Alcombright Running for Second Term
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright has made it clear before he's planning on a second term. On Friday, he'll make it official.
The mayor will have a formal announcement on his candidacy on Friday, April 8, at 5 p.m. in the new Eagle Street Pocket Park.
The former city councilor and McCann School Committee member was elected in November 2010, ousting Mayor John Barrett III, who was trying for a record 14th term. His re-election campaign kickoff is almost exactly two years to the day he first announced he would seek the office.
The mayoral election and that of the nine councilors will be held in November. So far, no one other candidate has announced his or her intention to run for the Corner Office.
A number of the city councilors are expected to run for re-election and council gadfly Robert Cardimino said in January he would mount a run for the council after being passed over for the vacant seat of just-elected state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi. David Lamarre, 2010's "10th councilor," was appointed to complete Cariddi's term; he said he would know by the time nomination papers are due whether he would run again.
Scarafoni Asks for Tax Deal on Transcript Building
Scarafoni Associates plans to purchase the Transcript property and renovate for use by the Brien Center.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council will be asked to approve a tax incentive that will allow the Brien Center to move into the North Adams Transcript building while keeping the building on the tax rolls for 10 years.
Scarafoni Associates plans to buy the 16,000 square-foot building on American Legion Drive and lease it to the nonprofit Brien Center. David Carver of Scarafoni Associates told the Finance Committee on Tuesday that the 10-year agreement may be critical to loosening up bank financing for the project.
"We think this TIF agreement is a big piece of making this work ... which will release probably $1 million in construction and repairs, something we need to see more of in the downtown," said Carver. "This type of project and this type of financing will make the numbers work for bankers."
Mayor Richard Alcombright said the tax increment financing agreement would lock in the property's current assessment $767,000, guaranteeing property taxes of more than $20,000 annually for the next decade despite the Brien Center's status as a nonprofit.
Coldwell Banker lists the taxes as $21,197.
Chairman Michael Bloom noted the current unpredictability of the commercial market. "This is an amazing agreement."
That will provide the stability for both entities to make the project work, said Carver. "We are buying the building for less than the assessed value," he said. "So instead of petitioning for [the assessed value to be the] purchase price ... we have agreed as part of this process to lock in that current assessed value."
David Carver explains to the Finance Committee how the TIF agreement would work.
"I think it's a great solution for the city ... it retains the Brien Center in the city and the jobs and services they provide," said the mayor. If the Brien Center, which provides mental health and substance abuse services to some 10,000 people in Berkshire County, purchased the building, it would fall off the tax rolls completely.
TIFs once required job production but the state changed the law last year to take into account job retention.
The Brien Center, cited as the ninth-largest employer in the county recently by The Berkshire Eagle, employs 40 full-time and 20 part-time employees at its offices on Marshall Street. Catherine A. Doherty, chief executive officer, said the agency's lease on Marshall Street is up in August; moving to Ashland Street will allow the organization to stay in the downtown and not only retain programs but expand them.
"Once we our positioned into this new building we will be able to think about adding more programs," she said. "It's a building that speaks more to what we do."
She cited the property's easy access, single-story construction and spaciousness that will offer room for more programs for the 3,000 to 4,000 North County residents the agency serves. It will also provide space for the Adult Day Health Program, which will move from the former Department of Motor Vehicles building along with its 10 employees.
Alcombright said the city solicitor had reviewed the agreement. Carver's attorney, Elisabeth Goodman, on questions from the committee, said the agreement would remain in effect should the Brien Center purchase the property because it signing on to the deal. It could be broken, she said, if the Brien Center reneged on the lease.
The 45-year-old Transcript building was placed on the market nearly two years ago for nearly $1 million; it has sinced been reduced to $799,000. The presses were removed; printing and most of the support staff operate out of The Eagle in Pittsfield.
The city had eyed the property as a potential site for a new public safety building but its current fiscal problems have put that project on hold.
|Tags: Transcript, Scarafoni, Brien Center|
North Adams Sets School Building Meetings
Michael Chalifoux of Vietnam Veterans of America addresses the City Council.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The mayor released a schedule at the City Council meeting on Tuesday for upcoming meetings to discuss building proposals for the school district.
