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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Alcombright Seeks Funds for Campground, Lake
Mayor Alcombright says the aged concession and public bathrooms at Fish Pond are an embarrasment.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday will be asked to authorize up to $150,000 in borrowing to update Windsor Lake (Fish Pond) and its campground.
Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Finance Committee on Thursday afternoon that the money would be used to revamp the two bathroom buildings at Historic Vally Campground and build a new concession stand and bathroom facility closer to the beach.
"The idea is how can we renew the excitement and enthusiasm about the lake," said the mayor. "It's a beautiful, beautiful place."
Alcombright said the two bathroom buildings built in 1969 are in a state of disrepair; the concession stand and public bathrooms at the lake "are in deplorable condition, they are embarrassing quite honestly."
The concession and facilities were built in 1959. They are now located far away from the public beach area as is the playground equipment.
"It's inconvenient, it's old, it's nonfunctional," said the mayor. "Considering the idea is to enhance the lake, to remarket the lake [we would] build a new concession/restroom building on the green space as you walk toward the beach."
The estimated cost for refurbishing and making the campground bathrooms handicapped accessible would be $60,000; building a new one-story concession modeled after the one at Noel Field about $70,000 to $80,000. The playground would be moved and needs new equipment.
A possible beach volleyball court could be put in but Windsor Lake Recreation Commission Chairman George Forgea said that would not be included in the borrowing. "There may be other ways to do that."
A lot of the exterior work would be done by McCann Technical School students and most of the rest done by city workers. The cost would be primarily materials.
Revenues from the lake and campground go into the general fund. Forgea said the campground "is nowhere near the capacity of the revenue it could generate." But the park is in dire need of upgrades beyond just the bathrooms: its roads and buildings need serious upgrading as do the sewer and electrical.
"The wiring goes back to 1969," said Forgea. "We had several campers who came up and found we only had 20-amp service and turned around and left."
The campground isn't prepared for the larger campers and their multiple appliances. Forgea said the idea isn't to turn the campground into a "Disneyland" but to make it attractive to the types of people who are coming to spend money at places like the local museums and theaters. They're not coming in tents, he said.
Of the park's 100 campsites, 48 were occupied by seasonholders but the remaining 52 had only a 30 percent occupancy rate.
Some changes are already under way. After operating on a cash only basis for decades, campers will now be able to use charge cards, make reservations online and, more importantly, be required to make deposits. A new management team will take over in the spring as well.
Finance Committee members were in favor of the investment because of the likely future return.
"Any money spent on the lake is money well spent," said committee Chairman Michael Bloom.
In other business, the committee voted to recommend borrowing for $650,000 to complete the the $6.3 million airport project. The matter was referred to the committee at the last council meeting.
"It's our obligation as a city to finish this airport," said the mayor. "This is an amount of money we can work with to get this done."
The city would use $150,000 to complete its 2.5 percent match of the runway funding (another 2.5 percent is being paid by the state and the rest by the federal government). The balance of the borrowing would used to pay any overruns regarding the Runway Safety Areas.
The RSA work is currently in litigation over a dispute with a subcontractor regarding the design and amount of work needed to complete it.
"The bonding request that the mayor sent [the council] is larger than the estimated local share of the project," said Administrative Officer Jay Green. "That is to have a buffer zone to make sure we're covered."
Not all money may be used, he said, because there is a federal wetlands grant for the project that may provide more funding. The city's attorney is in talks with the subcontractor to reach a settlement.
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Health Insurance, Airport Project on Council Agenda
Mayor Richard Alcombright will address the health coverage of elected officials at this week's City Council meeting and request the approval of a municipal health-insurance agreement with MIIA.
The issue raised some controversy earlier this year when it was discovered a number of officials had taken advantage of the city's benefit health package — at a time when taxes and fees were being hiked to cover a significant budget shortfall.
The benefits have been in place for some time and reportedly fall under state Chapter 32B, which also covers employees, retirees and spouses of retired or insured workers. Alcombright said he would bring a policy to the council that would go into effect on Jan. 1.
(We tried to search 32B for the pertinent language but the Legislature's new website for the General Laws is much more difficult to navigate and time-consuming to load. We give it a thumbs down for user-friendliness.)
He'd said several months ago that he wanted to review the policy and, if it were to be discontinued, give those covered enough time to make arrangements for alternative health insurance coverage.
The mayor is also bringing a request to borrow $650,000 for the Harriman & West Airport improvement project, which includes a half-million to cover an overrun. The state and city are each responsible for 2.5 percent matches on the $5 million project; the feds were picking up the balance.
However, the mayor writes that only $150,000 of the borrowing will fulfill the match. "The $500,000 is quite honestly an overrun and represents the completion on the Runway Safety Area (RSA) which has been problematic since 2009. There is a new design for the RSA and we are hopeful on two front: first, that $500,000 will complete the RSA and second, that the FAA may infuse additional funds to help defray these additional costs," he wrote.
Also on the agenda for the council's decision is an ordinance to place delinquent sewer fees with the real estate tax bills; several ordinance amendments for second readings; the appointment of Joanne Hurlbut to the Historical Commission for a three-year term; and the discussion of tag sale and other signs left hanging around the city.
The entire agenda can be found below:
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