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North Adams Airport Commission Missing Decades of Meeting Minutes

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — An Open Meeting Law complaint revealed that the Airport Commission has failed to retain more than 30 years of meeting minutes. 
Gerrit Blauvelt of Williamstown was looking for minutes related to Harriman & West Airport's easements in Williamstown and the runway expansion project about 20 years ago. 
In his complaint to the attorney general's office on Dec. 15, Blauvelt said he had also appealed to the secretary of the commonwealth's office "as the City of North Adams responded to my request for meeting minutes from the North Adams Airport Commission that no meeting minutes exist from June 18, 1982, until what appears to be August 2017 because of confusion over filing meeting minutes with the city clerk prior to a city ordinance change." 
The ordinance change in 2017 requires boards and commissions to provide minutes to the city clerk's office within two weeks of a meeting, even if they are unofficial. It had been noted that certain bodies would sometimes go months or longer before approving or submitting minutes for the record. 
Blauvelt was particularly interested in minutes from 2000 and 2001 when the commissioners discussed removing trees on the glide path to the runway. Williamstown residents with property abutting the airport had been adamantly opposed to what they felt was drastic overcutting. The city and town had come to a compromise that ended a looming court battle. 
In the 1990s, it appeared the Airport Commission believed it was responsible for replacing vegetation and that new Williamstown easements were needed, he wrote, but in the early 2000s, it began to believe the 1964 easements were valid although they had been found unlawful by the attorney general.
"What led to this change in view regarding only the Williamstown easements? Who made this determination?" Blauvelt asked.
He had hoped to find the answer to that and other questions in the minutes but was told they do not exist. They are also missing from October 1969 to January 1973, according to his complaint. The only other minutes are from an October meeting in 2003 in response to an Open Meeting Law complaint.
"I believe the burden should be on the North Adams Airport Commission to prove that this continued lack of retaining meeting minutes for over thirty years was not intentional and a violation of Open Meeting Law," Blauvelt wrote. 
At its meeting last week held to address the complaint, Chairman Jeffrey Naughton said a complaint must be filed within 30 days of the violation according to state law. The filing far exceeds this threshold.
The commission voted to honor the request and to continue to record minutes per the Open Meeting Law. Naughton said the commission will work with city staff to seek out and catalog past minutes that can be recovered.
One of Blauvelt's concerns was that there was no way to determine if the commission had been acting appropriately all those years and what special interests may have influenced decision making. 
"The people without representation both did not have a vote and no longer have a window into the deliberations, votes, and decisions of this public body," he wrote. 

Tags: airport commission,   open meeting complaint,   

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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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