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Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Police, Fire Departments Respond to School

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, September 17, 2005

Reeves Strawbridge, who said she is "four-and-a-quarter" years old, enjoyed a Sept. 17 Cole Avenue Block Party.
View Slide Show
Williamstown – Town police officers, volunteer firefighters, and Village Ambulance personnel responded to the Williamstown Elementary School just before 1 p.m. on Sept. 17 after receiving reliable information that a 200-plus group of young people was preparing to swarm school property.

As groups of youths arrived on the property, the emergency responders took swift and immediate action, and kicked off the second consecutive Cole Avenue Block Party.

Dog Brought In, Officers Discover "Bikers"


Police Officer Michael Ziemba and the very popular "Blue" the bloodhound.
The whims of the children ruled the day; town police Officer Michael Ziemba repeatedly gave in to demands to produce “Blue,” an 11-month-old police department bloodhound with a knack for discovering missing persons and friendly faces. Ziemba stood by as the dog was petted, hugged, and kissed by her many fans.

School Resource and DARE Officer Tania Hernandez and police dispatcher-in-training Trishia Rumgay handled a “biker crowd,” who rolled in on two-wheeled, pedal-powered bicycles. A bicycle rodeo course outlined with orange cones and chalk kept the young riders occupied, but only after Hernadez and Rumgay taught each child the correct way to signal right and left turns, checked each youth “ride” for brakes and reflectors, and gave bicycle helmets “for keeps” to any rider who needed one.

Police Chief On Scene

Damien Sagendorph, 8, mastered manual bicycle turn signals during a bike rodeo.


Town police Chief Kyle Johnson was called upon as a presence within the crowd; at one point his attention was focused on helping 8-year-old Brianna Utz attach reflective stickers to a new bicycle helmet.

“We want people to be able to see you,” he said to Brianna. “We want you safe.”

“So am I gonna glow?” Brianna asked.

“Not exactly,” Johnson said. “Your helmet will reflect.”

Where There's Smoke, There's Firefighters

Meanwhile, town firefighters did double-duty as they educated and entertained children at a Kids Safety House. Small groups of children were able to enter the portable structure and practice their “escape” from a room that was filling with simulated smoke. Children were taught how to get down on the floor and crawl to a window, then exit the window and descend a ladder with help from firefighters.

Fireman Peter Niemeyer explained the benefits of the exercise.

“When we bring the smoke in, it layers, and the kids can see for themselves that it’s better to be down on the floor,” Niemeyer said.

"Sparky the Fire Dog" strolled the campus and was surrounded by roving bands of children eager to lavish affection on the plush pup.

Reinforcements Offer Diversions


Police Chief Kyle Johnson helped Brianna Utz afix reflective stickers to a bicycle helmet.
Northern Berkshire Community Coalition members offered diversions for the fun-seeking children. A multiple-artist face-painting table was almost constantly busy. Just a few feet away, children used small hoses to douse “flames” [orange traffic cones] and prove that their aim was true. Toddlers and pre-school aged children found themselves captivated at a play table filled with uncooked rice grains and plenty of scoop-friendly toys.

Gale Hose Co. Treasurer John Notsley kept hunger at bay as he flipped hamburger after hamburger and grilled hot dog after hot dog. The free food and soft drinks were well received by the children and their parents.

Tickled

Police Officer Amalio Jusino scanned the crowd with a practiced eye and smiled broadly.

“This is success,” he said. “It’s camaraderie. It’s everybody getting together for the kids. The better relationships we can establish now, the better relationships we’ll have later on.”

Town Fire Chief Craig Pedercini said that he was very happy with the turnout.

“I think this is really good,” he said. “I know the event was a big hit last year, and by moving it to the school, we got some more room and we could bring the safety house. I am very tickled by this.”

Raffles, a silent auction, and other special contests generated funds that will be donated to the Williamstown Food Pantry. Pantry Director Carol DeMayo said that the revenues will be much appreciated.

"Sparky the Fire Dog" had plenty of admirers during the block party.


“This is so nice; what a neat thing to do,” she said. “We are so happy to have the help. We’ll need it this year. It’s going to be a hard winter.”

Natalie Cain of the community coalition noted the NBCC’s pleasure at getting acquainted with another neighborhood. The coalition launched Northern Berkshire Neighbors in 1991 and sponsors many events for neighborhood groups in North Adams.

“We are so interested in getting to know the Cole Avenue neighbors,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for us.”

The event was open to people other than those who live on Cole Avenue and the surrounding streets.

Pedercini and Jusino noted that the NBCC operates in a very neighborly fashion; the coalition awarded the event a $300 grant, Jusino said.

“They are a very big part of this,” said Pedercini.

Showdown Brings Town Manager to Premises

As wristwatch time approached the 4 p.m. mark, expectations mounted and as anticipated, former town Fire Chief Edward McGowan appeared at the schoolyard. Police officers and firefighters knew it was time to prepare for a scheduled 4 p.m. showdown: a police officer versus firefighter softball game. Town Manager Peter Fohlin tackled another dimension in labor relations; he served as the game umpire.

After shaking hands with both Pedercini and McGowan, Johnson casually remarked that he was happy to see the Village Ambulance was still at the school.

“The fire department is gonna need it,” he said.

Lest anyone believe Johnson was instigating “trash-talk,” allow the record to state that earlier in the day, Pedercini questioned the source of an aroma he claimed to have detected in the vicinity of police Sgt. Scott McGowan and Officer Preston Kelly

“What was that smell around Scotty and Preston?” Pedercini had queried. “Was that Ben-Gay? Sure smelled like it.”

The fire department won the game 6-12.

A multi-photograph Cole Avenue Block Party slideshow will be posted at www.iberkshires.com during the upcoming week.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush123@adelphia.net or at 802-823-9367.
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