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Mayor Richard Alcombright had a little trouble pinning new firefighter Matthew Davis.

North Adams Researching Insurance Claims

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau administers the oath to new Police Officer Brandon Lane.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is seriously investigating claims by the city's public employee unions that it may not have been paying its fair share of insurance premiums.

The allegations were pushed by the North Adams Teachers Association last year as part of a long-running battle with the previous administration over insurance costs.

Mayor Richard Alcombright told the City Council on Tuesday night that a meeting last month had included Business Manager Nancy Ziter, the city's health insurance broker Holly Taylor, School Department counsel Fred Dupere and an outside insurance accounting professional is reviewing the city's tabulation of its self-insurance costs. Recommendations are expected by the end of the month.

Ziter and Taylor also have been charged with researching insurance options including the state's Group Insurance Commission.

The unions had urged nearly two years for the city to adopt a state law that would allow them to join the GIC, which they said would greatly reduce costs. The previous mayor, John Barrett III, had rejected the proposal, saying it would cost the city too much money. The unions had countered with the claims that the city wasn't paying its 70 percent of the premiums; Barrett provided paperwork showing the city had paid more than its fair share in several of the past few years.

The claims and counterclaims had pitted City Hall against the unions — teachers, police and fire. It was a divide that incoming Alcombright said he'd do his best to bridge.

"We're going to try to put the best foot forward to find closure on this issue," he told the council.

Just over a month into his term, the mayor has been making a habit of appearing at council meetings to update the councilors — and by extension the citizens in the viewing audience — of what's happening in the city. He informed them that there were no surprises so far in the budget, that Timothy Lescarbeau was being appointed to the Conservation Commission (the council doesn't approve this) and that Audrey Dumas had been hired as the new treasurer/tax collector, a vacant post Ziter had been covering for more than a year.

He also brought back a tradition after speaking with Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco.

"A couple of years ago, it was pretty regular practice for firefighters and police officers to be sworn in at City Council meetings by the clerk," he said. "And I thought it was a great idea to bring back that tradition."

And so Police Officer Brandon Lane, soon to ship out for military duty in Afghanistan, and Matthew Davis took the oath from City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau with friends and family watching in the audience and at home.

In other business, the council:

►  Confirmed mayor appointments to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts Commission: Mary Grant, three-year term, Shirley Davis, two-year term, and newcomers Robert Burdick, three-year term, Phil Sellers, two-year term, and Gail Sellers, one-year term.

►  Approved taxi licenses for Brenda Wolfrum to drive for Candy Tripodes and to Rafael Martinez and Christopher Sahady, both to drive for Lori Smith.

►  Filed a communication from the Traffic Commission relating to a stop sign on Church Street near the library.

►  Heard an update by City Councilor Lisa Blackmer on the past two meetings of the new Community Development Committee (which will expanded upon in another article).
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North Adams Fire Chief Meranti to Retire

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Fire Chief Stephen Meranti, center, with the late Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco on receiving the MEMA award in 2015. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Stephen Meranti had a particular goal in mind when he updated his resume in the mid-1990s: to become director of the city's fire services.
 
Early next year, he'll retire after 17 years leading the North Adams Fire Department and as the first "fire chief" to retire in nearly 40 years. 
 
"I've had a pretty good run I think, 33 years with the city and 17 as chief," said Meranti on Wednesday morning, as he sat in the mayor's office. "It's been a good run, we have great people working with the city, I've had made great relationships here. It's like the mayor said, bittersweet for me also. I love the job I but I had planned on my career retiring at 55 and here I am." 
 
Meranti and Mayor Thomas Bernard announced the chief's retirement after more than three decades working with the city. His last day will be Jan. 26, 2021.
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