NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A nearly $600,000 state grant is going to make it safer for children to cross from Brayton Hill Apartments to Brayton School.
The city was recently awarded $598,255 through the Massachusetts Safe Routes to School program to make infrastructure improvements at the entrance to the Northern Berkshire Family YMCA and install sidewalks in the area of the school. The City Council accepted the grant on Tuesday.
"This grant is an incredible opportunity for the Brayton Elementary School neighborhood and will help support pedestrian and bike safety," said Barbara Malkas, superintendent of North Adams Public Schools. "The end result of the project will facilitate behaviors that promote health and wellness in a world that can be focused on our electronic devices. We're thrilled to be a recipient of this grant and the positive effects it will have on the children and families in our community."
The steep driveway into the parking lot of the YMCA, which is attached to the school, and a problematic crosswalk were a focus of the City Council earlier this year. No one is sure when the crosswalk was first painted but it's never been in compliance because it doesn't run between sidewalks but rather cuts across Brickyard Court between a dirt pathway through private land and the corner of the driveway. There is also a visibility factor because of the incline of both the road and the driveway.
Some councilors had not initially been supportive of removing the crosswalk but finally agreed that it was illegal and unsafe; then the administration lagged in covering over the paint, which led the council to order it removed within set date.
School officials said they were working to redirect children along a longer but safer path, though that hasn't stopped people from cutting through the long-established shortcut.
Options for the crosswalk had been discussed a year ago when Boston design firm Payette visited the site to envision some possibilities. Administrative Officer Michael Canales at the time said it would make more sense to shift the crossing and the entrance farther up Brickyard Court to a spot where it would be almost level to enter.
And that's what the state Department of Transportation is leaning toward, he says.
"They're redoing the crosswalks to the school and the entrances on the Brayton Hill side to go slightly up the hill," he said. But rather than the city doing the design, everything is being done by the state, he said, and was included in the grant that has a maximum of $1 million. "They came back and said based on the design, this is what it would cost."
The application is based on a collaboration of the city, school system and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Mass in Motion; the YMCA was brought in afterward. The city owns the entire property.
North Adams is one of 14 municipalities chosen for the competitive grant. All of the grant-funded projects will include creating some form of pedestrian/bicycle improvements such as sidewalk reconstruction, sidewalk infill, intersection and crossing improvements, Americans With Disabilities Act accessibility improvements, signage and striping, traffic calming, shared-use paths, or bicycle accommodations.
The Brayton project will include sidewalks and crossings to the new park being constructed below the school as well. The playground and sports areas are being updated at a cost of $455,000 and is being funded through a state parks grant and Community Development Block Grants.
More than a $1 million in infrastructure and recreational improvements is being invested in the immediate area of Brayton School.
"We felt that this area was the optimal one to look at for some some streetscape safety, and some sidewalk, some traffic management and some crosswalk improvements," said Mayor Thomas Bernard. "That's the case that we made to MassDOT. And they accepted our case and our rationale."
The mayor said Canales, Mass in Motion's Amanda Chilson and the public schools Community Outreach Coordinator Emily Schiavoni were instrumental in making the case for the grant.
The selected projects will be scheduled for construction through the State Transportation Improvement Program. The federally funded program has $15 million in funds for projects in fiscal years 2022, 2023 and 2024.
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Berkshire Food Project Recognizes Hours Put in by Volunteers
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Three generations of volunteers with Linda Palumbo, left, Cindy Bolte, Alicia Rondeau and Cassandra Shoestack.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Five days a week a troop volunteers helps the small staff of the Berkshire Food Project feed hundreds of people.
On Monday night, the tables were turned.
More than 30 volunteers and attending family members were served up a choice of beef wellington and potato, salmon and rice, or a vegetarian meal, along with appetizers, dessert and beverages.
"Just from 2018 to 2019, [we served] 10,000 more meals, right, a 28 percent increase in 2019. So the numbers on the stove, same amount of counterspace. The only thing that changed is the capacity of our volunteers. So thank you, guys," said Executive Director Kim McMann.
The volunteers have been crucial in making that happen, she said, and thanked them for rolling with the changes the organization has implemented — some of which have worked and some that have not.
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Mark Steele-Knudslien, 49, pleaded guilty on Thursday in Berkshire Superior Court to second-degree murder in the death of his wife. Judge John Agostini sentenced him to life in state prison, with parole eligibility in 25 years.
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After a few days in the icebox, temperatures will be turning above freezing going into the weekend and there's a chance of snow — or more likely rain, as a storm system moves north of the Berkshires.
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The Finance Committee took a tour of the building on Tuesday afternoon to get a better sense of the condition of the J. Stanley Sullivan Elementary School as the City Council has been weighing an offer on the property made more than two months ago.
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