Eclipse Residents Query Mayor on Collapsing Neighbor
By: By Stephanie Farrington On: 09:33AM / Wednesday September 14, 2011
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 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.
Two Challenge Alcombright; Barrett Tries For Council
By: Staff Reports On: 07:13PM / Tuesday August 09, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This year's municipal elections should prove interesting, with a mayoral preliminary and a full slate for council that includes the state's longest-serving mayor.
Should all of the City Council candidates be certified, it will result in one of the largest fields in the past decade. At least three newcomers will be elected.
Mayor Richard Alcombright will face off against Council President Ronald Boucher and newcomer Robert Martelle in September; the two highest votegetters will go on to the general election in November. Alcombright is seeking a second term in the corner office while Boucher is completing his sixth term.
All three mayoral candidates have been certified and will appear on the ballot.
Among the 18 candidates who have turned in papers for City Council, the standout name is John Barrett III.
Barrett served 13 terms as mayor before being ousted by Alcombright in 2009. It's been rumored for months that he might run for office again, possibly taking on Alcombright for a rematch. But Barrett, who's recently showed up at City Council meeting to chastise its members, waited until deadline day to take out and return nomination papers for council.
He's not the only political veteran to delay a decision. Alan Marden, Marie Harpin and Michael Bloom, all with seven or more terms under their belts, hadn't planned on running this year until it became apparent that next year's City Council would be light on experience.
Councilors Lisa Blackmer, David Bond and Keith Bona were the first to pull papers; Blackmer is seeking a third time, Bond his second. Bona is also seeking a second term although he has past experience on the council.
Michael Boland and David Lamarre, who was appointed to fill the seat left vacant by state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi earlier this year, have both declined to run again. Lamarre, however, will seek a seat on the School Committee. Boucher is running for mayor.
Another council veteran who returned papers, Diane Gallese-Parsons, served three terms a decade ago. Past candidates running include Gregory Roach and Eric Buddington, along with newcomers Nancy P. Bullett, Robert Cardimino, Chatherine Chaput, James B. Gyurasz, Michael Hernandez, Jennifer Breen Kirsh, Kellie A. Morrison and Gail Sellers.
The nine highest vote-getters will be elected to the council. One more candidate would have triggered a preliminary election since 18 is the maximum. However, only seven of the 18 candidates have so far had their nomination signatures certifed by the city clerk's office: Buddington, Cardimino, Bond, Gyurasz, Bona, Bullett and Kirsch.
Three people, Shane Gaudreau, Roland Gardner and Brian Flagg, took out papers but did not return them.
Returning papers for School Committee are incumbents Mary Lou Acetta and Lawrence Taft; William B. Schrade Jr. decided not to stand for re-election. Newcomers challenging the incumbents are Lamarre, Tara Jacobs and Leonard Giroux Jr.
George Canales is running for re-election to the McCann School Committee, leaving one North Adams seat empty because Hernandez is running for City Council.
By: Tammy Daniels On: 11:05PM / Tuesday July 26, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night approved a revised fiscal 2012 budget of $35,074,495, reflecting some $462,515 more in cuts for the so-called "Plan B" budget.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said the reductions reflected the "will of the voters," who rejected his bid for a $1.2 million override in June to balance the budget.
"During the override discussions, I heard that people wanted local government to downsize spending holding the line with a budget that's more reflective of a population that's been in decline for many years," he said in a prepared statement to the council.
The mayor said the 2012 budget reflects a 3.2 percent decrease, or $1.125 million in cuts, over the past two years.
The city's nearly $1 million deficit has been reduced to about $423,000 (not counting some $560,000 in underfunded accounts in the school department being covered by school-choice funds). The shortfall will be funded between anticipated increases in state aid and more than a half-million in reserves and free cash.
Councilor Alan Marden, a member of the Finance Committee, reads the line item reductions of $462,000 more for fiscal 2012.
