North Adams Woman's Bequest Aids City Schools
A city woman has left the North Adams Public Schools a $40,500 bequest to aid its enrichment programs.
Frances R. "Frankie" Jones was a Pittsfield native who spent most of her life in North Adams. She died last year at the age of 69.
Her estate donated the money to the Gateway Fund administered by the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.
"We are so grateful to Frances Jones for her generous bequest," said James Montepare, superintendent of the North Adams Public Schools, in a statement. "Thanks to her, North Adams students will benefit for years to come with exceptional educational enrichment programs that might not otherwise be possible. In this era of budget cutbacks, the timing of her gift is especially welcome."
Some of the more recent projects aided with grants from the 8-year-old Gateway Fund were a digital photograhy book and a Kidspace residency.
Drury High School photography teacher Phoebe Pepper was given $1,000 to work with students on a high-quality book that incorporates original writing as well as images. The students will develop, write, edit and print stories inspired by their digital photos.
Kidspace, at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, also was awarded a $1,000 to have artist Portia Munson work in the schools with seventh-graders to create art installations at the schools and in empty storefronts in the city.
Berkshire Taconic established the Gateway Fund in 2002 and an advisory committee has built the endowment to more than $130,000 through contributions from the community. More than $25,000 has been awarded in grants since that time.
Jones was born in Pittsfield on Sept. 29, 1939, and moved to North Adams with her family as a child. She worked as a radiologist in the X-ray department of North Adams Regional Hospital for several years and was employed for 15 years in the Alumni Relations Mail Services Office of Williams College. Before retiring and becoming a full-time caregiver for her disabled sister, Dianne Petri, she was employed with Turbo Prop International Corp. She enjoyed gardening, decorating and traveling. Her husband of 32 years, Richard H. Jones, died in 1995.
To make a donation to the Gateway Fund, visit berkshiretaconic.org and click on "make a donation" or call 413-229-0370.
We don't have Mrs. Jones obituary listed, for some reason, and we'd like to know more about her and her family, and why they thought it was important to leave such a significant amount of money to help the city's schoolchildren. Post away!
|Tags: Gateway Fund, bequest|
North Adams Taking Over Water Plant
The city is taking over the operation of its water treatment plant in hopes of saving $35,000 and resurrecting the long-vacant position of superintendent of public services.
A message from Mayor Richard Alcombright said the city will end its contract with United Water and beginning operating the Reservoir Road facility effective Oct. 1 and hire the plant's current manager, Timothy Lescarbeau, as superintendent of public services. The plant's operation and management has been contracted since its construction in 1992.
"This is one of the largest items in our budget. We took considerable time looking at the numbers to determine whether it's more cost effective to continue to outsource the operation or bring it in-house," said Alcombright in the statement. "We can effectively operate the plant and do it cheaper."
The mayor said he had "lengthy discussions" with the staff, the state and engineering consultants. The idea was also one of those discussed during Finance Committee meetings earlier this year.
The water system plant includes the Mount Williams and Notch Road reservoirs, the Greylock well, watersheds and dams, the treatment plant, three storage tanks, pumps and stations and 80 miles of pipes in North Adams, Clarksburg, Williamstown and Pownal, Vt. The treatment plant produced 601 million gallons of water last year.
The Water Division of the Public Services Department maintains the entire infrastructure with the exception of the plant. United Water has been paid about $285,000 a year to provide staff, chemicals, preventative maintenance, janitorial and office supplies, and other related items. The city is responsible for the cost of utilities and capitol-item replacements.
Alcombright has identified the city's aging infrastructure as a priority. Some pipes in the water system date back a century. Lescarbeau has been charged with doing a complete assessment of the city's infrastructure, developing a five- and 10-year capital improvement plans and reducing costs.
"Our infrastructure is deteriorating. Last year, we had over 20 water breaks and we haven't had any significant pipe replacement in over 10 years. Additionally, our sewer infrastructure still suffers from inflow and infiltration problems, which affects our Hoosac Water Quality District assessments," said the mayor. "As our infrastructure continues to age, reacting to these problems will not solve them — we need to be proactive and begin to develop solutions."
He said taking over the plant will aid in that endeavor. The budget for the plant will allow the hiring of two people for its operation and a superintendent of public services — a position that hasn't been filled in 20 years.
The last superintendent and city engineer was Gene Breda, who retired in 1990. The post has been filled part time by Guy LaBonte, who has been with the city since 1962.
"Guy's institutional knowledge is invaluable and it should be imparted to someone with an engineering background before Mr. LaBonte chooses to retire a second time," said the mayor. "As [retired Highway Superintendent] Leo Senecal did before him, Paul Markland spends the majority of his time keeping things maintained, addressing public concerns and supervising projects — it's a job requiring him, like Leo did, to wear many hats which does not allow time to think long term. Paul hasn't taken a vacation since he started."
