Meeting warrant, in the form of a citizen’s petition article asking voters for a $250,000 upgrade.

Resident and former volunteer firefighter William Lyman is one of 10 citizens who filed an article to pay for the construction project by borrowing the money, raising and appropriating it or transferring it from available funds. Town Meeting is slated to begin on Monday at 7 p.m. at Warwick Community School.

Lyman has been pushing town officials to repair the station, which he claims is inadequate and unsafe. He claims firefighters have no bathroom. However, Town Coordinator David Young provided the Greenfield Recorder with a photo of what he said is the Fire Station’s heated bathroom with a toilet and a sink. Still, Lyman insists the facility has no toilets, no running water and is not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“This is the six-year failure on the part of the town of Warwick to put toilets and hygienic facilities in a building for their firefighters,” he told Selectboard members and Young at a March 27 meeting.

The Fire Station was built on Orange Road in 2016, with an addition being constructed in 2019. The Warwick Firemen’s Association used fundraisers to purchase materials for the new building, and members volunteered their time to build it, with many having backgrounds in professional construction. The old 1952 Fire Station on Hastings Pond Road was likewise built with association money and labor, then subsequently donated to the town of Warwick.

Lyman came before the Selectboard again this week to further advocate for his cause. Selectboard member Keith Ross mentioned concerned citizens have complained to him about the Fire Station’s condition, though he thinks it looks great. Sharon Matthews stood up to say the town should bring in third-party consultants to evaluate the building before discussion goes any further.

Matthews also called for the end of what she said has been a barrage of nasty social media comments regarding this matter. Selectboard Chair Brian Snell said he has been on the receiving end of some of those comments.

Shauna Olmstead, a registered nurse, also spoke at the March 27 meeting to add her support to Lyman’s cause. Resident Rita McConville, a health inspector and former health director, said what is happening at the Fire Station is “absolutely illegal and should not be happening.”

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The citizen’s petition article is the final one on the Annual Town Meeting warrant. There are 31 other articles, including a proposed $2.7 million omnibus budget for fiscal year 2024. This figure is $547,519 higher than the current fiscal year’s budget and includes an education budget of just more than $1 million, an 8% increase from this year.

“This is our first budget since the early ’90s where Warwick is its own independent school district,” Young wrote in a Town Meeting explanation. “One change folks will notice is that instead of voting for Warwick’s share of the school assessment [as was the case as a member of the Pioneer Valley Regional School District] ... voters will vote on the total school budget, which includes state aid.

“We are also this year picking up the expense of our share of the former regional school district retiree benefits, which we used to pay as part of the regional school assessment,” Young noted.

During a presentation at Monday’s Selectboard meeting, Diana Noble of the Finance Committee explained local taxation is up 3.46% in the proposed budget. The suggested public safety budget is $206,933, up $16,607 from this year. These figures include 4% cost-of-living adjustments.

“Our salaries are pretty low here in town,” Noble said, tuning into the meeting remotely. “We’re always keeping an eye on [employee] retention.”

The town clerk’s job is proposed to expand to include being town webmaster on a one-day-per-week basis, Young mentioned. The $10,000 of additional compensation will buy eight hours per week of work on the new website.

Numerous articles pertain to setting up the new independent school district, which has been in the works since Warwick Community School’s closure in 2020, following a vote by the Pioneer School Committee and approval from the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. For example, Article 12 establishes a revolving fund for School Choice tuition and Article 13 establishes a revolving fund for school lunch.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-930-4120.

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