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Mayor Thomas Bernard with the city's new Hyundai hybrid and Chevy pickup.
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North Adams Buys First Fuel Hybrid Vehicle

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The car's BlueDrive runs on gasoline but also uses an electric motor. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city took possession of its first hybrid vehicle, a Hyundai Ioniq Blue with an estimated fuel economy of 62 miles per gallon. 
 
"The key message is this is the first hybrid in the fleet," said Mayor Thomas Bernard on Tuesday. "We want to look at these as they make sense. Certainly the heavier-duty plowing on hills, even a medium truck, it doesn't make sense and there isn't a hybrid option. But these are around-town vehicles for inspections services."
 
The Hyundai will be used by inspection services and be available for city-approved travel for training and conferences. It is one of eight vehicles ordered for the Department of Public Services through a $425,000 borrowing approved by the City Council in July. 
 
At the time, Councilor Benjamin Lamb had pointed out that the Ford Fiesta sedan selected for building inspection didn't seem in line with the city's own commitment to energy efficiency and carbon reduction as spelled out the Green Communities Act. Bernard said the Ford would comply but agreed it wasn't as strong a step forward. 
 
The Ford was switched for a Hyundai Sonata hybrid but there wasn't a white one available — the two closest had already been snapped up by the state, Building Inspector William Meranti said. 
 
A white Ioniq was available, for $22,000 or about $6,000 more than the Ford, and the options packages on the other vehicles were modified so the amount of the full borrowing order wasn't changed. 
 
"I like that the message is that we're not just following our own best practices but we're following what the state's doing as well in trying to add for these light-vehicle hybrid options to their fleets," Bernard said. "We'll hopefully see that payback in fuel costs."
 
The car's 1.6-liter engine can barely be heard; it has front-wheel drive, a touchscreen display and keyless start. Meranti said it was delivered Friday and has already been driven about 125 miles just around the city. 
 
Bernard said the car will be a reliable option for long-distance travel since many trainings and conferences take place hours away from North Adams. 
 
The city is looking forward to the possibility of hybrid police cruisers. Ford has come out with an Interceptor hybrid sport-utility vehicle for 2020 that's not yet on the state contract. Once it is, the city will evaluate whether to go that route or wait and see how the vehicle performs for other communities.  
 
The Building Department also received its white Chevrolet Silverado 3500 pickup truck. The truck has a dump body and can be used for plowing. The department is responsible for plowing building parking lots including City Hall, the skating rink, library and Western Gateway Heritage State Park. Also on order are four Ford F550 pickup trucks for the Department of Public Services and two Dodge Ram Tradesman pickups, one for Public Services and one for Buildings.
 
The life expectancy of the vehicles is nine years, said Administrative Officer Michael Canales. The goal is to get the city's fleet back on a regular rotation schedule after nearly a decade to ensure that vehicles are being replaced before they become worn out and obsolete.
 
After nine years, these newest vehicles will be replaced but if they're still in good shape, they could move down to the "third tier" backups. If the maintenance is too costly or they're not needed, they'll be sold. Inspection now has three cars, including the 1998 Toyota Corolla that's still in use. 
 
"We'll get as much return as we can get," Canales said. "We're going to want to keep this going. Once you get out of rotation, it's harder to get back in."

Tags: hybrid cars,   trucks,   

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North Adams School Officials See Plans for Brayton Hill Improvements

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The dangerous entrance to the Northern Berkshire Family YMCA is going to be reconstructed to make it safer for children walking to school. 
 
The $622,000 project is part of the state Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School initiative and is being funded through the Transportation Improvement Program.
 
It will include revamping the steep entrance on the west side of Brayton School and the YMCA and adding in sidewalks and other improvements. 
 
The public schools outreach coordinator Emily Schiavoni said the school district and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition have been partners in the program since 2016. The two entities applied in 2019 to the Safe Routes to Schools program for Brayton and were accepted.
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