NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - the City Council has a light agenda on Tuesday night, with several postponed communications - which may be postponed again - and a handful of appointments.
Mayor Richard Alcombright is recommending two new appointments and the re-appointment of Kyle Hanlon to the Planning Board; the reappointment of Paul Marino to the Historical Commission and the appointment of Councilor Michael Boland to the Human Services Commission.
Also on the agenda:
• A request submitted to the city late last year to eliminate the industrial zoning behind the former K-K Home Mart building. The 3-acre parcel owned by Curran Highway Development LLC is split into two zones - commercial and industrial - with the commercial zoning being the predominate. The council had submitted the matter to the city solicitor before making a decision.
• A communication from the mayor on a new ordinance and fees for hawkers and peddlers. The mayor is objecting to a suggestion for a separate panel to oversee events. "Another level of bureaucracy would only add steps to an already confusing process," wrote the mayor.
• A communication from former Councilor Gailanne Cariddi on a traffic concerns.
The full agenda and minutes from the last meeting can be read below.
Drury High School Principal Amy Meehan holds up one of the portfolios created for NAEYC accreditation.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's kindergarten and preschool programs have been given high marks by the National Association for the Education of Young Children after two years of review for accreditation. The programs were last accredited in 2006.
"It is a boatload of work," said Superintendent James Montepare, pointing to the oversized, filled-to-bursting notebooks stacked along the window at Tuesday's School Committee meeting. "All the kindergarten teachers, the preschool teachers, I can't tell you how many hundreds of hours they spent."
Melodie Goodwin, curriculum coordinator, said the portfolios were created by the teachers in the nine kindergarten and four preschool programs and represented evidence for 10 standards required by the national accrediting organization. The portfolios are very much "a year in the life" of a kindergarten, documented with photographs, newsletters and reports about the children doing various activities.
"Everything from learning how to wash their hands, to lining up for a fire drill ... it's everything that happens throughout their normal day," she said, describing the criteria and the 150-page document the schools worked with as "pretty intense."
Of the 10 standards, the school district was commended on five by attaining scores of "100-plus": teachers, children's assessments, connection with families, community relationships and certification and training.
Melodie Goodwin, in back, explains the accreditation process.
The programs scored lower on technical areas such as physical environment (classroom size and equipment) and scheduled play time. "It was always worded as 'something to improve on'; it was never something that was negative," said Goodwin, who added that the district portfolio included a reponse to NAEYC's concerns.
The review began two years ago with an application for candidacy; then began a self-study with a survey of parents, the community and staff. The teachers spent a year creating the portfolios. The accreditation is good for five years but the district must do an annual report. Goodwin said Adams-Cheshire Regional School District recently received its accreditation.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, chairman of the School Committee, said the concerns on classroom size should be provided as input to the school building committee. The district is currently developing a feasibility study on options for the middle school grades.
Montepare said the rooms taken over for the expansion of the preschool weren't constructed with kindergarten or preschool in mind.
In other business,
• The board approved the use of Drury High School's gym and auditorum for the John Gaudreau Boys Basketball Tournament and Friends of the North Adams Library, respectively. The Friends will hold a trivia contest on May 7 and the tournament will be on Feb. 19. Cost of using the school is $250 plus other fees.
• The mayor said the budgeting process would begin early. Montepare said some larger line items — grant funding, the number of retirements and a new school transportation contract — had not yet been determined.
• The board met in an executive session related to bargaining.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The mayor will be submitting a eight nominations for various boards to the City Council next week, including two for the Planning Board.
Joanne DeRose and Brian Miksic are being recommended to fill the seats of the late Edna Rudnick and David Babcock, who is retiring after more than two decades on the board. Miksic is president of Develop North Adams, a nonprofit organization created to bring merchants, educators and the community together to enhance the city. DeRose is active in Democratic politics and works for National Grid.
They are the first additions the mayor has made to the nine-member board since taking office last year.
But there has been a bit of mixup: DeRose took her seat on Jan. 11. That caused a couple councilors to check the rules and notify the mayor they hadn't signed off on her nomination.
"I have a matrix [for nominations] that didn't indicate I needed the council's approval," said Mayor Richard Alcombright on Monday.
The city charter doesn't say the council has approval over planning appointments but state law does. Once a community reaches a population of 10,000, it must establish a planning board and "such members shall in cities be appointed by the mayor, subject to confirmation by the city council," according to Chapter 41, Section 81A.
DeRose, who will complete Rudnick's unexpired term, voted to continue a permit hearing at her first meeting. That vote won't count but won't change the outcome; DeRose was not required for a quorum and the vote was unanimous with eight other planners in attendance.
"I'll meet the [Feb.] 8th with City Council, that's before the Planning Board meets on the 14th so it will be OK," said the mayor.
