Solar Power Partnership Wants to Expand Usage
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The installation of a solar array at the landfill will heat up opportunities for residents, businesses and the city to take greater advantage of sun power.
Blue Wave Capital, with partners Consolidated Edison, installer Alteris Renewables and engineering firm Tighe & Bond, was selected by the city to install a 2 megawatt array at the landfill. The installation, one of the largest per capita in the state, is expected to generate between 25 and 30 percent of the city's power.
"This seems to be the perfect partnership," Mayor Richard Alcombright told the City Council on Tuesday. "I don't think we find a stronger financing partner than ConEd."
ConEd is financing the project and will lease the landfill and own the array, selling the power back to the city at a locked-in, lower rate over the next two decades. The city could have the option of buying the array after six years.
"Three out of every four years, electricity prices have gone up," said John DeVillars, manager of Blue Wave Capital, in presenting the project to the council. "It will be a very precise price ... it's a hedge against what every energy economist predicts will be substantial increases."
Alcombright and DeVillars said they were looking at other municipal locations, such as the airport, former wastewater plant and Drury High School, as possibilities for arrays.
DeVillars said once the municipal side was done, Blue Wave would work with the city in outreach to the community on solar use. Alteris Renewables, the region's largest solar panel installer, has a "zero down" program for residences and businesses. Working with SunRun, a provider of residential solar electricity, homeowners could apply for solar installations for minimal or even zero investment.
Further, DeVillars said for every five homeowners who sign on for a panel, the partnership would donate one for a community or municipal facility.
"This hasn't really been tried yet in the way we envision this," he said. "We hope we could use it as a community organizing tool."
For example, parishioners could band together to target a church or hall for solar; a neighborhood could select community center or city building.
In response to a question from Councilor Alan Marden, DeVillars said the installation would create short-term jobs as Alteris is committed to subcontracting with local companies to install the arrays.
DeVillars expected the array to be up and running by the end of the year to take advantage of state and federal tax incentives.
In other business:
• Discussed changes to a vendor bylaw were postponed until July 12. The issue was raised last summer but stalled in the General Government Committee.
"I don't think there's an easy answer to this; currently, what's in the books is working, there's some flexibility there," said committee Chairman Keith Bona. "We can still talk about it in General Government more ... .
The mayor suggested it be postponed to "see how things go through the Wilco weekend."
• An order on renaming a section of Summer Street for former resident and horticulturist Lue Gim Gong was filed at the motion of Councilor Michael Bloom. Bloom said there did not appear to be support on the council or in the community for the change but urged historian Paul Marino, who raised the idea, to work with the Historial Commission on a more appropriate memorial.
• The council adopted the state's anti-idling law at the behest of the Board of Health and on the recommendation of the Public Safety Committee. The "adoption" merely indicates support for the law, which is in effect statewide.
• Approved an economic development opportunity area for the North Adams Transcript site on American Legion Drive and minor changes suggested by MassDevelopment to the tax incentive financing agreement with Scarafoni Associates that will allow the property to be purchased and renovated for the Brien Center.
• Approved restructuring of bond debt.
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Alcombright Wants Less Bureaucracy For Vendors
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright does not want bureaucracy to stand in the way of issuing permits to street carts.
When revising an ordinance to include a procedure for street carts, the council requested a committee to be formed to oversee special events and vendors but fearful that it will drive business away from the city, Alcombright insisted the process should be streamlined and handled internally.
"I think we need to get away from committees and handle it internally first," Alcombright said at Tuesday's City Council meeting. "I think that if you talk to many of the merchants and people trying to organize events in the city, you’ll find they say the bureaucracy is what gets in the way the most."
The mayor's office has been discussing a way to manage vendors and will report to the council in February. That group is creating a checklist for events to ease the process.
Councilor Lisa M. Blackmer expressed concern that the work put into crafting the ordinance will be lost but Alcombright emphasized that it is only a mention of a subcommittee that he would like to change.
Also regarding events, Councilor Keith Bona said that during last year's Wilco concert a few local restaurants did not apply to extend its liquor license in time and had to stop serving early. Another Wilco concert is planned for this summer and restaurant owners need to be up to date with their permits.
"There is no reason it has to be 11 o'clock," Alcombright said. "We'll make sure everything is as it should be."
