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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Mayor Presents Case for Prop 2 1/2 Override
Louis Chalifoux calls on councilors to adjust budget expectations to residents' resources. 'You work for us; we don't work for you.'
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright laid out a Plan B strategy on Tuesday night of layoffs, furloughs and "devastating" line item cuts that would affect almost every service in the city and wipe $1 million from the budget.
Using the City Council meeting for the first of six planned presentations to convince voters to pass a Proposition 2 1/2 override, the mayor listed some $500,000 in reductions and some 30 full- and part-time job cuts already made from the city and school budgets for next year.
He warned that if the override didn't pass, the city would have to institute two-week unpaid furloughs for nonunion workers, eliminate another 15 positions (including eight teachers) and cut programs such as drama and the Juvenile Resource Center, and implement fees for preschool and athletics. (The full list of reductions totaling $1.13 million are in the mayor's presentation below.)
The city has seen its costs rise even as its state aid has shrunk from 53 percent of its revenues to 45 percent, said Alcombright, or $3.2 million less than four years ago.
"We held this problem at bay with our reserves; our reserves are gone," said Alcombright, summing up with "we need to fix this before we can go forward."
But if the crowd packed into City Hall was any indication, the mayor will have a tough time convincing voters to raise taxes to plug the $1 million hole in the fiscal 2012 budget. A police officer was stationed in the chambers at the council president's request, prompting regular critic Robert Cardimino to accuse the administration of intimidation — especially when he wasn't allowed to bring a sign stating his opposition to the override into the room.
Calls to use what little is left in the city's reserves sparked applause in the council chambers while explanations of the 1 percent raises for city workers met with groans.
Louis Chalifoux urged the City Council to do more research, saying the city had lost population and half of what was left weren't homeowners, putting more of a burden on those who were. "The mayor and the council should go back to work and take look at the resources we have and put together a program based upon that."
The city should assess the larger nonprofits like North Adams Regional Hospital and get payment in lieu of taxes from them, he said, and Alcombright should go to Boston plead for funds.
Others spoke of neighbors who couldn't afford bus fare or medical prescriptions; Ron Gardner said his water bill had already doubled because of recent hikes and the city's services were terrible.
"The people in this city who pay taxes have no incentive to be here anymore," he said. "My personal taxes have almost doubled ... now if this passes, that's an extra $400 a year on my taxes."
Alcombright countered that even with the override passing, North Adams would remain one of the five lowest-taxed communities in the commonwealth.
"It's like paying your mortgage with your savings account, sooner or later you have to find more income or sell the house," he said. "I'm telling you right now I'm doing this because I don't want to sell the house."
Spending down the half-million left in reserves would not restore the millions spent balancing budgets the last few years, he said. "My goal is to build reserves, not to reduce reserves." There's little expectation of more aid from the state this year because Beacon Hill is concentrating on replenishing the "rainy day" it's had to use to get through the recession, said Alcombright.
The mayor and his predecessor John Barrett III continued to play out the 2009 campaign over spending policies. Barrett, who spoke against setting the vote on the override, appeared within minutes of Councilor David Bond saying his administration "mismanaged" the medical insurance trust fund, leaving the city to pay out an $800,000 settlement to clean it up.
Tuesday, May 31, Drury High School
All presentations begin at 7 p.m.
Barrett vigorously defended himself but the debate between he and Alcombright swiftly turned to "no, I didn't; yes, you did" over various actions taken during Barrett's tenure.
The former mayor said Alcombright hadn't been tough enough with the unions and that it was "unconscionable" to talk about cuts in the school programs when he'd handed the teachers raises.
"If you took all steps to reduce the spending as much as possible I'd be the first to say let's have a Prop 2 1/2 override," claimed Barrett. "However, what I don't understand is why you can give out pay raises and then say, 'let's increase it.'"
Alcombright countered that it was easy to balance a budget when Barrett had millions in reserve at the time. "It's not so easy to cut, but it was very easy to spend these monies down," he said, calling it a "philosophical difference."
"I'm not going to argue but we cannot continue to fund with reserves."
