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Building Collapses in Great Barrington
By: Nichole Dupont On: 12:42AM / Monday February 07, 2011
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A building off Bridge Street collapsed Sunday. It can be seen as the gray-roofed building to the left in this Google map image.

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — An old wood-frame building behind the Berkshire Cooperative Market on Bridge Street collapsed Sunday afternoon, apparently from the weight of the snow.

The collapse was reported at about 1:30 p.m. to police, who were at first concerned that it may have been occupied because utility lines led to the building. However, the building had apparently been abandoned some time ago.

It is in wooded area adjancent Memorial Park and accessed by a lane running behind the co-op parking lot. It was unclear who owns the structure.

 



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Could New Neighbors Be Wall Street Journal Heirs?
By: Staff Reports On: 04:26PM / Wednesday February 02, 2011
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NEW MARLBOROUGH, Mass — Realtor Lance Vermeulen refused to name who purchased nearly 300 acres of land on Canaan Southfield Road for $4.3 million but iBerkshires has a guess.

Your new neighbors may be Amy Selinger and Mark Elefante – a young couple with ties to the former Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones and Co. It could also be one of the Bancrofts themselves – who inherited the Wall Street Journal and made $1.2 billion on its 2007 sale.

Here's how we came up with that.

The property listed at 2128 Canaan Southfield Road was sold to the holding company Vergelegen LLC, according to state land records. The Secretary of State's corporation database shows the agent of the holding company to be Elefante. The holding company's address is the same as the law firm Hemenway and Barnes, which is also noted in the land transfer paperwork.

An attorney with Hemenway and Barnes acted as lead trustee for the sale of Dow Jones and Co. to News Corp. – Rupert Murdoch's empire – in 2007. And that attorney's name..... drumroll please.... Michael Elefante. Michael Elefante is also authorized to execute documents through Vergelegen LLC. 

Michael Elefante joined Hemenway and Barnes in 1970 and served as a director of Dow Jones & Co. – serving with the Bancrofts. Michael was the lead trustee for the Dow Jones Co. His son Mark Elefante joined the law firm later.

But we are not done yet. There are some other factors that lead us to bet on him.

Mark Elefante studied at Williams College and he married Selinger in 2009. Williams students are known to return to the area.

They were both 29 at the time and Vermeulen said that it was a young couple looking for a second home who purchased the property.

Next we have the land itself. The land has three buildings: a 2,100-square-foot farmhouse and two smaller 1,000-square-foot dwellings. Pretty good land for farming and horse-breeding, we would think. With ties to the Bancroft family, we could suspect the Elefantes run in similar circles and Wikipedia says the Bancrofts enjoy farming and horse-breeding.

We do wonder if maybe Mark Elefante is using his holding company to conceal the name for a client. He does specialize in land acquisition.

The Bancrofts are notoriously reclusive from media coverage and the town does not see the spotlight often.

Anybody have the inside scoop or other guesses?



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Mother Nature is No Match for Cheese
By: Nichole Dupont On: 09:52PM / Tuesday February 01, 2011
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Snowed in, Rubiner's says 'bring it on.'

GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — There are two things you need, and I mean need like a baby needs its momma, to get through a winter like this one.

 

The first thing is a good pair of boots (for a recommendation on winter gear see my recent gear blog).

The second is a good sense of humor, a very good sense of humor. Maybe even a little sick, too. The kind of humor that, when someone asks you in a blinding snowstorm how you're doing, you just smile and say, "I'm freakin' great. It's downright balmy out here. Love this weather."

Then you trudge down the street headed for the nearest gun shop.

So, it is with this same sense of winter humor that Rubiner's Cheesemongers is having an "F' Mother Nature Sale." Yeah, you heard me. If you go to Rubiner's Tuesday and mention this particularly morbid sale you can get 20 percent off your entire purchase. And what better excuse is there to risk life and limb in a blizzard than cheese? Glorious, rich, creamy cheese from all regions of Europe. And chocolate, specialty meats, gourmet candies and great latte just around the corner at Rubi's.

I returned home this evening with a half pound of Belloc, sopressata and a baguette. It's going to be a great night.

No offense, Mother Nature.



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Construct Running Out of Emergency Funds
By: Nichole Dupont On: 11:34AM / Tuesday February 01, 2011
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GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Local highway departments are not the only folks being hit hard by this neverending slew of snow and ice. Area aid organizations are also feeling the brunt of harsh weather conditions.

Construct Inc., a nonprofit that provides counseling, shelter and emergency funding to Berkshire residents in need, is holding an emergency fund drive to replenish its nearly depleted emergency services fund. The "No (one) Freeze Zone" is accepting donations big and small from now until March 1.

