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Briefings: Easthampton Toy Program in need, Chamber offers bridge project updates

With residents and business owners worrying about the effects of the six-month closure of Route 10 near downtown Easthampton, the Greater Easthampton Chamber of Commerce is offering a way for people to stay updated about delays and closures.

People can sign up for newsletters and text alerts to stay abreast of information about the 16-month project to reconstruct the 61-year-old bridge over the Manhan River, located on Route 10 just north of the downtown rotary.

Chamber President Patrick Brough said that while businesses located on Route 10 will undoubtedly be affected when traffic is detoured away, the Chamber hopes the updates will help them to be prepared.

“We’ve seen the impacts of bridge closures and other projects in other communities and we’ve learned that the more information people have about what’s going on is helpful for members to plan for a slowdown in drive-by traffic or whatever else,” he said.

The bridge is scheduled to be closed for six months starting in the spring during the $3.75 million reconstruction project. Northern Construction Service has already started to install traffic signals and signs for when traffic will be detoured on O’Neill, Lovefield and Pleasant streets, as well as West Street, during the closure.

The newsletters will include updates on the construction progress, links to Massachusetts Department of Transportation documents about the project and links to the websites of member businesses that will be affected by the detours.

“MassDOT has been very good about keeping us updated, they’ve let us sit in on construction meetings,” Brough said.

He said the chamber invested in the text messaging service because it provides the most immediate way to contact members. “During construction and utility work, especially in the winter, scheduling closures could be affected by weather and might change,” he said. He added that the texts will only be for closures and other last-minute alerts, not project updates.

Businesses or residents can sign up for either service on the chamber’s website at www.easthamptonchamber.org or get on the text message list by texting “manhan” to 96362.

Toy program

The Easthampton Toy Program is seeking donations to fund the purchase of toys to be distributed as holiday gifts for approximately 300 needy children in the city. The program, run in memory of former Town Administrator John Chmura, provides two toys per child 10 years or younger so that struggling families can have presents under the Christmas tree.

Families picked up the gifts last week, but the program is still short of its $15,000 goal to cover the costs of purchasing about 600 toys.

Last year, when the fund helped 168 families, it raised $15,502, said Karen Cadieux, the mayor’s administrative assistant, who runs the program with Personnel Director Raisa Riggott.

Cadieux also gives credit to establishments and groups in the city who are contributing by holding fundraising events, including Whiskerz Pub, the Pulaski Club and the Brass Cat. The city’s Helping Hand Society also donates a book for each child and $25 gift certificates for each family, and the Community Center knitting group knits 300 sets of hats and mittens and over 90 blankets, Cadieux added.

Checks made payable to the Easthampton Toy Program can be mailed to the Municipal Building at 50 Payson Ave., Easthampton, MA 01027, and cash or checks can be dropped off at the mayor’s office.

Rebecca Everett can be reached at reverett@gazettenet.com.

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