A Kemp Avenue resident said people had to think outside the box.
"It's become way too personalized, you need to think bigger," she said. "I'm on a fixed income, I'm a homeowner, I'm a taxpayer, but I'm willing to pay for someone else's kid to get a good education because that's the most important thing."
In other business, the council passed a compensation plan for a 1 percent retroactive raise (about $9,000 total) for Department of Public Works employees but not without reiterating some of their objections from two weeks ago. The plan passed the second reading 8-1 with Councilor Marie Harpin voting against.
"It's very hard for me to vote for increases when we're laying off people in the city and we're asking the people of the city to vote for an override," she said.
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Registration Deadline Set for Override Vote
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The deadline to register to vote in the special election on Tuesday, June 21, is Wednesday, June 1.
The election will decide whether the city will approve a Proposition 2 1/2 override for the 2012 fiscal year.
Registration will be taken in the city clerk's office at City Hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on June 1.
To vote in the election, you must be:
•18 years of age or older on or before election day, June 21, 2011
•A a citizen of the United States
• A resident of North Adams
Voters in Ward 3 are reminded that their polling station has been moved to St. Elizabeth's Parish Center on St. Anthony Drive with Wards 1, 2 and 5. Voting for Ward 4 remains at Greylock School.
The polls will be open on June 21 from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
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Transcript Building Sale Gets Final OK
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Redevelopment Authority on Monday night swiftly approved the relocation of the Brien Center to the building now occupied by the North Adams Transcript at 124 American Legion Drive.
The three-man board has jurisdiction over a group of properties on the south side of Main Street including the former Kmart property.
The board had expected to meet on May 9 prior to the Planning Board but did not have a quorum.
The approval was a bit pro forma — the City Council has already approved a tax incentive agreement for Scarafoni Associates, which will purchase the property and invest $1 million into it and then lease it to the nonprofit Brien Center. The TIF requires the property to stay on the tax rolls for the next decade, netting about $21,000 a year for the city.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said he'd spoken with Brien Center's Executive Director Catherine A. Doherty months ago on how to keep the center's services in the city once its lease ran out on the Marshall Street building it currently occupies.
"We worked very hard together to make sure the Brien Center stayed in the city of North Adams because it provides a very important service for many clients in the community, and also that we were able to maintain them here because of the jobs that they provide," said the mayor.
The center employs 60 to 65 people full and part time; added to that will be the 10-member staff of the Adult Day Center, which will also move into the 16,000-square-foot Transcript building.
The deal maintains the building, the jobs in the downtown and ensures the city a quarter of a million dollars in tax revenue over the next decade, the mayor said.
Authority Chairman Paul Hopkins asked David Carver of Scarafoni Associates if the Transcript was expected to stay in the downtown area. Carver said yes and that he had approached the newspaper's management about what they would need for space when the building went up for sale two years ago.
Alcombright said having staff from the 170-year-old newspaper on Main Street was a good thing. "I think to have a daily in a community this size sends a strong message about who we are," said the mayor, comparing the paper to the hospital, college and airport.
"They understand the importance of that history so they are focusing on one of the spots on Main Street," said Carver.
Signage is the responsibility of the Brien Center and will be provided at a later date. Carver said he expected it would be similar to the logo used at its other locations.
The City Council actually approved the TIF agreement twice after MassDevelopment suggested minor changes to the language. The council also OK'd an application to designate the Transcript property as part of a economic opportunity area for the next 20 years to allow Scarafoni to apply for state incentives.
The TIF, MassDevelopment application and related documents can be found below.
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Morocco Retiring to Ease Budget Crunch
Finance Committee members Alan Marden, Chairman Michael Bloom and David Bond reviewed the fiscal 2012 budget with Mayor Richard Alcombright and department heads. Also in attendance were Councilors Marie Harpin, David Lamarre, Michael Boland, Lisa Blackmer and President Ronald Boucher.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco will retire at the end of the fiscal year to "take pressure of the budget" it was announced at Wednesday's Finance Committee meeting.
The disclosure came during discussion of the Public Safety Department's budget in which the commissioner's salary was slashed to $21,000.
