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North Adams Skating Rink Vandalized

Andy McKeever

Stall doors in the bathrooms were kicked by ice-skate clad vandals at the Peter W. Foote Memorial Skating Rink.


Mayor Richard Alcombright points to urinal dividers that were destroyed. The dividers will need new brackets and anchoring system.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Vandals caused thousands of dollars of damage Friday at the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink.

Both the men's and the women's restrooms were damaged during Friday night's community skating time. In the recently renovated restrooms, urinal dividers were torn down, the doors were kicked with skates leaving dents, some of the concrete was chipped and one of the sinks was chipped. A full footprint was found near the ceiling where a skater had climbed onto the sinks.

The city will have to spend thousands of dollars to replace all of the damaged items.

"It's on the city's dime to keep this maintained. Somebody has to pay for this," Mayor Richard Alcombright said Monday. "We're not going to tolerate vandalism in this building."

Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morrocco said police are accepting anonymous tips and if the perpetrators are found they will be prosecuted "to the full extent of the law" and have to pay for the damages. Additionally, a police officer will be patrolling the rink during the final two nights of community skate time.

"You can have a successful prosecution without an eyewitness," Morrocco said. "With the city having limited resources, this is crazy."

Anywhere from 250 to 300 children were at the rink Friday night and the rink's small staff was unable to finger the culprits. Placing an officer there will help deter vandalism but comes as an additional cost to the city, Alcombright said.

"It's unfortunate that we have to put an officer here," Alcombright said. "We just want to have a nice facility. This is a place for families."

Alcombright was informed of the damage Monday morning via e-mail and went to inspect the damage later.

The bathrooms at the skating rink were newly refurbished in April through grant funding of $160,000. According to Michael Nuvallie, of the city's office of community development, the bathrooms were one of several phases of renovations. Close to $2 million has been invested in the rink, he said.

Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morrocco vowed to prosecute the culprits to the full extent of the law.

"We've been chipping away at this for years," Nuvallie said. "We're up near the $2 million mark and we're not done."

Renovations began in 2007 when they city took over the rink's operations with a new roof and each year the city applies for grants to continue fixing the place up.

A new floor, mechanical room, boards and glass and doors have also been renovated, Nuvallie said. The next step is infrared heaters for the benches and renovating the parking lot will follow, he said.


Tags: Skating rink, Vandalism, North Adams      

Councilor Urges More Diversity on Boards

Tammy Daniels

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city administration should look further afield to find more diverse nominations for boards, according to one city councilor.

"Over the last 20 years ... appointments tend to be politically connected," said Councilor Lisa Blackmer at Tuesday's City Council meeting. "What about other skill sets out there? People ask me, 'how do I get involved?'"

The discussion was prompted by Mayor Richard Alcombright's nominations of Joanne DeRose, a member of the City Democratic Committee, and Brian Miksic, head of Develop North Adams and a supporter of Alcombright's mayoral bid, to the Planning Board.

Blackmer said she was sure DeRose would do a good job but that there had been talk of appointing possibly a retired architect, someone who wouldn't have any conflicts, or a citizen with a similar background. She pointed to one individual from New York City who has a depth of experience but whose short time in the city was seen as a negative.

"Typically speaking, if you look through all my board appointments, they all come with people who are qualified and will represent that board in a positive way," said the mayor, who estimated he'd submitted 30 or 40 names over the past year of people he'd worked with on other boards or through his experience with the community.

He'd used the recent semester-opening breakfast at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts to solicit interest in serving the city, he added, and encouraged interested citizens to contact him.  "We haven't been shy about that, we've kept a list of names of people who call."

Councilor Michael Boland said they had used the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition newsletter to drum up candidates for the new Human Services Committee.

"Pretty much, I see a name in front of us, they seem to be involved in the communty," said Councilor Keith Bona. "We're a small community so it's not unusual for people to be involved in other organizations."

Miksic's involvement with DNA, a local cultural and business association, prompted council President Ronald Boucher to get an opinion from the city solicitor, who suggested Miksic abstain from decision affecting the downtown. Alcombright said he had also suggested Miksic contact the state Ethics Commission. Bona pointed out that Paul Hopkins, vice chairman of the Planning Board and chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, sits on the DNA board. 

Council President Ronald Boucher said it may be matter of people not knowing how to get involved.

"I tell them to call the mayor ... but people, I guess they don't know the process of how to get their skills and their interest in the city to be used without being actively involved publicly," said Blackmer.

In other business:

• The city solicitor sent a letter stating that he would have an opinion on a request to switch a parcel owned by Curran Highway Development LLC from industrial zone to commercial at the Feb. 22 meeting.

•  The Traffic Commission sent a communique on several areas of concern submitted by former Councilor Gailanne Cariddi. The police put a radar monitor on North Street for a number of weeks to reduce speeding and an issue on Patterson Road had been addressed by the mayor's office. As to oversized traffic using West Main Street to access Route 2, the mayor said there were signs in place now to prohibit such traffic but they could be moved to make them more visible before vehicles enter the roadway.

