ADAMS -- Funding has been pulled out from under an "important" capital improvement project, Selectmen reported this week, leaving plans to install a roundabout at the intersection of Columbia and Friend streets in jeopardy.
The bad news was confirmed by the town at a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) meeting in Pittsfield on Tuesday, where it was stated that Adams' yet-unused 2004 federal earmark of over $600,000 now belongs to the Berkshire Regional Transit Authority (BRTA).
Town and Community Development officials had been working with engineers from Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc. and abutting businesses since 2009 to design a traffic solution for the intersection, known by many users as a hazard. A roundabout design was agreed upon early this year.
Slated for design completion by July, 2013 and a start date soon after, the planned roundabout would be safe and timely, officials felt, as a Walmart Supercenter being built down the road in North Adams is likely to cause a traffic increase on Route 8.
"It was very much in the pipeline and ready to go," Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said at the Wednesday Selectmen's meeting.
According to Butler, a White House order to consolidate earmarks dated between 2003 to 2006 was the impetus for the reallocation. The order calls for these earmarks to be spent or repurposed by Jan. 1, 2013, Butler said.
Because the roundabout project couldn't conceivably be finished,
Frustrated officials discussed the development Wednesday, noting that loss of this funding could affect the town in its other developments.
For instance, these federal dollars would have served to help with Adams' obligation to match $3 million the Department and Conservation and Recreation will spend to create a network of trails at the Greylock Glen next year.
"It wasn't just a roundabout, this was a major economic development for Northern Berkshire County," Butler said.
Said Selectmen's Chair Arthur "Skip" Harrington, "Unless we find additional funding from either the [federal government] or the state, this project is probably lost. And I'm not happy about it."
A roundabout would cost an estimated $1.5 million, an expense the town can't afford without assistance, Harrington said.
Selectmen Scott Nichols thought the town should be reimbursed with state funds.
"They've taken our federal dollars to cover a state [initiative], so now, I think, the state should have to give us dollars back," Nichols said.
Butler also called Massachusetts Department of Transportation's (MassDOT) handling of the reallocation "unsettling."
He said MassDOT made the determination considerably sooner than Tuesday's MPO meeting, and failed to notify affected communities.
"It was already decided [before the meeting]," Butler said.
This is confirmed by a MassDOT press release dated Oct. 2 announcing the awarding of $670,000 in unused federal earmarks to BRTA, to be used for four new 14-passenger vans and roof repairs to BRTA's maintenance facility on Downing Parkway in Pittsfield.
Butler said town officials, the Community Develop ment office and engineers had put in "countless hours" to prepare the project.
The permitting process and negotiating with stakeholders to come to an agreed-upon design held the project up to this point, Harrington said. Long before these stages, the town had waited in line for an earmark for a project since the 90s.
Town officials are scheduled to meet with MassDOT concerning the matter later this week.
Harrington said they'll seek a "quasi-concession" by way of securing a promise for financial support from MassDOT to allow for continued engineering of the project, or more.
In the meantime, officials encouraged residents to reach out to legislators and local representatives about the matter.
To reach Phil Demers, email email@example.com.