$4.9 million grant a boost for Lee, Eagle Mill project

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LEE — Plans to redevelop the Eagle Mill just got a $4.9 million boost from the state.

A group of state and local officials gathered at the site early Thursday to announce the grant to help fund the replacement of nearly 2 miles of water lines running from the town's water treatment facility at the north end of Main Street to the mill site. The larger water mains also will improve fire protection in the downtown.

Eagle Mill Redevelopment, a private developer, has proposed an estimated $60 million to $70 million mixed-use development that would produce about 80 mixed-income units of rental housing, 40 percent of which would be market rate and 60 percent affordable units, and create over 200 full-time jobs. It would also include retail and office space.

"This kind of seals the deal on that development," said Lee Select Board Chairwoman Patricia Carlino. "This will change Lee for the better."

In all, four communities in the area landed nearly $7.7 million in state grants to either foster economic development or make safer local roads and bridges. Lee got the lion's share of that sum; Monterey, Sheffield and Tolland will share the remaining nearly $2.8 million toward road reconstruction and bridge improvements.

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, leading a contingent of state economic development and transportation officials, came to Lee and Tolland today to announce the funding through the MassWorks Infrastructure Program. 

"Governor Baker and I are happy to support small towns through MassWorks," Polito said in prepared remarks. "These grants enable rural communities to proceed with vital projects and upgrades that will support their communities."

MassWorks provides grants to municipalities for projects that generate additional private sector investment. Each year, the program sets aside 10 percent of awarded funds to assist municipalities with populations of 7,000 or less in completing roadway safety projects.

"MassWorks grants act as a lifeline for our small communities, and I believe this grant money will serve as a transformative development for the Fourth Berkshire District," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli, D-Lenox, in a statement. 

The Lee grant was long overdue, as the town has saved $500,000 over the past decade toward engineering costs for the water main replacement.

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"We've been talking about this for 10 years, knowing we have to do something," Carlino said.

The need for better municipal water service accelerated six years ago, when lead developer Jeffrey Cohen unveiled initial plans for reviving the town's oldest paper mill dating back some 200 years.

The development team has revised the proposal several times with affordable and market-rate housing central to the project, Cohen said.  The project has yet to secure all necessary local, state approvals and federal and state historic tax credits for the project to finally move forward.

"The saying `It takes a village to build a village' is certainly true in the case of Eagle Mill, and the Baker-Polito administration's participation is essential to the success of this endeavor," he said in a statement.

"It's been a long process, and Jeff Cohen deserves credit for sticking with [the project,]" Berkshire state Sen. Adam Hinds later told The Eagle.

The breakdown of the $2.8 million is as follows:

- $1 million for Sheffield will pay for three bridge replacements, required replacement of a bridge on Lime Kiln Road and continued improvements to

County Road.

- $1 million for Monterey to perform a full-depth reconstruction on Blue Hill Road to ensure safer school bus travel.

- $889,664 for Tolland to upgrade Colebrook River Road to enhance safety and accommodate school buses, public safety vehicles and larger trucks. 

Dick Lindsay can be reached at rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com and 413-496-6233


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