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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. 


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Clarksburg Town Meeting to Decide CPA Adoption, Spending Articles

CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Voters will decide spending items and if the town should adopt the Community Preservation Act at Wednesday's town meeting. 
Voters will also decide whether to extend the terms for town moderator and tree warden from one year to three years.
The annual town meeting will take place at 6 p.m. in the gym at Clarksburg School. The warrant can be found here.
The town operating budget is $1,767,759, down $113,995 largely because of debt falling off. Major increases include insurance, utilities and supplies; the addition of a full-time laborer in the Department of Public Works and an additional eight hours a week for the accountant.
The school budget is at $2,967,609, up $129,192 or 4 percent over this year. Town officials had urged the school to cut back more but in a joint meeting last week agreed to dip into free cash to keep the prekindergarten for 4-year-olds free. 
Clarksburg's assessment to the Northern Berkshire Vocational School District is $363,220; the figure is based on the percentage of students enrolled at McCann Technical School. 
There are a number of spending articles for the $571,000 in free cash the town had certified earlier this year. The high number is over several years because the town had fallen behind on filings with the state. 
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