North Adams City Council Agenda, July 26, 2011
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Sons of Italy Sold to Redevelopment Authority
|The Sons of Italy has been sold twice in the last year. The newest owner is the Redevelopment Authority.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The North Adams Redevelopment Authority has purchased the former Sons of Italy building for $150,000 from Deborah Renzi and K & M Nominee Trust of Pittsfield.
The money was taken from the HSP/Redevelopment Authority Account, which after the purchase has a balance of $150,000.
In a message to the City Council, Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said the purchase was to ensure overflow parking for Western Gateway Heritage State Park after an attempt to negotiate parking in return for an easement to hook into the city's sewer line.The property was purchased for $75,000 by Michael Renzi and Kurt Hotspot in spring 2010 with the idea of developing the building at 1492 Christopher Columbus Drive. The Sons had put the building up for sale in 2006 as its membership aged and declined. More than half its members were over the age of 80, Sons of Italy Lodge 704 Trustee Paul Catelotti said last year.
Renzi and Hotspot were aware of the septic issues but hoping to overcome them to develop the property into studio or retail space.
Alcombright explained the reasoning for the purchase in his communication to the council, posted below:
Last year, two gentlemen from Pittsfield purchased the Sons of Italy building. As the building had a failed septic system, they wanted an easement to hook on to city sewer. As I thought through the process, I determined that the City has no "legal" parking rights in the Son's lot for what we refer to as the overflow parking for Heritage State Park (HSP).
In the ensuing months, I negotiated with the owners to give the city an easement for the parking in exchange for an easement for the sewer. They would not give the easement. My persistence with wanting the easement on the parking was determined by the following:
1. Parking has always been limited at the park and in that respect, limits potential growth whether owned by the city or held in the private sector.
2. As the Department of Conservation and Recreation has committed to locating a visitors office in HSP in 2013, this will give the park considerably more exposure as the North Side Visitors Center [for Mount Greylock State Reservation] and have the potential of putting tens of thousands of visitors through the park annually.
3. This, combined with the completion of the bridge, potential capital improvements at the park and a good marketing plan could drive more retail or arts-based businesses back into the park, also increasing the need for parking.
Additionally, the Sons of Italy building and land is the only parcel not owned by the Redevelopment Authority from the entrance on West Main all the way down to the Apkin property. There have been discussions with the city and the Partnership for North Adams with respect to future passenger rail and/or some sort of tourist/scenic rail. The Partnership has been in conversation with Pan Am as well as Berkshire Scenic Railroad and while this concept is still far away, it is something that could certainly come to fruition.
With the owners not willing to give an easement on the parking, I could not risk losing that parking and as time passed, the owners threatened to block all parking and access to park customers ... and at one point did chain off the parking. With no clear rights to the parking, I spoke with the city solicitor and he advised me that a purchase of the property would be the best solution and would avoid a court case and prolonged litigation should the owners continue to barricade the lot and prevent HSP parking (which they were prepared to do). The priority then became to find a way to assure the city retain that area and assure adequate parking for the park.
In May, I began negotiations with the owners to purchase the property and last month, I met in executive session with the Redevelopment Authority to discuss the details of that purchase. The Authority approved the negotiated purchase of the Sons of Italy building for a price of $150,000 and authorized me to act on behalf of the Authority through the city solicitor to finalize the purchase. The property was purchased on Tuesday, July 19.
Please know that the funds for this purchase came from the HSP/Redevelopment Authority Account which after the purchase has a remaining balance of approximately $150,000. No "city" money was used for this purchase.
I will be happy to answer any further questions at the council meeting.
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Water System Plan Identifies $20M in Repairs, Upgrades
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Public Services Committee on Wednesday reviewed a 20-year capital plan to address the city's aging water system.
The $20 million "wish list" was created by Tighe & Bond with a $10,000 grant through the federal Drinking Water Act. The funds ($7,500 with a $2,500 match by the city) was awarded by the state Department of Environmental Protection in December.
