PEDA On Track For Property Transfer; Welcomes New MembersBy Joe Durwin
Special to iBerkshires
10:00PM / Wednesday, July 20, 2011
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority is expected to take possession of several more pieces of property this fall, including a bridge over the nearby rail line.
Chairman Gary Grunin updated the board on the progress of transferring ownership of sites from GE to PEDA, including Woodlawn Avenue and the all-important bridge across the property. GE still has some U.S. Environmental Protection Agency-mandated repair work to do on the site, and the board is waiting on subordination agreements to be signed between Berkshire Gas and CSX Railroad.
"Most of the heavy lifting has been done," said Grunin, "the environmental groups and GE and PEDA have agreed on language. So I expect that by October we'll have that transfer take place."
This is a priority for PEDA, because the bridge, still owned by GE, is slated to be at least partially demolished to allow CSX Railroad to run doublestack container cars through Pittsfield. There are federal funds available through the Department of Transportation to rebuild it, but not while it remains privately owned.
Grunin said the goal is to rebuild and reopen the bridge for city use, and that he envisions that process taking place quickly once the transfer of ownership is complete. Their ideal is to have the reopened Woodlawn route available to the city in time for it to close Silver Lake Boulevard as part of the remediation of polychlorinated biphynels from the lake and its banks. Following that, it would close again to have the center section of the bridge demolished in anticipation of later reconstruction.
The plan aims to ultimately rebuild the bridge so that the center section will be higher than the current one, allowing the approximately 15 extra inches of clearance needed for CSX Railroad to run the dual-level cars beneath it.
At this time, there is an agreement from CSX Railroad to postpone demolition of the bridge for an unspecified period of time that will hopefully allow for its transfer and use during the Silver Lake street closing.
When asked if CSX would refrain from demolishing the center section until a plan was in place to rebuild it, Grunin said, "Hopefully that will be in place. However, the property will come to us from GE with an agreement with CSX to remove that bridge ... they’ve made that deal already."
The timetable for GE's Silver Lake remediation project is still unclear, but it is tentatively slated to begin in the fall.
In other business, PEDA welcomed two new board members at its Wednesday meeting. The agency, whose mission is to oversee and redevelop the William Stanley Business Park, now has a total of seven executives.
The additions, Beth A. Mitchell and Christina L. Barrett, were unanimously approved to one-year seats at the board's July 20 meeting.
Mitchell is a senior program manager on the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) program at General Dynamics, and active on several local boards including the Boys and Girls Club of Pittsfield and Berkshire Applied Technology. She is a former board member of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and 1Berkshire.
Barrett is the director of marketing and public relations at Berkshire Community College, previously director of marketing and communications for the Chamber of Commerce. Barrett is "regarded as an expert in developing and enhancing communications tools and programming for the Gen-X and Y audience," according to PEDA's release. Her appointment suggests that the group may pursue increased outreach to younger age groups in the future, including the possible embrace of social media tools.
"Beth and Christina will bring additional expertise in engineering and marketing to help support our efforts to advance the William Stanley Business Park," Grunin said in a media release, "We are delighted that individuals of their caliber will be joining us."