BYOB, Appointments on North Adams Agenda
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local establishment is asking to go BYOB — as in bring your own [beer or wine] beverage.
The mayor's office is forwarding the request by Big Shirl's Kitchen to the City Council on Tuesday night, July 12, for review. Big Shirl's owners Renee and Mark Lapier are hoping the city will adopt a policy related to BYOB within the city's borders.
A number of other municipalities, such as Needham, Woburn and Westborough, allow the practice. According to an opinion from the city solicitor, establishments with liquor licenses cannot allow BYOB but non-licensed can, although the municipality has some control. They may not, however, "uncork" or otherwise handle the alcohol. BYOB is limited to beer and/or wine.
Mayor Richard Alcombright is asking the council to refer the matter back to his office and to the appropriate council committee.
City Councilor Marie Harpin will be sworn in as the governor's appointment to the Housing Authority.
Also on the agenda is a host of appointments and permission for a sewer connection. The mayor will present the final tallies on some accounts that will close out the 2011 fiscal year.
|Tags: budget, appointments, BYOB|
Prop 2 1/2 Meetings Come To a Close
The final of six public information meetings about Tuesday's vote on proposition 2 1/2 drew a small crowd.
Editor's Note: Mayor Alcombright has informed us that NBCTV encountered difficulties taping Friday night's override session. It was discovered this morning that the audio did not tape. The station will instead rebroadcast just the override presentation the mayor gave at the City Council meeting several weeks ago. The air times are Sunday, June 19, at 9 a.m., and 3 and 7 p.m., and Monday at 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., all on Channel 17.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The proposition 2 1/2 public information meetings came to a close Friday night at Greylock School and the decision is now in the hands of the voters.
"I thought the process went very, very well," Mayor Richard Alcombright said of the meeting. "At the first meeting there was this aura of skepticism...Now I see people and they have a focused questions and that's what we're trying to do. People began to understand."
Alcombright hosted six meetings across the city to discuss the override vote on Tuesday. Friday's meeting was the most sparsely attended - drawing a crowd of only a few dozen. Alcombright said he hopes the meetings encouraged residents to vote in favor of the proposition. However, he said he tried to remain relatively neutral – only slightly nudging in favor of the vote – during the meetings to encourage dialogue.
"I really would like people to know that I am available, that the city counselors are available. I wanted people to come out and share their opinions and not be judged," Alcombright said. "I think people, hopefully, see the need for this."
About a dozen people spoke at Greylock School and they were all in favor of the proposition except for Robert Cardimino, who continued his campaign advocating for additional cuts rather than raising taxes. Most who spoke centered around funding for the schools.
"Something has to be done for the long-term goals," Drury High School teacher Melissa Quirk said. "If we continue to think short-term, we will never be able to grow to the potential that this community has to offer. We need to be thinking long-term and in order to do that we all need to make as much as an investment as we can in this community."
City councilor Michael Bloom said that this budget was "unlike" any budget he has seen before and encouraged people to vote in favor of the override.
"There is too much negativity. There are no hidden accounts. There is no hidden agenda," Bloom said. "If you want to make further cuts and take step backwards, you can vote no on this. If you are look to build the community you will vote yes."
Cardimino, however, said the schools will survive without the override vote and said Alcombright had not made enough cuts.
"Let the mayor get out his scalpel and make some cuts," Cardimino said.
Now there is nothing left for the city to do to inform residents about the vote and the city's next steps lay in the hands of the voters.
"I'm hopefully optimistic. I'm hoping, beyond hope, that people rally around this," Alcombright said. "Whether you are for it or against it, vote."
|Tags: override, Proposition 2 1/2|
City Council OKs Budget, Override Resolution
Councilor Michael Bloom found majority support for his resolution on the Proposition 2 1/2 override on Tuesday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council mirrored the divisions splitting the city over the proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override even as it endorsed a resolution supporting the measure and a budget based on the override's passage.
The city's $35.5 million budget was approved unanimously, but the resolution failed to get full backing, passing 7-2 with Councilors Marie Harpin and President Ronald Boucher in the negative.
Voters will decide on Tuesday, June 21, on whether to approve the $1.2 million override and fund the budget as it currently stands. Failure of the override will mean up to $1 million in cuts in services and personnel in city and school departments, said Mayor Richard Alcombright.
Boucher called the introduction of the resolution by Councilor Michael Bloom "inappropriate."
"I don't think the City Council should make a statment for a yes or no vote," he said, suggesting the paper be filed. "I don't think it's the right time and place."
Boucher said the council had already voted last month when it decided to present the $1.2 million override to voters. That vote was even more split at 5-4, with Boucher also voting against because the budget had not yet been approved.
Bloom, chairman of the Finance Committee, disagreed strongly, saying everybody should stand and vote up or down because of the "devastating cuts" that will be made if the override doesn't pass.
