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.
David Lamarre, second from right, joined the City Council on Tuesday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night unanimously welcomed David Lamarre to complete the unexpired term of Gailanne Cariddi.
Cariddi resigned two weeks ago after being sworn in as the new state representative for the 1st Berkshire District.
Lamarre, chairman of the License Commission, had missed being elected to the council in 2009 by a recount that boosted Keith Bona ahead of him by a handful of votes.
"It was just a year ago I stood right there at that gate and got the bad news," said Lamarre afterward of the recount. "It feels good though."
Traditionally, the nine-member council has seated the so-called "10th councilor" to fill any vacancies. However, Council President Ronald Boucher had solicited letters of interest from citizens this time.
Boucher said four letters had been submitted: Lamarre's; one from former Councilor Robert M. Moulton Jr. indicating he was no longer interested in being considered; from Ronald Sheldon, who did not provide contact information; and one from Robert Cardimino, who has faithfully attended - and spoken at - council meetings for more than a year.
Top: Lamarre is sworn in by City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau. Left, Robert Cardimino makes his pitch to the council.
"I regard this council vacancy as an opportunity to fulfill an obligation to the 2,446 voters who supported my election bid," said Lamarre in his remarks to the council. "I can promise diligence, thoughtfulness, and a steadfast determination to see North Adams progress and our citizens prosper."
Cardimino, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor and council some years ago, urged the councilors to select someone with a different perspective.
"This electon should not be a popularity contest," he told the councilors, "it should be someone who has, and has had, an interest in city government and I have proven over many years and many mayors that I have had that interest.
"It also should be someone who is willing to ask the hard questions, no matter how unpopular."
Lamarre, however, was swiftly nominated and unanimously elected. Cardimino congratulated him but said he planned to ask voters to place him on the council in the coming November election.
The new councilor said he'd adjusted to his loss and had begun pursuing interests of a personal nature outside of his community activity. But when it became apparent Cariddi would be leaving a year into her term to go to the State House, "I really had to think about it; I didn't want to jump the gun," said Lamarre. "Actually, for awhile, I was torn - I had started down this other road but I decided on this and I'm glad I did."
Lamarre said he wants to "get his feet wet" before making any announcements if he'll run to keep the seat: "By the time it comes to take out nomination papers I'll know."
In other business, the council continued into February a change in waste transfer fees and renaming a street for Lue Gim Gong because the subcommittees reviewing them have not been able to meet. It also continued an application from Edward Tripodes to drive a taxi for Cindy Tripodes because he was not in attendance.
Boucher referred to the General Government Committee a change for Rules of Order that would limit audience participation to an open microphone session at the beginning of council meetings. Cardimino, who frequently comments on items during meetings, objected to the change as did Councilor Alan Marden. While the councilors said they were willing to support Boucher's changes, they were concerned that the language was too ambiguous for the council to vote on Tuesday.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council will research the possibility of making the mayor a four-year term.
The mayoral assignment was one of several handed down, including investigating the public safety office structure to determine if commissioner is needed, by just re-elected President Ronald Boucher as the council set out its own goals for the year.
"I've always felt this way, even before Mayor [Richard] Alcombright took office," said Boucher afterward. "I think that a mayor's position, two years, it's tough to get adjusted to the position and then the second year, you're running for your job again."
Alcombright said a four-year term would give a mayor the breathing space to deal with issues without having worrying about campaigning. "I think what it does is it takes the leader out of government for a pretty good period of time."
He was surprised to learn that only 11 of the state's 46 mayors have four-year terms. "I think a four-year term would be great right now because you wouldn't have to be dealing with what you're dealing with ... and thinking about the possibility if someone is going to run against you."
Alcombright assumed that was just the case for his predecessor, John Barrett III, who was fending off a challenge will maintaining his office. Barrett, however, had plenty of experience as the state's longest-serving mayor and few challengers during his tenure.
Boucher said that was a reason to extend the term. "It's tough, really tough, especially being a new mayor," he said. "Replacing someone with a lot of years of experience, you're going in learning and then the second year out [campaigning].
