NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A financially shaky Redevelopment Authority has agreed to reduce the rent for the Freight Yard Pub to keep funds flowing to manage its debt.
The restaurant began witholding rent this past spring until the authority addressed what it claimed were poor conditions in Western Gateway Heritage State Park.
Mayor Richard Alcombright recommended an amended agreement effective Nov. 1, 2017, that would reduce the rent from $4,000 a month to $2,500 beginning in October, pending the restaurant pay the back rent being held in escrow. The amendment also allows the restaurant to terminate the lease at any time upon 60 days notice, with rent being paid through the last two months.
"We're reducing the rent as a settlement toward some of the issues that they had and also so that we can derive revenue that will help us keep our loan obligation current," the mayor said. "I think we'll have sufficient rent to minimally maintain the park but, most importantly, keep our obligation current at the Berkshire Bank. We don't want to do anything to jeopardize that."
The mayor said the agreement had been hashed between the attorneys for both sides. The amount in escrow was $25,875, which should come back to the cash-strapped Redevelopment Authority.
"I will not execute this unless the rent is current," the mayor said. "We may want to hold off execution of this until the very end of the month so that when this comes through, it comes through with the December rent also."
The authority has to begin making payments of about $2,200 a month on a $160,000 loan taken out from Berkshire Bank to settle a lawsuit the restaurant, as Bay State Hospitality Group, won against it for parking issues in 2015.
The park doesn't have many tenants and some have moved or are in the process of relocating to make way for the proposed extreme model railroad museum. The Thomas Krens-lead group took out an option to buy the park and the adjacent Sons of Italy for $1.2 million earlier this year.
The mayor said the museum will be paying $1,500 a month for the offices it occupies in the park (beginning in January) and there is another tenant paying $600. Cold Spring Coffee Roasters will be moving to the Norad Mill but is still in the park at $450 a month.
"The Redevelopment Authority is in a very cash sensitive position," Alcombright said in response to questions about the reduction setting a precedent. "I don't want to leave a bankrupt situation into the next administration. I think we're going to be able to provide some cash and an adequate income stream, should the tenants pay their rent."
He said disputed items from Freight Yard's lengthy list were not addressed as they were not the authority's responsibilities.
"The list seemed dramatic, there were a lot of items on there. Many, many of them had nothing to do with their operation of the building," said Building Inspector William Meranti. "Many are their responsibility through the lease and the ones that we were able to take care of, we have."
That includes having a contractor come in to repair gutters now that the awnings are down, and fixing pavers that were a trip hazard. A number of exterior lights have also been fixed or are awaiting parts to be repaired.
The mayor was careful to say his recommendations were only up to the end of December. The city will have a new mayor, Thomas Bernard, on Jan. 1. Bernard attended the meeting but didn't say anything.
The authority's vice chairman, Michael Leary, however, wanted to know what would prevent the restaurant from withholding rent yet again, as it did during the lawsuit.
"I'm a little bit irritated that we had to go this route to begin with and if this happens four, five months from now and we end up in the same situation, we have no mechanism other than locking the door," he said.
Alcombright agreed that "we've had issues over the years, honestly this would be in my mind, from my perspective, the Redevelopment Authority's last forbearance."
"I'm going to say as a member of the board, if this happens again, I'm going to vote to lock that door," Leary replied.
In other business, the authority approved an application by Gary Fuls to operate a real estate office at the Holiday Inn.
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Be Alert for Opportunities When Preparing for College Costs
Now that summer is winding down, it will soon be "back-to-school" time. When children are young, your logistics for the new academic year may involve little more than a trip to buy school supplies.
But if you would like to send your kids (or grandkids) to college someday, you need to plan far ahead to meet the financial demands. And, as part of your planning, you also need to be on the lookout for all opportunities to help pay those sizable college bills.
Specifically, you will need to be ready to take action in these areas:
Financial aid: You should start thinking about financial aid at least a year before your child heads off to college. For example, you can begin submitting the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) on Oct. 1, 2019, for the 2020-21 academic year. And if the past is any guide, you will always need to remember that Oct. 1 date for the next school year. The FAFSA helps colleges and the U.S. Department of Education evaluate your financial need and determine how much financial support your child requires. And since a lot of financial aid is awarded on a first-come, first-served basis, it's a good idea to submit your forms as soon as possible once the application period opens.
Kevin Strahle traveled all the way from his home in New Jersey to compete in the Jack's Hot Dog Stand eating contest on Eagle Street on a sweltering Saturday.
But because of some late intestinal distress, he did not take the title home with him. click for more