North Adams Campground Seeks Fee Hike
The old concession stand and bathrooms are being replaced by a newer structure closer to the beach. The future of the old building would be up to the city, said the commission.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Campground fees are likely rise next year as the city looks to improve and market Windsor Lake.
The Windsor Lake Recreation Commission on Tuesday voted 4-1 to recommend to the mayor about a 10 percent increase for all camping rates.
"What it comes down to is the rates haven't changed in years," said Chairman George Forgea. "These are low compared to other campgrounds around here. ... we're a few bucks below everybody."
Forgea had suggested raising the daily rates for the different sites at $2 and raising the seasonal rate by $55, to $1,600. There are about 40 seasonal campers, which would mean the campground would bring in $2,400 more a season.
"I don't want to drive anybody away," said Forgea. "I just know we can't continue the way we are."
The reinvigorated board has been tasked by Mayor Richard Alcombright to review options for upgrading and marketing the 100-site Historic Valley Park and the public areas of Windsor Lake, better known as Fish Pond. The City Council in October authorized the borrowing of $150,000 at the urging of the mayor and the commission to build a new concession stand at the lake and revamp the outdated bathrooms in the campground. Both structures are more than 40 years old.
Member Nancy Bullett asked why the arbitrary $2 hike per day but $55 for the season. She suggested that the amount be fair across the board, either 15 percent or 10 percent.
Forgea said it was likely the rates would climb higher in the future, but added he was "concerned about that much of an increase with no visible improvements." Far more work needs to be done in the campground, including an expensive electrical upgrade.
Commission member William St. Pierre said he didn't think $2 more would drive anyone away but raising them higher might. Member Robert Upton, however, wondered if too low an increase to start would make the inevitable larger hike to help recoup the cost of the improvements seem even bigger.
"I think for consistency you should do it across the board," said Bullett.
A 10 percent increase, rounded up, would set the full-season rate at $1,700; wilderness sites at $14, up from $12; tent sites at $23, up from $21; water and electric sites at $29, up from $26; and lakeside sites at $33, up from $30.
A monthly rate of $465 for the water and electric sites would jump to $515, still a considerable savings considering it would be $780 if paid by the night.
The commission left standing a pay-six-get-seven-nights deal around since the 1970s and visitor rates of $3 per person a day and $6 for overnights. They suggested adding a senior citizen rate of free daily visits and $3 overnights.
The commission voted to send the recommendations to the mayor; St. Pierre voted no believing the seasonal rate was too high and would discourage campers from the already underbooked park. "We'll lose that revenue."
Member Paul Corriveau disagreed. "We seem to be worried about losing seasonals but this campground has gotten the reputation for not being the place to go. I'm sure the word is out that the seasonals are taking up space.
"Once the word gets out that we're renovating the campground ... I like to think that we're going to see more people come forward."
The panel also said it would begin cracking done on littering, trash left behind and unregistered camping vehicles. A new, updated brochure should be ready be spring, a website is being developed and the institution of a credit card registration system will aid in getting deposits. The campground is also now listed with the Massachusetts Camping Association.
The commission will also be sending recommendations for the post of campground manager after reviewing some 20 applications for the seasonal post. Most of the applicants live in the region but some are applying from as far away as Pennsylvania.
Forgea said a motorhome group out of Boston has expressed interest in using the campground as the base for a three-day rally. A representative is coming out Thursday to look it over and Forgea planned to greet her with brochures of the region's attractions.
Commission members were pleased with the news. "This could really get the word out," said Corriveau.
|Tags: campground, lake|
Finance Committee Recommends Tax Hike
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Finance Committee on Monday night voted to recommend a tax classification that will see residential taxes rise 10.8 percent this year, the biggest hike in the last decade.
Committee member Alan Marden, however, objected that the public hadn't had a chance to really weigh in on the issue.
"We're ramming it through. We were going to be a more open government ... I think you've ignored the public," said Marden, who wondered "where the public was going to get this information."
"Where did they get it the last 10 years?" responded Mayor Richard Alcombright. "I've been saying there's going to be a 10 percent increase since March. This just established it into a rate that's approved."
Chairman Michael Bloom said the committee had worked on the budget all year long. "Here we are a month and half ahead of last year; we've got documentation we've never seen before and last year we waited to the last minute ...
"None of us want to raise taxes but we have to do this is in a responsible manner ... I don't know how more open we can get."
The increase is in large part because of the economic collapse that occurred two years ago that dried up state revenues and caused property values to drop. The city has relied heavily on reserves to balance the budget over the past few years.
"This financial collapse was like a tsunami or hurricane," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, which has left municipalities and the state struggling through the aftermath. "Our chaos right now is a 10 percent increase to keep our services alive and next year it may be a $2 million cut to survive. ... It's gut wrenching, it's painful but we'll get past it."
The classification rates to be presented to the City Council on Tuesday night are residential, commercial, industria and personal. Open space is also included but with a zero value because the city has no guidelines or ordinances to value it.