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, was presented with gifts from colleagues after resigning Tuesday from the City Council.
Voters would decide if the change should be made by ballot; it wouldn't go into effect until the next election.
The annual organization of the council took place on Tuesday night and ended with the mayor giving his "state of the city" address.
Lisa Blackmer was re-elected vice president and the seat positions were drawn by Councilors Gailanne Cariddi and Alan Marden.
Boucher charged the General Government Committee, headed by Councilor Keith Bona, with looking into mayoral question and the Public Safety Committee, led by Councilor Alan Marden, to make recommendations regarding the position of public safety commissioner.
Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco, who was due to retire, had his tenure extended two years by home-rule petition to give the city time to decide if it needs the position.
"I think we need to look at that," said Boucher. "A city this size, is there a need? It's nothing against Commissioner Morocco and what he's done ... It's, I think, moving forward if we can support that kind of position."
The Community Development Committee, chaired by Blackmer, will develop a marketing and event plan in conjunction with Develop North Adams, and the Public Services Committee, chaired Councilor David Bond, will investigate ways to wring revenue from the transfer station and the benefits of joining the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste District.
As for the Finance Committee: "You've got enough on your plate," said Boucher.
Boucher also reinstituted liaisons to various boards and organizations and asked councilors to attend their meetings.
"It's not only for us it's the people who watch these meetings, the people that put you in these seats, to show them we are involved we can make a difference."
Who's on What
Lisa Blackmer, Michael, Gailanne Cariddi Finance
Michael Bloom, Alan Marden, David Bond General Government
Kieth Bona, Blackmer, Boland Public Safety
Marden, Marie Harpin, Boland Public Services
Bond, Bona, Cariddi
The council accepted effective immediately the resignation of Gailanne Cariddi, who was sworn in last week at the State House as the representative for the 1st Berkshire District. The 22-year council veteran was presented with flowers and a gift and warm parting words on her service to the city.
"You not only served the council well you served it with particular distinction as a member of several committees and as president on six occasions," said longtime colleague Marden. "You are uniquely our unofficial codifier, laboring tirelessly and continuously to put our wishes and actions in proper form."
Bloom, who was elected to the council in the same year as Cariddi, said "I think we were very lucky to have you. I was proud to serve with you and I wish you the best of luck."
A replacement for Cariddi will be appointed by the council.
In other business, the council:
Approved bonding for the city's finance officers
Adopted and passed to second reading an amended vendor ordinance.
Referred to the city solicitor a request from Charles Fox and Gordon Leete, partners in Curran Highway Development LLC, to eliminate the I-1 zoning that covers the rear portion of their 2.91 acres (the former K-K Home Mart) on Curran Highway. The partners said the property has two zones, I-1 and CC-1, with CC-1 being the dominant zone and covering its frontage. "It would eliminate a zoning designation no longer appropriate," they stated in a letter to the council.
The normally sparse City Council chambers were filled on Tuesday night for the council's organization and the mayor's first 'state of the city' address.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city must become a major player in the area's economic development planning and find ways to market itself while keeping a sharp eye on spending.
Those are the goals outlined by Mayor Richard Alcombright as he enters the final year of his two-year term and prepares for another run.
"We cannot continue to sell ourselves short by saying we can't afford this or we can't afford that," the mayor said Tuesday night during his "state of the city" address in the City Council chambers. "There are communities all over this country that are doing unique and interesting things to grow."
Alcombright's finishing a bruising first year that saw the city raise taxes and institute a sewer fee to cover a $1 million budget gap. He settled with the public unions over underfunding the health insurance trust that he said "might have been the largest and most grossly underreported fiscal fiasco North Adams has ever encountered."
He took over, he said, a city with "one of the lowest cash reserves in the commonwealth, significant housing and blight issues, a disengaged business community, a detached North Bekshires county."
