Lee seeks $1 million state grant to rebuild crumbling Forest Street


LEE — Once at odds over a crumbling Forest Street, Lee and Tyringham are now unified in lobbying the state for $1 million to rebuild the vital easterly link between the two towns.

The Lee Select Board is seeking a grant from the MassWorks Infrastructure Program through he executive Office of Housing and Economic Development to overhaul the 1.5 mile stretch of road between Route 20 and Goose Pond Road at the Tyringham town line.

If awarded in early November, the state funds will pay for a full-depth reclamation of the steep thoroughfare, including improved drainage, curbing to help drain water off the macadam, new guardrails and 50 driveway aprons to homes and businesses along the hilly street.

Lee taxpayer dollars will fund the $22,500 cost to design the upgrade.

The project timeline calls for the work to be bid and awarded by late spring and completed in October of next year.

In a letter accompanying Lee's grant application, the Tyringham Select Board stated the funding is crucial to both municipalities.

"The road provides the only access to the state boat ramp at Goose Pond and serves a number of second-homeowners who benefit our respective tax bases and the Berkshire economy in general," wrote board Chairman James Consolati, and members Matthew Puntin and Christopher Johnson.

Johnson is the only holdover from the previous board that was critical of how Lee maintained the road over the past two years, especially during the winter, when ice buildup made for very difficult driving for school buses, commercial vehicles and year-round residents.

In discussing the grant Tuesday night, Lee town officials refuted claims they have ignored the giant ruts, washouts and other problems plaguing the road.

"Our guys have done some drainage work up there ... we've been replacing the problem culverts," said Lee Department of Public Works Superintendent Christopher Pompi.

"There's the opinion we've ignored [the road] and that's not the fact," said Selectman David Consolati. "We've been doing what we can."

With Lee facing tens of millions of dollars in road and bridge repairs and only $500,000 each fiscal year available in local and state funds to do the work, the town has been hard pressed to put a dent in its infrastructure to-do list.

Lee taxpayers may be ready to shell out more to help the town play catch-up, approving a nonbinding referendum at the May town election for borrowing $5 million to repair 10 miles of municipal roads.

The Select Board hasn't decided whether to seek bond approval at next May's annual town meeting and subsequent town election.

Contact Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233.


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