Tourism Director Being Introduced This Week
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is expected to have a new tourism director named by Thursday.
Mayor Richard Alcombright confirmed on Tuesday that a selection had been made but some details were still being worked out before he felt comfortable in making a public announcement.
"I think everybody will be excited," he said. "I think we made a good choice."
The new director of tourism and community events will be introduced at a "First Thursday" discussion group with artists at the Beaver Mill. The monthly evening sessions have been held by Eric Rudd and other artists at the Beaver Mill for some time.
Alcombright said the timing for the session dovetailed with the expectation that a new director would be hired and resulted with Rudd's invitation to attend.
Area artists and the general public are invited as well. The talk will be held on the first floor of Frog Lotus Yoga Studio from 6:30 to 8; use the center front entrance. Light refreshments will be served.
Rudd's press release on the evening stated "This discussion will give the artist-community a chance to not only hear ideas from the new director, but also to hear ideas and concerns from the community."
The director's job has been vacant since the departure of Rod Bunt this past March. Some 30 or so applications were submitted and the finalists narrowed down to a handful.
The post itself has become controversial as the city struggled with a $1 million deficit. Last month, the City Council debated tossing out the entire tourism department (the director and some cash for events) before approving the budget in its entirety.
Some may have expected the job to be back on the chopping block after the defeat of a controversial $1.2 million override to fund the deficit but the mayor says he'll fight to keep the post.
"This will be in Plan B," he said. "I'm going to leave that in the budget ... I am standing by this."
The mayor sees the director's post as a revenue generator, one that will agressively market the city and seek out grants. The goal is for the new director to raise his or her own salary through grants or increases in revenue by luring tourists and new business to the city.
A salary of $34,186 has been budgeted but the total line item for the tourism department has been cut $10,000 from this year.
Alcombright said he planned to submit a revised 2012 budget on July 26. "We cut from the city and the school side $900,000 out of the initial document we came up with in March and April," he said. "The deficit is now about $477,000 ... We're working to get it down."
One bright spot is the recently passed state budget that holds out hope of restoring some $65 million in local aid cuts. That's dependent on how the state's books look; it could be October before municipalities get firm numbers.
"We could pick up a quarter of a million ... This could be a real shot in an arm," said the mayor.
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Land Auction Unloads City-Owned Tracts
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city unloaded some excess land on Wednesday night as bidders blew through some 50 lots in about 90 minutes.
People packed into the City Council Chambers to try for vacant lots large and small that had been taken by the city over the years for back taxes. Although many had once had houses on them, only a few now fell under the zoning requirements for new construction.
Quite a few parcels went to single bidders at the $500 starting price, more than a few found no takers and a handful sparked some spirited bidding wars.
Michael Nuvallie was battling a woman a few seats away from him for a plot on Galvin Road assessed at $32,600. Egged on by the auctioneer (who frequently urged "you came here to buy this, don't lose it now!") the price hit around $11,000 or $12,000.
That's when Richard Pellerin decided it was time to jump in — and the woman dropped out, shaking her head at the price. Pellerin and Nuvallie went toe-to-toe but Pellerin emerged victorious at $20,000 — one of the highest, if not the highest sale in the auction. Pellerin said his strategy was to bid later "to show I was serious."
Michael Nuvallie, second from left, was bidding against the woman in white for a Galvin Road plot until Richard Pellerin and John Sherman, in the photo at right, jumped in.
"That was the best lot in the auction," said Nuvallie. "That was still a building lot."
It was a building lot Pellerin didn't want anybody building on, he said. The parcel sits between his land and his neighbor, John Sherman, so they decided to partner and split the price and the lot down the middle.
"I don't want anymore neighbors," said Pellerin, as Sherman joked, "I'm close enough." Sherman needed more space to build a garage, to which Pellerin has no objection — there'll still be space between them.
Most of the bidders seemed to be abuttors looking to increase their yards. Jason Griffin and Julia Budway were eyeing a lot on Tremont Street that would significantly expand their property. But they walked away empty handed when someone else with more money in their pockets liked it, too.
The lots not sold will be rolled into the next round of tax takings, probably next year, said city Assessor Ross Vivori on Thursday. Collar City Auctions and Realty Management Inc. of Albany, N.Y., which ran the auction, was expected to have the final numbers of the sale by Tuesday.
"I think everyone who attended and got what they wanted, walked away happy," he said.
