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North Adams Council to Take Up Public Safety Chief Changes

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday (tonight) will be asked to approve an ordinance change that will restore the public safety directors back to chiefs of their departments. 
Mayor Thomas Bernard had pledged nearly two weeks to move forward with the change with the looming retirement of Police Director Michael Cozzaglio. 
"I believe this change, which increases the salary for the position, will help ensure the city is able to build a competitive applicant pool for this critical position," he wrote in his communique to the council. 
The ordinance would address both the fire and police director posts, designating that both police and fire divisions would be headed by a chief and amending the current ordinance to remove references to director and replace them with chief. Both posts would be appointed by the mayor for five-year terms. 
In a letter to the mayor dated Oct. 16, Cozzaglio and Fire Director Stephen Meranti asked that the council change their titles "to the appropriate and much less confusing" chief. 
"Over the course of the past six years, there has been a lot of confusion and misunderstanding both on a local, state and federal level as to 'what is a Police and Fire Director.' Both Director Meranti and I have had to provide countless detailed explanations as to what is the job title and authority of a Director within our respective departments," wrote Cozzaglio. 
Federal grant applications, he said for example, have to be submitted with a letter from the administration clarifying their authority as the same as a chief. 
The city has had directors since the reorganization of the fire and police departments into a combined Public Safety Department in 1981 under then Mayor Richard Lamb. But the retirement of Commissioner E. John Morocco highlighted the difficulty of filling a post that is unknown in most of the state. 
Morocco, in fact, had gotten a waiver to stay on more than a year after his retirement because the city was unable to find a replacement. In late 2012, it was decided to split the commissioner's duties between the directors and provide them with a stipend. 
Should the council approve the ordinance change, Cozzaglio would retire as police chief and his replacement would be hired as police chief -- a much easier position to advertise.
Bernard is asking that the classification be changed to a higher wage, S-27B on the compensation schedule. The directors' currently are at S-33B, with a starting wage of $76,748 to a maximum of $81,505; S-27B has no minimum and a maximum wage of $85,535.
The Public Safety Committee touched briefly on the matter its Monday meeting. Chairman Benjamin Lamb said his main concern had been the process and timeline and he had spoken with the mayor.
"Knowing that Director Cozzaglio is going retiring in February, we don't want to have a gap where we don't have leadership in that department as much as can avoid it," Lamb said. "But also being adamant that this committee have representation on whatever hiring committee occurs. I pushed that piece specifically because as the Public Safety Committee we are charged with a level of oversight in that respect."
In other business at Tuesday's meeting, the City Council will take up six sales of city-owned land through an "abutter lot program." The program was established through the assessor's office to dispose of land that abuts a property with a structure on it. 
"The goal of this pilot program is to improve neighborhoods by selling otherwise unused parcels to abutters who will maintain these properties and return them to the city tax rolls," stated the mayor in a communique to the council. The city owns a number of nonconforming lots taken by tax title that have no buildings.
The council will also take up changes to the Public Arts Commission ordinance as recommended by the General Government Committee. The committee has been trying to clean up the language and clarify lines of authority that will satisfy the mayor and the PAC.
• The mayor will also be asking for a tax incentive through the Economic Development Incentive Program for Stanley Black & Decker, which has acquired Tog Manufacturing Co. The company has been approved for a 20,000 square-foot building expansion in the Hardman Industrial Park. Stanley estimates the investment at $3.5 million in building improvements, $2.6 million in equipment, and 28 new jobs by 2022. 
The tax increment financing agreement would exempt the additional tax burden over five years, beginning with 80 percent in fiscal 2021 and ending with 20 percent in fiscal 2024. The property is currently assessed at $309,100.00 resulting in $12,317.64 in property taxes. 


Tags: fire chief,   police chief,   

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Lever Launches Second Mohawk Trail Entrepreneurship Challenge

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Lever will launch a second Mohawk Trail Entrepreneurship Challenge (MTEC) this month focusing on wood product enterprises, thanks to a $60,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EOEEA). 
Lever's MTEC seeks to attract forestry-based and wood-using startups, excluding businesses focused on wood-based fuels. 
"Our Challenge programs have allowed us to support more than 80 entrepreneurs, whose companies have created hundreds of jobs," said Lever Executive Director Jeffrey Thomas. "I'm looking forward to meeting our Mohawk Trail Entrepreneur Challenge finalists and working with them to refine their business plans toward the goal of creating sustainable jobs for people in the region."
Finalists must be located in the Mohawk Trail region. The Challenge, which will begin recruiting this month and announce finalists in November, is limited to eight companies. These finalists will complete a nine-month Lever acceleration program culminating in a final pitch event in May 2022, with the winning company receiving $25,000 for its innovative business model. 
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