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North Adams Closing In On Master Plan

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass — The city is inching closer to a master plan.

The region's planning commission gave the city another small grant to work toward developing a long-term vision for the city.

A new Community Development Advisory Board, to be appointed by Mayor Richard Alcombright, will tackle the details of planning the city's future.

The city has not had a long-term master plan in more than 40 years but began creating one with a similar grant last year.

"We hadn't done any formal long-term planning in years," Alcombright said on Monday. "The next piece will be much more involved with the public."

The master plan will set goals and decided the types of land use throughout the city.

The group will be picking up where the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission left off. Last year, the planning commission gave the city a similar grant, which the city used to hired BRPC to create a long-range planning strategy. The draft version of that strategy was completed in November.

After failing to reel in a federal grant to complete a master plan, the city once again asked and received the smaller BRPC grant.

The community development board will now take the planning strategy and engage the public to develop actual planning strategies. Residents will have chances to chime in as early as April, Alcombright said.

"We're hoping this will continue where we left off," Alcombright said. "They're relatively small grants but BRPC does a lot with them. We have no money but we found a way to bring in someone from BRPC once a week."

The regional planner will help the advisory board bring the plan to the public. Next fall, the city will apply for the federal grant to finish the job again.

The advisory board members and the final draft of the long-range plan will be revealed to the public and city boards on Feb. 22. Alcombright said the long-range strategy is mostly a series of broadly defined goals including rebranding, creating a diverse economy, combating poverty and examining the geographical impacts on business.

"This is a jumping off point," Alcombright said.

The mayor did not know the exact amount of the grant but estimated it to be around $20,000.

“BRPC is very pleased that we can continue to provide this modicum of support to the City of North Adams in development of a new comprehensive plan and we continue to look forward to working with the city. We are fortunate that we have municipal leaders across the Berkshires, including Mayor Alcombright, who understand the need for comprehensive planning, followed by aggressive implementation, in order to continue to rebuild our communities and continue to build jobs for the future, while protecting our environment,”  said Executive Director Nathaniel Karns in a statement.

Tags: BRPC, Master Plan, Grant      

North Adams Airport Marks Runway Completion

Tammy Daniels

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Alfred F. "Budd" Dougherty's long had a vision of where the airport should be — and now he's got a sign to show it.

The road to Harriman & West Airport will be named Budd Dougherty Drive in honor of the longtime member and chairman of the Airport Commission. Dougherty, appointed to the board by former Mayor Richard Lamb, was presented with the sign on Wednesday to mark completion of the long-delayed runway reconstruction project.

The nearly $6 million mostly federally funded project had been in the planning stages since at least 1985; it was mid-90s before serious effort began and only this year that the more than 4,000-foot relocated and re-engineered runway was completed, bringing the airport up to current Federal Aviation Administration safety codes. It wasn't soon enough for Dougherty, however, who retired from the board in 2008 after 30 years.

Brian Smith, left, of Gale & Associates, Mayor Richard Alcombright, city Administrative Officer Jay Green and Naughton spoke about the runway completion with a Beechcraft as a backdrop. The weather was too wet to be on the runway.

"I worked with Budd for 10 years," said Brian Smith of Gale & Associates, the consultant hired nearly 15 years ago for the project, who joked, "he kept saying he wasn't going to retire until the runway was done ... but he finally gave up on us."

Occasionally drowned out by the roar of engines being tested outside the hanger of Turbo Prop East Inc., local officials thanked all those involved and stressed not only the dedication of Dougherty but the importance of what Mayor Richard Alcombright has described as one of the jewels of the city.

"We thought it would be appropriate after so many years of starts and stops, designs and changes and ups and downs, we finally have a beautiful runway out here and to commemorate the fact that this project has come to completion and fruition," said Jeffery Naughton, the commission's current chairman.

It hasn't been easy. The effort to upgrade the 60-year-old airport became bogged down in controversary shortly after Phase 1 began in 2000. The location of the runway and its safety areas sparked contention between the city and Williamstown — whose trees were slated for cutting to accommodate the changes. The result was several years of talks, redesigns and lawsuits.

