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Environment Secretary Visits Pittsfield
07:10PM / Friday, August 23, 2019
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Kathleen Theoharides, secretary of energy and environmental affairs, visits the site of culvert project in Pittsfield being funded through the state's climate readiness program.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides was in Pittsfield on Friday to review a state-funded culvert site and meet with local officials to discuss the state's climate readiness program. 
She joined Mayor Linda Tyer at the Churchill Street culvert, a site which recently received grant funding through the state's Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) Program. The city was awarded an $814,524 state grant in June for the Churchill Brook and West Street Culvert Replacement Project.
Through the MVP program, which begun in 2017, municipalities identify key climate-related hazards, vulnerabilities and strengths, develop adaptation actions, and prioritize next steps. The initiative which initially started as a $500,000 capital grant program has now increased to $12 million. Pittsfield is among the 71 percent of communities across the commonwealth now enrolled in the MVP program.
"The governor and the lieutenant governor have made resilient infrastructure a priority all across the state and I think it's really important to know that we have a really vested interest in Western Massachusetts communities as well as all across the state, not forgetting the Berkshires or Pioneer Valley," said Theoharides in a statement. "Our MVP program is really focused on these types of partnership investments and looking to design infrastructure for the challenges we're seeing today and moving forward as climate change increases."
She said the program helps communities take a grassroots approach to planning for climate change by bringing all their town departments and stakeholders in the together to assess needs. The state provides funding to have technical services and facilitators there. 
"Once that plan is done, we have action grants so that top priorities identified from the town or city can be put into action and implemented. So this is a plan with actually money attached to it, it's not just a plan that sits on the shelf," Theoharides said. "It's designed to get the wheels rolling and get things done."
Tyer said the grant funding provides crucial support to vital infrastructure needs in the city.
"This funding speaks to the strength and talent on our team here in Pittsfield. I am grateful that the state is recognizing the city of Pittsfield and supporting it with its resources. This is the sort of project that we would not be able to do with simple municipal resources. So having the state be our partner in all of this is really remarkable," said Tyer in the statement.
The grant application, which was led by Rebecca Manship of the Office of Community Development in conjunction with the Engineering Department. The development of the culvert replacement for both the Churchill Brook and West Street is a direct result of the work that the community engaged in through the MVP program.
"This project was identified as a high priority and because of Becky's stewardship we were able to secure this important grant for the city," said Deanna Ruffer, director of Community Development.
James McGrath, the city's manager of parks, open spaces and natural resources, said the Churchill Street Brook connects directly to Onota Lake, the city's "premier recreational waterbody."
"Water quality is high in that water body and initiatives like this, culvert replacements and installation of best management practices really help to keep the lake in the great condition that it is," said McGrath. "Also, it's not just the waterway, it's the storm water that's coming from down the roadway as well. So there'll be corrective measures for that when this project is done."
The project is currently in the design phase; bidding is scheduled for the winter, with work set to begin in May 2020.
Theoharides also met with officials including North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard on Friday morning at a roundtable put together by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission to discuss the MVP program and local challenges and needs. 
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