LEE, Mass. — A $4.9 million MassWorks grant was awarded to the town of Lee to develop infrastructure to served the planned renovation of the Eagle Mills.
State Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli and state Sen. Adam Hinds were joined by Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development Jay Ash and municipal leaders to announce the award early Thursday morning at the project site.
"MassWorks grants act as a lifeline for our small communities, and I believe this grant money will serve as a transformative development for the Fourth Berkshire District," said Pignatelli, a former Lenox selectman. "I know first-hand how small community projects, such as the Lee Eagle Mill, rely on infrastructure grants such as these."
In total, $7,789,664 has been awarded to the Fourth Berkshire District towns of Lee, Tolland, Monterey, and Sheffield through the 2018 MassWorks Infrastructure Grant Program.
The 8.4-acre Eagle Mills complex has buildings dating to the 1800s and once employed thousands of area residents in papermaking. The last mill closed in 2008.
The plans proposed in 2012 by Eagle Mill Redevelopment LLC, a private development company, will create a mixed retail/residential complex in 192,000 square feet. The strucctures will support 80 market-rate and affordable housing units, a boutique hotel, office and retail space, and eateries. It will also open up riverfront accessibility on the Housatonic with recreational, performance and public gathering spaces.
The entire project is estimated to cost $60 million to $80 million with construction to start in 2019. It is expected to create more than 200 full-time jobs.
The MassWorks funding will cover the full design and construction of replacement water lines running from the town'’s water treatment facility to the Eagle Mill project site at the north end of Main Street.
The MassWorks Infrastructure Program provides grants to municipalities for projects that generate additional private sector investment. Each year, the MassWorks program allocates 10 percent of awarded funds to assist municipalities with populations of 7,000 or less in completing roadway safety projects.
At a later stop in Tolland, Polito announced MassWorks awards of $889,664 for Tolland to conduct road improvements to Colebrook River Road to enhance safety and accommodate school buses, public safety vehicles, and larger trucks. Monterey was awarded $1 million to perform a full-depth reconstruction on Blue Hill Road to improve safety for school buses that participate in the regional school system in Great Barrington. Finally, the town of Sheffield was awarded $1 million to complete vital infrastructure improvements to three bridges, the required replacement of a bridge on Lime Kiln Road, and continued improvements to County Road.
"Governor Baker and I are happy to support small towns through MassWorks," said Polito. "These grants enable rural communities to proceed with vital projects and upgrades that will support their communities."
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Ethics Commission Alleges Conflict Violations by West Stockbridge Chief
WEST STOCKBRIDGE, Mass. — The Enforcement Division of the State Ethics Commission on Wednesday filed an order to show cause alleging that West Stockbridge Fire Chief Peter Skorput, a former Select Board member, committed multiple conflict-of-interest law violations, including setting stipends for himself, his daughter and his nephew; voting as a Select Board member to reappoint himself fire chief; and terminating a firefighter who had filed a complaint against him.
According to the order, shortly after Skorput was elected to the Select Board in 2013, a West Stockbridge official contacted the town's counsel about conflict-of-interest law exemptions available to Skorput regarding his serving both as a Select Board member and fire chief.
Allegedly, town counsel advised the official that Skorput follow the requirements for a particular conflict-of-interest law exemption that would allow him to accept pay for both positions, and this was communicated to Skorput. From the time he was elected until January 2017, however, Skorput did not meet the exemption requirements and violated the conflict of law by continuing to hold his compensated fire chief position after his election to the Select Board, according to the order.
The order further alleges Skorput violated the conflict-of-interest law by participating officially in matters involving his own and his daughter's financial interests. In 2013, Skorput allegedly voted as a Select Board member to reappoint himself as fire chief. Also, as fire chief, he allegedly decided the amount of firefighter stipends for himself each December in 2013-2015 and for his daughter in 2013 and 2014, and as a Select Board member signed the pay warrants for his daughter's stipends. Additionally, at several Select Board meetings in 2015 and 2016, Skorput allegedly participated as a Select Board member in the board's review of complaints about his performance as fire chief.
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