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Pittsfield Receives Contingency Funds For Dam Removal
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
03:58AM / Friday, November 15, 2019
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The City Council accepted a raft of state and federal grants on Tuesday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council accepted a $113,316.12 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to go toward the demolition of the Mill Street dam.
Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath told the council Tuesday that the grant funds will go toward the dam removal contingency but that there is still a ways to go to hit the 10 percent contingency goal.
"It's a small contingency for a large project like this but there was a recognition that additional funds were needed," he said. "That is why these funds form the commonwealth are coming toward us for contingency."
The deteriorating dam is attached to the Hawthorne Mill Building, which used to house the Tel-Electric Piano Player Co. factory. Nearly 20 years ago, the Massachusetts Office of Dam Safety labeled the dam as in hazardous condition.
The project bids came in higher than expected at $2.8 million — quite a bit more than the $1.9 million estimate.
McGrath said currently the city has around $40,000 in project contingency but noted it should have "several hundreds of thousands."
He said he recently submitted a grant application to the Executive office of Energy and Environmental Affairs' Dam and Seawall Repair or Removal Program among others.
"We are reaching out to where we can for contingency funds," he said.
McGrath said typically the city likes to have 10 percent of the total project cost in contingency but because there was such an urgency to start, the state scrambled and came up with a portion of the contingency funds needed to go out to bid.
"The commonwealth could not come up with the full 10 percent of contingency funds," he said. "They granted us just enough funds to get us out to bid." 
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo asked if there was a Plan B if this money did not come in and the project ran over. She wanted to know if the city would be on the hook. 
McGrath said the state is spearheading the project and it is highly unlikely it would leave the city hanging.
"If additional funds are needed there will be a conversation with the executive office," he said. "There is a commitment and they want to see this project through on deadline. If there is a need for additional funds for an unforeseen reason, I have high confidence that we will get there."
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell asked about Bel Air Dam, which he noted was also in poor condition.
"It is a dangerous situation over there and I am not sure how many more winters it will last," he said.
McGrath said this dam has also been identified by the state as a possible demolition project.
The council also accepted $2,000 from the Walmart Foundation to support the Taconic High School's track and field program.
McGrath said his department is working with the school to find more funds to revamp the track so events could be again held at the school. 
The City Council accepted $28,719 in grant funds from the U.S. Department of Justice, $15,500.00 from the state Executive Office of Public Safety and Security and a $650 MED-Project (medication education and disposal) grant.
The DOJ's  Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant will be used to support overtime for officers training citizens in personnel safety ($15,500) and for equipment and supplies for the Rape Aggression Defense program and the Community Academy ($13,219). The state Emergency Management Planning funds will be used for rescue gear and trauma kits in case of a mass casualty event. 
The council also accepted $1,500 from the state Department of Environmental Protection for a Sustainable Materials Recovery Program to support recycling; $12,047 from the Corporation for National and Community Service for the city's Retired Senior Volunteer Program as three-month bridge money for moving the grant cycle and another $7,500 as an increase in the annual grant baseline; and $26,000 from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, part of an earmark secured by state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier for handicapped accessibility improvements at the Wild Acres conservation area. 
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