Susie Weekes, director of development, said the organization may run out of money this month despite its best efforts if something isn't done soon.

"We've had more than double the requests for assistance that we had last year," she said in a phone interview. "If this winter keeps going the way it is we are going to run out of emergency funds sometime in February. Last year, the emergency funds ran out in June. This year we'd like them to at least run through winter."

While Construct's annual Walk for the Homeless (held last October) generally raises enough money to cover emergency funds (i.e., money for fuel, electricity, rent, food), the $45,000 raised just four months ago is nearly gone.

Weekes said the organization hopes to raise at least $20,000 more with No (one) Freeze Zone to get through the toughest part of the winter. However, it's not just the winter that has the organization scrambling for emergency cash — it's the economy.

"What we're seeing that we've not seen before is that people's unemployment checks have run out and they still can't find jobs," she said. "When they come in, we say we can help them with this month's oil bill, but what about next month? Most of these families do not have a Plan B, they are just trying to get by right now.

"Our director said that it's the worst she's seen in the last 20 years. Granted, they say that the recession is over but the Berkshires are always two years behind. The recovery is down the road a bit for us."

That road seems endless to the many families in need. In fact, Weekes is concerned that a winter like this, with little to no help for struggling families, will drive many residents out of the area for good.

"There is no way for people to plan," she said. "This is our work force, a lot of people have seasonal jobs or are part of the creative community. The impact on the community is that people move away because they can't cut it anymore. It's a horrible way to live."

It seems that those in the community can relate to the struggle of their neighbors. Since the No (one) Freeze Zone began on Jan. 26, Construct has already received several small donations from those who want to help.

"We're please with the response so far," Weekes said. "As always, the community is stepping up to the plate in whatever way they can."

To make a donation to the No (one) Freeze Zone, visit Construct's website or Facebook page.



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Winter Breakdown at Ben's in Lee
By: Nichole Dupont On: 10:51AM / Monday January 31, 2011
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LEE, Mass. — Now that we are in the throes of winter, and now that our seventh or eighth storm is moving in for Wednesday, we can no longer live in denial. It is winter in New England and there's nothing you can do about it. 

But there are a few ways to make the rest of this endless snowpile tolerable. Perhaps the most important is to break down and invest in some proper winter gear. I mean hardcore Arctic stuff. This past weekend, I came to the realization that we might be buried until April and that I had suffered enough. By suffer, I mean cold feet, cold hands, cold body, just cold, cold, cold. All of this has been cured thanks to a trip to Ben's on Main Street.

Let me begin by saying that the ladies at Ben's know why you're there. They know that you've swallowed your pride and that you're ready to take the plunge, literally, along with the temperature. In fact, when I walked into the place (with a little cajoling from my boyfriend who has been purchasing various warm accessories for me since December) the sales clerk took one look at me and shook her head.

"You need some warmer boots," she said.
 
I looked down at my unlined, treadless-bottomed Muck boots and grinned sheepishly.

"I need a lot of things," I said.

"Well, at least you have that nice Minus 33 pullover. At least somebody knows how to keep you warm, even if you don't."

My boyfriend nudged me and nodded. I wanted to punch the cocky smile right off his face.

 

Somehow this was beginning to feel like a makeover episode of Oprah.

I strolled over to the boots, where I found an impressive selection of winter wear for all shapes and sizes. Of course, I had my heart set on Sorels because that's what I always wore before I began unsuccessfully boycotting winter. Unfortunately, they did not have my size in the women's boots (my feet are gunboats compared to my relatively small frame). Before I could even feign a look of disappointment, the sales clerk set a rugged pair of brown and black Kamiks in front of me.

"They're a men's 7, they should fit," she said.

I slipped into the impressive boots and almost immediately my cold toes, which had already suffered from mild frostbite twice this winter, were toasty. I laced up the boots and walked to the counter.

"I'm not taking these off," I said.

"I know, honey. I wouldn't take them off either."

I didn't stop at the boots, either. Tooling around the store, I noticed a rack of SmartWool socks. I was tempted to get the girly striped ones but pride prevented me and I purchased a pair of brown knee-highs. Again, one of the best investments I've ever made. Right up there with the boots, the Minus 33 pullover, and my cowboy hat with ear flaps.

It has been three days since the purchase of the boots. So far, I've only taken them off to shower and sleep. Even when my mother demanded that I take them off to go in her house I blatantly refused.

"No way, not until April," I said.

I am making another trip to Ben's this week, in anticipation of the "big storm." This time I will be purchasing a Stormy Kromer, red and black plaid, and maybe, just maybe, one more pair of SmartWools, the girly kind. Who knows, I may even get myself some snowpants.



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