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Eclipse Residents Query Mayor on Collapsing Neighbor
By Stephanie Farrington, Community Submission
09:33AM / Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Some of the Eclipse Mill rooms have a disturbing view of the collapsed Hoosac Mill across the street.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright assured Eclipse Mill residents last Wednesday evening that the severely damaged Hoosac Mill across the street will be repaired.

The mayor was invited to attend the open forum by mill residents concerned with the progress on what is now called the NoAMA (North Adams, MA) building but made it clear that he was also available to answer other questions from the floor.

According to the mayor, mill owner Ariel Sutain has committed to demolishing the damaged sections of the roof by November. At that time, the mayor hopes he will also put forth a plan for the future of the structure.

Eclipse Mill residents expressed their concern over the safety and condition of their neighbor, which has been mainly used for storage.

The massive mill's "sawtooth roof" collapsed in several sections because of this past winter's heavy snows.

The city is cooperating with Sutain on this issue closely to encourage the would-be developer to stick with his investment and meet his responsibility to clean up and eventually develop the property.

"There needs to be a plan. It needs to be doable and we need to push forward with this," said Alcombright.

He continued, "The city will continue to press for an engineering report and plan. We may have dragged our feet somewhat on this but it's important to give the developer time to address the issues, the city cannot afford to be left with the responsibility for this building right now. The cost would be too high."

In the meantime, Sutain has promised to protect public safety by cordoning off the area of the sidewalk where bricks from the damaged structure are most likely to fall. He will also bear the cost of installing two new crosswalks.

Sutain has employed Dave Westall of Westall Associates to do engineering assessments in the past and the mayor said he is confident in Westall's assessment that the crumbling structure, although fragile, poses no immediate danger to the public.

There were a number of concerns about the proposed crosswalks, not least of which were for the safety of neighborhood residents who often encounter speeding cars coming around the curved road westbound and dangerously close to both mills.

Alcombright promised the city would take precautions to ensure the safety of pedestrians in the area as much as possible. Signage and lighting are under consideration. The road has too much traffic for speed bumps and speed limits are already quite low. The mayor also pointed out the inability of the city to spare the manpower to monitor drivers' speeds in the area.

The meeting soon turned into a flood damage update. A question was raised about the road to the Natural Bridge that's been rendered impassable by the flood.

According to the mayor, there is approximately $5 million in flood damage so far in the city. The state, MEMA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be able to help with repairs and funding as soon as assessments of the damage are available. However, it is unlikely that the park will be a priority since so many other more important roads in and out of town are also in need of repair.

"People have to get to work," said Alcombright. "So we have to have priorities. If you see the road open to the bridge before winter — it will be an amazing thing."

Mill residents were also concerned about gravel trucks going through town along Route 2 and then through Massachusetts Avenue.

According to the mayor, trucks working in Vermont have been rerouted because Williamstown roads cannot bear the load. Although the city of Williamstown has decided to disallow road crew trucks through their downtown core, the mayor says North Adams roads are safe enough to bear the weight so, for the time being, as long as these trucks keep to the speed limits and do not pose a hazard to residents, North Adams will continue to allow them to pass.

Money to do the work on roads washed out by the floods is available. As soon as it is possible to complete damage assessments, repairs will begin.

The mayor is available to speak to any community group wishing to hold a meeting. To arrange an appointment, call City Hall.

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