Lescarbeau is a city native and holds a civil engineering degree from Rensselaer (N.Y.) Polytechnic Institute. Alcombright said he also has the necessary licensing from the state Department of Environmental Protection, and the required background in managerial and engineering experience. He will be responsible for all infrastructure improvements, with emphasis on the Water Division, and all operations of the Public Services Department, including Water and Sewer, Parks and Recreation, Cemetery, Transfer Station and Engineering.
The duties are consistent with Chapter 7 of the city ordinances; the city's classification plan lists it as S-27 with a starting salary of $62,767 and max of $64,463.
"We are lucky to have someone with this experience who can step in and take on this huge responsibility," said Alcombright. Lescarbeau had applied for Senecal's job last year, he said. Markland, who got the job after also working in the Building Department, will continue as assistant superintendent, overseeing the city yard and field work.
North Adams 'Action Park' Seeks Pepsi Boost
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A dedicated group of youth and adults are hoping to "refresh" the dream of a skatepark in the city with the help of PepsiCo.
Members of UNITY (United, Neighboring, Interdependent, Trusted Youth) and its umbrella organization, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, have been working on a plan for an action sports or skate park for a number of months and have partnered with the city and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art to develop one.
The group is hoping that the community will not only support a park but help fund it by voting in Pepsi's "Refresh Project." The soft drink company is offering up to $250,000 in grants each month for worthwhile community projects supporting health, neighborhoods, the arts, eduction, food and shelter and the planet. The projects have to be "beneficial, achievable, constructive, and 'shovel-ready' (meaning it can be finished within 12 months of funding)," according to the site.
The company has been accepting 1,000 projects a month and doling out grants since February. Award winners are selected based on their leaderboard positions — in other words, the projects that are boosted to the top by voters. The two top proposals receiving the most votes online by the end of the month each receive a $250,000 grant; other grants from $5,000 to $50,000 will go to the top 10.
Emily Baker-White, a Mount Greylock Regional High School graduate who's working with UNITY as summer intern from Oberlin College, said the group had gotten the project accepted for voting in September.
Baker-White doesn't know how many votes are needed as Pepsi won't release the information on the number of votes past winners received. "Our community may be small but we are a close community, and it is easier to bring people together and spread the word. In large communities the message might get lost," she said. "I really think we have a real chance to win this, so vote every day in September."
So far, the only Massachusetts project we could find on the site that was funded was $5,000 to Greg Johnson for biking 192 miles for cancer research for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute back in May. Johnson's proejct was in the top 10 for his category (health) and amount. The town of Greenfield, Ohio won $25,000 for its own skate park in July.
There was lots of energy and excitement at the volunteer meeting last Tuesday to plan a get-out-the-vote campaign for this contest, with about 30 youth and adults gathered at the NBCC offices downtown. Many of the youth were BMX bikers and if the park is set up well, bikers and skateboarders will be able to share the park, making it more proper to call it an "action sports park."
The brainstorming session brought out ideas and willingness to put out fliers and information through every means of communication the group could come up with. Expect to see a catchy message to vote all over the city.
The meeting was organized by UNITY teens from the leadership program with support from Baker-White and Kate Merrigan, UNITY program coordinator. UNITY is NBCC's youth development program and the Youth Leadership Program is a leadership training and community service-learning program that meets weekly during the school year to encourage youth expression and involvement in their communities.
The planning group will meet again on Monday, Aug. 23, at 7 p.m. in the NBCC offices on the second floor of 61 Main St. In an e-mail reminder about the meeting, Baker-White said, we hope to see everyone back tonight for our second meeting — voting looms ever closer, and we'll need every volunteer and every idea we can get. Thanks so much; I'm pumped to see you all there!"
Voting on the Pepsi Refresh Project website will begin Sept. 1 and last through Sept. 30. If you have a Facebook account, you can log on directly, otherwise you will need to go to www.refresheverything.com and create an account with Pepsi to vote. Voters must be age 13 or older and may vote once each day online and make a second vote by texting a five-digit number, which will be released in time for the September voting period.
If you can't attend the meeting, but have ideas or would just like to help, contact Baker-White at firstname.lastname@example.org or Merrigan at email@example.com or by calling the coalition office at 413-663-7588. Keep updated by joining the group's Facebook page.
Once the voting begins, iBerkshires will have links to the project on our home and Facebook pages.
|Tags: skate park, contest|
MoCA Director: No Reason Not to Bring Wilco Back
iBerkshires caught up with Mass MoCA Executive Director Joseph Thompson on Sunday afternoon while he was watching Jeff Tweedy's solo performance at Joe's Field:
What were the final attendance totals?
We were just north of 5,000 for the peak [on Saturday], and there's about 3,500 here today [Sunday]. We had some strong crowds.
Did the festival meet your expectations?