Mayor Richard Alcombright had said last week that the city was hoping to have feedback from the Massachusetts School Building Authority before making community presentations. The MSBA board is scheduled to meet March 30 but the mayor said he did not expect the city to get direction until April.
The city has submitted five options for dealing with the new kindergarten-through-seventh grade configuration, with its preference the renovation of the currently closed Conte School and a new or renovated Greylock School.
The target date for completion is the beginning of the 2013 school year; Alcombright said it was necessary to begin informing the community of the details and seeking support for project.
"The discussion has to be had because of funding down the road," he said.
The mayor had taken some flack from councilors and School Committee members for not being kept in the loop for the project.
The meetings are as follows:
• March 30 - 3:30 p.m., Drury High School auditorium; all North Adams Public School faculty, School Committee, Building Committee and City Council
• March 30 - 6:30 p.m., Drury High School auditorium; community meeting with City Council and School and Building committees
• April 5 - 6 p.m., Conte School, agenda item for School Committee meeting
• April 7 - 6 p.m., Conte School, lower level, School Building Committee meeting
• April 12 - 7:30 p.m., City Hall, agenda on City Council meeting
All of the meetings will include the options being discussed and will include presentations by the project manager and architect.
Council President Ronald Boucher expressed his concern that owners are not being responsible for their dogs, noting messes left on Main Street and an incident over the weekend involving hikers at the Cascades.
"I know if I was from out of town I'd be appalled at that," he said of what he found on Main Street. On Tuesday afternoon, a woman had called saying she and others had been harassed by three unleashed dogs. She had reported the incident to the animal control officer, who had not returned her call, said Boucher.
"I don't think the dog officer is that busy that they can't make a return phone call," said the council president, who added he would follow up through the mayor's office and come back with a communique about signage regarding dogs at Cascades.
Michael Chalifoux of the Vietnam Veterans of America addressed the council about the clean up work the VVA's volunteers and paid staff have doing for years in the city. "What we've found over the last four years is the more we pick up the less people throw it down," he said. The other day, they had filled three trash bags at the cemetery.
Chalifoux also encouraged the city to go after the state aid owed it and said he would return to speak on the failed efforts of the state regarding veterans.
Donna Dickinson said she was speaking on behalf of others who were afraid to come to the council meetings. "Some people, they feel very uncomfortable and intimidated that if they say something the wrong way they'll be told to sit down," Dickinson told the council. "I feel us taxpayers all have the right to come here and join in and be part of the group."
Boucher did tell one citizen to sit down after he began talking about being sexually abused. "This is not the place for this," Boucher told him.
Alcombright read on behalf of Human Services Commission Chairwoman Suzy Helme the seven applicants granted $500 for services benefiting local families: Child Care of the Berkshires, Family Life Support Center, Elder Services, Berkshire Immigrant Center, Berkshire Community Action Council, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and United Cerebral Palsy Fun Club.
The council also:
• Reapppointed to the Hoosac Water Quality District Dr. John Moresi, who has served for 24 years, and Boucher, who has served for 12 years. Boucher abstained from the vote.
• Appointed Alan Horbal and Darrell English to the Historical Commission. All terms will expire in 2014.
• Referred a communication from the council president on adopting state anti-idling legislation to the Public Safety Committee.
• Approved the renewal of a secondhand license for Hudsons antiques shop at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Councilors Lisa Blackmer and Alan Marden were absent.
Council President Changes Open Forum Rules
Robert Cardimino, left, has often been an aggravation to the council and the mayor. Council President Ronald Boucher is now asking residents to submit in writing what they plan to address in open forum.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Those planning to speak during the City Council's open forum will have to put it in writing. Council President Ronald Boucher on Tuesday said that residents planning to speak will have to submit the issue they wish to speak on — and stick to it. He said the new rule would go into effect at the next meeting on March 22 and was prompted by the brouhaha at the end of the last council meeting.
