By: Staff Reports On: 05:10PM / Friday October 08, 2010
What are those kids doing in your yard? Don't panic, they may just be trying to tell you about ways to stay safe.
Students from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the Department of Public Safety, the city and Develop North Adams are partnering this Saturday, Oct. 9, to coordinate a neighborhood walk to promote and inform residents about general neighborhood and public safety. The activity is part of MCLA's 2010 Fall Community Day of Service.
From about 9 to noon, MCLA student volunteers, police and firefighters will be handing out some basic informational neighborhood safety sheets to North Adams residents. They will be in the neighborhood around the Alcombright Field to take advantage of the families attending the youth soccer leagues games and will try to visit other parts of Greylock and Blackinton.
The trolley will pick up the 23 students on campus and bring them to police and fire station. They will get a tour of the facility and a pep talk, receive the informational materials and then head out to hand out the public safety information.
By: Tammy Daniels On: 10:57PM / Thursday October 07, 2010
Mayor Alcombright says the aged concession and public bathrooms at Fish Pond are an embarrasment.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday will be asked to authorize up to $150,000 in borrowing to update Windsor Lake (Fish Pond) and its campground.
Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon that the money would be used to revamp the two bathroom buildings at Historic Vally Campground and build a new concession stand and bathroom facility closer to the beach.
"The idea is how can we renew the excitement and enthusiasm about the lake," said the mayor. "It's a beautiful, beautiful place."
Alcombright said the two bathroom buildings built in 1969 are in a state of disrepair; the concession stand and public bathrooms at the lake "are in deplorable condition, they are embarrassing quite honestly."
The concession and facilities were built in 1959. They are now located far away from the public beach area as is the playground equipment.
"It's inconvenient, it's old, it's nonfunctional," said the mayor. "Considering the idea is to enhance the lake, to remarket the lake [we would] build a new concession/restroom building on the green space as you walk toward the beach."
The estimated cost for refurbishing and making the campground bathrooms handicapped accessible would be $60,000; building a new one-story concession modeled after the one at Noel Field about $70,000 to $80,000. The playground would be moved and needs new equipment.
A possible beach volleyball court could be put in but Windsor Lake Recreation Commission Chairman George Forgea said that would not be included in the borrowing. "There may be other ways to do that."
A lot of the exterior work would be done by McCann Technical School students and most of the rest done by city workers. The cost would be primarily materials.
Revenues from the lake and campground go into the general fund. Forgea said the campground "is nowhere near the capacity of the revenue it could generate." But the park is in dire need of upgrades beyond just the bathrooms: its roads and buildings need serious upgrading as do the sewer and electrical.
"The wiring goes back to 1969," said Forgea. "We had several campers who came up and found we only had 20-amp service and turned around and left."
The campground isn't prepared for the larger campers and their multiple appliances. Forgea said the idea isn't to turn the campground into a "Disneyland" but to make it attractive to the types of people who are coming to spend money at places like the local museums and theaters. They're not coming in tents, he said.
Of the park's 100 campsites, 48 were occupied by seasonholders but the remaining 52 had only a 30 percent occupancy rate.
Some changes are already under way. After operating on a cash only basis for decades, campers will now be able to use charge cards, make reservations online and, more importantly, be required to make deposits. A new management team will take over in the spring as well.
Finance Committee members were in favor of the investment because of the likely future return.
"Any money spent on the lake is money well spent," said committee Chairman Michael Bloom.
In other business, the committee voted to recommend borrowing for $650,000 to complete the the $6.3 million airport project. The matter was referred to the committee at the last council meeting.
"It's our obligation as a city to finish this airport," said the mayor. "This is an amount of money we can work with to get this done."
The city would use $150,000 to complete its 2.5 percent match of the runway funding (another 2.5 percent is being paid by the state and the rest by the federal government). The balance of the borrowing would used to pay any overruns regarding the Runway Safety Areas.
The RSA work is currently in litigation over a dispute with a subcontractor regarding the design and amount of work needed to complete it.
