Saturday, June 15, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

HomeNewsLee officials make...

Lee officials make second request to three Rest of River towns, seeking approval to access privileged documents

The proposal will allow insight into the decision to put a toxic-waste facility in town.

Lee — The Select Board voted unanimously on May 21 to execute a letter to the select boards of Great Barrington, Lenox, and Stockbridge, requesting a decision on a resolution that would release unredacted attorney-client-privileged documents from executive sessions belonging to the now-defunct Housatonic River Rest of River Municipal Committee, documents that could show how Lee was selected as the site for a Superfund landfill.

The action follows a December 5, 2023, decision and subsequent request by the Lee Select Board to seek the records from the former committee that was comprised of representatives from five towns involved in a 2020 remediation permit: Great Barrington, Lee, Lenox, Sheffield, and Stockbridge. That permit—which provided a plan to clean up the Housatonic River following decades of General Electric Company (GE) depositing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the waterway from its Pittsfield plant—placed an Upland Disposal Facility (UDF), or toxic-waste repository, in Lee for the least polluted of the materials dredged from the Housatonic River, while the more potent PCB-laden sludge and sediment would be taken out of the area. Lee residents have long opposed the local UDF, maintaining that the towns involved in the permit and the Environmental Protection Agency held negotiations in private sessions that weren’t open to the public.

The Housatonic Rest of River Municipal Committee was created in 2013, and its members were tasked with pushing for increased cleanup of the waterway. It was dissolved on December 19, 2023.

Although approval for the measure was requested from the five associated towns about five months ago, only Sheffield and Lee have voted, with those actions assenting to the document release. To date, Great Barrington, Lenox, and Stockbridge have not responded. Gordon Bailey, who was approved as the Lee Select Board’s new chair at the May 21 meeting, said Rest of River Municipal Committee meeting minutes were obtained but not minutes covering the committee’s executive sessions. To release the executive session minutes, approvals by all five towns’ select boards are required, he said.

“We believe the time has come for the public to understand how we got to where we are,” Bailey said, quoting the letter to be sent to Great Barrington, Lenox, and Stockbridge select boards.

Lee Select Board member Robert “Bob” Jones, who was the town’s representative to the Rest of River Municipal Committee, said some individuals believe the executive session minutes should have been made public “from the beginning.” “The people of Lee and all the residents of the boards of those five towns deserve to know factually how we got to this point where we potentially have a toxic-waste dump in the town of Lee and Berkshire County,” he said. “This is not a trivial matter.”

Jones said he received a phone call from Stockbridge Select Board member Patrick White just prior to the meeting who “assured [him] that he has publicly said that he believes those minutes should all be released as soon as possible, and he will continue to support our efforts.”

In response to a request for comment from The Berkshire Edge, Great Barrington Town Manager Mark Pruhenski replied on May 22 that the town’s Select Board “has not discussed this topic as of today—so I’m unable to comment.” Town administrators for Lenox and Stockbridge did not reply to a request for comment by press time.

Select Board acts on requests by new restaurants

A public hearing resulted in a unanimous decision granting a liquor license to Lee’s new eatery, Jalisco Cantina Mexican Cafe. Owned by Patricia de la Paz, who was represented at the meeting by Pittsfield attorney Darren Lee, the Main Street restaurant opened earlier this month and was granted operating hours of 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends. It serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The restaurant was also unanimously approved for a Common Victualler license that allows for food service in a sit-down setting.

Another new Main Street restaurant, Appetito (D&G Hospitality LLC), was granted a Bring Your Own Bottle (BYOB) 30-day permit by the Select Board at the session. Owned by Café Triskele’s Rebecca and Gilbert Clerget, Appetito occupies the former Timothy’s Pizzeria and Restaurant and will focus on gourmet pizzas, salads, charcuterie, pasta, and arancini.

Openings for public participation on two new committees

Town Administrator Christopher Brittain announced the creation of two new committees—Building Committee for New Public Safety Facility and Building Re-Use Committee—that will be seeking two at-large members from the public for each group. The former pertains to a new project approved by voters at the May 14 election, with the latter operating to determine the appropriate use for the town’s historic fire station. Bailey will serve on the Building Committee, and Jones will serve on the Re-Use Committee. Residents interested in serving on these committees are encouraged to send a resume and cover letter to

Other matters

According to Brittain, the town received 15 applications to date for its planner position, including a potential jobseeker from Europe. With interviews beginning soon, he said the person filling the opening will be in place by the beginning of the fiscal year, at the latest.

The Select Board also approved a letter supporting a Berkshire bikeway grant that aims to connect towns through the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail; requests for signage by the Chamber of Commerce at the Lee Farmers’ Market and for its summer celebration; a one-day wine and malt license to the Lee Fire Company; and Berkshire Gas permits for 69–73 Main Street, 60 Cliffwood Street, and 46 Tabar Avenue.

Lee’s Memorial Day Parade will take place on Monday, May 27, beginning at 10 a.m. on Main Street, followed by a ceremony at the Fairmount Cemetery on Greylock Street.


The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

Continue reading

Monument Valley Road Construction Begins Week of 6/17

During the week the road will be limited to local traffic only between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.

West Stockbridge, officials named in lawsuit filed by owners of mobile-home park

The town states that it is prepared to defend the decision of the Rent Control Board.

Dancing and music at First Fridays at Five event in Pittsfield

The event is scheduled to include a vendor fair and live performances all throughout the summer season.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.