POSTED: 05/19/2015 12:24:10 PM EDT
By Adam Shanks
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SAVOY — Hurricane Irene may be slowly fading from memory in many Berkshire communities, but not for the residents of Savoy.
The August 2011 storm, which dumped more than 9 inches of rain on the town, wiped out a section of Black Brook Road — a key route connecting Route 2 with Savoy center and neighboring areas.
The road has been closed for nearly four years now, and officials say they’ve finally lined up enough funding to rebuild it.
Using funds cobbled together from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and other outside sources, the Board of Selectmen now expects to award the $7.3 million rebuild — up from initial estimates of $4 million — to a bidder this week and begin construction this summer, finally putting an end to Irene’s most noteworthy scar on the town.
“It’s probably the biggest project the town has ever taken on,” said Selectmen Chairman John Tynan.
An initial $76,000 grant for a preliminary study on the road estimated the project would take $4 million, including $425,000 from the town; to put that figure in perspective, the town’s overall budget is only about $1.7 million.
In the summer of 2012, the town was awarded a $175,000 federal Community Development Block Grant to fund the next stage of engineering, which brought the project forward. It also applied for a state grant through the Small Town Road Assistance Program (STRAP), but was denied. On a second try in 2013, the town applied for and won a nearly $1 million STRAP grant.
Later, state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, helped to secure $1.5 million on a state travel bond for the project, according to Tynan. FEMA bumped its funding from $1.7 million to $5 million.
With all its sources lined up, the town is finally ready to move forward with the project, bringing relief to the area residents who made use of the road — without using any town taxpayer funds, according to Tynan. A traffic study of the road in the 2000s saw that the road averaged about 80 cars per day, and circumventing the road can mean an additional 35 to 40 minutes for a commute.
“It affected us because Savoy does have coverage on Route 2,” said Lawrence Ordyna, chief of the Savoy Volunteer Fire Department.
With the road washed out, Florida’s fire department handles all of Savoy’s calls on that side of Black Brook Road. Florida’s department has also been called out for motor vehicle accidents that Savoy’s firefighters can no longer reach, Ordyna said.
The closed road also means Savoy can’t provide mutual aid to Florida or Charlemont, the chief noted.
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376.