"This is the most important time for the council to make the case," he said. "I'm shocked you want to file it. ... I've never seen a budget that's been cut as much as this budget. ... Seriously, at this time of day and at this hour, the council should stand and make a statement."
Most of the councilors expressed support for the override and some publicly stated whether they would vote for it.
"I've heard compelling arguments both for and against the override," said Councilor Alan Marden. "I will be voting yes in support of this resolution tonight and next Tuesday, I'll be voting in support of the override. We need new growth in this community. ... slashing city services, whether educational or general government, public safety or public services, is the wrong message to those who might look to move here and to invest here.
"We have to invest in ourselves if we want other to invest in us."
Councilor Marie Harpin, however, said it wasn't fair to the city's poor and those on fixed incomes.
"I'm totally ... in favor of all the services in the city of North Adams, but on the other hand I have to vote no on this resolution because I feel the people in this community really can't afford to pay any more taxes, not to this extent," she said. " I cannot in all honesty vote for this and I'm going to vote no on the Prop 2 1/2."
Councilor Michael Boland said he was willing to be counted. "If I voted for you, I'd want to know where you stood on an important issue."
Frequent critic Robert Cardimino claimed what the council was doing was illegal, based on his reading of state campaign law and vowed to call state officials and report them.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer noted the council frequently took up resolutions on ballot issues, some of which are generated by the Massachusetts Municipal Association.
"This is our job to have this discussion," she told Cardimino.
Both Marden and Boland said they hoped the community would come together after next Tuesday's vote to work together whatever the outcome.
The review and passage of the budget, done by department with each councilor taking a turn reading it, went fairly swiftly — except when it smashed into the Office of Tourism and Cultural Development.
Councilors and audience members spent nearly an hour debating the wisdom of funding the post of tourism director after Marden moved to eliminate the entire tourism budget of $51,186. There was some confusion later as Blackmer tried to amend a motion to eliminate just the salary and Bloom tried to move the question. In the end, the motion to remove the salary died with Blackmer, Harpin, Boucher and Marden voting for and the entire line item was retained.
Blackmer advocated strongly that the position be put on the backburner for at least a year until a better job description could be formulated making more a "cruise director" position for the city and a cultural development plan put in place. Considering the city's current financial woes, it wasn't a good time to be funding a post whose duties could be filled with volunteers, she said, when it could be focusing on its website or funding an assistant building inspector.
"We need to connect on economic development as a whole, not just the tourism aspect," said Blackmer. "... It doesn't pass the smell test with the community."
Councilor Keith Bona, however, said restaurants and businesses had been sold on the implementation of the meals and rooms taxes with the idea that they would get some return by putting the money toward marketing the city. Councilor David Bond agreed, saying removing the position would save some money in the budget but likely cost businesses down the road: "But I understand where we are financially and why people want to cut it."
Councilor David Lamarre raised his previous objections that the post, at $34,186, was too low to attract quality candidates. He suggesting not filling it until the city was in a position to offer a better salary. Blackmer, meanwhile, was advocating cutting the car allowance of $1,500 should the department budget pass.
Several audience members spoke in favor of filling the job. Gail Sellers, who operates a pottery studio in the Eclipse Mill and sits on the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art Commission, said volunteers here are wonderful but they can only do so much. "I see a lot of things hanging by a thread," she said.
Alcombright said filling the post was critical to marketing the city, organizing events and aiding the development of a cultural plan and website.
"If you take it away this year, how are you going to put it back?" he asked. "I think to lose this position for a year would be devastating."
His office had received nearly 30 applications and was in the process of interviewing finalists — all quality candidates, the mayor assured Lamarre.
Resident Trevor Gilman, a member of the Airport Commission, said voters would be making the decision next week whether to move forward or backward; if the override failed, then it was on the table.
"To eliminate this position when there are a lot of people who want to move this city forward is a mistake," said Gilman. "I need you to lead and make decisions to make this city better."
Note that in the resolution below, "administrative assistant" was amended to "administrative officer" in the second paragraph.
Council Resolution in Support of Override
|Tags: override, resolution|
North Adams School Budget Hearing Slated
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Committee will hold a public hearing on the fiscal 2012 school budget at 6 p.m. on Tuesday in the Conte Middle School conference room that will be attended by the Finance Committee.
Mayor Richard Alcombright plans to bring the school budget before the City Council at its next meeting on June 14. However, scheduling the Finance Commmittee to review the spending plan beforehand became problematic because of senior week activities (Drury graduates on Thursday) and other commitments, including another presentation on a proposed Proposition 2 1/2 override on Friday night.
The option to meet and review the budget during its presentation to the School Committee was considered after last week's Prop 2 1/2 session since it would allow both committees to meet at once. The School Committee will hold its regular meeting immediately following the public hearing.
Prior to the hearing, the Finance Committee will meet at 5 p.m. in the City Council chambers to review the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District budget with Superintendent James Brosnan.
