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Mayor Thomas Bernard reads a proclamation designating the week of May 6-12 as Children's Mental Health Awareness Week with Carrie Crews, the Brien Center's family support and training program director.

Bernard Suggests North Adams May Hold Spectrum Meeting

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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The City Council approved the use of new voting machines, a hanging sign and several licenses. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mayor Thomas Bernard is suggesting that a community meeting, similar to that held in Pittsfield, be scheduled with Charter Spectrum. 
"I think we can still agree there's still enough upset that it's worth having a community meeting and inviting Charter Spectrum to hear the perspective of the community," Bernard told the City Council on Tuesday night. 
Complaints have been rife as frustrated cable customers have dealt with poor customer service, slow or interrupted internet connections, pricey new digital boxes and dropped channels since Charter's takeover of Time-Warner — the area's only cable service.
The cable provider has also kicked Northern Berkshire Community Television's channels into the higher numbers (1301, 1302 and 1303) making them more difficult to find.
"There's some ongoing compliance issues related to contract issues with NBCTV specifically," he told the council "I've spoken to [NBCTV Executive Director] Mr. [David] Fabiano, we've talked to the attorney who handled the negotiation  and so we're trying to understand what relief might be available through legal means to bring Charter Spectrum into compliance."
The mayor said he has also been in contact with the state's Department of Telecommunications and Cable, which has offered some assistance. He said his office working with DTC officials to set a date for an initial regional hearing of issuing authorities that he's offered to host. 
The city is in the early years of a 10-year contract with Spectrum. Pittsfield's Mayor Linda Tyer facilitated a community meeting last month to give residents a chance to express their frustrations. She's also requiring that Spectrum provide a report to the Pittsfield City Council.
Also at Tuesday's meeting, the City Council approved the use of five new optical scanner voting machines.
The transfer of $32,000 in funds for the purchase was passed two weeks ago. The city will be upgrading from the Accuvote machines to the new Imagecast Precinct machines, both of which are offered through LHS Associates of Salem, N.H. 
The new machines are needed because the current machines could freeze up because the clock chips that run them are no longer available. The only chip manufacturer is located in China and LHS Associates will not contract with it. The machines it sells are manufactured in the United States and used worldwide. 
Gomeau, in her communication to the council, said the Imagecast voting machines have a lifespan of 20 years and are being used in more than 100 Massachusetts communities. Since North Adams and a number of surrounding communities are buying the machines together, the company is giving a discount.
"The biggest advantage is the clerks will all be working together, helping each other," she wrote. 
In other business, Bernard read a proclamation designating the week of May 6-12 as Children's Mental Health Awareness Week in solidarity with the Northern Berkshire Systems of Care Committee. Carrie Crews, the Brien Center's family support and training program director, stood with the mayor during the reading. As in years past, a standout is being planned to advocate for children's mental health issues.
The council approved secondhand-license renewals for Minerva Arts Center (MAC Treasures) located at 305 State Road and for James Montepare at 432 State Road and 63 Main St. Council President Keith Bona abstained from all three because he is partners with Montepare in the secondhand business. 
• The potential plastic-bag ban being deliberated by the General Government Committee was postponed to the second meeting in July. The committee is doing research on the issue. Council Vice President Benjamin Lamb took over for Bona during this motion because Bona, as a local business owner, felt it was a conflict. 
• The council approved an overhanging sign for Melanie St. Pierre's art studio, Artsy Avenue, at 151 Eagle St. The sign has already been approved by the Planning Board but required proof of liability. 
• Councilor Wayne Wilkinson castigated the community and councilors for failing to provide any input into the $44 million fiscal 2019 budget. Wilkinson, chairman of the Finance Committee, pointed to the paltry showing at the three meetings held so far as an indication there is no interest in how taxpayer money is being spent.
"We're getting no input," he said. "But this budget will come back to this council at some point, I really hope these councilors that haven't bothered coming to these meetings don't ask any questions because that's not the time."
The next meeting is Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Council Chambers and will cover Public Safety and the McCann Technical School budgets.

Tags: cable television,   mental health,   spectrum,   voting,   

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Northern Berkshire United Way Sets $480K Campaign Goal

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Christine and Peter Hoyt are this year's campaign co-chairs. Their goal is to raise $480,000 over the next year. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire United Way supports 20 member agencies in the work they do addressing social, health, youth and family services throughout the region. 
Two of those agencies — Louison House and Community Legal Aid — highlighted some of the efforts within the community at United Way's annual campaign kick on Wednesday morning at Norad Mill. 
The agency also announced its new slate of officers and board members, including President Kelly McCarthy and Vice President Tyler Bissaillon, and took a moment to remember the contributions of the late Stephen Green, a longtime community activist and former campaign co-chair with his wife, Susanne Walker.
"While our hearts in our community at large are at a loss for a man who truly embody all of the characteristics and traits that we acknowledge as Northern Berkshire, such as honesty, integrity, commitment, selfless service, dedication, we can be comforted in knowing that his legacy lives on," said Jennifer Meehan, vice chair of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, of which Green was a board member and former president. 
Kathy Keeser, executive director of Louison House, described the history of the shelter that opened more than three decades ago after the closure of Sprague Electric and other local mills devastated the economy. Founded by Theresa Louison, the agency has expanded to provide emergency shelter, family housing, transitional housing, preventive services and, soon, a youth shelter facility. 
Housing is a growing need while at the same time, housing costs are rising, she said, and this effects particularly the people Louison House serves, people who don't have savings or credit — "who are at the last chance of an apartment."
"People are really struggling, but it's our community connections and it's our work with other agencies," Keeser said. "We do a piece of the puzzle. Ours is about getting them out to housing — working with mental health, substance abuse, all the other agencies around to help us do that. And the United Way has been a big part of that, along with Williamstown Community Chest, and so many other businesses and individuals that support us. So it is the community that helps us succeed and helps us do what we're doing."
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