"The disrespect shown to the open forum process, this council body and this administration will not be tolerated or allowed," said Boucher, who added the council chambers were not the place for arguments or allegations between the public and the administration.
Outspoken critic Robert Cardimino had apparently taken Mayor Richard Alcombright to task about several issues and accused him of having city plows clear private driveways. He held up a picture of convicted swindler Bernie Madoff and compared him to the mayor.
Cardimino, a strong supporter of the past administration, has frequently addressed the mayor during council meetings, demanding answers and lobbing allegations on a variety of issues. While Cardimino has stated it's within his First Amendment rights to speak at council, Boucher described it as a privilege.
"It is a privilege to address this council body either on an agenda item or in open forum," he said, "and to voice your opinions in a respectful manner.
"As adults we are all responsible and accountable for our actions."
Cardimino, seated in the front row, whispered loudly, "They're going to do whatever they can to stifle us."
Boucher had recommended changes to Council Rule 11 earlier this year. The change would have moved open forum to the beginning of the meeting from the end, but calls from residents concerned they would not have a chance to respond to issues that arose during the meeting led Boucher to withdraw it.
Instead, open forum speakers would be limited to 2 minutes and required to be respectful.
Mayor Alcombright said Cardimino's actions impugned his integrity and the council's respectability.
Alcombright, reading from a letter to the council, said he had not supported moving open forum but did applaud any changes that would add to the council's decorum, particularly in terms of Cardimino, who once dumped a rock on the council president's desk.
"Last year, he held up cards to the camera that said 'despicable Dick'," said the mayor. "Mr. Cardimino might hide behind the First Amendment and claim to have the right to do this and while I think there are some in the community who think this is funny and entertaining, I think any comments from anyone in attendance at these meetings that cross the line need to be firmly dealt with and people should be held accountable."
Rather than using a broad brush, he urged Boucher to consider that "taking swift or decisive action to remove or ban those who cannot maintain civility might be the way to go."
Councilor Keith Bona suggested that Boucher should "just react quicker with that gavel."
The pugnacious Cardimino had the last word of the night: "Go ahead and challenge me," he said, "and I'll challenge you back."
Community Meeting Set for Lift Ev'ry Voice
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — MCLA Gallery 51 is hosting a panel discussion and community meeting on Thursday, March 3, about the countywide Lift Ev'ry Voice summer arts festival.
Joining festival steering committee Chairmen Shirley Edgerton and Don Quinn Kelley will be Mayor Richard Alcombright.
The meeting starts at 6:30 at the Main Street gallery.
The monthlong festival will celebrate African-American history and culture both in the Berkshires and around the world. It will be held June 19 to July 2, and local cultural and civic organizations and businesses are encouraged to be part of it by planning appropriate programs.
Gov. Deval Patrick and first lady Diane Patrick of Richmond are the honorary co-chairmen. Many of Berkshire County's cultural and civic organizatinos will be programming events as part of Lift Ev'ry Voice, including Tanglewood, the Colonial Theatre, Barrington Stage Company, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Clark Art Institute, Berkshire Theatre Festival, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival and the Upper Housatonic Valley African-American Heritage Trail.
The festival kicks off with a Juneteenth celebration on June 19 and ends with Berkshire County's only traditionally African-American neighborhood festival, the Gather-in, on July 23 in Pittsfield. Other notable events include world premiere plays at both Berkshire Theatre Festival and Barrington Stage Company; Earth, Wind and Firehttp://www.earthwindandfire.com/'s 40th anniversary World Tour at Tanglewood, and a Youth Day at Mass MoCA.
Lift Ev'ry Voice founding partners include the Berkshire Visitors Bureau, the Women of Color Giving Circle, the City of Pittsfield, Upper Housatonic Heritage, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Greylock Federal Credit Union, Massachusetts Cultural Council, and the Women's Times.
For more information visit www.liftevryvoice.com.
|Tags: African-American, festival|