Scarafoni Asks for Tax Deal on Transcript Building
Scarafoni Associates plans to purchase the Transcript property and renovate for use by the Brien Center.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council will be asked to approve a tax incentive that will allow the Brien Center to move into the North Adams Transcript building while keeping the building on the tax rolls for 10 years.
Scarafoni Associates plans to buy the 16,000 square-foot building on American Legion Drive and lease it to the nonprofit Brien Center. David Carver of Scarafoni Associates told the Finance Committee on Tuesday that the 10-year agreement may be critical to loosening up bank financing for the project.
"We think this TIF agreement is a big piece of making this work ... which will release probably $1 million in construction and repairs, something we need to see more of in the downtown," said Carver. "This type of project and this type of financing will make the numbers work for bankers."
Mayor Richard Alcombright said the tax increment financing agreement would lock in the property's current assessment $767,000, guaranteeing property taxes of more than $20,000 annually for the next decade despite the Brien Center's status as a nonprofit.
Coldwell Banker lists the taxes as $21,197.
Chairman Michael Bloom noted the current unpredictability of the commercial market. "This is an amazing agreement."
That will provide the stability for both entities to make the project work, said Carver. "We are buying the building for less than the assessed value," he said. "So instead of petitioning for [the assessed value to be the] purchase price ... we have agreed as part of this process to lock in that current assessed value."
David Carver explains to the Finance Committee how the TIF agreement would work.
"I think it's a great solution for the city ... it retains the Brien Center in the city and the jobs and services they provide," said the mayor. If the Brien Center, which provides mental health and substance abuse services to some 10,000 people in Berkshire County, purchased the building, it would fall off the tax rolls completely.
TIFs once required job production but the state changed the law last year to take into account job retention.
The Brien Center, cited as the ninth-largest employer in the county recently by The Berkshire Eagle, employs 40 full-time and 20 part-time employees at its offices on Marshall Street. Catherine A. Doherty, chief executive officer, said the agency's lease on Marshall Street is up in August; moving to Ashland Street will allow the organization to stay in the downtown and not only retain programs but expand them.
"Once we our positioned into this new building we will be able to think about adding more programs," she said. "It's a building that speaks more to what we do."
She cited the property's easy access, single-story construction and spaciousness that will offer room for more programs for the 3,000 to 4,000 North County residents the agency serves. It will also provide space for the Adult Day Health Program, which will move from the former Department of Motor Vehicles building along with its 10 employees.
Alcombright said the city solicitor had reviewed the agreement. Carver's attorney, Elisabeth Goodman, on questions from the committee, said the agreement would remain in effect should the Brien Center purchase the property because it signing on to the deal. It could be broken, she said, if the Brien Center reneged on the lease.
The 45-year-old Transcript building was placed on the market nearly two years ago for nearly $1 million; it has sinced been reduced to $799,000. The presses were removed; printing and most of the support staff operate out of The Eagle in Pittsfield.
The city had eyed the property as a potential site for a new public safety building but its current fiscal problems have put that project on hold.
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Is the Hoosac Mill Tumbling Down?
The Hoosac Mill is missing a tooth; a couple others look ready to drop.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The distinctive saw-toothed roof at the Hoosac Mill is missing a tooth — with a couple more showing cracks.
Further damage to the mill on Union Street could be seen on Monday.
The century-old textile mill, known as NoAMA (for North Adams, MA) was closed on Feb. 11 after a 30-foot section of the roof gave way and structural damage could be seen at another sawtooth.
The building is mainly used for storage but no one has been allowed in since its closure by the city. Owner Ariel Sutain has reportedly contacted engineers to review the building.
The state has cautioned property owners to remove snow after reports of nearly 200 structures across the state suffering collapse or structural damage.
Up to a foot of snow fell over the weekend beginning Friday and sleet and rain fell through Monday morning. That likely caused the brick end of the collapsed section to fall in. Several more cracks have appeared along the sawtooths near the collapsed section and around another significantly damaged area.
The roof's unique shape once allowed light to come in through windows on the east side. The windows were long ago covered over.
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North Adams Skating Rink Vandalized
Stall doors in the bathrooms were kicked by ice-skate clad vandals at the Peter W. Foote Memorial Skating Rink.
Mayor Richard Alcombright points to urinal dividers that were destroyed. The dividers will need new brackets and anchoring system.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Vandals caused thousands of dollars of damage Friday at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink.
Both the men's and the women's restrooms were damaged during Friday night's community skating time. In the recently renovated restrooms, urinal dividers were torn down, the doors were kicked with skates leaving dents, some of the concrete was chipped and one of the sinks was chipped. A full footprint was found near the ceiling where a skater had climbed onto the sinks.
The city will have to spend thousands of dollars to replace all of the damaged items.
"It's on the city's dime to keep this maintained. Somebody has to pay for this," Mayor Richard Alcombright said Monday. "We're not going to tolerate vandalism in this building."
Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morrocco said police are accepting anonymous tips and if the perpetrators are found they will be prosecuted "to the full extent of the law" and have to pay for the damages. Additionally, a police officer will be patrolling the rink during the final two nights of community skate time.
"You can have a successful prosecution without an eyewitness," Morrocco said. "With the city having limited resources, this is crazy."
Anywhere from 250 to 300 children were at the rink Friday night and the rink's small staff was unable to finger the culprits. Placing an officer there will help deter vandalism but comes as an additional cost to the city, Alcombright said.
