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Rest of River, Berkshire Museum and others affected by shutdown

By Hannah Shirley

With the federal government shutdown now in its second month,  the effects are hitting Berkshire County in more ways than one.

Jane Winn, executive director for the Berkshire Environmental Action Team, said the Rest of River project to clean up the Housatonic River has been put on pause while the Environmental Protection Agency is shut down.

A Citizen’s Coordinating Council meeting, a quarter-annually meeting for General Electric, the EPA and the state to update residents on the progress of the project, was supposed to be held Jan. 9. That meeting was postponed for the same reasons.

“It’s very frustrating not only to have that meeting and the mediation shut down, but any progress on the non-disputed parts of the cleanup are shut down as well,” Winn said.

Winn went on to say that at the Citizen’s Coordination Council meeting, residents were supposed to be updated on testing done on chemicals that were leaching toward the river as well as the testing of the cap in Silver Lake in Pittsfield.

“Already I’m furious it wasn’t meeting their specifications and they didn’t take actions, so I want to know if it’s getting worse,” she said. “We don’t meet often enough and we can’t get enough information to begin with,” she said.

Multiple galleries in the Berkshire Museum also sit empty because of the shutdown, said the museum’s Chief Experience Officer Craig Langolis.

The museum was meant to receive 40 full-size working models of Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions last week for their exhibit “Leonardo da Vinci: Machines in Motion,” scheduled to open Jan. 26. However, at the time that the government shut down, the machines were being displayed at the George H. W. Bush Library in College Station, Texas.

Now, Langolis said, the exhibition is essentially locked inside the library.

“My understanding is that only federal employees can access the archive side of that library, which is where the exhibition is currently being held, because of the shutdown.”

Langolis said they are currently working with Evergreen Exhibitions, the company that owns the exhibition, to try to get the machines out of the library.

However, he said, the museum is also working on contingency plans in case they learn they won’t receive the exhibition until after the shutdown is over — one idea, he said, is developing an exhibition related to the civics of government shutdowns.

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