House Passes Bill That Earmarks Millions To County

By:Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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BOSTON, Mass. — The supplemental budget bill that would bring millions to projects in Adams and Pittsfield passed the state House of Representatives Wednesday.

The bill will send $2.5 million to Pittsfield for parking garage improvements on McKay Street and $2 million to Adams to construct roads at the Greylock Glen. The funds come from an estimated $460 million in surplus the state had at the close of the 2011 fiscal year.

"Those [projects] look to be unchanged. I don't see any amendments to them," April Anderson, assistant secretary for economic development with the state Office of Housing and Economic Development, said on Wednesday.

The majority of the bill appears to remain as filed by Gov. Deval Patrick and will fund 20 or so shovel-ready projects throughout the state.

"The bill calls for all projects to be under contract in 90 days," Anderson said. "We will get these projects under way as quickly as possible."

Adams has already filed for expedited permitting and have used grant money to complete engineering for roads and utilities.

"This is another very important step towards securing this funding, we are ecstatic about continuing to see more and more support by public officials on a statewide basis," Donna Cesan, Adams director of community development, said on Wednesday.

Town officials have been working on developing the site for decades and the most recent incarnation includes a campground, a lodge, conference center, amphitheater, hiking trails and an education center. This funding will build the roads and infrastructure on the site.

"We are very grateful to hear this news, it is our belief that this $2 million dollars will put shovels in the ground at the Greylock Glen," Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said.

In Pittsfield, the bill could provide half the cost to upgrade the parking garage on McKay Street behind the Beacon Cinema. The estimated $5 million project would be split between the city and the state. Anderson previously said it was chosen because of the revitalization efforts the city has put into North Street.

Both projects are expected to begin construction in the spring.

According to Rep. Paul Mark, D-Hancock, the House also added additional money for the Berkshire County District Attorney's office for the Drug Task Force, $750,000 for the John and Abigail Adams Arts grant program and $300,000 for the University of Massachusetts' drug lab — all programs that will help the county.

Mark said he had received calls from multiple smaller towns requesting additional funding for the drug lab, which tests evidence for police departments. Without the Amherst location, Berkshire towns would have to pay more to ship the evidence further away.

The House has also increased the amount that was eyed to go to the state's stabilization account from about $300 million to about $350 million, Mark said.

The bill also includes investments in work-force training through health care, work-force training for health-care workers to transition to new systems proposed in health-care reform legislation, summer jobs programs and STEM initiatives.The bill also commits an additional $10 million to cities and towns affected by the June 1 tornadoes for unreimbursed costs and $6.2 million to reimburse cities and towns for a portion of the costs incurred in the December 2008 ice storm.

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