The mayor also attempted to halt rumors that the new stoplights on Main and Marshall streets are used for surveillance. Other cities have used the cameras to take photos of license plates of speeders or cars that run red lights. Though these cameras have the ability to do that, the city could not afford to equip them with that programming.
"This is not a Big Brother thing," Alcombright said. "These are strickly sensors."
The Marshall Street lights are using sensors to determine traffic flow and switch the lights but the lights on Main Street are back on a timer system, he said. Use of the sensors was causing traffic jams downtown so the city went back to timers.
However, there have been a lot of rumors that the cameras were surveillance and even Councilor Marie Harpin initially asked where the photos were being sent.
The city also approved an ordinance that requires residents who host tag sales to remove the signs within two days or else be fined.
Councilor Alan L. Marden asked if the timeframe could be cut to only a day but councilors responded by saying that the people the city will be after for violations are those who leave them up for longer than two days.
Bona emphasized that the ordinance will be meaningless unless it is enforced.
"It's something we're putting in the books but who knows if it'll be enforced," he said.
Councilor Gailanne Cariddi requested that the Traffic Commission review places that have received complaints. Those complaints include cars having to turn around when going west on Main Street to reach Route 2, a short crossing signal for seniors crossing Ashland Street to get to the high rise and speeding on North Street.
The commission will be called and the council will rehash the issue in February.
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North Adams Panel Takes Up Vendor Rules
David Lewis said limiting the number of vendor licenses was valid. 'We don't want to put anyone out of business.'
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee's looking to update the city's peddling ordinance but will first have to answer a few questions.
The matter was passed to the City Council subcommittee earlier this summer after a hot dog cart sparked complaints from some local businesses and after a boost in vendor applications for the Solid Sound Festival. The panel members Chairwoman Gailanne Cariddi, Lisa Blackmer and Keith Bona met Monday in the City Council chambers with Health Inspector Manuel Serrano.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, while supporting the vendors efforts and enthusiasm, was concerned that the definitions of hawkers and peddlers as outlined in the city's current ordinance were not clear and forwarded to the committee a bylaw adopted by Adams earlier this year.
"I think one of the main concerns or issues is public safety," said Serrano. "Street vendors whether they're selling food or products, it has to be safe to do so."
Serrano said any food vendors have to be licensed by the Board of Health and have SafeSERV certification; others need a license, including anyone who has more than three tag sales a year at the same address. Those with state licenses still need to register with the police.
"For instance, the [Fall Foliage Festival] Parade, all hawkers, peddlers have to register," he said. "We'll issue them badges so the public knows they're registered with us."
Blackmer said there was a concern of vendors operating outside established venues. "You don't want to hurt existing business but you don't want to discourage entrepreneurship," she said, adding that the more happening in the downtown the better. "But you have to make sure there's enough of the pie."
Vendors should perhaps get permission from other competing businesses, said Bona, before setting up in the downtown.
Serrano said it was up to the city to decide whether it wanted to limit the number of vendor licenses or where such vendors could operate.
Committee members listen as Health Inspector Manuel Serrano explains how the city licenses different vendors.
The exception, all agreed, was in the case of special events during which food and other vendors would be encouraged to set up. Serrano questioned whether that would include SteepleCat games or youth activities, and how broadly such a policy would be written.
David Lewis, who operates the hot dog cart Guys and Dogs on Saturdays with Vincent Melito, objected to the panel members desire to safeguard businesses.
"When I was in my several businesses, I wish that someone would have regulated my competition," he said, adding that he and Melito had gone out of their way not to intrude on other eateries. "We did it for foot traffic. ... We thought it would be a nice segue from Mass MoCA to the Hub."
Jennifer Barbeau, who's organizing Saturday's annual Fall Foliage Arts & Crafts Fair, also stressed that not having a storefront doesn't mean the operator isn't contributing to the city. Barbeau, who operates two businesses out of her home, also wanted the panel to keep in mind that crafters aren't necessarily in the same league as reguler vendors.
Bona agreed, saying that many are more hobbyists than businesspeople.
Cariddi said the panel would take into consideration the comments from those in attendance, which also included Gail and Phil Sellers, Councilors Ronald Boucher and Marie Harpin, Rhea Lewis and tourism director Rod Bunt.
The panel members will consider definitions for vendors and special events, and consider a range of vendor limits. The next meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 5:30 in the council chambers.
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