Several Housing Authority tenants spoke in opposition to a board member's reappointment. The council did not vote to approve.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The chair of the North Adams Housing Authority is out after a number of residents objected to his reappointment.
The City Council rejected the reappointment of Colin Todd in a 6-2 vote, with Councilors Keith Bona and Peter Oleskiewicz voting in favor. Councilor Ashley Shade was absent.
"It's in our best interest he is not re-elected," said Joanne Dunn of 45 Spring St., speaking during hearing of visitors at the beginning of the council meeting. "There are a lot of issues in the two buildings of the North Adams Housing has and in my neighborhood but if we don't revamp the board, we're not gonna get anywhere."
Councilor Jennifer Barbeau, liaison to the authority, described the authority's board as "hostile" both to herself and to residents who tried to attend meetings.
There have been numerous police calls especially at 150 Ashland St. in recent years and residents have complained about drug use, trespassing and assaults. The most recent incident was a stabbing outside the high-rise a month ago.
Mayor Jennifer Macksey said she recommended the reappointment in part to keep the board functioning but with the caveat she would replace him if things didn't improve.
"I understand what all these people are saying but I did take that into consideration," the mayor said. "I am hopeful that we can see a little more — a lot more — transparency and openness from that board."
Macksey said Todd could only do work within his capacity as a board member and that the authority was under federal oversight. She did note it was troubling that complaints received by her office had not made it to the housing authority's board.
Resident Karen Tatro, also speaking during hearing of visitors, said residents had put up with a lot.
"I've had extensive conversations with Mr. Todd and he and I talked, we talked about what he felt like he accomplished in three years," she said. "Did he do anything to improve the quality of anybody's life there? And he frankly didn't give me a list of anything is accomplished."
She said the board did not seem to be aware of any complaints by residents or the drug busts that had occurred.
Marianne Alizio invited anyone on the council to spend a night or even a day at the high rise.
"We need help. The city is supposed to help people," she said. "I am currently unsafe in my apartment because of guns and knife fights outside ...
"I'm elderly. I worked since I've been 14 years old. I deserve a quiet retirement."
Barbeau said the issues brought forward by the tenants and Disabilities Commission have been ignored.
"They have never, ever been addressed in a board meeting ever," she said. "Their complaints are not being addressed by this board at any period."
Macksey acknowledged she's fielded complaints from housing authority residents and met with them at Ashland Park Apartments but said it had been hard to find people willing to serve on its board.
The five-member board is made up of one appointment by the governor and four by the mayor, with at least one being a tenant of the authority, one a member organized labor.
There are currently only two members on the committee because Todd was not confirmed and the governor's appointee, Rosario Cantoni, died last week.
"I can honestly say that some of the atmosphere down there coming from the administration has caused people to say no, we don't want to get involved," the mayor said. "I think people overall want to help the tenants but it's a difficult board to fill."
Councilor Bryan Sapienza said he could not in good conscience vote to renew Todd's term after hearing the problems at the authority. Councilor President Lisa Blackmer acknowledged that failing to renew the term would mean the board would not have a quorum but also voted against.
Macksey told the committee that the city solicitor had affirmed that she could appoint herself, but acknowledged she has many more things to deal with. She asked if there could be an emergency ruling to get appointed to the board that night so it had a quorum but Blackmer thought it could wait another two weeks to give her time to find another candidate.
The council saw the swearing in of Police Officers Alon Willing and Zachary Yeaton, who recently completed the full-time Police Academy
Willing is from Knox, N.Y., and graduated from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts with a bachelor's degree in English communications in 2016. He remained in North Adam and graduated from the Reserve Academy and joined the force in March 2021, becoming the city's last reserve officer.
Yeaton is North Adams native and Drury High School graduate, later becoming a special education teaching assistant. He has been involved in sports, including as a coach for North Adams Little League, and for junior varsity softball and football at Drury.
In other business:
• A communication from Councilor Keith Bona to codify the process for postponing or canceling City Council meetings was referred to the General Government Committee despite some councilors thinking it a waste of time and taxpayer money.
He noted the ordinance covers elections and holidays but not weather or other unanticipated events. In the past, he said the president had had to come into City Hall during severe weather to close the meeting for lack of quorum, and other times, the council has met during power outages, using the building's auxiliary power.
He also recommended that wording referring to mailing notifications or having the police deliver them to councilors be stricken and that its state copies would be sent digitally to the city clerk's office.
• The council confirmed appointments of Michael McCarron to the Airport Commission for a term to expire March 13, 2026; Cody Chamberlain to the Youth Commission for a term to expire March 13, 2024; and Taylor Gibeau to the McCann School Committee to fill the unexpired term of Diane Parsons. Parsons was elected in November 2021 but recently moved to Adams.
• Approved an application by Christian Richardson to drive a taxi for OTT Taxi with Councilor Wayne Wilkinson voting nay.
• Barbeau pointed to numerous errors in the minutes; the council agreed to send them back to the clerk to be reviewed.
• Macksey read a proclamation declaring March 31 as Transgender Visibility Day. This annual day celebrates the transgender and non-binary community and raises awareness of the challenges they face worldwide.
Editor's note: the vote on the reappointment to the Housing Authority was given incorrectly in the original version of this article.
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North Adams Holding Session on School Project Options
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The community will have the opportunity to provide input Thursday on the several options for a school building project.
The School Building Committee will hold a community/stakeholder engagement focus group in the welcome center at Brayton Elementary School beginning at 7 p.m. The session will also be available through Zoom at this link.
There will be a presentation on the designs for the Greylock/Brayton School Building Project and the opportunity to ask questions. A faculty and staff session will be held earlier in the afternoon.
The project is at the end of the preliminary design phase. The School Committee has voted to reorganize its grade structure into early education (prekindergarten to Grade 2) and upper elementary (Grades 3 to 6). Drury will remain as Grades 7 through 12.
The more recently renovated Colegrove Park Elementary School will host one of the grade levels and either Brayton or Greylock the other. One of those schools will close based on projected enrollment declines.
The current options are a renovation of Brayton, a renovation/addition at Greylock or a new Greylock School.
The School Building Committee have been reviewing the three options with a vote on a recommendation expected on Oct. 12; the School Committee will vote on whether to submit that preferred option to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for consideration.