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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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Bird's Career Best Lifts MCLA to Seventh Straight

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- Hayden Bird came off the bench to score a career best 31 points to lead the MCLA men's basketball team to its seventh straight win as the Trailblazers upended the Salem State Vikings 98-84 Thursday evening in MASCAC action.
The Trailblazers are off to their best conference start since the 2010-11 season as they improve to 10-4 overall and remain atop the MASCAC at 3-0.
Salem State falls to 1-14 overall and is now 0-3.
This first half was back and forth, but Drury High graduate Bird took over about midway through the half. He scored 19 of his 31 points in the opening half to lead the Trailblazers to a 48-43 advantage at the break. MCLA never trailed in the second half as they immediately increased the lead to double digits at 55-45. Salem cut it to five points, but once again MCLA answered.  With the score at 55-50, MCLA used a 12-5 spurt to take command at 67-55.  
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