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North Adams to Renovate Airport Hangar

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city plans to renovate a dilapidated hanger on the airport campus using mostly state and federal funds.
 
The Airport Commission voted to go forward with the Northeast Hangar renovation project after meeting with Stantec engineer Peter Enzien to review the potential project and its funding sources.
 
"You have this hangar sitting there dilapidated, and we have an opportunity to use federal funding to renovate the hangar and bring it back to a state where it can generate revenue," Enzien said.
 
Enzien said he sat in on a scoping meeting earlier this month with the FAA and MassDOT about the hangar renovation. At the meeting, he presented cost estimates, as well as a tertiary review of the structure that he said, is in decent shape, structurally.
 
In total, the city has $230,000 in non-primary entitlement funding, some of which was rolled over from the last fiscal year. Factoring in state and local shares, the city should have near $260,000 to complete the project.
 
And according to Enzien's estimates, this is just about what the project would cost.
 
He reiterated that this is just an estimate, and he will not know true costs until the project goes out to bid.
 
"We will be very close to that number not knowing what will come in with bids with the climate we are in right now," he said. "Until it goes out to bid, we won't have a solid number to work with."
 
He said the plans do need to be flexible and at a minimum, they want to be able to renovate the hangar to the point where the space can be rented out to generate revenue for the airport. 
 
He added that there also may be an opportunity to use the recent infrastructure bill funding to fill out additional costs. The airport is slated to receive $159,000 a year for the next five years. 
 
"That opens up things a little more for you," he said. 
 
Enzien said the city can do some initial cleanup work to cut the costs.
 
"We believe the airport has the means to actually go in and clean up a lot of that loose debris…so when the contractor shows up they have a clean floor to work with minimal demolition," he said. "That will keep the costs lower."
 
Commissioner Dean Bullett asked what other options looked like. Enzien said total demolition would likely be more expensive, and a new build would also be far greater. He said Stantec was recently involved in the construction of a new hangar about half the size of the hangar in question. He said it cost near $300,000.
 
Administrative Officer Angie Ellison added that there is a need for the hangar and said there is a waiting list for plane owners who want to get their planes stored indoors.
 
Enzien said there is some urgency and bids must be opened by April 11, which means the bid needs to be put out by the first week of March to meet posting deadlines.
 
There was an initial hesitancy among the commission to just make an all-encompassing vote blessing the project. Chairman Dan Caplinger was afraid it would give the engineer the ability to burn through all grant funds.
 
Enzien said this is not the case and the vote is really focused on the $260,000 grant amount. He said there are checkpoints along the way for the commission to make their thoughts known. 
 
The commission did add in the motion to limit their initial approval to the non-entitlement funds.
 
Airport user Michael Milazzo had a similar concern and added he feared the engineer could up their design cost depending on the project's cost. 
 
Enzien said this is not the case and estimated engineering costs would be in the $50,000 to $60,000 which is included in his cost estimate.
 
Milazzo also wanted to know who would manage the space, and if Caplinger planned to store his plane in the hangar once renovated. He also had concerns about the other city hangar and alleged that it was being mismanaged.
 
Enzien said management is a city decision. Caplinger said he did submit his plane to the waiting list late last year. He said he is allowed to use airport services and as long as he doesn't use his position to gain an advantage, there is no conflict.
 
The Airport Commission also received a report about some obstruction removal at the airport. 
 
The tree and vegetation removal is a fiscal 2022 state Airport Safety and Maintenance Program-funded project. Removal will be focused near the east and west approaches.
 
The holdup was that the city needed a legal opinion on whether it could gather easements on surrounding properties to reach and remove the trees.  
 
"We received a favorable decision from the city solicitor they did review all of the easements … it was found that the city does have to right to enter upon properties to cut and remove trees and other growth deemed necessary," Enzien said.
 
There is a bit of a rush because the grant funding only lasts until the end of the fiscal year. And because this information was not available before the agenda was published, the commission could not vote at this meeting. 
 
However, the commission said notifications will be sent out to abutters and agreed it was important to hold an informational meeting for them.
 
Enzien said they plan to only take down "yard trees" and not large groupings of trees. He said it would take two to three weeks to complete the work
 
The commission approved an addendum to its updated master plan with comments from the state Department of Transportation, the Federal Aviation Administration, and the public.
 
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MCLA to Hold Annual Educator Recognition Awards Event

NORTH ADAMS, Mass.—Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), in collaboration with the Berkshire County Superintendents' Roundtable, will hold its annual Educator Recognition Awards event on Thursday, May 26, 2022, from 4:30-6 p.m. in Murdock Hall Room 218 on MCLA's campus.  
 
This award was created to honor the region's exceptional educators. This year's awardees are being recognized for their outstanding contributions to education throughout the pandemic. 
 
The event is free and open to the public, and a virtual attendance option is available.  
 
 Those who would like to attend can register at https://forms.office.com/r/5KMZAQ7Lpe
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