The council unanimously approved the budget, with Councilors President Ronald Boucher and Michael Bloom absent, despite urging from former Mayor John Barrett III to question accounts such as salaries and questionable water-treatment plant savings.
"There are a lot of other questions that haven't been asked that should be asked," said Barrett, who is considering a rematch against Alcombright after being ousted in 2009. "It's being done in subcommittee, it's not being done in the full view ...
"When I was mayor, I always brought and went through it step by step, line item by line item explaining why there were shortages," he said. "What [voters] wanted to see was some accountability."
The city will still be taxing to its levy limit to fund this year's budget.
Residential taxes will rise 41 cents per $1,000 valuation, or about $61.50 on home valued at $150,000.
The commerical rate will increase about 90 cents.
Mayor Alcombright said he would not shift more to the residential side but said there could be other ways to ease the commercial tax burden.
Alcombright objected, saying "the Finance Committee met, literally, for hours and hours on this budget. ... I don't think there was anything that was unanswered and, quite honestly, I don't think there was anything unasked."
"Where were the questions — I did question it — when we transferred in $1.8 million in December '09 to reduce the budget?" he countered. "That started my administration with a $3.2 million deficit."
Barrett responded, "We had the money available to keep the tax rate down. I make no apologies for that I make no apologies for doing it in 1991, 1992 or any other time."
The two, not suprisingly, also differed on the medical insurance trust fund, the semantics of audits and mismanagement, and the back and forth began to resemble a campaign debate before Council Vice President Lisa Blackmer, presiding in the absence of Boucher (who is also considering a run), brought it to a close.
In other business:
• The mayor provided an opinion from the city solicitor finding that Berkshire Family and Individual Resources' residential home on Lorraine Drive was a permitted use. Neighbors on the street had petitioned that the nonprofit BFAIR was operating a business and should not be allowed to operate a home for the disabled and developmentally challenged.
• Approved a five-year lease agreement for an all-terrain mower for $39,000, nearly $43,000 with an interest rate of 4.75, with option to buy at the end. Councilor Alan Marden voted against after advocating buying the mower outright rather than paying annually.
• The mayor reported that the city will get $700,000 back from the $880,000 held for Blue Cross Blue Shield for the runout — or unexpired claims — as the city switched away from self-insurance. Alcombright said the funds will wipeout the city's $680,000 liability with the state.
The agenda for Tuesday's meeting can be found here; the new budget numbers can be found here. Note that the final reduction is $5,000 more because of a a math error. Edited since posting to remove confusing language.
Boucher Eyes Corner Office; Incumbents In No Hurry
By: Staff Reports On: 08:41PM / Wednesday July 20, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This year's municipal election could see a significant turnover on the City Council with at least three veteran councilors not running for re-election
With a deadline to submit papers only three weeks away, only three current council members have so far taken out papers: Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona and David Bond.
Council President Ronald A. Boucher has taken out papers for the corner office. Boucher has gone back and forth on whether to run for mayor, announcing just a couple weeks ago on his public-access show that he'd decided against a run.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright announced his intention to run for a second term in April. The North Adams Transcript reported on Thursday that former Mayor John Barrett III may also throw his hat into the ring.
Councilor Marie Harpin said she has not yet decided whether to try for an eighth term but a number of constituents have asked her to run. Councilor David Lamarre, who was appointed to complete the term of Gailanne Cariddi after her election to the Legislature, said he has not ruled out another run. Longtime Councilor Alan Marden is said to be weighing a decision.
Another veteran councilor and several-times president, Michael Bloom, said he probably will not run and wants to spend more time with his family. Councilor Michael Boland informed us Thursday morning that he "will not be running for council again."
Two newcomers have already returned papers: Kellie A. Morrison and Robert Cardimino. Cardimino has been a frequent critic of the council and the mayor since the 2009 election.
Those who have taken out papers but have not returned them yet are: Catherine Chaput, a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts student; James B. Gyurasz; former Councilor Diane M. Gallese-Parsons; and Roland G. Gardner.