The bulk of the $12,854,065 in taxes to be raised comes from residential. Adopting a "shift" of 1.75 toward commercial will lower the burden on residential from 77 percent to 60 percent of the total taxes. Commercial will pick up 25.7 percent, for a tax rate of more than $31; industrial will be apportioned just over 6 percent and personal property, 8.
The average tax increase has been 6 percent over the past four years and taxes overall have increased by half over the past decade. The owner of an average home in North Adams, at about $136,000, should see her taxes rise about $200.
If the Super Walmart or Lowe's comes in, commercial revenues will increase. That will allow the city to reduce the commercial burden by decreasing the shift but shouldn't affect the residential rate.
The city will come within $776 of its levy limit.
"Last year, we left $800,000 on the table, this year we're picking it all up to balance the budget," said the mayor.
In response to a question from resident Robert Cardimino, Business Manager Nancy Ziter said the city's property valuations had only declined about 2 percent — compared to 20 percent in some parts of the country — because they had not risen as quickly either.
"In all fairness, even though the increase is 10.8 percent, the impact could be worse," said committee Chairman Michael Bloom, considering the commercial/residental split.
Although voting with Bloom and member David Bond to recommend adoption of the classification, Marden wondered if it City Council approval couldn't be put off a bit longer.
The mayor said it was a matter of getting the final numbers to the state (the city's valuation has already been certified) and then setting up billing. Ziter said bills had to go out before the first of the year and that the process is time consuming — printing alone takes two days.
"You don't have to approve it tomorrow night but the sooner the better."
North Adams Library Closing for Rudnick Funeral
The North Adams Library will be closed on Friday, Nov. 19, from 10:30 to noon so staff can attend the funeral of the late Edna Rudnick, who lead the Friends of the North Adams Public Library as president for 20 years.
"Edna was a strong supporter of the library and helped raise the funds to complete the beautiful renovation of our library that she loved so much," said Library Director Rick Moon in explaining the closure.
Rudnick died this past Saturday at age 86. She was a longtime booster of the library and involved in other civic activities, including chairman of the city's Council on Aging and a longtime member of the Planning Board. Her participation in these committees was put on hold a couple months ago when she fell and broke her hip.
After surgery, she entered North Adams Commons for rehabilitation and was expected to return to her home in the High-Rise apartments, where she also was active with the tenants' association. Rudnick even posed for a testimonial on how well she was doing in rehab for Northern Berkshire Healthcare.
However, her health suddenly declined and she died at the nursing home this past Saturday. Her husband, Stafford Rudnick, who was a police officer in the city in his younger years, died in 1985. She left no immediate family in the area.
A calling hour for Rudnick will be held Friday, Nov. 19, from 10 until the funeral service at 11 a.m. at Flynn & Dagnoli-Montagna Home for Funerals, Central Chapels, 74 Marshall St., North Adams. Burial will follow in Southview Cemetery.
Memorial donations for Rudnick may be made to the North Adams Public Library or the Mary Spitzer Senior Center in care of the funeral home.
The library will re-open Friday at noon.
|Tags: Rudnick, funeral|
Human Services Panel Accepting Grant Applications
The city's Human Services Commission is initiating its grant application process for applications to be submitted by Dec. 31, 2010.
The nonprofit agencies are invited to apply for grants of up to $500. Some $7,500 in grants will be disbursed. To be eligible, the agency must be a nonprofit organization that serves the residents of North Adams.
All approved applications will be submitted to the office of the mayor by Jan. 31, 2011, for final approval and appropriation.
To obtain a grant application, e-mail commission Chairwoman Suzy Helme at firstname.lastname@example.org. Grant applications will also be available in hard copy at the city clerk's office at City Hall.
Grant applications are due no later than noon on Dec. 31, and must be delivered to the Human Services chairman via e-mail or mailed to City of North Adams, Human Services Commission Chairwoman Suzy Helme, 504 Church St., North Adams, MA 01247.
For further information, interested parties can contact Helme at 413-652-1814 or at email@example.com.
Planning Board OKs Land Division, Business Signs
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday night approved a raft of signs and the division of a property on Windsor Lake.
Frederick and Linda Scully were seeking permission to rebuild a cabin on the property that burned down in July 2008 and to divide the property with Kerry Burch of Durham, N.C.
The Scullys owned two-thirds of the land and Burch, their niece, one-third; the land had been deeded from the life estate of Margaret L. Scully.
The board approved the division for two single-family residences and for a special permit for the Scullys to rebuild the camp. Building Inspector William Meranti said the plans conformed to the city's code and that the Fire Department had looked at the access road off West Shaft Road.
"They believe the road is substantal width and accessible for fire trucks to get down," said Meranti. The Scullys had installed a new bridge and planned more road improvements over what is a ancient right of way.
The board also approved signage for the new Clarksburg Collectible Gift Shop on Eagle Street being operated by David and Lori Smith; for Hemmingway, on condition that a full-color rendering be submitted; for Unforgettable Cuts on State Road; for I Got Goodies new location on Main Street; and for Rub Bourbon & BBQ on Marshall Street, on condition that a final version of the sign be submitted. The businesses either have already been approved or did not need special permit to operate in their locations.
|Tags: planning, signs, windsor lake|