City Council Tackles Heavy Agenda
We're preparing for a long meeting on Tuesday night as the City Council plans to peruse some weighty issues.
Among them are the veterans agent sharing agreement (likely to go through swiftly — both Adams and Williamstown have approved the deal and it's a cost saver for North Adams) and a lengthy ordinance change for sidewalk vendors based on a recently adopted Adams bylaw. That's likely to get referred to another board or committee before going into effect.
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?
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North Adams Water Funky But Fine
It may smell funky but the water's OK to drink.
That's the word from the corner office, which released a statement this afternoon after a number of residents called in to complain about the change in taste and an accompanying odor.
"Please know that our water is tested daily at the water treatment plant and that our water supply is certainly safe to drink," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "With this very long stretch of hot weather, algae in the reservoirs give off nontoxic chemicals that can cause an earthy-musty taste and smell."
Alcombright said the Water Department and treatmant plant employees have begun treating the reservoirs with copper sulfate to kill the algae.
"The chemical needs to be added in small doses over a period of time," he said. "Additionally, the treatment plant has taken other steps in the filtration process to help reduce taste and odor issues.
"Finally, the city crews continue the system flushing program (started last month) which will help to refresh the supply in both low- and high-service areas. It has been reported by the treatment plant that at their site, the taste and odor issues have been resolved and with continued use and flushing, there should be citywide improvement over the next couple of days."
So despite the earthy aroma coming from your faucet, the water is safe to drink. "We should be back to normal over the next several days," said Alcombright.
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Trees Will Grow Again In North Adams
Does the maple tree in front of Petrino's wonder if it's next on the chopping block?
New paving and pressed concrete are being installed along Main Street.
The trees around Main Street have been disappearing at a swift and alarming rate. Not to worry, says Mayor Richard Alcombright, the worst is over.
The trees are being removed as part of the $3.2 million downtown streetscape project. Some weren't healthy to begin with, others were beginning to endanger the sidewalks and yet others were likely to be damaged from the ongoing construction.
It's all part of the regular construction process but citizens are wondering why the massacre; Alcombright addressed the topic at a recent DNA meeting and we asked him about again on Monday.
"Many of the corners had to be dug up to adhere to ADA requirements; ADA compliant ramps under the new requirements have to be wider and have less of an angle," said the mayor on Monday afternoon. "Where they would be placed would damage the root balls anyways."
Several trees along what was once the grassy strip near Sleepy's weren't in good condition and were always going to be replaced. Two others in front of Jack's Hot Dog Stand on Eagle Street were removed because they were beginning to intrude into the sidewalk.
Trees and "ugly weeds" along American Legion will be removed and replaced with new trees as needed and ornamental grates similar to those on Main Street.
All of the trees will be replaced except two in front of the Mohawk Theater. "We're not going to being taking them down without putting them back up," said the mayor, but until the plans are finalized for the Mohawk, that section will be left bare of greenery.
The maples marked in front of Petrino's and the former Sports Corner at Holden Street aren't going anywhere, hopefully, despite their orange badges.
"I've asked them to dig gently around there," said Alcombright. It would have nicer to have leafier shade trees on the "sunny side of the street" and more ornamental on the south side, which has the most shade, he said.
But with plans for the streetscape finalized more than a year ago, the current administration was unprepared for how quickly the street's leafy denizens were being hacked and hauled away.
The mayor, administrative officer and other staff toured the construction areas with the engineers to ensure everyone was aware of the full plans.
"Some of the frustration was not having the full-scale understanding of the project," said Alcombright, who added "there will be no work on Eagle until Beach Party [on July 9] is through ... They are real sensitive to what's going to be done and they are halting when I see something I don't like."
The streetscape project won't be completed until summer 2011. It includes the laying of new conduit, sidewalks, lighting and traffic signals along River, Main, Eagle, Holden and Marshall streets, Route 2 and American Legion Drive.
|Not all trees are attractive. The one in front of The Hub is skinny and and another in front of Sleepy's looks half dead. Below, what's left of the tree in front of the Baptist Church's side door on Eagle Street. We didn't even see that one come down.|
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Day of Service Eyed for This Fall
The Community Day of Service earlier this month included the work of some 250 to 300 volunteers, 9,000 pounds of trash being hauled to the transfer station and 25 pairs of mittens knitted and donated to charity. We call that a rousing success.
Those were the numbers given Tuesday night by organizers Glenn Maloney, Rod Bunt and Spencer Moser to the City Council and the viewing audience.
Maloney and Bunt said there was a huge increase in volunteers, some from out of town; Moser that a large number of organizations and groups were able to showcase their community committment, as well as students fulfilling their community service learning projects.
"We've been calling it the cleanup in past years and the volunteers have kind of dropped off," said Bunt, of the Mayor's Office of Tourism. "I don't have specific numbers and this is pretty anecdotal, but we had a whole lot more of the public that wanted to get involved and make it a successfull day."
The cleanup day may have started as a community event but MCLA has pretty much taken it over during the past decade and kept it going. This year, there was a renewed effort to join residents together with the college's efforts and expand it beyond picking up trash. The Develop North Adams group was instrumental in spearheading the collaboration. Volunteers - including city councilors - painted, cut brush, read to children, installed playground equipment, knitted and did other things.
MCLA's Moser said he would "challenge any of my colleagues in the commonwealth who have similar jobs to see if they have a relationship" that puts students to work solving real problems with the community. He's heard of the obstacles they've had to deal with. "I don't have a lot of challenges here. We work together real nicely."
Another community day is being considered for the fall but Moser said the main focus will continue to be on the spring event.
Mayor Richard Alcombright had a more prominent role this year as the "lemonade truck driver." Bunt said that last year, they "snuck him up to the landfill and let him do some work." Snuck him up? Who were they hiding him from. Hmmm ....
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Skating Rink Rededication Slated Saturday
The city's rededicating the skating rink for a native son killed in Vietnam.
Peter W. Foote III, an Army sergeant, was only 21 when he was killed in combat in 1968, saving a comrade.
His name was added to the rink last year (Peter W. Foote III Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink) at the behest of former Mayor John Barrett III, who announced the effort in 2008.
The new mayor, Mayor Richard Alcombright, is inviting the public to attend the ceremony this Saturday, May 15, at 11 a.m. at South Church Street rink.
"Peter W. Foote III was one of many North Adams natives who bravely served our country in the Vietnam War," said Alcombright. "Peter was the only North Adams native who paid the ultimate sacrifice, as he gave his life while saving the lives of others."
There will be several speakers, color guard and musical selections by the Drury High School band. The ceremonies will take about an hour.
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