NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright does not want bureaucracy to stand in the way of issuing permits to street carts.
When revising an ordinance to include a procedure for street carts, the council requested a committee to be formed to oversee special events and vendors but fearful that it will drive business away from the city, Alcombright insisted the process should be streamlined and handled internally.
"I think we need to get away from committees and handle it internally first," Alcombright said at Tuesday's City Council meeting. "I think that if you talk to many of the merchants and people trying to organize events in the city, you’ll find they say the bureaucracy is what gets in the way the most."
The mayor's office has been discussing a way to manage vendors and will report to the council in February. That group is creating a checklist for events to ease the process.
Councilor Lisa M. Blackmer expressed concern that the work put into crafting the ordinance will be lost but Alcombright emphasized that it is only a mention of a subcommittee that he would like to change.
Also regarding events, Councilor Keith Bona said that during last year's Wilco concert a few local restaurants did not apply to extend its liquor license in time and had to stop serving early. Another Wilco concert is planned for this summer and restaurant owners need to be up to date with their permits.
"There is no reason it has to be 11 o'clock," Alcombright said. "We'll make sure everything is as it should be."
The mayor also attempted to halt rumors that the new stoplights on Main and Marshall streets are used for surveillance. Other cities have used the cameras to take photos of license plates of speeders or cars that run red lights. Though these cameras have the ability to do that, the city could not afford to equip them with that programming.
"This is not a Big Brother thing," Alcombright said. "These are strickly sensors."
The Marshall Street lights are using sensors to determine traffic flow and switch the lights but the lights on Main Street are back on a timer system, he said. Use of the sensors was causing traffic jams downtown so the city went back to timers.
However, there have been a lot of rumors that the cameras were surveillance and even Councilor Marie Harpin initially asked where the photos were being sent.
The city also approved an ordinance that requires residents who host tag sales to remove the signs within two days or else be fined.
Councilor Alan L. Marden asked if the timeframe could be cut to only a day but councilors responded by saying that the people the city will be after for violations are those who leave them up for longer than two days.
Bona emphasized that the ordinance will be meaningless unless it is enforced.
"It's something we're putting in the books but who knows if it'll be enforced," he said.
Councilor Gailanne Cariddi requested that the Traffic Commission review places that have received complaints. Those complaints include cars having to turn around when going west on Main Street to reach Route 2, a short crossing signal for seniors crossing Ashland Street to get to the high rise and speeding on North Street.
The commission will be called and the council will rehash the issue in February.
David Lewis said limiting the number of vendor licenses was valid. 'We don't want to put anyone out of business.'
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee's looking to update the city's peddling ordinance but will first have to answer a few questions.
The matter was passed to the City Council subcommittee earlier this summer after a hot dog cart sparked complaints from some local businesses and after a boost in vendor applications for the Solid Sound Festival. The panel members Chairwoman Gailanne Cariddi, Lisa Blackmer and Keith Bona met Monday in the City Council chambers with Health Inspector Manuel Serrano.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, while supporting the vendors efforts and enthusiasm, was concerned that the definitions of hawkers and peddlers as outlined in the city's current ordinance were not clear and forwarded to the committee a bylaw adopted by Adams earlier this year.
"I think one of the main concerns or issues is public safety," said Serrano. "Street vendors whether they're selling food or products, it has to be safe to do so."
Serrano said any food vendors have to be licensed by the Board of Health and have SafeSERV certification; others need a license, including anyone who has more than three tag sales a year at the same address. Those with state licenses still need to register with the police.
"For instance, the [Fall Foliage Festival] Parade, all hawkers, peddlers have to register," he said. "We'll issue them badges so the public knows they're registered with us."
Blackmer said there was a concern of vendors operating outside established venues. "You don't want to hurt existing business but you don't want to discourage entrepreneurship," she said, adding that the more happening in the downtown the better. "But you have to make sure there's enough of the pie."
Vendors should perhaps get permission from other competing businesses, said Bona, before setting up in the downtown.
Serrano said it was up to the city to decide whether it wanted to limit the number of vendor licenses or where such vendors could operate.
Committee members listen as Health Inspector Manuel Serrano explains how the city licenses different vendors.
The exception, all agreed, was in the case of special events during which food and other vendors would be encouraged to set up. Serrano questioned whether that would include SteepleCat games or youth activities, and how broadly such a policy would be written.
David Lewis, who operates the hot dog cart Guys and Dogs on Saturdays with Vincent Melito, objected to the panel members desire to safeguard businesses.
"When I was in my several businesses, I wish that someone would have regulated my competition," he said, adding that he and Melito had gone out of their way not to intrude on other eateries. "We did it for foot traffic. ... We thought it would be a nice segue from Mass MoCA to the Hub."
Jennifer Barbeau, who's organizing Saturday's annual Fall Foliage Arts & Crafts Fair, also stressed that not having a storefront doesn't mean the operator isn't contributing to the city. Barbeau, who operates two businesses out of her home, also wanted the panel to keep in mind that crafters aren't necessarily in the same league as reguler vendors.
Bona agreed, saying that many are more hobbyists than businesspeople.
Cariddi said the panel would take into consideration the comments from those in attendance, which also included Gail and Phil Sellers, Councilors Ronald Boucher and Marie Harpin, Rhea Lewis and tourism director Rod Bunt.
The panel members will consider definitions for vendors and special events, and consider a range of vendor limits. The next meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 5:30 in the council chambers.
We're wondering what will happen with the mayor's request for a home-rule petition to keep Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco in the station house. He's facing mandatory retirement in the fall (he told us a few months ago he didn't want to retire); it will take a legislative action to keep him past his expiration date.
The mayor's reasoning is there are a lot of new hires in the fire and police forces and they need an experienced, steady hand; a commissioner also offers an administrative head who can focus on budgeting, prioritizing and emergency management services.
The commissioner spot was created three decades ago but some question the need with the city's reduced population and police force. There was some thought that Mayor Alcombright would use Morocco's forced retirement to reorganize public safety; apparently they were wrong.
Also on the agenda is a letter from the Department of Revenue about the city's $1.2 million out-of-whack 2011 budget. The bad news: the city better keep an eye on its minimal reserves and start some long-term planning.
There's been a fuss by a few about whether the city has to tax at its full levy capacity. Gerard Perry, state director of accounts, says: "The city has levied to the maximum levy limit allowed under Proposition 2 1/2. The city would need to tax at this levy limit in order to set the FY 2011 tax rate."
To lower the rate, it would have to start cutting or raise other revenue, both of which the administration says it's done.
There's a whole lot of other stuff Tuesday, too. Five reserve officers to be sworn in, updates on the multiple road projects, something on the Commission on Disabilities ... To find out what's happening, the entire agenda is available here.
Because of its lengthiness, I've separated out the important stuff: Commissioner of public safety home-rule petition is here and the letter from the DOR is here. The vendor ordinance is in the full agenda.
Links to these documents are also available through Tuesday on the front page. I've noticed quite a few but not a lot of hits on council documents I've uploaded to Scribd. I'd like some feedback — are they hard to find, do you subscribe, do you care?
:: 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.