By: Andy McKeever On: 10:21PM / Tuesday August 23, 2011
The city councilors passed a study about parking performed by resident Mark Trottier onto the Finance Committee to explore additional revenues.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city will analyze its use of parking meters after resident Mark Trottier did a micro-study of possible ticket revenues.
Trottier walked the city's downtown area for an hour and a half nearly every day for the month of July counting parking violations. He found 3,017 violations that were not ticketed, which he said translated to an additional $22,025 for the city.
While conceding that the study was on a micro-level, Trottier explained that it can be used as a way for the city to re-think its revenue sources.
Mark Trottier walked downtown nearly every day in July and noted all illegally parked cars that were not ticketed.
"I believe I have presented enough evidence to warrant an independent commission to be made up of three to five citizens appointed by this council and the mayor to look into not only this issue but all issues regarding fees, fines, permits and charges," Trottier said. "If you have the laws on the books then you must enforce them. If you don't enforce them, then you are losing money for the city. I only did this to show that there is lost revenue."
The city Councilors referred the study to Mayor Richard Alcombright's office to gather additional numbers — which will be forwarded to the Finance Committee. And for the councilors, it will give them a chance to reflect on how they envision downtown.
"I'd hate to have a revenue for the city be the people shopping downtown," said Councilor Keith Bona, who opened by stating his opposition to parking meters altogether because of negative effects on business. Bona operates a business on Main Street. "If anything, I'd like to see the opposite. I prefer it to be more welcoming."
City Councilor Lisa Blackmer said ticketing could discourage patrons from coming downtown and that those revenues Trottier found would disappear because residents will start parking in the free parking lots.
"They would feed the meters, they would move their cars or they wouldn't come downtown. While we might have lost it in the short term, it's not money we'd gain in the long term," Blackmer said.
The ends of the spectrum are getting rid of the parking meters — eliminating the need for a parking clerk — or hiring additional patrols in an attempt to generate revenue.
Trottier said the job would require a full-time officer dedicated only to parking as well as at least one part-time officer to cover the hours needed. The current parking clerk is working additional jobs with the Police Department, he said.
The council also set the preliminary city election for mayor for Tuesday, Sept. 27. Alcombright, Ronald Boucher and Robert Martelle are all eyeing the corner office and the election will narrow the field to two. Wards 1,2,3 and 5 will vote at St. Elizabeth's Parish Center and Ward 4 will vote at Greylock School. The polls will be open from 9 a.m. until 7 p.m.
Councilor Marie Harpin proposed opening the polls up at 7 a.m. instead to accommodate early-morning voters but was out-voted by the rest of the council. The other councilors questioned the worthiness of paying the election workers for those extra two hours, which have typically been slow during the state and national elections.
James Canavan was appointed to the North Adams Housing Authority to fill the unexpired term of Jennifer Breen-Kirsch, who recently stepped down. Canavan's term will expire in 2014.
"Jim has a strong background in public housing, management, finance and nonprofit organizations. He will bring significant expertise to this very important position," Alcombright said.
City Council Agenda for Aug. 23, 2011
By: Staff Reports On: 05:05PM / Thursday August 18, 2011
By: Tammy Daniels On: 09:14PM / Tuesday August 09, 2011
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night authorized the mayor to buy a section of the parking lot of the Armory for $1.
The .166-acre plot should have been included in the city's purchase of the former National Guard Armory on Ashland Street several years ago. Mayor Richard Alcombright said Michael Nuvallie of the Office of Community Development had worked over the past year with the state Division of Capital Asset Management, which set the value at $18,000 after an appraisal was done.
"This parcel is obviously very important to the project and while erroneously omitted from purchase, it was pretty clear we would have to pay," the mayor read from his communication to the council. He credited Daniel Bosley, former state representative, for getting the priced dropped to a dollar in one of his "last legislative efforts" and saving the city $18,000.
The Armory is currently undergoing an extensive renovation through the use of federal and state grants with the idea of using it as a community or youth center.
"We've been successful just by monitoring them and running them through the Board of Health," said Alcombright of food vendors operating at events in the city. General Government Committee Chairman Keith Bona and committee member Lisa Blackmer concurred that there had been no issues to date. The mayor said he will meet with Bona and Tourism and Cultural Development Director Veronica Bosley to craft a city policy for vendors.
Councilor Marie Harpin expressed her concern over the continued detioration of the Hoosac Mill and the safety of the sidewalk area where parts of the roof had collapsed over the winter. The mayor said he would be meeting with the owner and the building inspector on Thursday and that jersey barriers would replace the current plastic fencing to prevent people from using the sidewalk.
Councilor Alan Marden asked about the disappearance of the handicapped parking spots on Main Street. The mayor said the spots still existed but the signs had not been installed.
"Everything we paid so much attention to for ADA compliance ... and handicapped parking signs were not drawn on the plans," the mayor said. "We've gotten that resolved."
In the meantime, he reminded those with handicapped plates or placards that they could park in any spot, not just the designated ones.
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.
:: 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.