The BRPC Executive Committee approved applying for an array of grants.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — With so many projects planned for the same area, the BRPC is seeking funding to take a big-picture look.
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission is applying for a federal grant to create a neighborhood plan for the areas around Berkshire Medical Center.
Currently, the state is redesigning the intersection directly next to the hospital, BRPC is providing assistance to change zoning to increase commercial uses on the west side, the Springside House and park are being repurposed and spruced up, and Tyler Street is eyed for lighting and other improvements.
"They've already indicated that the Tyler Street area is very important. We are working on the west side. I know there has been some storm water work and we could take that to the next level. And the are already doing work at the Springside House," BRPC Assistant Director Thomas Matuszko said.
With those projects operating separately, BRPC is hoping to win a competitive grant to look at the whole area to coordinate those efforts more smoothly.
"It's really looking at this area as the hub of many different neighborhoods in the area," Matuszko said.
However, the U.S. Department of Transportation's TIGER program expects to only fund 5 percent of all applications. BRPC is trying to put together a strong application which includes all aspects of the neighborhood — going as far as even looking at water runoff at Wahconah Park.
"This is intended to be a fairly elaborate planning project," BRPC Executive Director Nathaniel Karns said.
Even if the application isn't funded, Matuszko said putting together the application will still yield valuable information about the future of those areas.
In other business, the BRPC Executive Committee gave Karns the authority Thursday to apply for federal grants for the reconstruction of the Housatonic Railroad tracks.
"I'm not even sure we would be the applicant. MassDOT may be the applicant. We may help develop the application, we might run it. But, obviously, rail construction is not our expertise," Karns said.
He said he recognizes that the use of public funds for that project is a hot topic. However, with talks ongoing between the railroad company and the state, BRPC could be asked to provide assistance in applying for the grant. Exactly what role the organization could potentially play is still undetermined.
Another grant BRPC is seeking would be $25,000 to put together "an educational program" for facility mangers at schools. The program would be focused on reducing the use of toxic cleaning materials.
"Under this program, Pittsfield is the only eligible municipality for this program. What we are planning on doing is putting together and educational program for facility managers," Karns said. "We are exploring how we will get the 5 percent match."
The organization is also reaching a contract with Western Massachusetts Homeland Security Advisory Council for outreach and evacuation planning, submitting an application for a grant to assess the impacts of medical marijuana facilities and working with the University of Massachusetts for an aging assessment.
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