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Community Development Director Michael Nuvallie explains to the City Council the need for easements for the Brayton Safe Routes to School project.

North Adams Council OKs Easements for Brayton Safe Routes Project

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday approved to purchase or take by eminent domain several small parcels for the Safe Routes to School project at Brayton Hill Apartments. 
 
The $740,000 project is being largely funded by a grant through the Federal Highway Administration. The use of federal funds requires the city to go "over and above" the usual rights of way process. 
 
"This order is written in in a couple of ways. It's written in the sense that we want to have a friendly agreement with the abutters," said Mayor Jennifer Macksey. "But we also want to have a secondary route that if, indeed, they don't want to accept our offer or donate this property that we would take a temporary or permanent easement through eminent domain.
 
"I hate the word eminent domain and that's not the route we want to take but we need to T ourselves up so we can continue with this project and work that needs to be done."
 
Michael Nuvallie, director of community development, said the four private parcels had been appraised by independent appraisers WSP USA Inc. The property owners were notified in December of the project and offers were delivered on July 1. He had not yet heard back from them.
 
There are three pieces owned by Brayton Hill Apartments that will include two temporary easements of 255 and 2,313 square feet and a permanent easement of at 82 square feet. The price for all three is set at $1,875. The fourth piece is a temporary easement of Francis G. Girard III at 70 State Road for 275 square feet for $145.
 
The three-year easements will allow for work to proceed on new sidewalks and crosswalks and the reconfiguration of the crossing from the Brayton Hill Apartments to the west side of Brayton School by the Northern Berkshire Family YMCA. 
 
"This is a very critical piece that must be approved," said Nuvallie. "If it's approved, then the project can be put out to bid for construction, which would be by the end of August. So construction, if we get a good batch of bids, will take place next spring."
 
The project will also include four temporary and one permanent easements on parcels already owned by the city.
 
"When the work starts, we enter into what's called the right of entry," he said. "We give ourselves permission to build on our own land."
 
 In response to questions, Nikki Peters, with the state Department of Transportation's Right of Way Bureau, said the easement on the Girard property was needed to allow work to occur around the sidewalk area such as grading and loaming.
 
 "With this particular type of project, we need to make sure the property owners' rights are protected and they're compensated appropriately," she said.
 
 Pamela Marquis, a compliance administrator for the bureau, explained that the use of federal monies requires at least a minimum of a three-year easement filed with the Registry of Deeds. 
 
 This is to ensure coverage in case of project delays and timing for restoring and reseeding areas.
 
 "We just want to make sure we're not running into any issues with doing the campaign at the appropriate time of year and so that we can leave the property in better shape than when we found it," Marquis said.
 
 Councilor Wayne Wilkinson, a professional appraiser, said he had looked over WSP's valuations and they were "great." 
 
"They're very good in the way they calculated just compensation," he said.
 
Councilor Ashley Shade thought it was a "wonderful" project but could not vote for the order because she could "not in good conscience ever vote in favor of using" eminent domain. 
 
Councilor Keith Bona said he has not supported eminent domain in the past if property owners had objected but in this case the owner has not come forward and the size of the parcel at 82 square feet seemed minor. Councilor Bryan Sapienza said since it was not taking a home, he could support it. 
 
The vote was 7-1 with Shade the lone no vote and Councilor Marie T. Harpin absent. A two-thirds vote was needed for it to pass. 
 
"I think it's an important project and I'm glad that we're doing it," said Council President Lisa Blackmer, who also thanked Nuvallie and Superintendent Barbara Malkas for their work on the project. 
 
In other business: 
 
The council confirmed the appointments of Andrew Kawczak, Jason Canales and Jennifer Dunning to the Conservation Commission for terms to expire Aug. 1, 2025.
 
• Wilkinson made a point of saying how difficult it was to find people to volunteer on boards and commissions and the council's swift approval shouldn't be read as indifferent. 
 
"It's not that we're just saying yeah, OK. It's because these people deserve to be here and be honest with you, I'm glad that they're serving," he said.
 
• The council confirmed the list of election wardens and inspectors through Aug. 31, 2023: Mary Ann Abuisi, Deborah Brown, Eric Buddington, Cody Chamberlain, Shari Collins, Sue Columbus, Bernadette Eastman, Mary Ellen Faustini, Carol Field, Debbie Forgea, George Forgea, Maria Greig-Williams, Gloria Hiser, Andrew Kawczak, Diana Kawczak, MaryBeth Kennedy, Patricia Labendz, Lisa Lamb, Janet Lanoue, Pat LeClair, James Lipa, Angie Lora, Kathy Mancini, Mark Mancini, Ed Marino, Karen Marino, Vanda Monzo, Judy Nimmons, Laura Lee 0'Neil, Paula Orlando, Geraldine Pedercini, Joe Santelli, Susan Spooner, Elena Sprague, Barbara Tassone, Joan Wise, Mary Willey and Marcia Wright.

Tags: easements,   safe routes to school,   

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Mass MoCA, North Adams Seek Study on Downtown Connections

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Getting people from Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to the downtown has been a goal since the museum opened more than two decades ago. 
 
But despite bringing in millions of dollars every year, the massive museum's ability to revive Main Street has been tepid at best. 
 
Now the city and museum are "thinking big" on a federal grant to see if they can make a connection that's frustrated past arts and community leaders for years. 
 
"I think you all are aware that it's not enough to just put up a sign that says downtown's that way in the hopes that a global audience will find their way there," said Jenny Wright, the museum's director of strategic communications and advancement. "There are actual physical and psychological barriers that put Mass MoCA on one side and downtown on the other side of the highway. We're bifurcated by infrastructure."
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