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Polito: Mt. Washington Is The Quintessential Example Of Towns Partnering With State

JD Allen
Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito during a recent visit to Mount Washington Town Hall.

During a tour of Western Massachusetts late last week, Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito championed Mount Washington's partnership with the state on infrastructure improvements.

Polito stopped in Chester, Southampton, and Mount Washington Thursday, touting infrastructure investments made by the state's economic development agency, MassWorks.

In the first round of funding in October, totaling $8.5 million, the towns received MassWorks Infrastructure Program awards for roadway safety improvements.

Polito, a Republican, says Mount Washington in the southwest corner of Berkshire County is a quintessential example of the growing number of towns partnering with the state through its Community Compact Program.

“Every single compact is unique because each community has done what you have done: You have come together, you think about what you want to work on, you embed that into the agreement, and now you are working on it and getting it done. And just think we are doing that in every city and town – almost there, every single city and town – so we are knitting together stronger state through local government,” Polito says.

Mount Washington was awarded a $580,000 MassWorks grant, which will cover the cost of restoring East Street.

Marc LeVasseur of Foresight Land Services, who was hired by the town, described the roadwork restoration plan. The roadway is centered on a culvert about 36 feet down a cliff. The road is eroding on one side.

“The proposal is to renew that culvert with new PVC spun-bound method that will be installed in place so there won’t be any open cuts for that rehabilitation of that culvert,” LeVasseur says. “The failing slope will be repaired with a new gabion wall on the outlet side and then working our way back up that will be stabilized with a permanent erosion mix.”

New drainage and a rain garden will also be installed to help relieve flooding. The project, which will go out to bid by December, is expected to be finished off with a new guard rail and pavement by November 2018.

Town Clerk and Selectwoman Gail Garrett says the route is vital to Mount Washington’s tourism economy.  

“And we do entertain because of Bash Bish, because of Mount Everett and the hiking. Just about 80 percent of our town is preserved. So we get a lot of tourists in the summer. We have a summer camp. This road is absolutely essential,” Garrett says. “We would not be here, and it would be extremely inconvenient if we did not have it.”

The road is the only passageway through the mountainous terrain between Connecticut and Massachusetts into town. Without it, residents would have to go around: a 15-mile, 25-minute journey.

The project will temporarily cut the road down to one lane.

Polito commended the work of Selectman Jim Lovejoy, who sits on the Massachusetts Municipal Association representing rural communities.

“To make sure that the dollars that were authorized at the state level would actually be used to accomplish the intended goal,” Polito says.

In August 2016, Gov. Charlie Baker reauthorized MassWorks and promised $500 million of future investment in critical infrastructure. The administration plans to award 47 grants totaling nearly $85 million this year for housing and economic development projects.

“We were able to listen, put us all together and implement that,” Polito says.

For example, Polito says, on the issue of broadband, Mount Washington will start seeing improvements any day. Lovejoy says he’s thankful for the state’s partnership.

“A town of 150 people would not have been able to do this without state help,” Lovejoy says.

State Representative Smitty Pignatelli, a Democrat representing the 4th Berkshire District, praised the GOP administration for assisting local government.

“It is the first time in history that we have a governor and a lieutenant governor that both served as selectmen,” Pignatelli says. “They not only walked the walk but they have talked the talk, and vice versa, because they have been there. They understand what it’s like to try and balance the books, and be forward thinking in a small community.”

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