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Great Barrington Selectboard Gets Updates On Bridge Work, Housatonic School

A screenshot of a Zoom meeting with 5 people in it.
Josh Landes
The Great Barrington, Massachusetts selectboard meeting on July 26th, 2021.

The Great Barrington, Massachusetts selectboard received updates on town infrastructure projects at its meeting Monday.

Town manager Mark Pruhenski offered updates on a variety of pressing issues, beginning with the troubled waterworks system that serves the village of Housatonic.

“The second and final report by DPC engineering will be presented at our August 9th meeting," he said. "Another Code Red call will go out to the village as we get a little closer and hopefully everyone received our notices on Facebook late last week and our call earlier today.”

The village within Great Barrington has been plagued with discolored water due to high levels of manganese in the reservoir that feeds the community.

The town manager also gave an update on the former Housatonic school building.

“The town approved $25,000 to tarp the roof and board the windows at the former Housatonic School," said Pruhenski. "I just wanted to give the board and the public an update tonight to let you know that the bid documents are being finalized this week. The project will be advertised publicly next week and the contract, assuming all goes according to plan, the contract should be awarded by the end of August. So our goal is to have this buttoned up in plenty of time for winter.”

Pruhenski reported that the town has had to respond to zoning violations.

“A zoning enforcement letter, a cease and desist order was sent to two property owners, actually, both for the same reason: hosting commercial events in a residential zone," he said. "This is 250 Long Pond Road and 145 Hurlburt Road in town. Neither have been appealed to the best of my knowledge as of today and staff will continue to monitor the activity at these two locations.”

The town also sent 250 Long Pond Road a cease and desist order in 2020 for similar offenses.

Pruhenski had bad news about the State Road-Main Street Bridge construction project. The vital thoroughfare connects the well-trafficked Route 7 to the town over the Housatonic River.

“I know I keep giving you the same update that we're a week or two from completion," he said. "And I apologize. We're still a week or two from completion. And the reason for that is the high, high humidity we've had recently and the excessive amounts of rain. The contractors need average humidity and at least three days of sunshine to be able to put the final coat on that bridge. So as long as the weather cooperates, we'll be able to wrap that project up very shortly. The railings, you'll see, will be installed this week. And then we can move past that project. All of the steel work underneath is completed at this time. So we're really just waiting for contractors to complete painting.”

Pruhenski said efforts to recruit members for the town’s new Trust Policy Committee have only yielded two respondents. Adopted in 2017, the policy ensures that all Great Barringon residents are “fully protected and supported by our police and town government” regardless of immigration status, race, income or other factors that lead to marginalization.

“This is a Trust Policy Committee and not a police oversight committee," the town manager explained. "We were waiting for the new legislation to go into effect for the statewide police oversight committee just to kind of see how that would play out before we moved in that direction. As far as advertising the openings, we again posted it on Facebook, we also posted it on the news feed on our website. And when we post anything to our news feed that automatically sends an email out to everyone that subscribes to our website. So those are the two locations we've advertised so far. The only other place that we from time to time do advertise is the Shopper’s Guide. But that hasn't been as effective recently as we had hoped, either.”

Pruhenski also offered an update on the reopening of the town’s libraries.

“Mason Library and the Ramsdell Library reopened this morning to near pre-COVID hours," he told the selectboard. "So Mason will now be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. And Ramsdell will be open Tuesday and Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. and on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

Josh Landes has been WAMC's Berkshire Bureau Chief since February 2018, following stints at WBGO Newark and WFMU East Orange. A passionate advocate for Western Massachusetts, Landes was raised in Pittsfield and attended Hampshire College in Amherst, receiving his bachelor's in Ethnomusicology and Radio Production. His free time is spent with his cat Harry, experimental electronic music, and exploring the woods.
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