Even Steve Meranti's family kept the award ceremony a secret from him.
AGAWAM, Mass. — North Adams Emergency Management Director Steve Meranti didn't want to travel to Agawam on Wednesday morning for a meeting at MEMA's regional headquarters.
But Mayor Richard Alcombright told him he had to go because the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency was awarding grants to fire departments.
Meranti called other fire chiefs and emergency managers, even as late as Tuesday night, to see if he really had to go. They gave him the same answer: MEMA was awarding grants to fire departments.
It wasn't until Meranti arrived that he learned the truth.
Meranti walked into a roaring applause from emergency managers and fire chiefs from all over western Massachusetts. And then he saw his family sitting in the front row. And the rest of his emergency management team sitting right behind them.
Meranti was there to be honored with the Northeast States Emergency Consortium 2015 Massachusetts Emergency Manager of the Year award.
"This isn't just a western Mass. award. This is for the whole state," said MEMA's Region III and IV Manager Patrick Carnevale. "He's been a great partner and we wouldn't be able to do half of the things we do out there without him."
The city has had many major incidents over the last few years that Meranti had taken the charge over. Hurricane Irene wrecked havoc in 2011 and Hurricane Sandy followed in 2012. A communications tower collapsed in 2014. The former North Adams Regional Hospital closed. A series of power outages hit North County. A mercury spill evolved into much more than anticipated. And earlier this year, a brush fire burned in Clarksburg State Forest for four and a half days.
"With any good team, it takes strong leadership. Steve, following John Morocco, who also did a wonderful job, has just done a great job. He's just that type of individual who will kid around for 45 minutes but, boy, when the whistle blows, like all of you first responders, it is pedal to the metal and he just gets things done," Alcombright said.
The award is given annually to a manager in the state that "exemplifies leadership and enhances the field of emergency management," according to MEMA Deputy Director Christine Packard, who presented the award to Meranti.
In not only handling those events, Meranti has done that through his involvement in numerous planning and management groups, which is why NSEC's statewide director Edward Fratto chose Meranti of all of the nominations statewide to receive the award.
But Meranti isn't the kind of guy who seeks attention. So, the western Massachusetts directors put him in the limelight through the surprise.
"He has no idea this is happening. I know he will kill me," Carnavale joked as the crowed room awaited Meranti's arrival and the mayor kept Police Director Michael Cozzaglio abreast of their location via text.
Mayor Richard Alcombright, Steve Meranti and Patrick Carnevale at MEMA's regional headquarters in Agawam.
"I know in the end, he will greatly appreciate it. He's a great leader but he doesn't want the attention."
Carnavale's characterization of Meranti was right on. After Packard handed the award over, Meranti credited the rest of his emergency management team for their efforts, saying "I just have the title."
"We really have a good team. We all work together, so on behalf of the team, I'll accept this emergency manager of the year award," Meranti said.
The award was coupled with a citation from the state Senate honoring Meranti, and the House of Representatives also will be sending a similar citation. However, both Sen. Benjamin Downing and Rep. Gailanne Cariddi were called into session and could not attend the ceremony.
Also in on the surprise were Meranti's wife, two sons, mother, mother in-law, father in-law, sister and brother, all of whom attended the event.
Even after arriving, Carnevale continued the excuse of awarding fire grants and jokingly handed Meranti a wrinkled dollar.
North Adams' Steve Meranti was surpised this morning with the Massachusetts Emergency Mangement Director of the year award.
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North Adams Eyeing Federal Relief Funds to Support School Programs
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The School Department is anticipating an $18.2 million budget for fiscal 2022 based on state budget numbers and state and federal grants.
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Superintendent Barbara Malkas cautioned that this is still a preliminary budget and that "there are still a lot of moving parts."
"This year it feels a little bit more predictable mainly because the governor did issue a budget on Jan. 27," she told the School Committee's finance subcommittee last week. "So the timeline that by which we're going to know about funding will be better than it was last year."
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City Councilor Jason LaForest had initially submitted the proposal for the creation of a "Fire Hydrant Division" with a request to refer to his Public Safety Committee but on Tuesday night instead asked it be fast-tracked to publication and a second reading.
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