Adams seeks $2.5M to repair flood damage

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This story has been corrected to name the proper location of the  damage. It is in Adams.

ADAMS — The town will ask residents to approve up to $2.5 million in borrowing to repair damage from two storms in September that wreaked havoc on public infrastructure.

The Finance Committee is expected to make a recommendation on the request at its meeting tonight.

It would allow the Board of Selectmen to expend up to $2.5 million — through short- or long-term borrowing — for infrastructure repairs in the wake of flood damage, according to interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan.

The special town meeting is slated for 7 p.m. Oct. 25 at Hoosac Valley Elementary.

Last week, the Board of Selectmen declared a state of emergency and authorized emergency deficit spending following heavy flooding last month to begin immediate repairs.

Now, the request to borrow nearly $2.5 million will follow through with funding for repairs to damaged infrastructure while the town waits and hopes for a helping hand in the form of emergency funding from the state government.

Several areas in town suffered substantial damage after two downpours in less than a week last month, first on Sept. 12 and then again on Sept. 18.

In the weeks since, town officials have been evaluating the damage and obtaining quotes for repairs that are outside the scope of the town's Department of Public Works.

With the deficit spending authorized, Cesan expects to begin at least two projects before the borrowing order is approved at the Special Town Meeting.

Among the most pressing issues is a sinkhole on Glen Street — which has closed off access to motor vehicle traffic — due to a collapsed culvert.

On East Road, a slope collapsed and damage was done to a concrete culvert. "It undermined the guardrail, but now there's been more collapse and it extended into the travelway," Cesan said. "We can't wait a month to repair that. Our DPW does not have the equipment to repair that."

The longer the town waits to make repairs, the worse the situation will become. The forecast called for more rain today.

"If it's heavy rain, both of those situations could experience additional damage," Cesan said.

Residents in the area of Lime, Davis and Charles streets saw some of the most dramatic destruction, including the washing away of a culvert, and a small bridge that was swept away in the deluge.

The bridge does not cut off neighborhood access, but the town still hopes to have the repair projects completed before winter sets in. Some seven spots in total suffered varying amounts of damage, according to Richard Kleiner, the town's emergency management director.

State Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, have filed a supplemental budget request of some $1.9 million — up from the initial $680,000 the legislators had expected to request.

Barrett said the $1.9 million would come from approximately $8 million leftover from the fiscal 2018 Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency budget, which is just part of a $1 billion budget surplus statewide.

The request is currently in the hands of the Ways and Means Committees of the House and Senate.

"If it doesn't make it through, we will look at other funding sources to try to help them out because this is catastrophic," Barrett said.

Because the damage was not widespread regionally and limited to Adams, there was no state of emergency declared at the state or federal level. That limits the potential avenues of relief for residents who suffered damage to their property, Cesan noted, but the town continues to explore potential grants and other programs that could offer support.

The borrowing amount was requested with a substantial buffer in mind. Cesan included a "healthy" contingency of 25 percent on a number of the proposed projects, she said.

"I'm hoping and praying that it is much less than [$2.5 million] when we go actually undertake the work," Cesan said. "But we have to go further into the processes before we really have a better understanding of that."

The Finance Committee will meet at 6 p.m. today in the Adams Free Library.

Adam Shanks can be reached at ashanks@berkshireeagle.com, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.


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