"The bonding request that the mayor sent [the council] is larger than the estimated local share of the project," said Administrative Officer Jay Green. "That is to have a buffer zone to make sure we're covered."
Not all money may be used, he said, because there is a federal wetlands grant for the project that may provide more funding. The city's attorney is in talks with the subcontractor to reach a settlement.
Health Insurance, Airport Project on Council Agenda
By: Staff Reports On: 04:58PM / Monday September 27, 2010
Mayor Richard Alcombright will address the health coverage of elected officials at this week's City Council meeting and request the approval of a municipal health-insurance agreement with MIIA.
The issue raised some controversy earlier this year when it was discovered a number of officials had taken advantage of the city's benefit health package — at a time when taxes and fees were being hiked to cover a significant budget shortfall.
The benefits have been in place for some time and reportedly fall under state Chapter 32B, which also covers employees, retirees and spouses of retired or insured workers. Alcombright said he would bring a policy to the council that would go into effect on Jan. 1.
(We tried to search 32B for the pertinent language but the Legislature's new website for the General Laws is much more difficult to navigate and time-consuming to load. We give it a thumbs down for user-friendliness.)
He'd said several months ago that he wanted to review the policy and, if it were to be discontinued, give those covered enough time to make arrangements for alternative health insurance coverage.
The mayor is also bringing a request to borrow $650,000 for the Harriman & West Airport improvement project, which includes a half-million to cover an overrun. The state and city are each responsible for 2.5 percent matches on the $5 million project; the feds were picking up the balance.
However, the mayor writes that only $150,000 of the borrowing will fulfill the match. "The $500,000 is quite honestly an overrun and represents the completion on the Runway Safety Area (RSA) which has been problematic since 2009. There is a new design for the RSA and we are hopeful on two front: first, that $500,000 will complete the RSA and second, that the FAA may infuse additional funds to help defray these additional costs," he wrote.
Also on the agenda for the council's decision is an ordinance to place delinquent sewer fees with the real estate tax bills; several ordinance amendments for second readings; the appointment of Joanne Hurlbut to the Historical Commission for a three-year term; and the discussion of tag sale and other signs left hanging around the city.
By: Staff Reports On: 08:37PM / Monday August 23, 2010
Fun at last year's Downtown Celebration.
Anyone driving down Main Street knows when the city's annual neighborhood block party happens this year: it's prominently displayed on the Mohawk marquee. But if you haven't ventured downtown (and why not?), the date's Wednesday, Aug. 25.
Main, Holden, Eagle and upper Ashland streets will be shut down from 5:30 to 9 on Wednesday evening so more than 45 vendors, merchants and organizations (nearly half of which are restaurants or food servers) can set up shop along the city's main drags.
Entertainment will be provided throughout the evening on Eagle Street and different locations along Main Street. Visit iBerkshires at 106 Main St. for free popcorn.
North Adams historian Paul W. Marino will lead a historical walk of Main Street at 5. Those interested should meet at the foundry works marker across the street from the Office of Tourism and above Subway Restaurant. At the Berkshire Plaza, the Drury High School band, directed by Christopher Caproni, will perform beginning at 6. At 7, the popular Berkshire County Line Dancers will take the stage in front of the plaza.
In front of Greylock Federal Credit Union at 66 Main St., Karen's School of Dance will perform at 6 followed by a show presented by the Berkshire Dance Theater at 6:15. Next to TD Bank and iBerkshires, Otha Day will perform with approximately 30 drummers at 7. Also at 7, Traci Kittler and Champagne Jam, sponsored by the North Adams Transcript, will play at 85 Main St. Miss Guided will also play at 7 at the corner of Holden and Main streets.
The duo Whirlwind will play near 15 Eagle St., beginning at 6. The popular Loose Change, sponsored by Adams Cooperative Bank, will perform in front of 31 Eagle St. beginning at 7.