"For several years in a not-so-friendly environment, you stood for what you thought was right and kept the legs under this project," said Alcombright of Dougherty. "You put yourself in some very unenviable positions to see that this wonderful expansion and improvement poject was completed.

"You knew as many of us do how important this airport is to the city and to the greater Northern Berkshire community."

Airport Timeline
• 1940: 1,400-foot Greylock landing strip created
• 1946: City creates Airport Commission
• 1950: City acquires land and strip expanded to 2,200

1951: George West's Mohawk Aviation builds hanger & fueling station
1958-59: More land added, approaches cleared
1985: Obstructions removed, road built
1995: Gale & Associates hired
2000: Environmental permitting begins
2008: Runway safety areas begin construction
2010: New runway completed

Airport Manager Mathew Champney said people overlook the fact that the facility brings in money to the region both from the businesses already located there and the people who fly in for work or pleasure.

"The [Williamstown] Theater Festival, for instance, these people are going to the theater, they're spending money at the theater, they're going to dinner, they're paying money in their fees to the city, and their taking on gas."

Once the safety areas are completed in the spring, Champney said the runway will be able to accommodate larger aircraft, "which I think is going to increase the larger traffic, which I think will benefit this community."

Both Champney and Dougherty said the community doesn't grasp what a resource the airport is — and can be. Champney speculated that it was difficult to break through people's conceptions; Dougherty wished North Adams businesses would use it more.

"When I first became involved here, the airprot was producing a great deal of money for the city of North Adams because we do charge for all the work that's done here and all the planes that come here," said Dougherty. "Because of what's going on economically, it has certainly lowered down but it has served the businesses in North Adams and Williamstown ... I'm certainly disappointed Williams College doesn't use it more."

Michael Sarrouf, an airline pilot who started flying with his father out of North Adams and later worked for longtime pilot and former airport manager Peter Esposito, said Harriman & West was a great place to learn to fly.

"They always said if you learn to fly out of North Adams, you can go anywhere because this isn't the easiest airport to fly out of at times but it's great for training," he said. "It's an outstanding airport for sharpening your skills."

All three agreed some kind of outreach was needed to bring more attention to the upgraded facility. "We need to find a way to market the airport more to people in New York and other places to get them in here," said Sarrouf.

After many thank-yous, including to former Mayor John Barrett III, U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, and the many agencies, officials, consultants, community, neighbors and those who use the airport, for their commitment and input, support and tolerance, Dougherty had a small gift of his own.

The former chairman pulled out 50th anniversary hats, mementos that had become tied to tragedy when the airshow celebrating the airport's golden year a decade ago ended when two planes hit, killing their pilots.  It seemed the start of cloudy days for the airport.

"I saved these and have one for each member of the Airport Commission," said Dougherty, rewinding the prop a bit,  "and one for Jay [Green].

Now, with the completion of the runway, the airport is looking toward safer flying and bluer skies.



Science Center Site Selected

Staff Reports

This parking lot on Blackinton Street is expected to be the site of the new MCLA science center.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will hold a groundbreaking ceremony  site dedication ceremony on Tuesday, Oct. 26, for the new science center.


(We got a our ceremonies mixed up; there will be a groundbreaking at a later date.)

The $54 million project will be located at what's now a dirt parking lot near the Student Wellness Center on Blackinton St. The MCLA Beacon reported last week that surveying of the site had begun and the soil was being tested before an official announcement is made.

The Center for Science and Innovation will be the first major construction since the townhouse dormitories were built nearly three decades ago. In the last decade, the college has renovated Murdock Hall and added a new front entrance and lobby to the tower dormitories.

The science center is a long time coming. It's been a priority of President Mary Grant and will be a strong symbol of the college's committment to STEM education (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).

Several sites around the densely populated campus have been suggested as possible locations, the most obvious being what's called Taconic Lawn, an open area off the Quad between Bowman Hall and the Amsler Campus Center and the Boardman Apartments across the street from Bowman.

James Stakenas, vice president of administration and finance, told the Beacon that mockups had been made for nine likely locations and student input had been taken into account. The unpaved parking lot is the lead site.

Students would lose 80 parking spaces; the college plans to purchase and partially demolish a warehouse on Ashland Street to create 65 more spaces.


