City Transfers $786K to Balance 2011 Books
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday night authorized the transfer of $786,441.46 from a number of departments to close out the city's books for fiscal 2011.
The amounts ranged from $2,627 from the wire and alarm account to $225,000 from the School Department to balance the books in other accounts, including significant overruns in police ($264,000) and fire ($180,279) salaries because of overtime, disabilities and four officers away at academy.
"It is lengthy but no different than any other year," said Mayor Richard Alcombright of the number of transfers. "This is required to be done by July 15."
The mayor told the council that he had kept the Finance Committee informed of existing overruns, which included a significant deficit in the veterans service account that required a $164,000 transfer from free cash, emptying that account
Councilor Marie Harpin is sworn in by City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau for service on the Housing Authority Board. Harpin was appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick as the state representative on the board.
"While we have overruns due to spending increases in school and city departments, we were able to hold back in many areas," he said. "We're fortunate that with exception of free cash transferred two weeks ago and a $50,000 order you will see coming next from reserves, we were able to cover all other expenses in this year's budget despite a $400,000 shortfall in local receipts."
Councilor Lisa Blackmer questioned the small amount — $4,198.36 — transferred from the tourism department considering the director had left in March. Alcombright, after confirming with Business Manager Nancy Ziter, said that account, like a number of others, had not been emptied.
All unexpended funds from each fiscal year are rolled over into free cash once the books are certified by the Department of Revenue.
Among the brighter spots was an excess of $105,000 that could be transferred from the Water Department because of savings in taking over the water filtration plant.
"The cost savings we projected were somewhere in the $30,000 to $40,000 range and after [Public Works Commissioner Timothy Lescarbeau] did some analysis, it was closer to $70,000 to $75,000 that we saved," said the mayor.
The council also approved a $50,000 transfer from the landfill reserve account to the Department of Public Safety's trash removal service account as a "buffer" in case unanticipated bills come in. If nothing comes in, the money will fall into free cash.
Resident Robert Cardimino asked how much was left in the city reserves. Alcombright said there was zero in the free cash account after the last transfer; about $310,000 in the stabilization and, after the transfer, $212,000 in the combined landfill and parking meter reserve accounts.
The mayor said he expected to dip into the reserves to help in balancing the fiscal 2012 budget. Last year, the city used some $1.2 million from what was left in the land sale account to balance the fiscal 2011 budget.
"There was not a lot in there but we just found out today that about $75,000 more is coming our way in state aid," he said, adding the passage of the state budget this week also holds up hope for more funds from some $65 million targeted to local aid.
Meanwhile, the deficit has been cut from more than $1 million to $404,000. The mayor expects to present the Plan B budget at the next meeting.
In other business:
• The council approved the rappointment of Pearl Mullett to the Housing Authority and the appointment of Ross Jacobs, an alternate on the Zoning Board, to complete the term of permanent member Ernest Gamache and for Gregory Roach to fill out Jacobs' term, both terms ending next year.
• Approved a request by Ernest Dix of Clarksburg to connect to the city's water system.
• Heard a statement in open forum by Mark Trottier addressing the importance of allowing residents to speak to the council.
• A request from Big Shirl's Kitchen owners Renee and Mark Lapier to allow their establishment to offer "bring your own bottle."
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BYOB, Appointments on North Adams Agenda
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A local establishment is asking to go BYOB — as in bring your own [beer or wine] beverage.
The mayor's office is forwarding the request by Big Shirl's Kitchen to the City Council on Tuesday night, July 12, for review. Big Shirl's owners Renee and Mark Lapier are hoping the city will adopt a policy related to BYOB within the city's borders.
A number of other municipalities, such as Needham, Woburn and Westborough, allow the practice. According to an opinion from the city solicitor, establishments with liquor licenses cannot allow BYOB but non-licensed can, although the municipality has some control. They may not, however, "uncork" or otherwise handle the alcohol. BYOB is limited to beer and/or wine.
Mayor Richard Alcombright is asking the council to refer the matter back to his office and to the appropriate council committee.
City Councilor Marie Harpin will be sworn in as the governor's appointment to the Housing Authority.
Also on the agenda is a host of appointments and permission for a sewer connection. The mayor will present the final tallies on some accounts that will close out the 2011 fiscal year.
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North Adams Setting Out Future Goals
A range of city residents — from natives to newcomers — participated in Monday's master planning process at All Saints Episcopal Church.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Some 40 residents came together on Monday night to brainstorm priorities and set goals to transform the former mill city into a modern, forward-thinking community.
Among the priorities identified were capitalizing on the city's history and natural resources; sustaining and encouraging the local arts community; updating the city's 50-year-old zoning; reviving the Hoosic River; supporing local agriculture and community gardens; making the city more accessible and pedestrian friendly; improving signage; promoting healthy lifestyles and preserving the hospital; changing its mill-town attitude; pursuing green ideas and technology; and holding landlords and property owners accountable for blight.
Participants discussed the city's needs then broke into groups to determine priorities in categories ranging from health to natural resources to energy.
It's the first time in decades that North Adams has developed a long-range blueprint; it will be used to guide the city over the next 20 to 30 years. And this time, it's taking into consideration a far wider variety of resources and more progressive goals.
"I think people know this planning process was a passion of mine as I came into office and even beforehand," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, who participated in the visioning session along with City Councilors Keith Bona, David Lamarre and Lisa Blackmer, among others. "It's been 40-plus years since the city had a formal document that kind cast it's future out there. ...
"I think this is really important and I'm really glad we have such a great representation here tonight."
The master planning process is being done in conjunction with Sustainable Berkshires, an updated countywide plan being led by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. Over the next three years, the city and Great Barrington will follow closely the county plan's timeline and "piggyback" on its workshops.