One of the more interesting attractions of the night will be the Holden Street Art, or "Holden StArt." Volunteers led by Boston sidewalk artist Sidewalk Sam will use 1,000 square feet of pavement as a canvas for a chalk painting. The event is a preliminary effort to a larger public art project being developed by Art About Town for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art's excess parking lot behind the Big Y.
To volunteer or for any other questions about the installation, call 413-664-0197.
The public is also invited to tour DownStreet Art galleries, which will be gearing up for the Aug. 26 "Last Thursday" gallery openings. Other evening attractions include a first-ever Downtown Celebration dunk tank, provided by Drury band boosters, at 48 Main St. near American Legion Drive and displays and sales from downtown merchants.
The celebration was originated in 1996 as a way to celebrate downtown beautification efforts and became an annual event. Rain date for the celebration is the next night, Thursday, Aug. 26. For more information on the celebration or the Holden Street Art project, contact the Office of Tourism at 413-664-6180 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Kathy Keeser On: 04:32PM / Monday August 23, 2010
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A dedicated group of youth and adults are hoping to "refresh" the dream of a skatepark in the city with the help of PepsiCo.
Members of UNITY (United, Neighboring, Interdependent, Trusted Youth) and its umbrella organization, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, have been working on a plan for an action sports or skate park for a number of months and have partnered with the city and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to develop one.
The group is hoping that the community will not only support a park but help fund it by voting in Pepsi's "Refresh Project." The soft drink company is offering up to $250,000 in grants each month for worthwhile community projects supporting health, neighborhoods, the arts, eduction, food and shelter and the planet. The projects have to be "beneficial, achievable, constructive, and 'shovel-ready' (meaning it can be finished within 12 months of funding)," according to the site.
The company has been accepting 1,000 projects a month and doling out grants since February. Award winners are selected based on their leaderboard positions — in other words, the projects that are boosted to the top by voters. The two top proposals receiving the most votes online by the end of the month each receive a $250,000 grant; other grants from $5,000 to $50,000 will go to the top 10.
Emily Baker-White, a Mount Greylock Regional High School graduate who's working with UNITY as summer intern from Oberlin College, said the group had gotten the project accepted for voting in September.
Baker-White doesn't know how many votes are needed as Pepsi won't release the information on the number of votes past winners received. "Our community may be small but we are a close community, and it is easier to bring people together and spread the word. In large communities the message might get lost," she said. "I really think we have a real chance to win this, so vote every day in September."
So far, the only Massachusetts project we could find on the site that was funded was $5,000 to Greg Johnson for biking 192 miles for cancer research for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute back in May. Johnson's proejct was in the top 10 for his category (health) and amount. The town of Greenfield, Ohio won $25,000 for its own skate park in July.
There was lots of energy and excitement at the volunteer meeting last Tuesday to plan a get-out-the-vote campaign for this contest, with about 30 youth and adults gathered at the NBCC offices downtown. Many of the youth were BMX bikers and if the park is set up well, bikers and skateboarders will be able to share the park, making it more proper to call it an "action sports park."
The brainstorming session brought out ideas and willingness to put out fliers and information through every means of communication the group could come up with. Expect to see a catchy message to vote all over the city.
The meeting was organized by UNITY teens from the leadership program with support from Baker-White and Kate Merrigan, UNITY program coordinator. UNITY is NBCC's youth development program and the Youth Leadership Program is a leadership training and community service-learning program that meets weekly during the school year to encourage youth expression and involvement in their communities.
The planning group will meet again on Monday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m. in the NBCC offices on the second floor of 61 Main St. In an e-mail reminder about the meeting, Baker-White said, we hope to see everyone back tonight for our second meeting — voting looms ever closer, and we'll need every volunteer and every idea we can get. Thanks so much; I'm pumped to see you all there!"
Voting on the Pepsi Refresh Project website will begin Sept. 1 and last through Sept. 30. If you have a Facebook account, you can log on directly, otherwise you will need to go to www.refresheverything.com and create an account with Pepsi to vote. Voters must be age 13 or older and may vote once each day online and make a second vote by texting a five-digit number, which will be released in time for the September voting period.
:: 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.