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Barn Filled With Antiques Burns In Williamstown

By Andy McKeever

A two-story barn filled with antiques owned by James Montepare was reduced to a pile of debris by fire Saturday.

 

Blustery winds expanded the fire from the barn to the garage, which also stored antiques.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — A fire destroyed thousands of dollars worth of antiques Saturday on McLain Court.

A two-story barn, a shed and a garage filled with antiques owned by North Adams Public Schools Superintendent James Montepare burnt to the ground.

For five hours, firefighters from Williamstown and Pownal, Vt. battled gusting winds to snuff out the fully engulfed structure fire. There were no injuries and the cause is still unknown.

"I used these two structures for storage and refurbishing," Montepare, who owns three antique stores, said on Sunday. "I can't say enough about the fire departments and how hard they work."

Montepare said he started a small fire in a woodstove in the barn Saturday morning and shortly after noon he saw smoke billowing out the second story windows.

"I did have a small fire going in the woodstove but I don't know if that was the cause," Montepare said. "I closed [the stove] up and everything seemed to be fine."

The building was already so engulfed that Montepare could not enter the barn but he did remove as much flammable material as he could out of the structures and turned the gas off while firefighters were on their way.

Nobody was in the barn when it ignited; Montepare and his wife, Carole, were inside the house. The blustery winds spread the fire from the barn to the garage and ignited a small brush fire on the hillside behind the buildings.

"It was windy and that was a huge factor," Montepare said. "It started going up the mountain."

Montepare is hoping his homeowner's insurance will cover what he called "a total loss." Montepare did not have an exact dollar amount but said he lost thousands of dollars worth of antiques and tools.

Montepare refurbishes and sells antiques as a hobby and the barn was used for storage and as a workspace. Many of the antiques that were destroyed were expected to stock an expanded Empire Antiques on Main Street. Montepare and Keith Bona, owner of Creations, are planning on expanding the store in the Main Street Stage location to accommodate more of Montepare's merchandise.

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Future of Eagle Street Storefront Unknown After Arrest

Andy McKeever

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — It is unknown what will happen with the Eagle Street Music storefront in the wake of the proprietor's recent arrest.

Matthew D. Berger, who opened the music store last month, was arrested last week on charges of distribution of oxycodone and oxymorphone. The store has been closed since and landlord Eric Rudd said he does not know what will become of it.

"I'm less than happy about the situation. They have a lease and so far have not contacted me," Rudd, who was out of the country when the arrest was made, said in an e-mail Friday.

Berger pleaded not guilty last Tuesday to five charges of distribution of a Class B drug after a Berkshire County Drug Task Force investigation that began last December. He was released on $5,000 cash bail.

Rudd said Berger's father signed a lease for the storefront and on Monday the store was still stocked. The store sold music equipment and accessories and the rear of the space, in the flatirion building, was to be used for private music lessons.

Berger had been on the police radar well before the store's opening. Police said they were tipped off that he was selling prescription drugs, and performed a series of controlled buys as well as watched him at the store. He was arrested inside the shop last Monday.

He also faces possession charges in New York state after New York State troopers said they found a pill grinder and straws containing hydrocodone and oxycodone.

Berger was not available for comment as of Monday.

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Mayor's Wife Arrested for Shoplifting

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Michelle Alcombright, wife of North Adams Mayor Richard J. Alcombright, was charged with shoplifting two weeks ago in Florida.

Alcombright, 53, was arrested and charged with probable cause of retail theft of more than $300 on Tuesday, March 29, at a shopping plaza in Ruskin, Fla., just outside of Tampa.

According to a report by the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the arrest was made at about 7 p.m. The report doesn't state where the arrest took place other than 3846 Sun City Boulevard, the address of the plaza, which includes a Walmart Supercenter, a Beall's Department Store and a pet supermarket.

She was booked at 10:17 that night and was held until 5 p.m. the next day, when a $2,000 surety bond was posted for her release.

Word of her arrest was posted liberally on the Topix comments section over the weekend and emailed to iBerkshires. Her arrest was one of the top most viewed Sunday on the Tampa page of Whosarrested.com. There had been rumors over the past year of a similar incident at a local Walmart but no facts.

Michelle Alcombright was not at the mayor's re-election launch on Friday and the following reception was hosted by his daughter. We have asked the mayor for a statement.

Update: Mayor Alcombright released this statement on Monday, April 11, 2011, shortly after noon. We are running it in its entirety.

My wife, Michelle, is humiliated, ashamed and hurting deeply, and our entire family is saddened as a result of this recent situation. With that said, we are no different from any other family that struggle with personal issues.

The past two years have been extremely difficult for my wife as she has faced crippling anxiety, severe depression and physical health problems and she is currently in an outpatient program helping her deal with her issues. My interests are embedded in making sure she gets the necessary care to make her well and to become physically and emotionally healthy once again. 

I ask the community to allow us to handle this as it should be handled ... as a personal family matter. I will deal with family and personal issues as would any other husband and father.

I will, as I have done for the past 15 months, continue to fulfill my elected responsibilities as mayor and fully hope to continue as I announced last week, to be in this position for two more years.

This will be my only comment on the situation.

Richard J. Alcombright

 

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Pittsfield Police Report Phone Scam

Pittsfield Police Department

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield Police Department would like to advise the public of the recurrence of a common phone scam. This phone scam is being conducted by unknown individuals believed to be in the United States and Overseas. The individuals involved in this scam are calling residences and pretending to be relatives in need of money.

One of the most recent victims of this scam reported sending $3,200 to an individual, who they believed to be their grandson, in Spain. It is possible that the individuals involved in this scam are obtaining personal information about their victims' families from social media sites. After gathering information from the Internet, the individuals contact family members, who are mostly elderly, and pretend to be a relative. The relative will claim to be in trouble and in need of money. The caller instructs the victim to wire money to them.

If any residents receive phone calls of this nature, please attempt to verify the identity and whereabouts of the family member before offering financial assistance. If you have suffered a financial loss due to this type of crime please contact the Pittsfield Police Department at 413-448-9700 and file a report. 

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Lanesborough Man Charged With Child Pornography

Andy McKeever

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A Lanesborough man was charged with his second child pornography offense.

Jermaine L. Lane, 35, of Balance Rock Road had not guilty pleas entered in Berkshire Superior Court Wednesday on four counts of possession of visual material of a child depicted in sexual conduct - his second offense.

Lane is being held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $50,000 bail as a result of allegedly having images of child pornography on his cell phone on Jan. 31. The investigation was conducted by state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office.

Lane had previously pleaded guilty to 39 counts of possession of child pornography in 2008 and he was given suspended sentences at the Berkshire County House of Correct and placed on three-years probation. He was also told to attend sex-offender counseling and wear a GPS monitor.

Those charges stemmed from having illicit images on his computer between 2004 and 2006 while he lived in Pittsfield.

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