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Veterans Plaque to Be Dedicated Monday
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city will dedicate on Memorial Day addendum honor roll plaque listing more than 30 veterans inadvertently left of the rolls.
The project to identify missing veterans was spearheaded by Richard McCarthy, the city's former veteran services officer.
"This was one his big pet projects so he really initiated everything and really was an advocate for getting it done," said David Robbins, the current veterans service officer. "So as long as I've been in office, he's been helping with the project to make sure the names were there and spellings are correct."
Robbins said his office posted fliers and advertised in the paper and on local public access television to reach out to veterans whose names weren't listed for some reason or their families. "We were really pushing to get this done for Memorial Day."
The result is a bronze addendum plaque with names of veterans dating from World War I to Vietnam attached to the larger Vietnam War list a week or so ago. A separate plaque for veterans of the more recent Middle East wars will be added once those conflicts are concluded, said Robbins.
In a statement, Mayor Richard Alcombright said McCarthy was also assisted Community Development Director Michael Nuvallie.
"Dick's persistence, compassion and dedication, undoubtedly was the impetus that led to the creation of this new addendum plaque," he said. "With the help of Dave and Mike, this has truly been a job well done to recognize those veterans."
McCarthy will be this year's keynote speaker at the annual Memorial Day ceremonies. The line of march and program are as follows:
Stepping off at 9:30 a.m. from the American Legion (participants are asked to arrive by 9); along American Legion Drive, north on Main Street and down Eagle Street to the Veterans' Memorial
Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 996
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 54
American Veterans (AMVETS) Post 100
American Legion Post 125
Parade Marshals; Al Domenichini, VFW; Thomas Lussier, American Legion; Michael Chalifoux, VVA; James Lambert, AMVETS
Richard McCarthy, keynote speaker; Mayor Richard Alcombright; Emma Waryjasz, Gettysburg Address; Joseph Cariddi, parade coordinator; Mark Sprague, Memorial Day Committee chairman
Sons of the American Legion Squadron 125; Members of the VFW, American Legion, Vietnam Veterans, AMVETS, United States Navy Armed Guard Association and any and all veterans who wish to participate. You do not have to belong to any veteran's organization.
Members of VFW, American Legion and AMVETS Auxiliaries
Drury High School Band; Chris Caproni, director
Girl Scouts & Brownies; Donna Senecal
Boy Scouts & Cub Scouts; William Meranti
Trolley for transporting veterans, etc., courtesy city of North Adams
North Adams Fire Department Ladder No. 2
North Adams Ambulance Service
Master of Ceremonies: Michael Chalifoux, president VVA Chapter 54
Opening Prayer: Louis Floriani, chaplain, American Legion Post 125
Pledge to the Flag; Luke Grant, Troop 88, Stamford Elementary School
Drury Band: "Star-Spangled Banner"
Mayor Richard Alcombright
Introduction of parade marshals & nonspeaking dignitaries
Keynote Speaker; Richard McCarthy, former veterans service officer, city of North Adams
Drury Band: "Let There Be Peace On Earth"
Gettysburg Address: Emma Waryjasz, daughter of Michelle and Ed Waryjasz of North Adams. She is in Grade 8 at Drury High School and the recipient of the George Angeli Award.
Presentation of the George Angeli Award by the North Adams Police Department
Closing Prayer: Louis Floriani, chaplain, American Legion Post 125
Sounding of taps, Anuj Shah and Max Quinn
Thanks to Randy Wood and the Sons of The American Legion Squadron 125 for passing out flags.
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City, College Look at How to Draw Students Downtown
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — College students are looking for more retail variety and information about events in the downtown. They also feel pretty safe in the city and would like more recreational opportunities.
The data comes from a survey done by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts seniors Corey Brown and Meghan McMahon, who presented the information to the City Council on Tuesday night.
The project, part of a class with professor Nancy Ovitsky, was designed to find out what would draw students from the Church Street college to the city's main retail center. Councilor David Bond had met with the students in January as part of conversations about how better to tap into the college's 1,000-odd population.
Brown said 160 students responded to the survey, citing they would like more restaurants (including a bakery and health food) and more retail outlets, especially sports or discounters like TJ Maxx.
"A lot of the students, what they're looking for is for businesses to stay open longer," said Brown.
Councilor Lisa Blackmer agreed that later hours would be nice but said the city had little control over businesses opening. She wondered if retailers were doing their best to reach out to students.
