The new, massive mast-arm traffic lighting has been going up around the downtown area for the past couple weeks. When the new system comes online, the very visible cameras will be able to detect traffic waiting to enter the intersections and change the lights accordingly. A small bubble light at the intersection of Main Street and American Legion Drive will go on when fire vehicles turn onto Main.
The lights, part of the $3.2 million streetscape project, are designed to smooth the flow of traffic and increase safety. The cameras aren't recording anything but could be hooked into a recording system at the Department of Public Safety at a later time.
The city has named the generic 'Airport Road' after Alfred F. 'Budd' Dougherty, longtime Airport Commission chairman, who was surprised with the honor on Wednesday. At right is current Chairman Jeffrey Naughton.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Alfred F. "Budd" Dougherty's long had a vision of where the airport should be — and now he's got a sign to show it.
The road to Harriman & West Airport will be named Budd Dougherty Drive in honor of the longtime member and chairman of the Airport Commission. Dougherty, appointed to the board by former Mayor Richard Lamb, was presented with the sign on Wednesday to mark completion of the long-delayed runway reconstruction project.
The nearly $6 million mostly federally funded project had been in the planning stages since at least 1985; it was mid-90s before serious effort began and only this year that the more than 4,000-foot relocated and re-engineered runway was completed, bringing the airport up to current Federal Aviation Administration safety codes. It wasn't soon enough for Dougherty, however, who retired from the board in 2008 after 30 years.
Brian Smith, left, of Gale & Associates, Mayor Richard Alcombright, city Administrative Officer Jay Green and Naughton spoke about the runway completion with a Beechcraft as a backdrop. The weather was too wet to be on the runway.
"I worked with Budd for 10 years," said Brian Smith of Gale & Associates, the consultant hired nearly 15 years ago for the project, who joked, "he kept saying he wasn't going to retire until the runway was done ... but he finally gave up on us."
Occasionally drowned out by the roar of engines being tested outside the hanger of Turbo Prop East Inc., local officials thanked all those involved and stressed not only the dedication of Dougherty but the importance of what Mayor Richard Alcombright has described as one of the jewels of the city.
"We thought it would be appropriate after so many years of starts and stops, designs and changes and ups and downs, we finally have a beautiful runway out here and to commemorate the fact that this project has come to completion and fruition," said Jeffery Naughton, the commission's current chairman.
It hasn't been easy. The effort to upgrade the 60-year-old airport became bogged down in controversary shortly after Phase 1 began in 2000. The location of the runway and its safety areas sparked contention between the city and Williamstown — whose trees were slated for cutting to accommodate the changes. The result was several years of talks, redesigns and lawsuits.
"For several years in a not-so-friendly environment, you stood for what you thought was right and kept the legs under this project," said Alcombright of Dougherty. "You put yourself in some very unenviable positions to see that this wonderful expansion and improvement poject was completed.
"You knew as many of us do how important this airport is to the city and to the greater Northern Berkshire community."
• 1940: 1,400-foot Greylock landing strip created
• 1946: City creates Airport Commission
• 1950: City acquires land and strip expanded to 2,200 • 1951: George West's Mohawk Aviation builds hanger & fueling station • 1958-59: More land added, approaches cleared • 1985: Obstructions removed, road built • 1995: Gale & Associates hired • 2000: Environmental permitting begins • 2008: Runway safety areas begin construction • 2010: New runway completed
Airport Manager Mathew Champney said people overlook the fact that the facility brings in money to the region both from the businesses already located there and the people who fly in for work or pleasure.
"The [Williamstown] Theater Festival, for instance, these people are going to the theater, they're spending money at the theater, they're going to dinner, they're paying money in their fees to the city, and their taking on gas."
Once the safety areas are completed in the spring, Champney said the runway will be able to accommodate larger aircraft, "which I think is going to increase the larger traffic, which I think will benefit this community."
Both Champney and Dougherty said the community doesn't grasp what a resource the airport is — and can be. Champney speculated that it was difficult to break through people's conceptions; Dougherty wished North Adams businesses would use it more.
"When I first became involved here, the airprot was producing a great deal of money for the city of North Adams because we do charge for all the work that's done here and all the planes that come here," said Dougherty. "Because of what's going on economically, it has certainly lowered down but it has served the businesses in North Adams and Williamstown ... I'm certainly disappointed Williams College doesn't use it more."
Michael Sarrouf, an airline pilot who started flying with his father out of North Adams and later worked for longtime pilot and former airport manager Peter Esposito, said Harriman & West was a great place to learn to fly.
"They always said if you learn to fly out of North Adams, you can go anywhere because this isn't the easiest airport to fly out of at times but it's great for training," he said. "It's an outstanding airport for sharpening your skills."
All three agreed some kind of outreach was needed to bring more attention to the upgraded facility. "We need to find a way to market the airport more to people in New York and other places to get them in here," said Sarrouf.
After many thank-yous, including to former Mayor John Barrett III, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, and the many agencies, officials, consultants, community, neighbors and those who use the airport, for their commitment and input, support and tolerance, Dougherty had a small gift of his own.