"When I was hired, the mayor made it clear what he wanted to achieve," said Public Services Superintendent Timothy Lescarbeau, who was placed in charge of the DPW last fall. "He wanted to know how bad the infrastructure was in North Adams."
Underneath the freshly paved roads are "time bombs" of crumbling water and sewer pipes, he told the committee, as he and Mayor Richard Alcombright ticked off issues the DPW has been dealing with just since the federal streetscape project has been ending.
On Massachusetts Avenue alone, the city's had to dig up the new road six times since last fall to deal with water main breaks. A 24-inch water main stamped 1882 was uncovered and Lescarbeau searched the National Archives to find a schematic for a gate valve made by a company out of business for a century so R.I. Baker could replicate it. Digging to clean a sewer break on Church Street uncovered old wooden telephone boxes and a 100-year-old gas main that has to be replaced.
Ten percent of the water lines are at least a century old; some 200 hydrants aren't working.
Lescarbeau, who ran the water filtration plant for United Water until the city took it over last fall, said the grant allowed the city take its first step in the capital planning process.
Alcombright said the plan will become part of a 10-year capital plan that will also look at other infrastructure, such as the police and fire stations and the sewers.
"The goal is to put together a high-level planning document," said Thomas D. LeCourt, Tighe project engineer who, with Vice President Dana Haff, explained the findings and recommendations. "It's really a wish list ... There's nothing in this report that obligates you to do anything. We have a schedule with the projects and a timeline but there's nothing saying you have to follow this schedule."
The survey looked at six areas — source, treatment, storage, pumping, distribution, and other — and identified priorities and expected costs.
Among the top priorities is the deteriorating aqueduct linking the Notch and Mount Williams reservoirs. The concrete structure installed in 1917 crosses a ravine. While repairs have been made on it, Alcombright said at least one of the pylons is more rebar than concrete.
The aqueduct and dam improvements are estimated to cost $3.5 million.
Also on the list were pump replacements, security improvements at the reservoir and filtration plant; a new, larger storage tank at Upper East Main; tank resealing; and replacements of meters, valve, pipes and hydrants. The plan recommends setting program goals and determining funding.
"This gives us a snapshot of what the priorities are going to be," Alcomright said of the plan, which committee members David Bond, David Lamarre and Keith Bona voted to recommend to the City Council. "I don't think there was anything shocking in there. We kind of knew what it was, but it puts it all on one place."
LeCourt said the some of the projects could be funded in part by grants or, more likely, through SRF funds. The city's plan will be submitted to the state to help more federal money flow into the state revolving fund.
"The more need they can document that Massachusetts water systems have, the more money they'll be able to get to allocate to communities," said LeCourt. "They're looking for hard numbers that they can use to improve their position to get more money."
But the city would also have to look at bonding or water rates, which would push the burden onto water users.
Alcombright said he was interested in taking the water fees, which currently flow into the general fund, and placing them into an enterprise account. That would limit the use of the funds to water system-related issues only, allowing a reserve to build up toward maintenance and repairs. A number of municipalities use such accounts, including Adams and Williamstown.
"A lot our capital plan will be deferred until we can find money," said the mayor, adding that having the plan in place will be critical to attaining those funds.
Lescarbeau said the repairs — from water breaks to hydrant repairs — will keep going, plan or not.
"I'm going to do what I can to chip away at a lot of this stuff," he said. "I'm not going to wait for a capital plan. If I have the stuff available, I'll take care of it. That's what I was hired for."
The survey will be presented to the City Council at its first meeting in August.
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Boucher Eyes Corner Office; Incumbents In No Hurry
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — This year's municipal election could see a significant turnover on the City Council with at least three veteran councilors not running for re-election
With a deadline to submit papers only three weeks away, only three current council members have so far taken out papers: Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona and David Bond.
Council President Ronald A. Boucher has taken out papers for the corner office. Boucher has gone back and forth on whether to run for mayor, announcing just a couple weeks ago on his public-access show that he'd decided against a run.
