Berkshire County Projects Net $3.5M In Federal Funds

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U.S. Rep. John W. Olver
WASHINGTON — Some $3.5 million in federal money is expected for various community projects and organizations in the Berkshires, according to U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst.

Olver said the conference report for the fiscal 2010 omnibus appropriations bill approved by Congress includes $3,497,000 in federal assistance. It includes $1.4 million for BerkshireRides, which provides transportation in North County, and $375,000 to bring the North Adams Armory into compliance with federal laws on handicapped access.

The congressman is a member of the Appropriations Committee and chairman of the Transportation-HUD Appropriations Subcommittee and worked to include the funding in the omnibus spending legislation. The omnibus represents six out of 12 annual appropriations bills pulled together into one package. The Senate must now approve the conference report before it goes to the president for signature.

The projects are:

Berkshire Community College's Renewable Energy Resource Center

This funding will contribute toward BCC's conversion of the Ralph Hoffman Environmental Center in Pittsfield into a Renewable Energy Resource Training Center. The center will consist of two classrooms, four programmatically distinct laboratory configurations, a self-sustaining greenhouse, state-of-the-art computer hardware and software, and "green" technology instructional equipment.

"While we have seen jobs disappear in many industries over the past year, employment in green industries remains strong," said. "BCC is responding to the demand for specialists in green technologies and construction. The training center will be the only facility of its kind in the county, and will ensure that the area's work force keeps up with the changing job market."

An earlier version of the Transportation and Housing Appropriations Bill included $650,000 for this project.

Since the early 1970s, the Hoffmann Environmental Center has been home to classroom and laboratory facilities supporting the instructional needs of the environmental science program. Because of significant changes to technology over the years, the RHEC facility has not only become outdated, but the learning spaces cannot accommodate new teaching methods.

Berkshire Rides
$1.4 million

The nonprofit organization that works to improve public transportation access for residents in the towns of Florida, Clarksburg, Savoy, Cheshire, North Adams, Adams and Williamstown. This funding will be used to support and expand community transportation services in the Northern Berkshires operated by Berkshire Rides, formerly known as the Transportation Association of Northern Berkshire. Specifically, these funds will assist the organization in expanding its employment transportation program, as well as to help expand its services to young people.

"There has always been a tremendous need for public transportation services in the Northern Berkshire region," Olver said. "Berkshire Rides has worked hard to help close the gap in public transportation services. However, there are still unmet transportation needs in northern Berkshire County. This funding will build on the progress we have made in public transportation services in the region."

Berkshire South Regional Community Center's Anti-Bullying Project

The project's goal is to teach, inform and raise awareness of various aspects of bullying to students ranging from ages 5 through 17 in three area school systems, home-schooled children, program participants at BSRCC, as well as parents and the greater community. The curriculum will focus on anger-management training, conflict management, confidence building and better and different ways of communicating. In addition, the program will undertake a communitywide media campaign to heighten awareness of the signs and symptoms of bullying, as well as strategies for addressing the behavior.

"Bullying not only emotionally affects our children, but has been linked to juvenile delinquency, violence, and other anti-social behaviors," said Olver. "We must address these negative behaviors when they are first displayed so we can help improve our children’s future and help create a better community."

North Adams Armory ADA Compliance

This funding will be used to make the historic State Army Building compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act to extend community usage. Once the headquarters of a local Guard unit, the building was taken over by the city and its gymnasium has long been used for youth and community sports and activities.

Located in one of North Adams' busiest corridors, it was acquired by the city in January 2007, with the intention that it would be used as a community center. The building was in a state of disrepair but with the use of state and federal funds, the city has been able to stabilize it and begin repair work on the roof, windows, exterior stairs, exterior facade, interior flooring and water-damaged areas.  Now, attention is being turned to its interior. It is home to the North Adams Basketball League as well as other community programs. Future anticipated uses include after-school programs.

"The Armory's size and location made it a logical choice for a community center," said Olver. "The cty has already made quite a lot of progress on restoring and repairing the building, and its presence has been an excellent addition to the area. These renovations will ensure that everyone who wants to access the programs that take place there will be able to."

An earlier version of the bill included $350,000 for this project.
Pittsfield Streetscaping Project

This funding will contribute toward the multiphase streetscape project currently under way in Pittsfield. This spring at the corner of West Housatonic and South streets, the city began to implement its plan for downtown revitalization. It has continued through Park Square to the new movie theater on North Street and represents a section of the main core of the downtown business district.

Progress can be seen in front of the Colonial theater, where there is new decorative paving, new ornamental streetlights, sidewalks have been reconstructed, public art and historical statues will begin to be shown. The goal of streetscaping is to make downtown Pittsfield more attractive and appealing for residents, tourists and businesses, enhance the city's unique characteristics, and improve the environment for pedestrians.

"This money will help further the progress already being made in the revitalization of downtown Pittsfield," Olver said. "The city has seen a boost to the arts and culture sector, new and exciting private investments in downtown are currently underway, and as each phase of the project nears completion, sections of the city will become friendlier for residents and tourists alike."

South Berkshire Educational Collaborative,
Instructional and Operational Support Services


This funding is to help the collaborative implement cost-share programs to all of the school districts in Berkshire County. The collaborative will provide support in three areas: 1) assistance in the implementation special-education legislation 2) cooperative staff development for teachers and administrators and 3) provision of cooperative purchasing assistance for supplies and services.

"There are basic needs that all school systems have. Rather than re-creating the wheel all over the county, it makes sense for all these school systems to work together in order to save money in these very difficult times," Olver said.

Community Policing in Pittsfield

Berkshire Mediation of Pittsfield will use these funds to enhance community policing in the region.  While identifying and apprehending criminals is the first priority of a police department, equally important is partnering with communities to prevent crime and to provide opportunities for healing and restitution. The shared interests of the police, local communities, and mediation centers include prevention of low-level conflicts from escalating into violent confrontation, resolving complex neighborhood disputes and finding solutions that improve the quality of life for community residents.

"Currently, our police departments are stretched very thin. Every effort that can be made to change the fabric of a community which in turn reduces violence and bullying should be supported," said Olver.
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State Accepts North Adams Smart Growth Application

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's application to the state's Smart Growth incentive program was accepted last month pending some revisions to its zoning plan.
The plan for two zoning overlay districts in the downtown under the state's 40R zoning was submitted in March after a public hearing late last year. The letter from the Department of Housing and Community Development was received June 28.
Final adoption of 40R will release $600,000 in state funding to the city to address the impacts from increased residential and commercial development.
"The purpose of Smart Growth zoning is to increase the supply while also decreasing the cost of housing," Zachary Feury, project coordinator at the city's Office of Community Development, reminded the Community Development Committee on Wednesday. "Smart Growth zoning achieves this by increasing the amount of land zoned for high density residential development."
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