Election 2009: Roach Sees Future Potential in City's Past

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Common Threads: North Adams' Risk Takers, Visionaries and the Future of our City

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A little over a year ago, I posed the question on my blog wondering aloud what North Adams will look like in 10 years. The future is an even more fascinating question if you take the time to look at the various evolutions of our city since it's inception.

I am 100 percent positive that North Adams will continue to bloom in various fashions and I personally believe that we are within a decade of our latest renaissance. We are a college town, a museum town, an arts mini-mecca and potentially one of the best places in America to raise a family.

We have so many things going for us that with just a little bit of optimism, investment and fortitude we will begin to see the fruits that have long been promised. Don't believe me? Look around. The energy of the current generation of young adults is palpable. I see it every day. And as these 20, 30 and 40 somethings come into their own, there are few bounds on what the future holds.

There are so many incredible things about North Adams that our biggest mistake would be to play it too cautious. Over their history, Massachusetts and North Adams has produced and attracted many who took the risks and reaped the rewards. It has been the perfect place for those who believed as Mark Twain did - that courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the management of it.

I say it is time to revive that ethos! In fact, North Adams is named after a remarkable risk taker. Nationally he is known as guy who has a brand of beer named in his honor. (How many other cities can claim that?) What we, as residents of the Massachusetts know is that Sam Adams was a Revolutionary War hero, signer of the Declaration of Independence and governor of the commonwealth. Take that Budweiser!

My neighborhood is named after a shrewd grocer and businessman, W.E. Brayton, who saw the potential of the town long before it was a city. He bought and sold the products of the local farms, selling the goods locally and shipping to the cities. His type of trade was what earned us the label of the Gateway City. Those who worked their fingers to the bone in the mills of 100 years ago laid the groundwork for the incarnation of our industrial age identity.

That period was epitomized by Bob Sprague and the role he and his company played in from Neil Armstrong landing on the moon to the TVs and appliances in almost every home in America. Over the past 25 years we have seen the emergence of North Adams' Education and Cultural Age, a spot that is a natural evolution for a city in the Berkshires.

People like Tom Krens, Joe Thompson, Eric Rudd, John Barrett, Jane Swift, Dan Bosley, etc. ... all share some of the credit for laying the ground work for what we are still in the process of becoming. Which leads me back to the question of what will North Adams look like in 10, 20, 50 years. We will certainly be a more entrepreneurial city.

We will be a destination for even more than the hundreds of thousands of visitors a year. Our museum and college will have finally been embraced by the city as a whole. I think it is likely that we will have a more walkable and bustling downtown but at the same time we will be part of a much larger regional rebirth.

While it is impossible to know exactly what shape things will take, I know one thing for certain: We will be a strong community with boundless potential. We were 200 years ago. We are one today, and we will definitely be one well beyond the foreseeable future.

Greg Roach is a father, husband, chef and writer. He is a candidate for North Adams City Council and urges you to contact him at greg@gregoryroach.com or visit VoteRoach.com.
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Adams COA, Town Seek Funds for Memorial Building Bathrooms

By Brian RhodesiBerkshires Staff

ADAMS, Mass. — The Council on Aging is still waiting to transition its programming from the Visitor Center to the Memorial Building and is looking to the Community Development Department for help. 

The COA has been waiting for additional bathroom facilities to be completed for the facility, but the council and the town have so far been unable to obtain grant or other funding for the work.


COA Director Sarah Fontaine said they are working with Community Development to find funds for the bathrooms and other small improvements, including increased entrance accessibility, renovations to the former music room and fixed windows. 


"I had voiced my concern. It's a very extensive list, I don't expect that it will all be done before we transition over. The only need is the bathrooms," Fontaine said. 


At last week's Board of Selectmen meeting, Community Development Director Eammon Coughlin said he looked into using Community Development Block Grant funds for the project. He said, however, that the Memorial Building is ineligible.


"The guidance we received from [the state Department of Housing and Community Development] has basically told us that the building is ineligible for funding because we already received funding in 2018," he said. "There has to be five years between the application for senior-center type projects. So based on that guidance, I don't believe Memorial School is eligible for funding."  


Fontaine also mentioned the auditorium in the building, which the town plans to renovate separately as a future capital project. 


"It would be nice as a senior center to have the auditorium available for guest lectures and other things like that," she said. 


Moving staff to the Memorial Building now while keeping programming at the Visitor Center, Fontaine said, is not an option. She noted that the Hoosac Valley Regional School District had previously expressed interest in using the second floor of the Visitor Center for its office space. 


"I was very firm in saying, logistically, it's hard for us to manage things just being upstairs. It's going to be very difficult if we're off site to try and manage programs downstairs," she said. 


In other business: 


  • The Council on Aging is looking for volunteers to fill vacancies on its advisory board. It filled one of the vacancies on Wednesday, appointing Barbara Ziemba. Ziemba, an active participant in the COA, had already filled out the paperwork needed for her appointment. 


"I have attended many COA activities, volunteer, and am a member of the Friends of the Council on Aging and attend meetings. I have been interested in being a member of the Board of Directors for some time. Please consider my appointment to the board," Ziemba wrote, explaining in her paperwork why she was interested in the position.           


The group also discussed two other vacancies on the board and potential candidates to fill them. Two members have been unable to attend recent meetings for health reasons. 


  • The board voted to approve updated bylaws. The bylaws were revised and written primarily by Board Member Elizabeth Mach. 


"I just wanted to make a comment, or rather an appreciation, for Liz for taking this project on," Fontaine said. 


The new bylaws have a provision to allow honorary members. Fontaine said there are currently no honorary members. 


The board appointed Bruce Shepley as the board's chair to replace Barbara Lagowski, who filled one of the now vacant member seats. 

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