Tags: science center      

Police Have 'Uneventful' Weekend During Solid Sound Festival

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Wilco fans were on their best behavior this past weekend.

On Sunday night, North Adams Police Sgt. James Burdick said there were no arrests linked to the three-day Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA, which drew more than 5,000 people from across the United States.

"We've had a very uneventful weekend for an event of this magnitude," he said. "We had a couple minor traffic glitches and a couple minor accidents, but nothing of anything significance whatsoever."

Burdick said there were arrests made in the city during the weekend, but they were on par with the "normal course of duty" and were, in no way, connected to the festival or its attendees.

"This was a very easy-going crowd," Burdick said. "They were very impressed with North Adams, and this puts the city in a great light. Who knows what this will bring?"

The humidity wasn't a problem this weekend, which helped keep first-aid tents empty.

Fans kept the peace this weekend and also stayed healthy. First-aid tents were set up at Mass MoCA, but they were mostly empty.

A.J. Jusino, of North Adams Ambulance, said there were requests for "basic stuff" like Band-Aids and ice packs, but no serious emergencies.

"Fortunately the humidity wasn't bad because, going into this weekend, our major concern was dehydration," he said.


Local businesses benefited from the festival, which happened to coincide with the state's tax-free weekend. City Councilor Keith Bona, who owns Creations on Main Street, said his Saturday business was double that of a typical Saturday in August. Lines formed outside of downtown eateries like The Hub, while bars like The Mohawk were packed with thirsty patrons.

Bona, on the board of directors with Develop North Adams, spent most of Saturday at MoCA in an effort to promote the downtown attractions.

"I was getting questions about the cost of property and the schools systems around here," he said. "It wouldn't surprise me if some of these people come back, whether it's on a vacation or if they're looking for a place to move."

Tags: Solid Sound, Police, First Aid      

DNA Launches Website for Solid Sound Fest

Staff Reports

Nearly 8,000 people are arriving in two weeks for the Solid Sound Festival at Mass MoCA and the city is putting its best foot forward to help those visitors leave as much of their spending money behind as possible.

Develop North Adams has just launched a website with everything North Adams to direct the thousands of concertgoers to restaurants, shops and alternative entertainment (you have to give your ears a rest sometime).

We're excited about the idea of the midnight madness on Aug. 14. The downtown will reopen at 9 and go until 2 a.m.! Joe Thompson had expressed his hope that city would take advantage of the festival and, in the process, help slow the traffic heading out of the city on the Saturday night after Wilco plays. The idea is to get the concertgoers to linger, drop some cash, and then leave, mitigating any traffic jams.

Check oout the full website here.

history, things to do, shopping, eat & stay, entertainment, nature



Tags: Solid Sound, website      
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:: Preliminary Election: Deadline to register is Wednesday, Sept. 7. (Office open from 8 to 8.)
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Registration can be completed at the city clerk's office at City Hall.

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City Council

Returned Papers
As of 8/9 at 5 p.m.
 Lisa M. Blackmer* Yes
 Michael Bloom Yes
 Keith Bona* Yes
 David Bond* Yes
 Marie Harpin* Yes
 Alan Marden* Yes
 John Barrett Yes
 Eric R. Buddington Yes
 Nancy P. Bullett Yes
 Robert Cardimino Yes
 Catherine Chaput Yes
 Roland G. Gardner  
 Diane M. Gallese-Parsons  Yes
Shane Gaudreau  
 James B. Gyurasz  Yes
 Michael Hernandez  Yes
 Jennifer Breen Kirsch  Yes
Brian L. Flagg  
 Kellie A. Morrison  Yes
 Greg Roach  Yes
 Gail Kolis Sellers  Yes
18 candidates returned papers
 Richard J. Alcombright*  Yes
 Ronald A. Boucher  Yes
 Robert Martelle  Yes
 Preliminary election will eliminate one
 School Committee  
 Mary Lou Accetta* Yes
 Lawrence K. Taft* Yes
 Leonard Giroux Jr.  Yes
 Tara J. Jacobs  Yes
 David Lamarre Yes
McCann School Committee  
 George M. Canales Yes

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