Meghan McMahon and Corey Brown, seniors at MCLA, said students were interested in the city but often didn't know what was happening or available downtown.
McMahon said social media was the best way to reach students now, a situation that had changed dramatically since she'd entered college. "It used to be coupons in our mailboxes but now students just throw them away."
Students want to do things in North Adams and the area, she said, but many venues were not easily accessible, such as Greylock Bowl. Students would like to see more recreational activities, such as bowling or a skateboard park, closer to the college and have more information about events.
"I think the students would like to see a lot more marketing to those events downtown," McMahon said.
In response to a question by Councilor Alan Marden, McMahon and Brown said they had not included Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in the survey because it was a major attraction and the college was already heavily involved with the museum.
Both students and councilors agreed that the city could not be described as a "college town." Mayor Richard Alcombright said he was working with the college on coordinating sidewalk clearance during the winter and would look into more lighting around the Pitcher's Mound, which some students felt was unsafe.
He also held out some hope that the city would be able to move forward with a basic skateboard park at MoCA.
"We do see a great change from being a freshman," said McMahon. "I think we can make it better. There are other college towns much bigger than this that we could get ideas from."
Councilor Keith Bona noted that students will spend if they find something they like. He said the college clientele at his Main Street store had increased tenfold.
"I didn't think college students liked antiques but they do ... ."
In other business, the council:
• Put off a recommendation to adopt the state's anti-idling statute until it could be submitted in order form.
• Appointed Aurora Cooper, a student at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, to the Youth Commission.
• Referred to the Community Development Committee a request to change all or a section of Grimes Street to Cascade Way at the request of Cascade School Supplies.
• Read through a lengthy list of committee reports.
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Wilco Setting 'Solid Ground' at Noel Field
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — What's now a field of snow will bloom with tents in June as music lovers descend on the city for the Solid Sound 2 Festival.
The city is teaming with Solid Sound host Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts and the local ROPES program to organize and operate the temporary camping area, dubbed "Solid Ground." Up to 300 tent campsites and 10 recreational vehicle spots will be marked out at the Noel Field Athletic Complex between Steele and Disanti fields behind the former Modern Liquors for June 24, 25 and 26.
Commissioner Mark Vadnais points out where 'Solid Ground' will be situated to the Parks and Recreation Commission.
More than 5,000 people attended last August's festival — curated by band Wilco — filling inns and hotels and packing into the Historic Valley Campground. Noel Field was suggested last year as a possible camping site; this year, the city's being proactive in placing Wilco fans within walking distance of MoCA and the downtown.
Half the tent sites and all but one of the RV lots have been reserved as of Friday, said Chiara Morrison at MoCA's box office.
The Parks and Recreation Commission last Wednesday reviewed preliminary plans for usage of the fields and where the tents will be located. Portable showers and toilets will be placed at the field and Paul Markland, public works director, said his department would mark out the sites with lime. Open fires will be prohibited. Golf carts will be used to shuttle campers and equipment from the parking areas and ROPES will provide an element of security and a concession.
"I went to ROPES because they have a solid support in place," said Mayor Richard Alcombright. "A good majority of them either were or are involved in law enforcement. ... It puts some form of security automatically in place."
ROPES, or Respecting Other People, Encouraging Self-esteem, is an annual summer day camp for kids that the North Adams Police Department has been operating for years. Many of its volunteer staff are local emergency responders.
"They just needed an organization willing to take on this event," said police Lt. David Sacco, one of ROPES' founders. "Because it is a city-based organization, it's kind of a win-win for the city."
Campers are being charged $80 for a 15-by-18-foot, single tent site for the weekend. An RV spot is $100. The MoCA box office is handling reservations and notifications and will get a small slice of the fee; the rest will be shared between the city and ROPES after costs, such as field repair or portable conveniences.
The Parks Commission expressed concern over damage to the field but the mayor said he expected the costs to be covered by the fees.
"Unless we have a really, really soggy weekend, I don't see a problem," he said. "Basically we committed to the fact that any repairs will come out of the proceeds."
Sacco said he didn't also see an issue with security at the site, based on last year's family-friendly, laidback crowd.
"I have never ever seen a more well-behaved crowd," said Sacco. "We're not anticipating any problems."
The dates will bump the annual LaFesta Baseball Exchange to July.
For more information on Solid Ground, click here.
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