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.
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School Building Committee Sets Meeting
I. Call to order
II. Reading and Approval of Records
a. Minutes of 27 July 2011
III. Project Status Overview
IV. Project Scope – 620 vs. 310 student school/s solutions
V. School building options: Greylock, Sullivan and /or Conte
a. Building Committee vote on size of project and choice of school building/s
VI. Schedule – MSBA Feasibility Study Extension Timeline
a. Building Committee vote on approval of schedule to complete Feasibility Study and Schematic Design Phase
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Building Committee will meet Thursday, Aug. 11, at 6 p.m. in the lower level conference room at Conte Middle School.
School officials are expecting to continue the discussion on the school building project's direction taken up at the last meeting.
Officials are debating the wisdom of moving forward with a two-school solution for the educational needs of 620 pupils in Grades kindergarten through 7. While the Massachusetts School Building Authority has agreed on the number of students and the continuation of the K-7 alignment, it has not specifically endorsed a two-school solution.
Sullivan School parents have also forcefully rejected the idea of closing Sullivan in favor of a more cost-effective Conte School renovation. The general consensus has also rejected building one large school but there seems to be agreement on either renovating or building a new Greylock School.
School officials are now debating whether to proceed with two schools, which would require a Proposition 2 1/2 debt exclusion vote and an inevitably controversial decision on Sullivan or Conte. The other option would be to put forward one school, which would likely not need a debt exclusion vote but would only solve the educational needs of half the students.
The MSBA's approval in either instance is not assured.
School and city officials are looking to the public for more input and residents are encouraged to attend next Thursday's meeting. The project status from the last meeting is below.
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Sons of Italy Sold to Redevelopment Authority
|The Sons of Italy has been sold twice in the last year. The newest owner is the Redevelopment Authority.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The North Adams Redevelopment Authority has purchased the former Sons of Italy building for $150,000 from Deborah Renzi and K & M Nominee Trust of Pittsfield.
The money was taken from the HSP/Redevelopment Authority Account, which after the purchase has a balance of $150,000.
In a message to the City Council, Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said the purchase was to ensure overflow parking for Western Gateway Heritage State Park after an attempt to negotiate parking in return for an easement to hook into the city's sewer line.The property was purchased for $75,000 by Michael Renzi and Kurt Hotspot in spring 2010 with the idea of developing the building at 1492 Christopher Columbus Drive. The Sons had put the building up for sale in 2006 as its membership aged and declined. More than half its members were over the age of 80, Sons of Italy Lodge 704 Trustee Paul Catelotti said last year.
Renzi and Hotspot were aware of the septic issues but hoping to overcome them to develop the property into studio or retail space.
Alcombright explained the reasoning for the purchase in his communication to the council, posted below:
Last year, two gentlemen from Pittsfield purchased the Sons of Italy building. As the building had a failed septic system, they wanted an easement to hook on to city sewer. As I thought through the process, I determined that the City has no "legal" parking rights in the Son's lot for what we refer to as the overflow parking for Heritage State Park (HSP).
In the ensuing months, I negotiated with the owners to give the city an easement for the parking in exchange for an easement for the sewer. They would not give the easement. My persistence with wanting the easement on the parking was determined by the following:
1. Parking has always been limited at the park and in that respect, limits potential growth whether owned by the city or held in the private sector.
2. As the Department of Conservation and Recreation has committed to locating a visitors office in HSP in 2013, this will give the park considerably more exposure as the North Side Visitors Center [for Mount Greylock State Reservation] and have the potential of putting tens of thousands of visitors through the park annually.
3. This, combined with the completion of the bridge, potential capital improvements at the park and a good marketing plan could drive more retail or arts-based businesses back into the park, also increasing the need for parking.
Additionally, the Sons of Italy building and land is the only parcel not owned by the Redevelopment Authority from the entrance on West Main all the way down to the Apkin property. There have been discussions with the city and the Partnership for North Adams with respect to future passenger rail and/or some sort of tourist/scenic rail. The Partnership has been in conversation with Pan Am as well as Berkshire Scenic Railroad and while this concept is still far away, it is something that could certainly come to fruition.
With the owners not willing to give an easement on the parking, I could not risk losing that parking and as time passed, the owners threatened to block all parking and access to park customers ... and at one point did chain off the parking. With no clear rights to the parking, I spoke with the city solicitor and he advised me that a purchase of the property would be the best solution and would avoid a court case and prolonged litigation should the owners continue to barricade the lot and prevent HSP parking (which they were prepared to do). The priority then became to find a way to assure the city retain that area and assure adequate parking for the park.
In May, I began negotiations with the owners to purchase the property and last month, I met in executive session with the Redevelopment Authority to discuss the details of that purchase. The Authority approved the negotiated purchase of the Sons of Italy building for a price of $150,000 and authorized me to act on behalf of the Authority through the city solicitor to finalize the purchase. The property was purchased on Tuesday, July 19.
Please know that the funds for this purchase came from the HSP/Redevelopment Authority Account which after the purchase has a remaining balance of approximately $150,000. No "city" money was used for this purchase.
I will be happy to answer any further questions at the council meeting.
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Airport Hosting Big-Screen Movie Night
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Remember movie nights at Coury's Drive-in, or its sister the Hoosac Drive-in just south of the border?
Ahh, those days are long gone for the city. Or are they?
Area residents can get a taste of what it's like to watch a movie under the stars on Friday, Aug. 5, when "The Great Waldo Pepper" screens on what Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is touting as the "largest movie screen in the Berkshires": the airplane hanger at Harriman & West Airport.
The museum is sponsoring the 1975 Robert Redford film on the 90-by-22-foot airplane hanger door. Seating will be on the tarmac, so moviegoers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on.
"The Great Waldo Pepper" appropriately features then-hearthrob Redford as a World War I flying ace turned 1920s barnstormer and offers up some daring pre-CGI flying feats (all on a $5 million budget!).
To get in the mood, the evening will begin with a display of planes and antique cars. The first 100 kids will receive balsa-wood gliders and will be able to compete for prizes for the longest flight, best acrobatics and worst crash.
Local vendors will be selling hot dogs, hamburgers, snacks, soft drinks, beer and wine, and, of course, popcorn.
"It's not quite a drive-in since you can't watch the film from your car, but it's close," said Joseph Thompson, director of Mass MoCA. "Pack your cars with family, friends, chairs and blankets, see a spectacular film under the stars, and check out the airport scene."
Gates open at 7; a selection of flying cartoons begins at 8:15 and the main feature starts just after 8:30.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for kids; or load up the car for a special price of $14. Tickets are available only at the door.
In case of rain, the film and all activities will be moved to Sunday, Aug. 7.
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City Gets $1M Community Block Grant
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — North Adams is getting $1 million in Community Development Block Grant funds, some of which will go toward the Armory rehabilitation.
The grant was announced on Thursday by Gov. Deval Patrick's office. Some 41 cities and towns will receive $28 million in the federal funds for housing, development and public service projects.
The aged Armory is in the midst of a $5 million renovation to create space for community events and social services.
Part of the $1 million will be used for parking improvements at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink and city's abandoned property program.
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