"There is a better turnout here than for the entire region workshop, which is great," said BRPC senior planner Amy Kacala, who facilitated the meeting. "It speaks well for the city and how much interest there is behind this effort."
She said there is some truth to the saying that plans just gather dust but they can be effective if used.
"If everyone is aware what's in it and wants to see the things implemented that are in the plan, there's more support and momentum behind it to make sure things happen," said Kacala.
The planning started last year with the appointment of a steering committee representing a broad range of interests and built on a once-dormant Community Development Advisory Group. While the plan will be three years in the making, implementation of certain elements could begin as early as next year.
Several questioned the absence of education in the visioning process. Kacala said improvements in standardized scores and other benchmarks had lowered education as a priority but a number of participants said that education connected many of the goals and should be included.
While the groups mostly outlined broad goals, there were several specifics mentioned. For instance, Phil Sellers, a local potter and community activist, said his group thought the development of an artists' district and incentives for artists to buy homes here would spur growth.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, a believer in the planning process, sat in on the visioning session.
Michael Bedford, who attended last week's county session, said residents should think twice before sending money out of the city through big-box stores and national chains. "We need to feed our local enterprises with local money," he said.
Alcombright said a few things on the priority list are getting close: the city's just a couple steps away from being designated a state Green Community and a couple years away from having the most solar power per capita in the state. "We're working on those contracts right now," said the mayor.
But the city won't reach its goals overnight. "I think we got a strong start ... we need to know that the public sector moves very, very slowly," he said.
Residents will have more chances to comment as the process continues; information will be added to the city's website.
Steering Committee: Lisa Bassi, Jonathan Secor, John Greenbush, Donald Pecor, Steve Green, Joanne DeRose, Brian Miksic, Michael Nuvallie, Paul Hopkins, Alan Marden, Glenn Maloney, Michael Boland, Judith Grinnell, David Willette and Mayor Richard Alcombright.
North Adams Planning Priorities 2011
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Airport Hosting Big-Screen Movie Night
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Remember movie nights at Coury's Drive-in, or its sister the Hoosac Drive-in just south of the border?
Ahh, those days are long gone for the city. Or are they?
Area residents can get a taste of what it's like to watch a movie under the stars on Friday, Aug. 5, when "The Great Waldo Pepper" screens on what Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is touting as the "largest movie screen in the Berkshires": the airplane hanger at Harriman & West Airport.
The museum is sponsoring the 1975 Robert Redford film on the 90-by-22-foot airplane hanger door. Seating will be on the tarmac, so moviegoers are encouraged to bring lawn chairs or blankets to sit on.
"The Great Waldo Pepper" appropriately features then-hearthrob Redford as a World War I flying ace turned 1920s barnstormer and offers up some daring pre-CGI flying feats (all on a $5 million budget!).
To get in the mood, the evening will begin with a display of planes and antique cars. The first 100 kids will receive balsa-wood gliders and will be able to compete for prizes for the longest flight, best acrobatics and worst crash.
Local vendors will be selling hot dogs, hamburgers, snacks, soft drinks, beer and wine, and, of course, popcorn.
"It's not quite a drive-in since you can't watch the film from your car, but it's close," said Joseph Thompson, director of Mass MoCA. "Pack your cars with family, friends, chairs and blankets, see a spectacular film under the stars, and check out the airport scene."
Gates open at 7; a selection of flying cartoons begins at 8:15 and the main feature starts just after 8:30.
Tickets are $7 for adults and $3 for kids; or load up the car for a special price of $14. Tickets are available only at the door.
In case of rain, the film and all activities will be moved to Sunday, Aug. 7.
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Pocket Park Restored on Main Street
An unnamed volunteer, left, Barbara May and Kait Cornell look over plans for the park. Behind them is Lorraine Maloney, in red.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — On Saturday morning, if you drove down Main Street or past the post office you probably noticed a lot of activity going on at the corner of Main and Ashland streets.
A local group, Develop North Adams, and volunteers were hard at work rejuvenating a pocket park for the whole community to enjoy.
Coordinators Glenn Maloney and Kait Cornell worked for three months to plan the day. With the help of donors and volunteers, in the span of one day they transformed what had been a plot of overgrown bushes back into an inviting urban gathering place complete with chess table.
Why? "We realized that rejuvenating the life in our downtown was imperative," said Maloney. "As a community we need to have simple reasons to come together, we need to have a reason and a place to interact and get to know one another. If we are going to grow as a community we need to have a sense of community and make an attempt to know and like each other. We have a beautiful city center, a perfect place to walk, sit, chat.
"We also hope by learning to gather we could begin to support our local small businesses and shops better. We talked about benches and flowers. People came to me wanting to donate money for benches; we then realized that there was a huge amount of interest in the project."
A number of benches have been installed around the downtown in the past year and a pocket park created on Eagle Street in a lot left vacant after the Tropical Gardens pet shop building burned.
DNA has plans to continue, Maloney said.
"We have a growing base of muscle. MCLA's Community Day of Service is a part of the Greenspace Initiative, helping to maintain the spaces. Pat Wol has joined our group and will be working with the veterans agencies to put together a plan to better maintain the veteran's park. She helped us discover an unused park improvement donation fund; there will be some improvements coming to the veteran's park very soon."
Maloney said as the details are finished and the last bench installed downtown for this year, the group will begin to identify to the next project, possibly small quick projects and maybe one larger project.
"Our goal is simple: Get people to come together, give whatever it is they can give, be it money, time or positive energy and use it to make our community a bit prettier."
If you'd like to get involved, donate or just keep tabs on the group you can visit the DNA website.
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