NORTH ADAMS - A half-million in funds to fix a deteriorating section of the Hoosic River flood control chute made it into a federal spending bill passed late Wednesday night.
"The Army Corps of Engineers said it had to be fixed," said Mayor John Barrett III on Thursday about a segment of concrete wall that failed in the North Branch of the Hoosic River along River Street. Another section behind Best-Way Car Wash on River Street had been a concern, as well, but was considered stabilized, he said.
The city is responsible for operation and maintenance of the nearly 70-year-old flood control project, built by the government after a series of damaging floods. The Army Corps of Engineers inspects the miles of enclosed waterways.
Two weeks ago, the Army engineers surveyed a section of the flood control chute along River Street and found an area that required repairs, said the mayor. The city was given 60 days to come up with a plan to fix it.
U.S. Rep. John Olver, D-Amherst, a ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee, placed funding for the repairs in the $554 billion omnibus spending bill. The city will receive $492,000; the project will go out for public bid.
"This repair is key to protecting the property and safety of businesses and residents who live along the Hoosic River," said Olver in a statement. "The improved flood control chute will help shield North Adams the next time strong rains cause floods."
The deadline meant a last-minute scramble for funding as the appropriations bill was heading to a vote.
"Rep. Olver did a great job getting this in," said Barrett.
Olver's chief of staff, Hunter Ridgway, said Thursday they had been told the president was preparing to sign the bill. However, President Bush in a press conference late Thursday afternoon charged the Democratic Congress with "wasteful spending" and said his budget director would be looking for ways to deal with some of the 9,800 earmarks in the bill, according to the Washington Post.
Billions for Iraq
The bill also contains $70 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan the president requested, along with $5 million in earmarks for Berkshire County, including $1.4 million for the downtown Pittsfield streetscape, $246,000 for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, $750,000 for the rehabilitation of Dalton's Windsor Dam and $882,000 for the nonprofit veterans' organization Soldier On, which operates a residential home in Pittsfield.
Berkshire Rides will receive $588,000, the bulk of its operating funds, said Executive Director Jana Hunkler Brule.
The nonprofit organization works to improve public transportation access for residents in the towns of Florida, Clarksburg, Savoy, Cheshire, North Adams, Adams and Williamstown. It provides rides to work for people who live off public transportation routes and for youth groups going to after-school activities.
The funding is especially welcome because the organization is feeling the pinch from increasing fuel costs.
"We've been trying to be more efficient, such as carpooling, because gas costs have gone up so much," she said. "So far, so good."
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