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Easthampton land-taking paves way for intersection work

— A 15-year project to make the intersection of Loudville and Pomeroy Meadow roads and West and Glendale streets safer took a step forward Wednesday when the City Council allowed the taking by eminent domain of about 6,500 square feet of land from neighboring landowners.

The council also approved permanent and temporary easements at its meeting. All the landowners voluntarily gave up the land and easements in exchange for compensation with the exception of Bernard and Linda Bostick, whom City Engineer James Gracia said did not answer the city’s letters or calls about the proposed taking.

He said the project to make the intersection safer and easier to navigate, estimated to cost about $2.95 million, has been in the works for over 15 years.

“The goal is to create a safer intersection,” he told the City Council Wednesday. “I’ve lived there since 1989 and I’ve seen way too many accidents.”

Gracia and his wife, Janet, own the property on the corner of Glendale and West streets, and will be giving up the largest chunk of land to the city: 6,165 square feet. Because he and other landowners will receive compensation for their land, he officially disclosed his conflict of interest with the State Ethics Commission and did not take part in decision-making on the topic, he said.

The intersection is hard to navigate because it is on a steep hill, which creates visibility problems for drivers. Also, West Street and Pomeroy Meadow Road do not line up when they meet there, so drivers have to travel a greater distance to cross Loudville and Glendale streets, he said.

Gracia said the construction work will “round the corners” of the intersection and widen West Street so that it lines up better with Pomeroy Meadow Road while improving drainage on Glendale Street.

After a number of bad accidents, the city hired a consultant to redesign the intersection in 1997, Gracia said. It was approved to be part of a federally-funded program soon after, Gracia said, but it has been slowed down by problems including “the full gamut of environmental issues.”

Wetlands, floodplains and endangered species around the crossroads meant the city had to navigate a long list of federal and state regulations. For instance, because changes to Pomeroy Meadow Road will mean paving some area that previously soaked up rain water in an area prone to flooding, the city is required to create an equivalent amount of new ”flood storage” space to make up for it.

So with permission of landowners Ronald and Carol Laurin, the city now has to tear down a vacant house on their property between Pomeroy Meadow Road and Glendale Street and make the space into a permanent drainage easement, which means nothing can ever be built there.

The project finally got the OK to move forward and is set to be funded in the current fiscal year, Gracia said. The state’s Department of Transportation plans to put it out to bid in June and the contract must be awarded by the end of September to be funded. “We’re down to the wire,” he said.

Federal Transportation Improvement Program funds will cover 80 percent of project costs and the other 20 percent will come from the state.

At Wednesday’s City Council meeting, the council approved the following easements and land takings with compensation: Ronald and Carol Laurin, $138,500 for permanent slope and drainage easements, including the former site of a house, totaling 15,296 square feet; Bernard and Linda Bostick, $2,050 for 340 square feet of land taking and additional temporary construction easements; James and Janet Gracia, $1,000 for land taking and permanent drainage easements, totaling 7,255 square feet; Mary Agresto, $650 for 488 square feet of permanent drainage easement; Jon M. Davine, $500 for 284 square feet of permanent drainage easement.

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

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