The former chairman pulled out 50th anniversary hats, mementos that had become tied to tragedy when the airshow celebrating the airport's golden year a decade ago ended when two planes hit, killing their pilots. It seemed the start of cloudy days for the airport.
"I saved these and have one for each member of the Airport Commission," said Dougherty, rewinding the prop a bit, "and one for Jay [Green].
Now, with the completion of the runway, the airport is looking toward safer flying and bluer skies.
Downtown is getting spruced up. Or should we said "mapled up"? After most of the trees were hacked away on Main Street, the city is back to replanting.
The center median on Main Street will now feature pear trees and Eagle Street is getting some new maples.
Massive tree removal and replacement are part of a $3.2 million streetscape project to renovate downtown. Many of the removed trees were endangering the sidewalks and others were likely to be damaged because of construction.
The streetscape project won't be completed until summer 2011. It includes the laying of new conduit, sidewalks, lighting and traffic signals along River, Main, Eagle, Holden and Marshall streets, Route 2 and American Legion Drive.
New decorative streetlights have been installed on the lower end of Union Street near and traffic signaling will be installed on the massive columns placed at strategic intersections within the downtown.
Mayor Alcombright was looking over the lighting situation on Main Street on Wednesday. Top photo, work will continue underneath the Hadley Overpass.
The city has a few more weeks of work as a number of state projects near completion — at least for this fall.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said he'd met Monday for an update with state workers overseeing the four projects now under way in the city.
Concrete pours on the Hadley Overpass decking will end this week, he told the City Council on Tuesday, but "they will be continuing with the extensive structural work being done under the bridge right through the winter, if the weather cooperates."
That could mean traffic delays at times but work on the topside probably will not resume until spring.
Work on the West Main Street bridge over the rail tracks should be completed before Thanksgiving, he said. The sidewalk has been cemented and concrete is being poured this week or next for the deck. The railing has been resecured but hasn't been replaced or painted because it wasn't in the budget. Alcombright said city crews will repaint the rusty railing in the spring.
The new massive light poles on Main Street seem inspired by the city's landmark steeples.
The bridge near West Package Store on State Road will have its deck replaced beginning next week.
"There should be minimal interruption; yes, there will be some slow traffic but that should be completed this construction season," he said. Those most affected will be residents of New Street, which may have to be closed at times; residents will have to loop around to Taft Street to exit onto State Road.
Work on the downtown streetscape project is coming to a close for the season. Corners that have not yet been paved with concrete are being blacktopped for the winter and lightposts are being installed.
"We're hopeful the intersection signaling will be done before the end of the year," said Alcombright.
The blacktopped corners, paving on River and Main streets, sidewalks and lighting on Eagle Street and tree planting around the downtown will be completed in the spring. The work is contractually required to be completed by July 1.
That's not the end of the road work. Alcombright said the state will be beginning work on the decking of another State Road bridge in the year or so. "We're hoping to do the Sacco Bridge next summer because that's very bumpy ride."
Lue Gim Gong, who left North Adams to become the 'Citrus Wizard.'
Local historian Paul Marino thinks it's about time the city recognized a one-time resident who, unwittingly, has helped the Drury High band raise money each fall. Not to mention revolutionizing the citrus industry.
"This is the time of year to order your oranges and citrus fruit from the Drury band," he told the City Council on Tuesday night. "The reason we're able to do that in December is because of Lue Gim Gong."
Lue was born near Canton (Guangzhou) around 1860 and arrived in North Adams as a boy with the contingent of Chinese brought in by Calvin T. Sampson to break the strike at his shoe mill in 1870. Importation of these 75 Chinese workers — and another 50 who arrived the following year — had national connotations for unions and immigration, resulting in part in legislation in the following decade that banned Chinese immigration.
But Lue's participation in the shoe mill isn't the reason Marino wants to honor him; it's what he did later.
Lue was one of the handful of Chinese still living in the city a few years after the strike. He was taken in by the Burlingame family, who lived at the corner of Summer and Church streets. Fanny Burlingame, a Sunday school teacher, nursed him back to health when he came down with a fever and helped him become a citizen in 1877. In 1886, Lue moved to Deland, Fla., to live with Burlingame's sister and brother-in-law and look after their orange groves.
He became a well-known horticulturist and one of his experiments resulted in a late-growing orange, known as the Lue Gim Gong Orange or Strain. It's still sold as a Valencia orange.
"He is the man who years later perfected the orange that ripens over the summer rather than over the spring and avoids the frost," said Marino. It's why we can order Florida oranges and grapefruit in December."
Lue's work has been recognized in DeLand — a bust of the "Citrus Wizard" was commemorated in 2000 and he appears on a county mural with his beloved rooster. But nothing in North Adams, which not only brought Lue to the East Coast but whose brutal winters sent him south to his destiny.
"He lived in North Adams for many years and we've never done anything to honor him," said Marino, who suggested renaming what's left of Summer Street, where Lue lived, for the horticulturist. "I think it would be great if we could rename that street."
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.