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Healey visits Western Mass. to see communities impacted by heavy rain, flooding

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey in North Adams on July 12th, 2023, flanked by Mayor Jennifer Macksey on the left and State Senator Paul Mark on the right.
Josh Landes
Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey in North Adams on July 12th, 2023, flanked by Mayor Jennifer Macksey on the left and State Senator Paul Mark on the right.

Massachusetts Governor Maura Healey was in Western Massachusetts today to tour communities impacted by heavy rain and flooding.

The first-term Democrat joined North Adams Mayor Jennifer Macksey at the site of a sinkhole on Route 8 Wednesday morning for a review of the damage.

“The city of North Adams, along with many of our surrounding communities, took a heavy hit from Mother Nature," said Macksey. "The area that we're standing on, on the corner of Morgan and State Street, is one of many significant areas that were impacted. In this area, specifically, the manhole cover had failed, couldn't take in any more water and collapsed, flooding State Street. State Street is a main corridor in and out of the city, the crews worked around the clock to be able to get one lane open at least.”

The severity of the rain and subsequent flooding made North Adams one of the Massachusetts communities forced to declare a state of emergency.

With upwards of 20 streets washed out, countless overloaded culverts, and the city’s flood control system pushed to its limit, Macksey estimates that it will cost at least $2 million for the cleanup.

“Governor, we just need help," she told Healey. "We need help from the state and the federal level, not only to rebuild what we see today, but also to work on long term fixes throughout our community. And it's something that we've talked about. As all of you know, North Adams has an infrastructure crisis we've talked about for a long time. And we need resources put behind us to help us with that. ARPA money was great. But that just is the tip of the iceberg for just engineering for projects like this. I really feel strongly we need like five new stormwater systems throughout our community, similar to the project that we're doing on Mass Ave. But then, with the pressure on our system and our decaying infrastructure, we worry about the water and sewer lines.”

On Church Street, North Adams was forced to call in the gas company due to a line being blown out from the flooding. Healey told Macksey that the commonwealth would have the city’s back.

“This is emblematic of the serious issues we face around infrastructure," said the governor. "And know that we're going to work to try to find ways to provide assistance and support. I also just want residents to know that my heart goes out to those affected by this. It's really devastating. We know that there are folks who had to be rescued, some may or may not be able to get actually back into a livable housing situation that they that they once had. And that's really devastating.”

Earlier in the day, Healey and her team visited Williamburg and other Pioneer Valley communities closer to the Connecticut River.

“They've also experienced significant flooding, real, real problems for our crops, which are flooded in many parts right now in Western Massachusetts," said Healey. "The point about infrastructure is really something that we take seriously. We understand when you have aging and old infrastructure and then you have an incident, it really compounds things. And so, we need to find a way to work together to get the relief done.”

Healey says it’s too soon to tell if the damage to Massachusetts communities rises to the level of federal assistance, which is the case in neighboring Vermont. The governor declined to estimate when asked how much money the state would allocate to the cleanup.

“I'm not going to make any calls or judgments on that now," Healey said. "I want to see what the numbers are, we want to understand the devastation and what we need to do. And, you know, I'm committed to working to try to find ways to make sure that we meet the moment and meet the need. But right now, we're just in the initial stages of getting our arms around that and what an assessment might look like.”

Macksey, who said the heavy rain has led to water issues in areas that North Adams has never had to address before, issued an ultimatum to city residents.

“If you see water in your basement, don't hesitate to call," said the mayor. "Please reach out to us. We are deploying sandbags to houses that have had repetitive problems. And I hope with our next rainstorm, we can slow it down, the water, a little bit. But if you see something, please say something call into our dispatch, call into our office. Don't hesitate, because the sooner we can stay ahead of things.”

Healey’s visit to survey storm damage is in contrast with a happier trip she made to North Adams in January just after taking office, when she announced a bill seeking almost $1 billion in bond authorization for housing and economic development.

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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