The school budget being presented on Tuesday is $15.6 million, the largest single item in the city's proposed $35.6 million spending plan.
The budget is also the largest target in "Plan B" should the $1.2 million Prop 2 1/2 override fail on June 21.
Superintendent James Montepare said the school budget has been trimmed by more than $4 million over the past few years and that the budget being presented is $147,000 below this year's.
The administration has identified more than a $1 million in possible program cuts and layoffs, and fees for certain extracurricular activities. School spending, however, cannot go below state-calculated foundation level of $15.4 million without endangering some $14 million in Chapter 70 funds.
At the second of six public hearings on the proposed override, Montepare said the city had been funding well above foundation for years ($3 million or more) but reductions in local aid had decreased its contribution to about a half-million above foundation.
All presentations begin at 7 p.m.
The override question, which would permanently raise the tax levy to meet current obligations, has divided the city going into the June 21 election. An outspoken group is calling for more reductions in spending to offset the $3.2 million decrease in state aid; others are advocating for the override, saying the city can't afford to cut its schools and services anymore.
A website, VoteYesForNorthAdams.com (created by Brian Miksic), is being promoted on Facebook and offers information on the current budget, the proposed cuts and Proposition 2 1/2. It also has a handy calculator: drop in your property assessment and it will total up the added cost of the override.
Opponents say the override estimates of about $20 a month more for the average home isn't factual because it doesn't take into account last year's 10 percent tax increase, the hike in the water fee and the implementation of a sewer tax. Homeowners have been hit by these increases over last six months in the quarterly bills.
The antagonism is getting heated enough that the mayor posted a message on his Facebook page asking people to leave the "NO on Prop 2 1/2" signs popping up around the city alone.
|Tags: override, Finance Committee|
Alcombright Dedicates City Report To Longtime Clerk
Mayor Richard Alcombright surprised longtime City Clerk Mary Ann Abuisi on Tuesday morning when he announced that the city report is dedicated to her.
Abuisi shared stories of her 28 years as city clerk for about an hour Tuesday morning.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — When it comes to city records nobody knows them better Mary Ann Abuisi, longtime city clerk.
Now the annual report will be dedicated to her nearly 30 years overseeing the city's paperwork.
"I think it's wonderful. It's an honor. I've seen many dedications but I never thought it would be me," the retired clerk said after being surprised with the announcement Tuesday morning.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said he was pouring over records for his first report when he made the connection. It was fitting for Abuisi to be honored this way, he said.
Abuisi started as assistant city clerk in 1975 and worked under former Mayors Joseph Bianco, Richard Lamb, John Taft and John Barrett III. She retired in 2003.
"My fondest memories of Mary Ann goes back to my dad," Alcombright, whose father, Daniel Alcombright, was a longtime city councilor, said. "For me this is gratifying. I think my dad would be happy that we are doing this."
Abuisi's husband helped provide a photo and a short biography for the inside page of the annual report and then on Tuesday brought her to the mayor's office without telling her about it. Abuisi sat with Alcombright and members of the press for about an hour reminiscing of her time in City Hall.
The aspect she misses the most of the job is watching people grow. Abuisi, also a justice of the peace, said she would marry a couple, then issue a birth certificate to their baby. Later that child would come to her for various licenses and paperwork and eventually to her for their own wedding.
"It's like you know everybody but they don't know you," Abuisi said. "To watch these people grow. It's a fun thing."
Abuisi married more than 500 couples and is still a justice of the peace until 2013, when she will give up the post.
Alcombright gave Abuisi a hardbound copy of the report with a special note on the inside thanking her for her time.
"The most exciting thing was the elections," Abuisi said. "It's like being the mother of the city."
After making sure all registered voters' information was up to date and in the correct ward, Abuisi would hand-count ballots until the sun came up. The ballots would be tallied at a City Hall that would be packed with people.
Alcombright added that men would be dressed up in suits and smoking cigars while Abuisi would write vote totals on a large chalkboard.
"It was just a different time," Alcombright said.
Abuisi's biggest challenge came in 1979 when the city population dropped and city officials had to drop from 12 to five wards. While officials were perplexed at where those boundaries would be outlined, Abuisi had figured out a way it would work. However, it involved moving Ward 7's voting to Ashland Street, which triggered outrage in the ward's Italian neighborhood near Walnut and Furnace streets.
When the first election was held with the new districts, Abuisi said one of the boxes of supplies randomly fell from the top shelf and she joked it was an old Italian ghost upset with the new districts.
"The biggest change I've noticed is population," Abuisi said. "But I think the city is coming around."
Since retiring, Abuisi has been filling her time with her family and spends time in Florida.
"I'm very, very busy doing nothing," Abuisi said. "Once you retire, you wonder how you ever found time to work."
Abuisi was given a hardbound copy of the report with an inscription from Alcombright on the inside thanking her for her work. The report will be presented to the City Council on June 14, Alcombright said.
|Tags: Abuisi, city report|