ADAMS, Mass. — Newly elected state Rep. John Barrett III, D-North Adams, spoke at the Maple Grove Civic Club about the importance of bringing the Greylock Glen project to fruition.
Barrett spent just under an hour Sunday fielding questions from club members at the Polish National Alliance and although he touched on issues that faced Northern Berkshire County as a whole, he zeroed in on the notorious Greylock Glen project that he promised to work toward completing.
"This project has been held up now for quite some time for no reason, and I see millions go into other projects that I think will do far less than what the Greylock Glen can do for this community," said Barrett, who was officials sworn in on Nov. 15 to complete the late Gailanne Cariddi's term. "Anyone that has been up there knows it is great and it is an amenity the people in this community can use for many years to come. But beyond that, it will drive the economy here."
Barrett said, the project that has been through multiple development iterations over its more than 40 years of existence, it reminded him a lot of the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art – a project Barrett saw through during his tenure as the mayor of North Adams.
"I have watched that project now for 40 something years and it really hasn't gone anywhere, and it is not where it should be. It reminds me a lot of the Mass MoCA project," he said. "Originally it wasn't supposed to be what it is today — the same as the Greylock Glen project. If you remember back in those days they talked about a casino, a hotel even a golf course. It is not the same project as it is today."
Barrett noted that the project is important because it will create construction jobs but also create a destination that would make the town fertile for new restaurants and lodging — with this comes the hotel/motel tax and the food tax that would put money directly back into the community.
"Everyone knows the people in Adams and North Adams are being crushed with the property taxes because there are no other revenue sources," he said. "In North Adams, when MoCA first started, we did $200,000 in the hotel-motel tax. Now it's close to $500,000 and you will see that happen in Adams, too."
The town approved these taxes last year, however, with limited restaurants and lodging in town, the town only anticipated receiving $80,000 in tax revenue to be used as economic development money.
Selectman and club member Joseph Nowak told Barrett he looked forward to working with him.
"I want to thank you for your push to help us with the Greylock Glen ... I really think that project has a lot of potential and I am really glad that you see that," Nowak said. "I know as a town official, I will work with you and our other selectmen to make this project work."
Barrett also championed himself as a politician interested in working class and middle-class issues. He said he attributed this philosophy to his success in Adams during the primary election.
"I always did well in the town of Adams and I did well this time for I guess for a lot of reasons, but I think because I came from the same middle-class background as most people that live here," he said. "When I worked at my father's restaurant when I was younger ... I learned a lot about people and I think that is where I learned my whole political philosophy."
He said this philosophy has led him to focus on issues that although may not be "sexy" to other legislators are important to working-class folk in Northern Berkshire County.
He said he had concerns over the disconnect between Boston and Berkshire County as well as increasing cable bills and inconsistent gas prices.
Barrett said he intended to fight for a fairer educational funding formula and was in favor of regionalizing in the schools where possible.
He also intended to fight for better internet connectivity in the area which hopes would be a harbinger of more jobs.
"A lot of you like me are probably not the sharpest knife in the drawer when it comes to knowing the internet and computers," he said. "But what I do know is that that we have to improve the system that we have because businesses need that and will relocate here. There are businesses on Wall Street that could be operating here but we need that connectivity."
Barrett also fielded questions about the federal landscape and how health care and tax code changes at the federal level could affect Northern Berkshire County.
"It doesn't bode well especially when it comes to health insurance and those on Mass Health or Medicare," he said. "If Trump and the [Congress] down there take that funding away it is going to have a negative effect and you are going to see rates go right through the roof."
Barrett closed by saying he is willing to fight for a better quality of life for everyone in his district.
"It is all about the quality of life and everybody should be able to share in that," he said. "That's what I hope to do and accomplish, and I may come back here and say I can't do it folks but we are going to give it our best shot."