"It's unfortunate that we have to put an officer here," Alcombright said. "We just want to have a nice facility. This is a place for families."
Alcombright was informed of the damage Monday morning via e-mail and went to inspect the damage later.
The bathrooms at the skating rink were newly refurbished in April through grant funding of $160,000. According to Michael Nuvallie, of the city's office of community development, the bathrooms were one of several phases of renovations. Close to $2 million has been invested in the rink, he said.
Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morrocco vowed to prosecute the culprits to the full extent of the law.
"We've been chipping away at this for years," Nuvallie said. "We're up near the $2 million mark and we're not done."
Renovations began in 2007 when they city took over the rink's operations with a new roof and each year the city applies for grants to continue fixing the place up.
A new floor, mechanical room, boards and glass and doors have also been renovated, Nuvallie said. The next step is infrared heaters for the benches and renovating the parking lot will follow, he said.
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City Council Looks at Zoning, Borrowing Issues
The City Council on Tuesday, Oct. 12, will be asked to authorize the borrowing of $650,000 to complete the airport project and $150,000 to renovate and construction bathrooms and a concession stand at Windsor Lake and its campground.
The Finance Committee heard both issues at its meeting Thursday. The committee has recommended adoption of the borrowing order for the airport and, while not formally endorsing the lake spending, reacted favorably to it. The lake spending had not been presented to the council nor referred to the committee to act on.
The council will also be asked to call a joint public hearing of the council and Planning Board at the behest of Planning Board Chairman Michael Leary. The city is pursuing a state Green Community designation that will require "by-right zoning" for certain green businesses. Leary said the city has by-right in three zones but still requires a special permit if a site plan approval is needed. New language would clarify a site plan review is not part of a special permit process.
Christopher Lamarre quit as chairman of the Board of Assessors to become the chief assessor in Great Barrington last month. In a letter to the council, Mayor Alcombright said that the qualifications for assessor made the position difficult to fill.
He is asking that the residency requirement for the full-time, chief assessor be removed. "It will always be my preference to hire a resident, if qualified," he wrote. The residency requirement would not change for the two part-time assessors.
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Alcombright Seeks Funds for Campground, Lake
Mayor Alcombright says the aged concession and public bathrooms at Fish Pond are an embarrasment.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday will be asked to authorize up to $150,000 in borrowing to update Windsor Lake (Fish Pond) and its campground.
Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon that the money would be used to revamp the two bathroom buildings at Historic Vally Campground and build a new concession stand and bathroom facility closer to the beach.
"The idea is how can we renew the excitement and enthusiasm about the lake," said the mayor. "It's a beautiful, beautiful place."
Alcombright said the two bathroom buildings built in 1969 are in a state of disrepair; the concession stand and public bathrooms at the lake "are in deplorable condition, they are embarrassing quite honestly."
The concession and facilities were built in 1959. They are now located far away from the public beach area as is the playground equipment.
"It's inconvenient, it's old, it's nonfunctional," said the mayor. "Considering the idea is to enhance the lake, to remarket the lake [we would] build a new concession/restroom building on the green space as you walk toward the beach."
The estimated cost for refurbishing and making the campground bathrooms handicapped accessible would be $60,000; building a new one-story concession modeled after the one at Noel Field about $70,000 to $80,000. The playground would be moved and needs new equipment.
A possible beach volleyball court could be put in but Windsor Lake Recreation Commission Chairman George Forgea said that would not be included in the borrowing. "There may be other ways to do that."
A lot of the exterior work would be done by McCann Technical School students and most of the rest done by city workers. The cost would be primarily materials.
Revenues from the lake and campground go into the general fund. Forgea said the campground "is nowhere near the capacity of the revenue it could generate." But the park is in dire need of upgrades beyond just the bathrooms: its roads and buildings need serious upgrading as do the sewer and electrical.
"The wiring goes back to 1969," said Forgea. "We had several campers who came up and found we only had 20-amp service and turned around and left."
The campground isn't prepared for the larger campers and their multiple appliances. Forgea said the idea isn't to turn the campground into a "Disneyland" but to make it attractive to the types of people who are coming to spend money at places like the local museums and theaters. They're not coming in tents, he said.
Of the park's 100 campsites, 48 were occupied by seasonholders but the remaining 52 had only a 30 percent occupancy rate.
Some changes are already under way. After operating on a cash only basis for decades, campers will now be able to use charge cards, make reservations online and, more importantly, be required to make deposits. A new management team will take over in the spring as well.
Finance Committee members were in favor of the investment because of the likely future return.
"Any money spent on the lake is money well spent," said committee Chairman Michael Bloom.
In other business, the committee voted to recommend borrowing for $650,000 to complete the the $6.3 million airport project. The matter was referred to the committee at the last council meeting.
"It's our obligation as a city to finish this airport," said the mayor. "This is an amount of money we can work with to get this done."
The city would use $150,000 to complete its 2.5 percent match of the runway funding (another 2.5 percent is being paid by the state and the rest by the federal government). The balance of the borrowing would used to pay any overruns regarding the Runway Safety Areas.
The RSA work is currently in litigation over a dispute with a subcontractor regarding the design and amount of work needed to complete it.
"The bonding request that the mayor sent [the council] is larger than the estimated local share of the project," said Administrative Officer Jay Green. "That is to have a buffer zone to make sure we're covered."
Not all money may be used, he said, because there is a federal wetlands grant for the project that may provide more funding. The city's attorney is in talks with the subcontractor to reach a settlement.
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