photo: Jeffrey Simon at Route 7/8 Connector Road
Jeffrey Simon, director of the Massachusetts Recovery & Reinvestment Office, started the second of his two-day "stimulus tour" of Berkshire County ( check out what he did the first day) with a bang: He went to the site of a major connector road project.

The purpose of Simon's visit is to see firsthand the impact of stimulus. At the Route 7/Route 8 Connector Road, in Lanesborough he did. The two-mile stretch of road not only provides access to the Berkshire Mall but is also a major thoroughfare for people in the area to get from Route 7 to Route 8.

The project received $10 million in stimulus funding and will fix the 20-year old

Jeffrey Simon at Route 7/8 Connector Road
road that is currently sagging and littered with potholes. It will also keep a lot of people busy with work, Garry Balboni, vice president of E.T.&L. - the contractor on the project - told Simon. Eventually, he said, there will be eight operators, six truck drivers, 20 laborers and a paving crew of about 25. "We were just barely maintaining crews," says Balboni. "We had a rough winter. Our backlog is two thirds what it was." The project also features the latest in road construction technique such as improved drainage and paving methods and the re-use of materials that are removed as gravel.

Jeffrey Simon at Pittsfield Wastewater Treatment Plant
Simon's next stop was Pittsfield's Wastewater Treatment Plant which received $16 million in stimulus grants through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. The grants will fund the installation of a solar photovoltaic field; a combined heat and power system; an aeration system upgrade; and the replacement of the plant's bar-rack filtration system. "These projects will make us very unique when we're done," Pittsfield's Public Works Commissioner Bruce Collingwood told Simon. He noted that the projects could result in an average energy reduction of approximately 75 percent.

From Pittsfield, Simon went to the center of the town of Lenox, the site of the start of the Route 183 project, a 1.5 mile stretch of road that state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli calls "the main corridor of the Berkshires" as it is the route to Tanglewood, the famed musical retreat. As Bob Lahart, Tanglewood's facilities manager took Simon on a tour of the Tanglewood grounds, along with

Jeffrey Simon in Lenox Town Center
Lenox Town Manager Greg Federspiel and Peter Niles of the Massachusetts Highway Department, Pignatelli noted that 350,000 people visited Tanglewood last year and emphasized its economic impact on the region. The project, which is receiving $3.6 million in stimulus funding, will provide much-needed restoration and improvements to the pavement, drainage and sidewalks on this route.

The Hazen Paper Company also needed some stimulus help and Simon went there next to see the impact of its award. Hazen had purchased the Rising Mill in the village of Housatonic from

Jeffrey Simon and Rep. Smitty Pignatelli at Hazen Paper Company
Neenah Paper which had shut it down, laying off 140 employees. Hazen's plan to reopen the mill and get some area people back to work was put on hold when a few small areas of contamination were discovered. The company received $30,000 in stimulus funds for the environmental assessment of the contamination and its operations are back online.

As Rep. Pignatelli pointed out to Simon, when Hazen stepped forward to purchase the mill, "it was a big help to the community. To have these folks here is very exciting," he added. Tim McDonald, vice president of technical services for Hazen noted that for the first six months, when he walked around town wearing his Hazen jacket, people would stop him and say thank you.

"Getting the stimulus money allowed us to do things that needed to be done," said McDonald.

Those are the words, Simon said, he came out west to hear.