Alcombright had to trim people off insurance lists and took city out of self-insurance; hired police, firefighters, assessor, treasurer and a new public services commissioner while making cuts in departments; fielded complaints over traffic disruptions for a streetscape project he hadn't planned and found that not only was Crane & Co. pulling out its North Adams division, two state offices were planning to close as well.
"Last year, many speculated I was not tough enough to be mayor of this fine city," he told the City Council, family, friends and city employees seated in the audience, as well as viewers at home. "And I would argue in one short year I've earned my stripes."
The address was given at the end of the City Council's annual organization, that also saw the resignation of Councilor Gailanne Cariddi as she takes her post as the district's new state representative.
The future budget isn't looking much better, Alcombright said, as North Adams faces a structural deficit that could balloon to $2 million. "The reality is we're taxed to the max and we don't have the ability to raise revenue much beyond what we already have. I will be looking at every department, every service to see what we can cut and I will continue to look at ways to create efficiencies. ... I am certain I will be once again faced with tough and unpopular decisions."
Alcombright said the city had to become a 'major player' in the region's economic planning.
It's been challenging but not all bad: The streetscape project is nearly complete; updating has begun at the Historic Valley Campground; Juvenile Court and state transitional assistance will be staying in some form; the Armory project is moving ahead; architects are drawing up preliminary plans for school options; and a Community Ecomonic Advisory Board and Youth Commission have been appointed.
More importantly, said Alcombright, is the energy and optimism that flooded the city. It's resulted in the creation of Develop North Adams, which has spearheaded the expansion of popular events, put benches downtown and pursued marketing ideas for the local merchants. On Monday, the city announced the Partnership for North Adams, a cooperative venture of cultural, educational and community leaders to draw investment to the area.
The mayor's also "dusting off" development plans that have been sitting on shelves for decades. The long-range goal is to revive the planning process and bring the city into alignment with the county's regional planning commission.
"I saw this as an opportunity for the regional planning commission to look at all of our plans and come up with the new document that would be the catalyst for the city to re-engage in the planning process, with our residents and our North County neighbors."
The first step will be a joint meeting of the City Council and the Planning and Zoning boards in February; the public will have input later in a series of "visioning" sessions.
The city is also pursuing a grant to develop a marketing campaign to brand it as a destination. Plans for one of the city's jewels, the Mohawk Theater, could be announced as early as this quarter.
As for the budget, the mayor said the same process would be followed as last year, with his finance team and the council's Finance Committee working together.
"Despite all the challenges I've very,very much enjoyed my first year as mayor I'm very proud of the fact I've been able to excite and energize and motiviate and open up many of the democratic processes for so many in the city," said Alcombright. "It has been said that one cannot run a city by consensus, I would suggest with strong leadership one can."
The full text of the mayor's speech can be found here.
The mayor will give his annual "State of the City" address at Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Mayor Richard Alcombright is expected to address opportunities for growth as well as the city's precarious financial condition.
On Monday, the mayor will join business and city leaders in announcing a new partnership between the city's business, education and cultural sectors. The economic development initiative, dubbed "The Partnership for North Adams," is being touted as a way to "propose and advance innovative community development projects and public/private partnerships."
Alcombright made the pursuit of economic opportunities, particularly hopes of drawing light industry back to the city, a centerpiece of his campaign. Those efforts have been stymied in part by the economic collapse that left the state and its communities reeling and the city's hard-hit finances.
Since his election last year, the mayor has had to raise taxes and institute a sewer fee to help cover budget shortfalls. He's expected to discuss on Tuesday night the looming budget gap of $1.2 million for the coming fiscal year - a shortfall that could grow to $3 million depending on the state's ability to fund municipal aid.
The Finance Committee will get a look a first draft of the 2012 budget on Monday afternoon.
The City Council will also take up bonding of the city's financial officers and several other matters.
The resignation of Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, D-North Adams, will be accepted by her colleagues. Her resignation will end 20 years of service on the council as she takes up her new duties as state representative for the 1st Berkshire District. Cariddi was sworn in that State House last week.
:: 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.