The appointments will begin to shape the new mayor's policies toward development and planning. The other planners have served for several or more terms; Wayne Wilkinson was the latest to be appointed, in December 2009, by the former administration but was a veteran of the board who'd been off a few years. Alcombright, who had just been elected, had voted as a city councilor to approve his nomination.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass — The city is inching closer to a master plan.
The region's planning commission gave the city another small grant to work toward developing a long-term vision for the city.
A new Community Development Advisory Board, to be appointed by Mayor Richard Alcombright, will tackle the details of planning the city's future.
The city has not had a long-term master plan in more than 40 years but began creating one with a similar grant last year.
"We hadn't done any formal long-term planning in years," Alcombright said on Monday. "The next piece will be much more involved with the public."
The master plan will set goals and decided the types of land use throughout the city.
The group will be picking up where the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission left off. Last year, the planning commission gave the city a similar grant, which the city used to hired BRPC to create a long-range planning strategy. The draft version of that strategy was completed in November.
After failing to reel in a federal grant to complete a master plan, the city once again asked and received the smaller BRPC grant.
The community development board will now take the planning strategy and engage the public to develop actual planning strategies. Residents will have chances to chime in as early as April, Alcombright said.
"We're hoping this will continue where we left off," Alcombright said. "They're relatively small grants but BRPC does a lot with them. We have no money but we found a way to bring in someone from BRPC once a week."
The regional planner will help the advisory board bring the plan to the public. Next fall, the city will apply for the federal grant to finish the job again.
The advisory board members and the final draft of the long-range plan will be revealed to the public and city boards on Feb. 22. Alcombright said the long-range strategy is mostly a series of broadly defined goals including rebranding, creating a diverse economy, combating poverty and examining the geographical impacts on business.
"This is a jumping off point," Alcombright said.
The mayor did not know the exact amount of the grant but estimated it to be around $20,000.
“BRPC is very pleased that we can continue to provide this modicum of support to the City of North Adams in development of a new comprehensive plan and we continue to look forward to working with the city. We are fortunate that we have municipal leaders across the Berkshires, including Mayor Alcombright, who understand the need for comprehensive planning, followed by aggressive implementation, in order to continue to rebuild our communities and continue to build jobs for the future, while protecting our environment,” said Executive Director Nathaniel Karns in a statement.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is hoping to begin discussions late in the summer on the best ways to reuse the former state Armory building as a community center.
The former National Guard headquarters on Ashland Street is in the midst of an estimated $5 million overhaul — but the going's been tough because the funding has been dribbling in through Community Development Block Grants.
"We can't get our arms around $5 million at a clip," said Michael Nuvallie of the city's Office of Community Development in his presentation to the Parks and Recreation Commission on Wednesday night. "We can get our arms around $300,000, $200,000, another $150,000 and we keep fixing that old car."
The city bought the structure from the state in 2007 with the vision of turning it into a community center. The building's gym has long been used for high school and youth sports and its location within walking distance of the downtown, senior housing and the college, and along public and school bus routes.
The project has gone through four phases of work already: the repair and replacement of the roofs; rebuilding of the front and side stairs; the design of an elevator; and the installation of the elevator to address handicapped accessibility.
The fifth and more substantial phase is being prepared for bidding in the next few weeks. It will include the installation of new gas heating systems, a three-phased electrical system, new handicapped restrooms on the first floor near the elevator and new concession stand for the gym. The total cost is estimated at $800,000.
Construction is expected to begin in the spring and continue through the summer. The expectation is the gym and new entrance area by the elevators will be completed for the youth basketball league to move back in.
The city is already applying for more block grant funds to continue the ongoing project, said Nuvallie. "The building is old, it needs to be updated in every shape and form."
While the vision has always been to transform the building into a community center, the youth basketball league is the only concrete use decided so far. The amount of work ("very grinding") necessary on the building has kept the focus on construction, not reuse.
There is extensive space in the basement and first and second floor that could be used for leasing purposes for agencies or groups or programs. The goal would be to make the building sustainable in the same way the skating rink is. It might also become the headquarters for the Parks & Recreation Commission and the Youth Commission.
Mike Nuvallie updated the commission and a handful of residents on Wednesday on the work done to date at the Armory.
"My initial vision is the fact that you'd want agencies in there that not only would obviously do what they do but could establish programming and be there for the building," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "Whoever is in there would have to sustain this kind of community model."
Residents, particularly the new Youth Commission, the mayor assured commission member Kate Merrigan and Councilor Michael Boland, would have input into what type of programming would be used.
"Over the next six months or as this new phase begins, that's when we can really start to have some community conversations of what this can become," he said.
A lot more work is required. The second-floor offices have extensive water damage, the basement has been neglected but offers a mess kitchen and lots of activity space and the parking area needs an estimated $400,000 in paving and landscaping.
"We want it to look quite spectaular when it's done," said the mayor.
:: 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.