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Mayor Richard Alcombright chats with chamber co-Presidents Mary Morrow and Bonnie Clark, Executive Director Judy Giamborino and Tom Loughman, a member of the board of the directors.

Alcombright Calls for Regional Collaboration

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Mayor Richard Alcombright spoke at the Williamstown Chamber breakfast at Mass MoCA.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Richard Alcombright is looking to strengthen bonds on a regional level by reaching out to leaders in the surrounding communities.

"I'm convinced that none of our communities — none of our communities — can truly grow without acknowledging the assets and the liabilities of the communities of North Berkshire as a whole," he told members and guests of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday morning. "We need to re-engage at all levels. The first step will be to build strong relationships with our North Berkshire neighbors and welcome collaborative development efforts."

He listed the Hoosic River Revival, the Berkshire Bike Path and regional transportation efforts as among issues that would benefit from cross-border collaboration.

Alcombright said he was meeting with the town managers and administrators of Williamstown, Florida, Clarksburg and Adams on Thursday to brainstorm ways to "better utilize each other." It's the first of what he hopes will be regular sessions.

"We're much more visible as Northern Berkshire," he said, than as separate entities.

More than 50 people braved the wintry weather to attend the chamber's monthly breakfast that was held at Lickety Split at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. Among them were Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin, Adams Town Administrator Jonathan Butler and Councilor Lisa Blackmer.

The city's new mayor touched on some of the challenges ahead - understaffed departments, aged infrastructure, blighted housing and poverty. Property taxes have been kept low by attrition, he said. "The problem now is that we're out of options; as a community, we need to agree on what levels of public service are adequate and then deal with and accept the costs."

Alcombright's reaching out to North County.
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A growing dependence on state aid has created a double-edged sword, said Alcombright, and as the state grapples with a $3 billion deficit, communities will have to find new revenue sources.


"There are two ways out - economic growth or raising fees and taxes," he said. He's charged the City Council with finding new efficiencies and revenue streams and ways to market the area for cultural and commercial growth.

But North Adams can't do it alone, said Alcombright. Building a sense of cooperation within the city, through the engagement of councilors, boards, civic groups and the use of NorthAdamsIdeas.com, is important but it also has to happen on the regional level, as well, he said.

He's already met with U.S. Rep. John W. Olver and various regional panels, and plans to meet with U.S. Sen. John Kerry soon.

"I've also had several conversations with the governor to let him know very specifically what our hopes are for North Adams and North Berkshire," Alcombright told the audience.

The new administration is hoping to thaw the often frosty relations the city has had with its neighbors over the years. The city's tussled with Williamstown over its shared waste-water plant and the runway extension at the Harriman & West Airport, and with Adams over developments on the city's southern border.

The communities should be working together as much as possible, said Alcombright, adding that jobs created in one town will inevitably help the others.

"We have a common destiny, we have common concerns ... transportation, education, public safety and, above all, the creation of jobs and more jobs," he said. "Those are the common threads that bind us together as North County."
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Lever, North Adams Awarded Grant To Support Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Lever and North Adams were awarded $85,000 in state grant funding to support Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership
 
Lever and the City of North Adams have been awarded $65,000 and $20,000, respectively, through a state grant program to support forest stewardship and conservation, trail improvements, and nature-based tourism in the Mohawk Trail Woodlands Partnership (MTWP) region.
 
"Outdoor recreation is an attraction for North Adams residents and visitors alike," North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard said. "You don't have to step too far away from the center of the city to connect to nature or enjoy our spectacular views. I'm thrilled to work with the MWTP, and I'm grateful to the Baker-Polito administration for supporting our efforts to promote outdoor recreation in North Adams. I'm also so pleased to have a great partner in Lever. I know that the Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge will build on Lever's incredible record of promoting entrepreneurship and strengthening our region's economy."
 
The City of North Adams will use its funding to inventory the City's network of trails—city-owned, state, NGO, and private—and, with input from residents and owners of tourist-focused businesses, create and market a comprehensive trail map to draw more tourists to the City for hiking and walking. 
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