Public Safety Committee OKs Montana Parking Ban
The overnight parking ban would cover Montana from Hoosac to Bond, all within the campus area,
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Safety Committee will recommend the City Council amend its parking regulations to ban overnight parking on Montana Street between Hoosac and Bond streets.
Instituting a year-round winter parking ban on the residential street comes at the request of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts because of the instances of students living on-campus parking in the street rather than in college parking lots. The overnight parking reduces the spaces for commuter students and residents of the neighborhood, according to college officials.
A couple councilors expressed concern at the last City Council meeting that instituting the ban was forcing the city to deal with student parking rather than the college. They also noted that the city's winter parking ban covered most of the college's academic year anyway.
"If I had another option I would propose it but this seems the least harmful to everyone," said James Stakenas, MCLA vice president of administration and finance, at the Public Safety Committee meeting on Monday. He said the college's public safety department would aid in any ticketing and enforcement.
Committee Chairman Alan Marden asked if the college was looking at long-range solutions for future growth, considering the construction of the new science center.
MaryAnn King, chairman of the Traffic Commission that had previously approved the request, expressed concern that students in the Townhouse dormitories were perforce having to park on the street because only one parking permit was being allowed with each three or four-person dorm.
Stakenas said 25 spots were being added across the street and that that college expected to stay at about 2,000 students over the next five years. However, he couldn't guarantee the ratio between on-campus and commuter students; this year, the number of commuter students has risen.
The committee also approved, pending approval from the state, the painting of the MCLA letters on two crosswalks on Ashland Street near the Townhouses and two on Church Street near the Berkshire Towers and its parking lot.
King said she had spoken to state officials who indicated to her that the state would not approve the lettering because of safety and liability concerns. The state must approve any street changes in the college area.
Stakenas said the college would still submit a letter seeking endorsement. "I'd like the opportunity to try."
|Write a comment - 7 Comments|
Eclipse Residents Query Mayor on Collapsing Neighbor
Some of the Eclipse Mill rooms have a disturbing view of the collapsed Hoosac Mill across the street.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright assured Eclipse Mill residents last Wednesday evening that the severely damaged Hoosac Mill across the street will be repaired.
The mayor was invited to attend the open forum by mill residents concerned with the progress on what is now called the NoAMA (North Adams, MA) building but made it clear that he was also available to answer other questions from the floor.
According to the mayor, mill owner Ariel Sutain has committed to demolishing the damaged sections of the roof by November. At that time, the mayor hopes he will also put forth a plan for the future of the structure.
Eclipse Mill residents expressed their concern over the safety and condition of their neighbor, which has been mainly used for storage.
The massive mill's "sawtooth roof" collapsed in several sections because of this past winter's heavy snows.
The city is cooperating with Sutain on this issue closely to encourage the would-be developer to stick with his investment and meet his responsibility to clean up and eventually develop the property.
"There needs to be a plan. It needs to be doable and we need to push forward with this," said Alcombright.
He continued, "The city will continue to press for an engineering report and plan. We may have dragged our feet somewhat on this but it's important to give the developer time to address the issues, the city cannot afford to be left with the responsibility for this building right now. The cost would be too high."
In the meantime, Sutain has promised to protect public safety by cordoning off the area of the sidewalk where bricks from the damaged structure are most likely to fall. He will also bear the cost of installing two new crosswalks.
Sutain has employed Dave Westall of Westall Associates to do engineering assessments in the past and the mayor said he is confident in Westall's assessment that the crumbling structure, although fragile, poses no immediate danger to the public.
There were a number of concerns about the proposed crosswalks, not least of which were for the safety of neighborhood residents who often encounter speeding cars coming around the curved road westbound and dangerously close to both mills.
Alcombright promised the city would take precautions to ensure the safety of pedestrians in the area as much as possible. Signage and lighting are under consideration. The road has too much traffic for speed bumps and speed limits are already quite low. The mayor also pointed out the inability of the city to spare the manpower to monitor drivers' speeds in the area.
The meeting soon turned into a flood damage update. A question was raised about the road to the Natural Bridge that's been rendered impassable by the flood.