The mayor also took the time to expand upon complaints of the shortened time for crossing intersections. After discussion with the Traffic Commission, Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco said he would look into adding 5 seconds to crossing time.

Alcombright said the amount of time allowed to cross intersections in the downtown ranges from 28 to 45 seconds depending on location and length. That includes the time when the "Walk" light starts flashing and through the "No Walk," which offers another 10 to 12 seconds to complete the crossing. There were "problematic ones" near Cumberland Farms and the high rise on Ashland Street, possibly because of the number of elderly in that neighborhood, he said.

The mayor also noted that the grates have been removed from the new lights after discussions with the state. There have been complaints that the protective grates made it difficult to see the lights. He said he would look into a comment by Blackmer about the new light's lack of a lefthand arrow from Monument Square onto Ashland Street.

• An application for Edward Tripodes to drive a taxi for Candy Tripodes was filed after the applicant failed to appear for the second consecutive meeting. An application by William Gaudreau to drive a taxi for Lori Smith was approved.

• An ordinance relating to hawkers and peddlers was continued. General Government Chairman Keith Bona said he expected it would take a couple more meetings to formulate language.

Tags: nominations, traffic      

Board Appointments on Council Agenda

Staff Reports

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - the City Council has a light agenda on Tuesday night, with several postponed communications - which may be postponed again - and a handful of appointments.

Mayor Richard Alcombright is recommending two new appointments and the re-appointment of Kyle Hanlon to the Planning Board; the reappointment of Paul Marino to the Historical Commission and the appointment of Councilor Michael Boland to the Human Services Commission.

Also on the agenda:

• A request submitted to the city late last year to eliminate the industrial zoning behind the former K-K Home Mart building. The 3-acre parcel owned by Curran Highway Development LLC is split into two zones - commercial and industrial - with the commercial zoning being the predominate.  The council had submitted the matter to the city solicitor before making a decision.

• A communication from the mayor on a new ordinance and fees for hawkers and peddlers. The mayor is objecting to a suggestion for a separate panel to oversee events. "Another level of bureaucracy would only add steps to an already confusing process," wrote the mayor.

• A communication from former Councilor Gailanne Cariddi on a traffic concerns.

The full agenda and minutes from the last meeting can be read below.


Tags: agenda, appointments      

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      

Senator Brown Tours Public Safety Building

Tammy Daniels

Brown, left, with Fire Director Stephen Meranti, Mayor Richard Alcombright and Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco in what passes for the station's exercise room.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The ceilings are leaking, the windows are drafty, the lockup woefully out of date — and those are just the most striking issues for the 55-year-old public safety building.

When it opened in 1955, it was considered state of the art. Firehouses scattered about the city were consolidated into the new structure on American Legion Drive along with a new police station.

But the building hasn't caught up with the times, and a complaint to the U.S. Department of Justice about the structure's lack of compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act has brought its woes to the forefront. There are tight hallways, rickety stairs, and too many nooks and crannies. It can't expand easily because it's locked between private property and public ways.

It's no secret city officials want a new location and a new building.

"You'll notice these cells as well as the cells on the other side, they were up to date and fully functional in 1954 but today they barely meet ...," Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morroco shrugged his shoulders on Wednesday as U.S. Sen. Scott Brown looked into the tiny holding cell. In another room, he poked at the duct tape covering the aluminum frame on the windows.

"The person who sits here ends up with snow on him," said the commissioner. "But it is a 1955 original frame."

Downstairs, water is leaking on gear, old piping runs below the ceiling. "We roll for everything, we go to car accidents," said Fire Director Stephen Meranti, who added the department responds to 1,200 to 1,400 calls a year. "We had two building fires in the past month ... "You can see what the condition of our building is."

"We actually were in line for a grant to get money to redo the windows but the problem is under the law, we invest so much money into the windows the ADA compliance [kicks in]," Alcombright told the senator. "So the couple hundred thousand to do the windows turns into a multimillion-dollar project. With that we might as well invest in a new facility."

Brown, a selectman in Wrentham before being elected to the state Legislature, said that town had also had to deal with building a new facility. "I went through this before with a couple towns," he said.

"Obviously, you have a building that's struggling to be functional and it comes down to people's health and well-being, too, and their own personal safety," said Brown, who toured the facility as part of his swing through the Berkshires this week. "At some point you're going to need to make some very tough decisions to provide the adequate tools and resources for your public safety personnel to do their job safely."

The senator offered sympathy but nothing concrete. It was up the city — and the voters — to determine the next step, he said. Once they have a plan, "it's imperative for us as a federal delegation to work together to try to find the resources to help.

"We're not going to be the only answer, we're going to be part of the answer, that's my hope."

Top, from left, a holding cell in the police station; Brown with Meranti; picking at a duct-taped window on the second floor. Below, construction is being completed on public restrooms (now the firefighters' break room) on the side of the building in 1955.


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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
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Shane Gaudreau  
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 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
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 Leonard Giroux Jr.  Yes
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 David Lamarre Yes
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