Adams: 2018 Year in Review
ADAMS, Mass. — It's been a rough year for Adams, especially in regard to water — fall flooding causing more than $2 million in damage to town infrastructure and suspected contamination lead to nearly a week of boiling water.
But it's also seen some movement at the Greylock Glen and the completion of the Berkshire Scenic Railway extension.
Two late September rainstorms overwhelmed the town's flood control. Bridges, culverts, and roads were damaged or destroyed, in some cases where Tropical Storm Irene had raged seven years before. Flooding also caused damage to private property.
The town was unable to receive any federal or state funding because the storm only affected Adams.
Officials did proclaim a state of emergency that allowed them to borrow money and deficit spend in order to make emergency repairs.
Town meeting ultimately voted to allow the town to borrow up to $2.5 million to make these repairs. State representatives are looking for funds for the town to recoup.
The incident has forced the town to look at its stormwater management and emergency protocols. Officials anticipate undergoing a complete watershed study to see how the town's waterways have changed and what can be done to prevent future flooding.
The boil water order this summer was prompted by two isolated samples of contamination. Members of the Fire District were ordered to boil or import their water, affecting thousands of residents and downtown businesses.
The contamination was not found in retesting and the state lifted the order after five days but town officials felt the independently operated public Water Department had not communicated well with the town. This prompted the town to completely revamp its emergency management plan to strengthen lines of communication and organizational structure.
The community also saw tragedy in 2018 with two major structure fires. At least three pets were believed killed and six people lost their home and possessions in April when a massive blaze whipped through a four-apartment building on Maple Street.
In September, a fire claimed a large barn at the Ziemba family's farm, Broadlawn Farm, on Walling Road. The dairy's feed for the winter, a tractor and a bull were lost in the blaze, believed to have been caused by an electrical issue.
The community immediately came together to support the farmers and a GoFundMe campaign raised more than $65,000, donations came in from all quarters and spaghetti dinner raised thousands more.
Local farmers also donated wrapped bales of hay to sustain the Ziembas through the winter and former Gov. Jane Swift donated the riding arena from her Cobble Hill Farm in Williamstown. Sheds N Stuff in Cheshire and its Amish suppliers are expected to build a new barn after Christmas.
Those blazes and numerous other calls were responded to by the volunteer Fire Department, operated by the Adams Alerts. But the increasing responsibilities facing the fire chief — and concerns over how many firefighters are not immediately available during weekdays — has the current chief asking Fire District to consider two full-time paid employees.
Fire Chief John Pansecchi plans to bring the proposal to the Fire District's annual meeting in 2019. He said departments across the country are facing new challenges and they no longer just have to fight fires but conduct inspections to meet the needs of the ever-changing fire codes. That's on top of trainings and other state mandates.
The town also welcomed some new faces in Selectman James Bush, who was elected to the board in the spring, and John Vosburgh, who became superintendent of the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.
The town is still without a town administrator and after Tony Mazzucco departure in late 2017, Community Development Director Donna Cesan has been holding down the post in the interim as Adams has unsuccessfully searched for a replacement.
Town officials set up a search process that ultimately ended with no results. A consultant was recently hired to help with the process that will restart in the new year.
The regional district also underwent an agreement amendment process that will change the name to the Hoosac Valley Regional School District. The School Committee's goal has been to create a more unified district after the fallout from the closing of Cheshire Elementary School nearly two years ago.
The town is also looking at two possible marijuana establishments on Howland Avenue and has executed agreements with Mission Massachusetts, which plans to open a retail operation, and LC Square, with plans to operate a cultivation facility.
Cumberland Farms found the going much tougher in its attempts to build a new gas station and convenience store not far from its current dated location on Commercial Street. Residents have forcefully opposed the company's proposal to demolish Al's Service Center.
Although the Board of Selectmen evinced support for the project the pushback from abutters during a series of heated meetings this past summer lead Cumberland Farms to withdrew its application from the Zoning Board of Appeals — for now.
It wasn't all roadblocks: the boarding platform that completes the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum line was completed this past summer as was the reconfiguration of the Adams Visitors Center parking lot to better accommodate visitors.
Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito joined local and area officials to celebrate the $4.5 million rehabilitation of the railroad tracks between Adams and North Adams. The nonprofit museum — which operates the Hoosac Valley Service — has been functioning for several years now and the opening of the new boarding platform in Adams marked the completion of that end of the line.
And the Mausert Block finally showed some significant progress after being under construction for six years. It's just an office but the opening is a major step forward in the redevelopment of the former Woolworth Building on Park Street.
The plans include new apartments now under development in the upper floors and two large retail spaces on Park Street. Owners Stephen and Holly Stenson hope to see tenants coming into the building in the coming year.
In other business, Shine Wire was named a Massachusetts Manufacturer of the Year, and Real Eyes Gallery opened in the former Simmons Furniture Store on Park Street. Unfortunately, another business, the Adams Ale House, announced it would close. The restaurant has had difficulty finding managers the past few years and had just reopened in August.
Adams is also hoping to finally see some movement at the Greylock Glen in the new year after June's unveiling of the design for the proposed Nordic ski and outdoor center. Officials are hoping the investment in the outdoor center and further infrastructure work will kickstart development.
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