STOCKBRIDGE — A disconnect involving several town officials about the upcoming three-month Richmond Mountain Road shutdown for installation of a new water main appears to have been resolved, according to Lenox Public Works Superintendent Sean VanDeusen.
The hilly, winding country road connecting Route 183 (West Street) in Lenox to Lenox Branch Road by way of Olivia's Overlook will be largely off limits on weekdays during the $3.8 million project to replace the adjoining 120-year-old water main. The work is slated to begin Aug. 29 and end no later than Dec. 23. Two weeks of repaving work is set for next spring.
The dispute that surfaced during Wednesday's televised Stockbridge Select Board meeting involved questions of which community has jurisdiction, since the 2-mile stretch of road weaves in and out of town lines.
It begins in Lenox, then enters Stockbridge, returns to Lenox and re-emerges in Richmond along the entrance to Olivia's Overlook, a vantage point in Stockbridge with a picture-postcard view owned by the Berkshire Natural Resources Council.
The route that continues into Richmond, with a branch to West Stockbridge, is a popular shortcut for motorists between Lenox, those two towns and points west.
Stockbridge Police Chief Darrell Fennelly raised concerns over emergency access to Olivia's Overlook.
"It is a safety issue at this point as far as us not having access up there," Fennelly said. "There is a small history of events at the overlook where we have to respond for emergencies — lost and injured hikers, a suicide up there a number of years ago. Anything could happen, and it's a problem for us to get there."
Selectman Stephen Shatz suggested West Stockbridge police could cover the site, and Fennelly noted that state police also could respond.
"Richmond [Mountain] Road is our road, right?" asked Select Board Chairman Ernest "Chuckie" Cardillo, also the Stockbridge fire chief.
"Absolutely," replied Stockbridge Highway Superintendent Leonard Tisdale.
Tisdale stated that he never shuts down both lanes of roads during projects involving excavation and water main installations.
"To shut down the road for three months is going to create a headache for you," Tisdale told Fennelly, "because ultimately you're going to be responsible for it."
"Who said close it?" asked Selectman Don Chabon.
"The superintendent of public works in Lenox," Tisdale replied, "but he really doesn't have to do it this way."
"How would you suggest we move forward in talking with our friends in Lenox?" Chabon asked.
"Invite 'em all for a meeting," Tisdale proposed.
Shatz stated that "this is our road by what authority does Lenox have to close our road? There's something that doesn't quite compute here."
"It is entirely in Stockbridge," Tisdale reaffirmed.
Shatz agreed to set up a meeting with Lenox Town Manager Christopher Ketchen on the issue.
According to Foresight Land Services of Pittsfield, which resurveyed the road several years ago, 0.75 miles is in Richmond, 0.7 miles in Lenox and only 0.32 miles in Stockbridge.
In an interview on Thursday, VanDeusen, the Lenox DPW chief, pointed out that the project will benefit Stockbridge because the water main to be replaced services the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health, the town's largest employer. The only other structure along the route is a private residence in Lenox known as Honeymoon Cottage.
VanDeusen emphasized that he first notified Tisdale, as well as Richmond DPW Superintendent Gerald Coppola and West Stockbridge Select Board chairman and Highway Superintendent Curt Wilton a year ago that the project was contemplated, with several updates this spring after the Lenox Select Board and then annual town meeting voters approved the financing.
He also hand-delivered a letter to Stockbridge, Richmond and West Stockbridge town officials on July 22 with final details.
VanDeusen pointed out that the Stockbridge Conservation Commission approved the project during an April 12 public hearing.
Lenox Selectman Edward Lane acknowledged that there had been an apparent lapse of communication with Stockbridge at some point.
"It's nothing we can't overcome just with conversations with the other town," he suggested. "It's typical of all towns where borders overlap each other. Towns work together, and we'll just sort this out."
"We're doing our best to try to be good neighbors," VanDeusen agreed. "I don't think this is a big deal, just a little bit of a communication breakdown and hopefully that's settled and we can move forward."
In an interview on Thursday, Cardillo, having talked with VanDeusen and Lenox Fire Chief Dan Clifford, stated that there are no problems involving emergency access.
As for the Stockbridge Select Board, Cardillo said that "things are OK at this point."
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.
Project timeline . . .
Here's a schedule of the Richmond Mountain Road water main and repaving schedule:
Week of Aug. 29: A quarter-mile stretch of Lenox Mountain Road will be closed in Richmond from Cheever Road to Lenox Branch Road from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., except for local residents.
Sept. 6-Dec. 23: Richmond Mountain Road in Lenox will be closed to all traffic from Route 183 to Olivia's Overlook from 7 a.m. on Mondays until noon on Fridays, when the road will reopen for weekend use. Access to Olivia's Overlook will only be available via Lenox Mountain Road from Richmond and West Stockbridge.
Spring 2017: During a two-week period determined by weather, repaving of Richmond Mountain Road will require it to be closed to traffic during the day.