Taking out papers for School Committee are Leonard Giroux Jr. and Tara J. Jacobs. George Canales has taken out papers for the McCann School Committee.
The deadline to return nomination papers with the signatures of 50 registered voters to the city clerk's office is Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 5 p.m.
This post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available.
By: Tammy Daniels On: 11:08PM / Tuesday July 12, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night authorized the transfer of $786,441.46 from a number of departments to close out the city's books for fiscal 2011.
The amounts ranged from $2,627 from the wire and alarm account to $225,000 from the School Department to balance the books in other accounts, including significant overruns in police ($264,000) and fire ($180,279) salaries because of overtime, disabilities and four officers away at academy.
"It is lengthy but no different than any other year," said Mayor Richard Alcombright of the number of transfers. "This is required to be done by July 15."
The mayor told the council that he had kept the Finance Committee informed of existing overruns, which included a significant deficit in the veterans service account that required a $164,000 transfer from free cash, emptying that account
Councilor Marie Harpin is sworn in by City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau for service on the Housing Authority Board. Harpin was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick as the state representative on the board.
"While we have overruns due to spending increases in school and city departments, we were able to hold back in many areas," he said. "We're fortunate that with exception of free cash transferred two weeks ago and a $50,000 order you will see coming next from reserves, we were able to cover all other expenses in this year's budget despite a $400,000 shortfall in local receipts."
Councilor Lisa Blackmer questioned the small amount — $4,198.36 — transferred from the tourism department considering the director had left in March. Alcombright, after confirming with Business Manager Nancy Ziter, said that account, like a number of others, had not been emptied.
All unexpended funds from each fiscal year are rolled over into free cash once the books are certified by the Department of Revenue.
"The cost savings we projected were somewhere in the $30,000 to $40,000 range and after [Public Works Commissioner Timothy Lescarbeau] did some analysis, it was closer to $70,000 to $75,000 that we saved," said the mayor.
The council also approved a $50,000 transfer from the landfill reserve account to the Department of Public Safety's trash removal service account as a "buffer" in case unanticipated bills come in. If nothing comes in, the money will fall into free cash.
Resident Robert Cardimino asked how much was left in the city reserves. Alcombright said there was zero in the free cash account after the last transfer; about $310,000 in the stabilization and, after the transfer, $212,000 in the combined landfill and parking meter reserve accounts.
The mayor said he expected to dip into the reserves to help in balancing the fiscal 2012 budget. Last year, the city used some $1.2 million from what was left in the land sale account to balance the fiscal 2011 budget.
"There was not a lot in there but we just found out today that about $75,000 more is coming our way in state aid," he said, adding the passage of the state budget this week also holds up hope for more funds from some $65 million targeted to local aid.
Meanwhile, the deficit has been cut from more than $1 million to $404,000. The mayor expects to present the Plan B budget at the next meeting.
In other business:
• The council approved the rappointment of Pearl Mullett to the Housing Authority and the appointment of Ross Jacobs, an alternate on the Zoning Board, to complete the term of permanent member Ernest Gamache and for Gregory Roach to fill out Jacobs' term, both terms ending next year.
• Approved a request by Ernest Dix of Clarksburg to connect to the city's water system.
• Heard a statement in open forum by Mark Trottier addressing the importance of allowing residents to speak to the council.
• A request from Big Shirl's Kitchen owners Renee and Mark Lapier to allow their establishment to offer "bring your own bottle."
:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
:: General Election: Deadline to register is Tuesday, Oct. 18
Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Absentee ballots are now available at the city clerk's office for the Sept. 27 preliminary city election. Voters may come in between the hours of 8 and 4:30 weekdays. Written reguests for mailed ballots can be sent to City Clerk's Office, 10 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247. Deadline for absentee ballots is Monday, Sept. 26, at noon.
The preliminary election will be held Tuesday, Sept. 27, to narrow the field of three mayoral candidates to two. The general election to select nine city councilors and a mayor will be held Tuesday, Nov. 8.