"He knows the plight we're in ... he will be retiring at the end of the fiscal year," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who added that the commissioner had approached him about retiring within the last week or so. "I want to keep the commissioner on for at least six months to work on the transition, then he can offload the things he does to other people."
Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco will stay on for six months to help the department transition. He said it would be difficult for the fire and police directors to take over his duties.
The Department of Public Works union is also cognizant of the tough times, said Alcombright. "They voted as a body to forgo their fiscal 2012 raise."
Union members were slated to get 1 percent (they received a 1 percent retroactive raise for this year), which the mayor figured would be a savings of around $7,500.
"These are people who unfortunately do not make a lot of money," Alcombright said. "They do a lot for the city. It makes a difference if the average guy made $300 a year [with the raise]; if the 2 1/2 override passes, they're probably going to get hit with $250."
The mayor halted contract negotiations with some of the other unions; he said the teachers, who have settled, have indicated they may reconsider their contract as well.
The City Council submitted a home-rule petition to the Legislature last year to extend Morocco's tenure two years past his mandated retirement age. At the time, city officials were considering whether to dispense with a commissioner. Keeping Morocco on was to give them a two-year buffer to research the matter, although little progress has been made in that direction.
Alcombright said the Morocco's leaving did not indicate a change in the public safety structure and the commissioner's position would remain active until the city determined what to do. The mayor said he didn't think the savings of eliminating the position would be significant.
"You're going to go away from the commissioner but nobody knows what I do," said Morocco. "I've brought in $5 million in grants; someone has to maintain those."
The police and fire director jobs would have to change, he said. "Call them what you want, they still have a job to do so to say they're going to their job and do what I'd do managing grants and budgets and stuff ... ."
Morocco's partial departure reduces Public Safety's administrative budget by $63,000. The rest of the departments are for the most part level-funded and there are no increases for department heads with the expectation of the assessor, whose salary reflects the position's change from four days a week to five.
The mayor defended hiring a new tourism director, saying it would be a source of revenue.
The administrative officer position is funded for a half-year, with hopes it can be filled by next January. An assistant information systems director has been added at $50,000 but an assistant inspector of buildings will be left vacant as will two posts in the library — the assistant director and an office clerk.
The Finance Committee recommended slashing stipends from city boards, including the City Council, on Wednesday but voted 2-1 to keep the tourism director position after nearly a half-hour of discussion.
Committee member Alan Marden called for all volunteer boards to have their stipends slashed and the City Council to accept $1 each this year, a $27,000 cut, "just for one year to send a message."
Alcombright said some of the stipends may be required by state law. "They may be mandated but there's no reason they have to accept it," said Marden.
The mayor vigorously defended keeping the tourism director position and department, a cost of about $51,000 total, in the budget.
"I think this is a vital position for the city of North Adams," he said, comparing it to the Megan Wilden's work in Pittsfield's Cultural Office. "I think that this position has the ability to generate revenue, I think this position with the right person has the ability to generate grants, that it has the ability to reach out and in a sense be the face of the city.
"I really think this is a very, very important part of us moving forward."
Councilor David lamarre wondered if it would be better to wait a year to offer a higher salary and attract better candidates for the vacant post; Alcombright said the eight people to be interviewed, including "five who are spectacular," had been told the $34,000 salary and indicated it was acceptable.
Councilor Marie Harpin asked if the Develop North Adams and the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, or staff at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art could coordinate city events. The mayor and Finance Committee members Chairman Michael Bloom and David Bond said it would be difficult and unlikely.
"If they were to bring in a half-million, the $34,000 would be money well-spent," said Bloom.
Bloom and Bond voted to recommend the position; Marden voted against, adding "this is the hardest vote for me."
A public hearing on the $15.6 million school budget will be held Tuesday, June 7, and presented to the Finance Committee the next day. The city budget will be presented at next week's City Council meeting.
The draft budget is below and can be found on the sidebar. The document was created horizontally but, unfortunately, appears vertically on Scribd. We will try to find a way to post it so it's easier to read.
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