Officials have been frustrated in their attempts to fix the Gates Avenue culvert because of demands made by the Department of Environmental Protection.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Town officials are hoping there's a detour around the expensive $650,000 fix the state is forcing for the Gates Avenue culvert.
Michael Milazzo is offering the possibility of access across his and his mother's property off Wheeler Avenue to reach the dead-ended street to cut the cost of a temporary bridge.
Milazzo had approached Town Administrator Carl McKinney about changing the permit for his gravel operation and McKinney asked him about the roadway during conversations.
"I believe that they should be two separate issues, I think I'm here for a change to my gravel pit and I think I'm also here as a resident of Clarksburg and I'm willing to attempt to help in any way I can," he told the Selectmen on Wednesday night.
Milazzo was asking to be allowed to start an hour earlier than his current 8 p.m. start and to use a crusher.
"We need normal business hours to do this," he said. "Most construction starts at 7."
He planned to have trees and a berm to shield noise from the crusher, which would only be operated weekdays. While his focus is on spring, getting the permit changed "sooner rather than later" would allow him to consider installing the crusher for sand this fall.
Selectmen Chairman Jeffery Levanos and Linda Reardon postponed the request to allow time for their colleague, William Schrade Jr., who was on vacation, to weigh in and to do their due diligence.
While the permitting and the temporary road were occasionally mixed in the conversation, Reardon and Levanos also agreed they were "two separate items" under consideration.
The Gates Avenue Bridge, really an old cast-iron boiler tank set in Wheeler Brook with a deteriorating stone collar, was set to be replaced nearly two years ago.
The town had awarded Virgilio Construction with the contract to install a slip-line culvert at a cost of $114,000. But then the state Department of Environmental Protection stepped in demanding an open bottom culvert at twice the cost to allow passage of the water life and a temporary bridge estimated at $450,000 while the work was being done.
Rerouting residential traffic over the dirt road across Milazzo's property next spring would save the town nearly a half-million.
"I am struggling — struggling, struggling, struggling — to find a way to get this Gates Avenue project done," McKinney said. "We have people's safety, and their property's safety, as issues ... It's not aging gracefully with time.
"It is in poor condition and, hopefully, it will make it through winter."
The cost of the culvert and bridge would eat up about five years of the limited Chapter 90 road funding the town receives, on top of some $275,000 already spent to fix the East Street Bridge in 2012. Both East Street and Gates Avenue were undermined by Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 but the Federal Emergency Management Agency rejected requests for aid because the bridges had been pegged for repairs prior to the storm.
McKinney said he had had "extensive conversations" with DEP and state Rep. Gail Cariddi and Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, who have not been able to make headway against the DEP's ruling. Downing attempted to add $1.5 million specifically for culverts on Gates and West Cross Road in the transportation bill in March but the amendment was rejected.
"For all of what you're trying to make us do, is beyond the reach of this town. We simply do not have this money," McKinney said he told DEP. He described the fish habitat as marginal in the fast-flowing brook and noted there was a 4-foot drop just 10 feet from the culvert.
"Once they're through that culvert, they ain't coming back," he said. "They are on a one-way road right to the flood-control chute in North Adams."
Levanos said the culvert was a safety hazard not just for the five or six houses on the road but for fire engines, ambulances, oil trucks and other heavy vehicles. On top of that, the town wouldn't be able to fix any other roads for years — or have to do a Proposition 2 1/2 override to cover the cost.
Milazzo said he and his mother wanted to do what's best for the town and offered to provide some gravel and cut down trees to access the road. Town officials agreed to meet with him to look over the property.
McKinney said this was just the start of a discussion on using the roadway. The road would still require some work to make it passable and the proposal would have to go to a special town meeting.
"We need to let the voters know ... A lot of the other residents don't know how important this is," said Levanos.
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