According to the mayor, there is approximately $5 million in flood damage so far in the city. The state, MEMA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency will be able to help with repairs and funding as soon as assessments of the damage are available. However, it is unlikely that the park will be a priority since so many other more important roads in and out of town are also in need of repair.
"People have to get to work," said Alcombright. "So we have to have priorities. If you see the road open to the bridge before winter — it will be an amazing thing."
Mill residents were also concerned about gravel trucks going through town along Route 2 and then through Massachusetts Avenue.
According to the mayor, trucks working in Vermont have been rerouted because Williamstown roads cannot bear the load. Although the city of Williamstown has decided to disallow road crew trucks through their downtown core, the mayor says North Adams roads are safe enough to bear the weight so, for the time being, as long as these trucks keep to the speed limits and do not pose a hazard to residents, North Adams will continue to allow them to pass.
Money to do the work on roads washed out by the floods is available. As soon as it is possible to complete damage assessments, repairs will begin.
The mayor is available to speak to any community group wishing to hold a meeting. To arrange an appointment, call City Hall.
|Write a comment - 9 Comments|
Walmart Expected to Submit Plans for New Store
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is expected to file building permits as soon as this week to construct a 160,000 square foot Super Walmart on Curran Highway.
"Because we are getting so close to final design on the Walmart project we're going to be submitting applications for building permits shortly," attorney Jay Sabin, representing developer Ceruzzi Properties, told the Planning Board on Monday night.
Planners review changes requested for the Walmart project on Curran Highway in North Adams.
The announcement came during the board's approval of a boundary change to slice three acres off the 26-acre Walmart parcel and an alteration at the exit from the jughandle to the accessway to the parking lot.
Jon Brodeur, of engineering firm Doucet & Associates, confirmed the plans could be filed by the end of this week and said construction will take about a year once shovels are in the ground.
The board was thrilled to hear the project was moving forward but was concerned that moving the boundary line — eliminating land investigated by the state Department of Environmental Protection — would leave the tainted property as is.
"It's very important for us to know that by doing this that someone is ...," started Planner Donald Keagan, who had his sentence finished by Vice Chairman Paul Hopkins, "is not getting out of having to clean it."
Sabin said it would fall to Ceruzzi to remediate the problem and that plans have been made in cooperation with DEP.
"Walmart is very, very cautious when it comes to their acquisitions and the way that they look at this, very appropriately look at this, is that ... Walmart would rather see my client deal with that than deal with it themselves," he said. "Especially since it's a property they don't need."
Large concrete rubble was dumped on the 3-acre site without informing the DEP, which allows concrete fill crushed to no larger than 6 inches with approval. Sabin said other expected environmental cleanup will also take place on the property.
Walmart is expected to purchase the larger the parcel.
The board continued the public hearing of Snoford LLC to operate a package store until October because of concerns over the lack of site plans, parking and the owner's frequent violations of conditions and property tax issues. Charles "Rusty" Ransford and Thomas Snow are seeking to open the store at 76 Union St. building owned by Ransford under the name of the former Pops Package Store that was torn down some years ago.
The owners had received licensing to operate a package store after being denied an all-alcholic license last year. The hearing had also been delayed several times until back taxes owed on the property were paid.
The hearing, however, brought up more issues including the condition of the building and the amount of parking and possible requirement to pave the lot behind the building. The discussion revealed that a business the board was unaware of was using the building and that a condition on the Crystal Hard Hat that included leasing parking from Ransford was in dispute.
Planners considered whether to reject the application outright because of Ransford's past history. "I don't have any confidence no matter what we do that he will be in compliance," said Keagan.
However, the board voted to continue the hearing, giving Ransford a list of information it required and setting a site visit prior to the next meeting.
:: Approved the application for a change of use permit for Security Supply Corp. to operate a wholesale plumbing and heating business at 50 Roberts Drive. The company expects to close on the property this week.
:: Approved a special permit to change and upgrade signage for NBT Bank N.A., which is moving in the former Legacy Banks building on State Road, on condition the signs not be internally lit.