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright announced his intention to run for a second term in April. The North Adams Transcript reported on Thursday that former Mayor John Barrett III may also throw his hat into the ring.
Councilor Marie Harpin said she has not yet decided whether to try for an eighth term but a number of constituents have asked her to run. Councilor David Lamarre, who was appointed to complete the term of Gailanne Cariddi after her election to the Legislature, said he has not ruled out another run. Longtime Councilor Alan Marden is said to be weighing a decision.
Another veteran councilor and several-times president, Michael Bloom, said he probably will not run and wants to spend more time with his family. Councilor Michael Boland informed us Thursday morning that he "will not be running for council again."
Two newcomers have already returned papers: Kellie A. Morrison and Robert Cardimino. Cardimino has been a frequent critic of the council and the mayor since the 2009 election.
Those who have taken out papers but have not returned them yet are: Catherine Chaput, a Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts student; James B. Gyurasz; former Councilor Diane M. Gallese-Parsons; and Roland G. Gardner.
Taking out papers for School Committee are Leonard Giroux Jr. and Tara J. Jacobs. George Canales has taken out papers for the McCann School Committee.
The deadline to return nomination papers with the signatures of 50 registered voters to the city clerk's office is Tuesday, Aug. 9, at 5 p.m.
This post will be regularly updated as more information becomes available.
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Planners OK Newspaper Move, Garage Rebuild
The former McClellands at 87 Main will be the new home of the Transcript — within spitball distance of iBerkshires.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday, July 11, approved special permits for the relocation of the North Adams Transcript, the reconstruction of Cariddi Auto and the expansion of Creation and Empire Antiques.
The Transcript, which is selling its building at 124 American Legion Drive to Scarafoni Associates, is moving to 87 Main St., formerly occupied by McClelland's.
The 3,000 square feet will be used for the newspaper's staff and advertising department and is expected to be occupied within the next month or two.
Guy R. Cariddi is rebuilding his auto sales and garage at 676 Curran Highway that went up in flames earlier this year. The new building will be constructed two feet south of the current site to comply with current setbacks and will be 148 square-feet larger.
"While it was a disaster for Mr. Cariddi, it will allow the building to be reconstructed to meet code," said attorney Stephen Pagnotta, representing Cariddi. "It will be a brand-new building."
The board approved a special permit for new construction in an I-1 zone, with all prior conditions in place.
Keith Bona, owner of Creations, and James Montepare, owner of Empire Antiques, are expanding into what had been Main Street Stage at 57 Main St. The two successfully combined forces last year to expand from Bona's gift shop operation at 59 Main St. into 61 Main.
"We want the signage to flow over all three [storefronts]," said Bona. "They will be big letters, molded, antique gold similar to what is currently on Shear Madness and what was prior on Moulton's General Store ... on a green background."
He said the space is currently painted all black but once done, he expected 57 Main to be the most beautiful. "It has the orginal tin ceilings, the original hardwood floors and some of the original woodwork."
They also asked for extended hours to 10 p.m. for special events and added Sunday hours of 10 to 5, although they expected to only open from 10 to 2. Regular hours are 10 to 5.
In other business:
• The board approved signage and a special permit for Public Eat and Drink at 34 Holden St. Jared Decoteau has purchased Taylor's Restaurant and plans to reopen as Public once all permits and licenses are in place.
• Kennard and Janet Sherman, who ran into objections last month about their proposal to turn a neglected property at 456 Ashland St. into a retail business, withdrew their application.
• An application by Snoford LLC to open a package store at 76 Union St. was continued.
• A request by Yaling Wang of the Sushi House at 37 Main St. to put tables on the sidewalk in front of the restaurant was approved, although the board requested she work with the Office of Community Development on the appearance of the tables and chairs. Wang said no alcohol will be served outside the restaurant.
• Reviewed the parking modifications being done by Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Ashland Street. The college plans to add more green space between the lots and the street, add more lighting and remove an island between the property owned by the MCLA Foundation and the state.
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