Locals vent airport ire


Friday July 27, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Residents living near the Pittsfield Muni cipal Airport expansion cite damage to homes, excessive noise and dust and a ruined July 4 holiday as a result of the $22.5 million project.

The homeowners want the contractor and city to address their complaints seriously.

The citizens raised their concerns Thursday night as airport officials updated them on the progress of the expansion, scheduled to wrap up by Dec. 1.

The majority of the 60 people gathered for the meeting at Crosby Elementary School were upset because, they said, the project's second and final phase has ruined some of their homes and disrupted their lives.

"I never had a problem with water, now I have a problem with water," said Susan Halpin of Barker Road. "I have two cracks in my foundation."

She claimed several neighbors have similar damage due to rain runoff from the construction site.

Airport manager Mark Germanowski urged residents with specific problems to fill out a form at the end of the meeting and said they'd be contacted.

But Councilor at large Mel issa Mazzeo wants the city committed to resolving the homeowners' problems.

"Let's find out what happened and fix it," Mazzeo said.

Residents said the clearing of trees and vegetation has left the area devoid of plant life to soak up the water from the construction site. Approximately 120 acres of trees were removed because the Federal Aviation Administration considered them an air traffic obstruction. The leveled landscape created a visual void that shocked those living near the airport.

"The majority of the area affected will be landscaped, but it could take a few years to fully green up," Germanowski said.

Besides tree removal, Phase 1 of the project, completed last fall, also involved the replication of 5.7 acres of wetlands and a body of water encompassing one-tenth of an acre.

The current Phase 2, which began almost a year ago, includes moving a roughly 2,100-foot section of South Mountain Road, between the new and former entrances to Wild Acres Park, to the north. Last August, the city blocked off that part of South Mountain to through traffic.

The road's relocation will allow for the main 5,000-foot runway to be extended north by 790 feet. In addition, another 1,000-foot safety area is being installed on each end of the runway.

Germanowski said the length ened runway is scheduled to be paved in mid-August and could be ready for use later in the month.

As for South Mountain Road, it will remain closed to through traffic until about Thanksgiving.

Nearly 1 million cubic yards of dirt and rock have been moved in order to expand the runway and relocate the road, airport officials said.

Residents say the earth moving has been an especially loud and dusty operation.

"That's the most annoying noise," said Denise Crane of the large, earth-moving trucks. "That noise is all day, even on the Fourth of July."

Crane was referring to the contractor working on Ind ependence Day. Residents were surprised and miffed that they weren't notified about the holiday work session.

"It's not too much to tell us they were working on a holiday so we could get out of town," said Gary Saperstein, of Barker Road.

Airport officials said they had nothing to do with the decision made by the contractor and its union employees to work on July 4 in exchange for another day off, in part to save money.

Nevertheless, Councilor at large Barry J. Clairmont urged airport officials to avoid future working holidays for the remainder of the project.

"These [residents] deserve their holidays like everybody else in the city," he said.


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