:: Approved an application of MCLA for properties located on Blackinton, Church and Porter streets. One lot will be gifted to the commonwealth of Massachusetts for the MCLA Science Center and lot two will remain with the MCLA Office of Admissions and Wellness Center.
:: Approved the extension of hours for Supreme Pizza until 11 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday and 1 a.m. from Thursday through Saturday.
:: Approved the installation of an exterior cooler on a concrete pad behind Desperados on Eagle Street. Owner David Atwell said the cooler will be framed and painted over to blend in.
|Write a comment - 17 Comments|
School Committee Endorses 2-School Plan
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee endorsed on Tuesday night the recommendation of the school building committee to pursue a two-school option.
The board reiterated some of the points made during the building committee's session last month in updating School Committee member William G. Schrade Jr., who had not been able to attend.
The school building committee unanimously voted to present the Massachusetts School Building Authority with a $52 million plan to build a new Greylock Elementary School and to renovate vacant Conte Middle School into an elementary school.
Parents of children at Sullivan School, which would be vacated, had expressed doubts about the safety of Conte in the downtown and lamented the loss of a the quiet neighborhood school.
Committee member Mary Lou Accetta said she had spoken to "a couple of dozen" protesting parents who have since been somewhat assured after the superintendent said their concerns would be address.
"I think that has mitigated a lot of the fear," said Accetta, who recalled that "one of the parents from Sullivan spoke very eloquently and said that the essence that was Sullivan School was going to go with it. .. that it wasn't the building but the sense of community."
Schrade his concern was that in voting for two schools, the entire project was endangered.
"I'm a parent of Sullivan; the school is in dire need," he said. "I just don't want to see two schools, actually, possibly be lost because of this situation."
Mayor Richard Alcombright, chairman of the School Committee, said school officials shared the same concern but were swayed by the confidence of Margo Jones, the project architect, that the SBA would at minimum authorize one school.
"She very strongly said if they don't allow two schools you'll get one," said Alcombright. "The hands just went up ... I think the vote was not only affirmative it had a lot of mustard in it."
The city will not know until November if the SBA will approve the project; should the state OK only one school, the mayor's opinion is that it would be Greylock.
"I think if it came down to one building, [the committee would] have to come together again, and take that through and figure out what the best solution is for the community," he said.
The School Committee voted unanimously to support the project; the mayor said he would bring a similar resolution to the City Council.
In other business:
:: The committee is closing in on completing a new policy handbook. The final sections were distributed for review.
:: The committee also discussed changes to policy on renting out the Drury auditorium. Superintendent James Montepare said the major change was to clarify that the very expensive audiovisual equipment was not included. Board members discussed raising the fee of $350 for for-profit renters.
:: The public schools will hold parent orientation programs on Tuesday, Sept. 13, from 6 to 7:30 at Brayton, Sullivan and Greylock elmentary schools. Parent orientation at Drury High will be Wednesday, Sept. 14, from 6:30 to 8:30 and will be preceded by a meeting for seniors and their parents at 5:30.
|Write a comment - 7 Comments|
North Adams Water Safe to Drink
Update: Windsor Lake is open as of 12:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 2.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There are rumors making the rounds about the quality of the water in North Adams. While Windsor Lake (Fish Pond) was closed on Wednesday because of a high bacteria count from runoff from Tropical Storm Irene, the city's drinking water system is safe.
"Berkshire Enviro would have told me [about any problems with the drinking water ] when they told me about the lake," said North Adams Health Inspector Manuel Serrano. "We have a treatment plant and it's doing its job just fine."
The lake was tested on Monday after the near-hurricane dropped more than 5 inches on the city. Berkshire Enviro-Labs Inc. of Lee reported results on Wednesday indicated high counts of bacteria.
Mayor Richard Alcombright immediately announced the closure of Fish Pond to all swimming, fishing and boating. Picnicking on the grounds is still allowed.
The storm also caused some beach erosion and washed out a few roads in the 100-site Historic Vally Park campground, which were being regraded in time for the Labor Day weekend.
Fish Pond is being monitored and tested on a daily basis. Serrano said a high bacteria count isn't unusual after significant runoff and churning. It was hoped the lake could reopen in time for the weekend.
|Write a comment - 0 Comments|