It was a beautiful event, and it flowed. The music was lovely, and people moved with great ease through the museum, the galleries, the various outdoor venues. My sense overwhelmingly was that people had a great time. At least I did.
Were you at all surprised by the ages of audience members?
It's a great audience. This is a 30s to 50s crowd, and there were a lots of kids here. There were more strollers in the galleries this weekend than we've had in a long, long time.
Did you find time to enjoy the festival yourself?
I had a great time. I heard most of the music. Much of it was new to me, and I loved it. There were beautiful melodies, close harmonies, walls of sound. ...Great, great dynamic and range, which is what's at the very heart of Wilco.
Anything stand out as your favorite act(s) of the weekend?
I had never heard Mountain Man, and I thought they were lovely. The Books continue to just get more and more precise and beautiful. I had this great moment going from The Autumn Defense, which is kind of alt-country, roots type of music -- out to the Nels Cline Singers, who had these amazing, warped waves and waves of intensity, and just the way it sounded washing over those brick walls. To realize that those guys can somehow play in the same band is just startling and beautiful.
Although diverse in sound, what did the musical acts have in common?
You look for artists who share your mission, your dreams and fears.
Will Wilco and the Solid Sound Festival return next year?
Jeff [Tweedy] and I talked this morning, and we had a hard time coming up with any reasons not to do it.
What would you change or add, if anything, to next year's event?
The beauty of this is Mass MoCA is a great platform, and having a very strong point of view -- in this case, Wilco's point of view -- it's a hard formula to beat. It will be really fun to put together a program and what can go in the galleries.
You know, it's a valuable, expandable idea which is what I think is quite beautiful about it. I love its focus. I'm not a festival-goer because they sometimes they feel to me like a lot of work, just a barrage. They're kind of like variety shows, and I've never been one for variety shows. What I like about this one is that concordant hum that somehow flows through it. That comes from having very smart people and a passionate audience, and Wilco having their hand on the throttle. I'd be loath to mess around with that.
What did the festival bring to North Adams outside the confines of Mass MoCA?
I heard the stories that people were hanging out [Saturday] night. I heard that there was a full spectrum of activity, from The Mohawk to the Holiday Inn Bar, to the bands on the street at 1:30 in the morning. It was kind of a hum [throughout the city], and these things build over time.
|Tags: Joseph Thompson, Solid Sound Festival, Wilco|
Get Your Dogs Here!
Neither rain nor sun keep Vinnie Melito, left, and David Lewis from serving up hot dogs to hungry tourists and residents alike.
If you've driven down Marshall Street the last few Saturdays, you might have caught the city's newest eatery — parked on the side of road.
It's a hot dog cart and one of the first in recent memory to be seen about the city. The entrepreneurs of this wheeling weinie roaster are Vincent Melito and David Lewis, both former educators who were looking to do something in the retirement.
We caught up with them last Saturday in front of Gramercy Bistro's old location but didn't get a chance to try any of their dogs — the rain had them closing up a little earlier than usual.
Melito and Lewis, who've dubbed their enterprise "Guys and Dogs," have gone through the ServeSafe course and received their state and local permits for being open for special events. In North Adams, that's pretty much every weekend at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art but they've also be at the Mayor's Downtown Celebration on Aug. 25 and for other regional and local events. They're also available for private events.
But what made Melito, a former city councilor, and Lewis, a longtime garage owner, decide to start grilling? The retirees said they wanted something to do.
Melito said he'd been thinking about a small business for awhile, and a hot dog cart is pretty small. He found a willing partner in Lewis and support from both their wives, Margo and Rhea.
Besides, said Melito, it brings life to an often empty city street and creates a reason walk toward the downtown.
"We obviously enjoy meeting people, promoting our city and creating a vibrant city image with our cart," he said. One of the important community benefits that occurs is that our location is close to Mass MoCA and our business, along with the information we provide, contributes to drawing more tourists to the downtown area."
Both men said they had received a lot of positive response about the cart. They've also received a permit to operate in Adams.
They may have started something. At this week's City Council meeting, Mayor Richard Alcombright introduced Adams' lengthy and recently enacted vendor bylaw and asked the council to consider adopting. The bylaw, which is now under review, was taken up in Adams because one successful vendor last year turned into four or more looking to set up shop this year in the Mother Town.
Alcombright said Guys and Dogs wasn't the reason for the ordinance request, but rather a flurry of vendors looking to cash in on the upcoming Solid Sound Festival in August. The city's current ordinance is expected to suffice for now but the mayor wants to be ready for events in the future.
Meanwhile, you can catch the city's sole hot dog cart (for now, at least) on Marshall Street between the hours of 11 and 2 on Saturday and later in the evening on occasions when MoCA might have performances. The cart offers up all-beef Angus hot dogs, traditional condiments plus sauerkraut, chili and spicy cheese sauce, chips, soda, water and lemonade.
|Tags: hot dog cart, Melito|