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Crane Ordered to Have COVID-19 Safety Plan Before Opening

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Crane Stationery must have a plan in place showing it is making accommodations for COVID-19 and adhering only to work that supports essential businesses before it can resume operations. 
Crane was found on Saturday to be providing services to some essential businesses but had not yet provided the city with a written health plan as of Sunday afternoon.
An order by Mayor Thomas Bernard issued Sunday states "that prior to opening for operation, Crane Stationery must submit a plan in writing to the North Adams Board of Health outlining how COVID-19 precautions will be instituted, and how the company will demonstrate that only work providing print services in support of businesses that are delivering essential products, services, and supply chain related to COVID-19 relief efforts is being conducted."
Bernard said on Sunday that he had made inquiries with the state Department of Labor Standards after receiving a number of calls raising concerns about the plant's reopening. Crane has not yet submitted a health plan to the Board of Health, he said, and the plant would still have to be inspected by the city's health inspector.
The company has planned this week to begin calling back workers laid off in mid-March because of the novel coronavirus pandemic. But the paper company best known for high quality stationery and invitations first had to prove it was an "essential business" as defined by the commonwealth. 
That was confirmed on Saturday by Len Evers, a safety inspector with the state Department of Labor Standards. In an email to Bernard and Crane officials, he found that although the printing industry in general is not considered essential, based on the governor's emergency order in March, it does produce stationery used by essential services in medicine, energy and legal fields, "as well as supporting remote workers by providing letterhead and envelopes, which remote work is encouraged by the Governor's emergency orders."
His findings were based on communications with the company's chief revenue officer, Bart Robinson. 
"Even in this digital age, it is hard to imagine a law or medical office without paper to memorialize their activities," Evers wrote on Saturday. "If legal, medical, and energy businesses are essential and depend on Crane Stationery to keep their essential services operational, then Crane Stationery is essential by supporting these essential industries."
Robinson, in the email chain, thanked Evers for helping get "clarification" on the company's reopening plans. Checking through a "small percentage" of orders found customers in the medical and legal professions, energy and environmental companies and advisory companies that support small business, he wrote. 
Crane also supplies business cards, letterheads and envelopes, which may not be for essential businesses, he wrote, but are being sent to the customers' homes presumably for their remote work. Crane also does work for Karen Pence, wife of Vice President Michael Pence. 
Crane last week told employees in email that it was making "the difficult decision to wind down operations" over the next six weeks, a communication widely interpreted by employees and local officials as indicating an eventual closure. 
Company officials the next day stated there was not an intention to close but rather drastically reduce staff by 85 percent to keep the 220-year-old brand alive.
Employees were told that they would be hired back under a federal Payroll Protection Program loan but would only be required to work "based on business needs." This included some workers who were already working remotely. 
Their last day of employment was set as June 19. 
Bernard said he based his order on findings from the DLS and the governor's order closing non-essential businesses in March.

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North Adams Committee Tweaking Solicitor Ordinance

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The General Government Committee is considering side-stepping a thorny problem about access to the city solicitor by rewriting an ordinance to more clearly spell out lines of communication. 
Chairwoman Lisa Blackmer said the wording in the ordinance had raised questions as to whether any single councilor has "unfettered access to the city solicitor." 
"I think, we thought that was not particularly good," she said. "So I'd like to take a shot at rewriting that ordinance."
The council had objected back in 2018 when the city switched over to KP Law as city solicitor, limiting council members' access to the Boston law firm. The council members had been used to contacting former City Solicitor John B. DeRosa, who'd been kept on retainer for 35 years before stepping down in March 2018.
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