NORTH ADAMS -- A year after raging waters overflowed local river banks and spilled down hillsides, crumbling roads and exposing water mains, the city has repaired all but a few spots left behind in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.
"The dangling piece for us right now is Crest Street," Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Thursday. "There's also some damage on Bluff Road, which has been closed since a storm in 2005. We may be able to do some repair work there, considering it as an extension of Crest Street. There are also a few spots on Reservoir and Pattison roads -- some slope stabilization -- that we hope to take care of next construction season."
A bid package for Crest Street was issued last week and the city officials hope to award the project by mid-September.
"Public Works Commissioner Tim Lescarbeau thinks that the work can be done in about 45 to 50 days, beginning to end," he said. "In the worst case scenario, we have hard packed gravel on the road during the winter and pave it in the spring."
In December, the City Council approved a $2.2 million borrowing order to cover the cost of repairs, with the promise of 75 percent or $1.616 million being paid for by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Natural Resources Conservation Service. The city's cost was placed between $530,000 to $570,000.
"We've been reimbursed at 80 percent and we haven't touched much of the borrowing order for our share," Alcombright said. "I can't speak highly enough about the quick response we've received after submitting our bills. To my knowledge, we have no outstanding payments for the repairs that have been done."
He added, "We've been well taken care of. We had a late submission, for the exposed water main near Avon Street, that was taken care of right away."
Looking back on the events of Tropical Storm Irene, the mayor said he believes that even though the city suffered quite a bit of damage, that surrounding communities faired far worse.
"We were very lucky," he said. "Look at The Spruces and the high number of displaced individuals whose homes were ruined. Look to our north, to Wilmington and Readsboro, Vt., and all that happened there."
But things could have been worse, the mayor said, crediting Lescarbeau with having the foresight to drain down the city's two reservoirs by four to six feet each, three days in advance of Irene's arrival.
"Our reservoirs filled past what had been drained," Alcombright said. "You have to wonder what would have happened if they weren't drained."
He also credited the local emergency management team, comprising members of the city's Public Safety Department, the North Adams Ambulance Service, North Adams Regional Hospital and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"In retrospect, it's very reassuring to know how well our emergency management team works. I'm still very impressed. They began meeting the week before to put together plans and then met every two hours during the storm," Alcombright said. "They shifted and reshifted our emergency shelter during the storm and evacuated residents from the Beaver Street area."
Originally, the city's emergency shelter was set up at Drury High School, but a small brook running under the intersection of S. Church Street and Hodges Cross Road suddenly overflowed, spilling onto the road, while flooding also washed out a section of State Street.
"We were going to move it to Brayton Elementary School, but then realized that location could be threatened by the reservoirs above it," he said. "Plans shifted again and it was moved to St. Elizabeth's Parish Center. Who knew that the lowest lying option in the city would be the answer."
Crews from the city's Department of Public Works and the fire department fielded between 130 to 150 calls for flooded basements and sewer backups, spending some 48 hours pumping out cellars.
"The coordination was done in such a way that it was seamless," Alcombright said.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email