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Specialty Minerals is facing a slew of retirements in the coming years, representatives told the Selectmen on Wednesday.

Specialty Minerals Cites Housing, Schools as Obstacles to Recruitment

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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Specialty Minerals' Douglas Mayger, left, and Kyle Ledbetter take a question from a citizen on Wednesday night following a presentation to the Board of Selectmen. 
ADAMS, Mass. — Specialty Minerals Inc. is expecting to replace up to 40 percent of its workforce in next five years or so because of retirements.
Two critical areas in recruiting those workers is schools and affordable housing, Douglas Mayger, operations manager, told the Selectmen on Wednesday night. 
"We're moving a lot of people into Adams and so I've got at least 13 new management employees," he said. "Every one of them that are coming in are asking about things like schools, affordable housing."
Mayger, who will be one of the retirees, said the company pays "pretty good" wages but it's been hard for new workers to find affordable housing prices in Adams and the surrounding area. 
It's a problem he acknowledged that is shared by numerous employees in the region. 
"I talked to a lot of business, and it's a difficult area around people and how to attract talent," he said. "But it's made easier with good schools."
Specialty Minerals has about 115 employees and a payroll of $11 million, making it an significant employer in the community. 
But, he said, the makeup of the workforce has changed since in recent years as children are less likely to follow their parents into the same employment.
"We've been fortunate over the years to have a lot of local talent, first, second or third generations," Mayger said, later adding, "It's not that way anymore."
Now it's looking outside Adams to fill positions, with three more recent hires from Mexico and another from central Africa. 
"We're bringing in a lot of talent that typically we would have had here locally, but we've had to go pretty far outside of the regions," Mayger said, noting that the worker may like the wages but their family may be less willing to move. "But it's made easier with good schools."
"What I would leave you with is this — help us to find affordable housing and help us to find and improve the schools," he said.
Specialty Minerals has been partnering with McCann Technical School in North Adams and Chair Christine Hoyt suggested Mayger reach out to Hoosac Valley High School, noting the school is implementing new career pathways, including engineering. 
Specialty Minerals replaced Pfizer as the operator in 1992 but the limestone mine dates back to 1848. The quarry covers about 1,400 acres in Adams and North Adams and produces about 80,000 tons of lime a year for construction and industrial uses 
Another 250,000 tons a year of ground calcium carbonate is sold for masonry, building projects, agricultural and environmental uses. Another product, precipitated calcium carbonate, is used in finishes such as automobile paint. 
Kyle LedBetter, environmental health and safety manager, spoke to the safety at the plant, which has gone 294 days without an injury and 894 since an injury resulted in lost time. 
"So considering we're around heavy equipment, a lot of people, a lot of moving parts, non routine work, that's a record that we're very proud of," he said. "We were recognized last year for 2022 for not having any lost time."
One environmental project that is coming to fruition is a minerals management landfill.
"It's the first step to reclaiming the quarry and restoring that original ecosystem," Ledbetter said. "So it's an area that we've already mined ... it involves a lot of hydroseeding and a lot of planting native plants and just bringing back the bird population."
Another initiative is the use of the FilterSense, an emission monitoring system, which aids workers in reducing dust emissions, a frequent complaint of neighbors. 
Hoyt, who lives in the plant's neighborhood, said she had noticed less dust this year and fewer complaints directed to the board. 
Operators are also using strobe lights at night as truck backup warnings rather than the "beep beep" so as not to intrude on neighbors' sleep.
The plant's also investing in sustainability, including reducing its water intake and discharge by about 17 percent and is aggressively pursuing buyers for its co-product waste.
"So a lot going on at the plant, a lot of action, and we believe we're doing it in a safe and environmentally friendly way," said Ledbetter.

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Miss Adams Diner Auctioned Off for $80,000

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff

Personnel from the Sheriff's Department prepare to auction off the diner to pay delinquent debts. 
ADAMS, Mass. — Miss Adams Diner once again has changed hands, this time to its former owner's largest creditor. 
David Atwell purchased the property at a sheriff's auction on Wednesday afternoon for $80,000 against the only other bidder, Mark Lapier.
Peter Oleskiewicz had purchased the landmark eatery in September 2020 but didn't open it for more than a year. He closed it in March this year, saying it wasn't generating enough revenue to continue. It was seized June 8 to pay off creditors related to his other business, Desperados. 
According to documents in Northern Berkshire District Court, Oleskiewicz owes Atwell a total of $168,338.05 for the now closed Mexican restaurant in North Adams and the state of Massachusetts $59,062 in sales taxes. 
Bidders had to have $10,000 in cash or bank check to participate; the winner is required to pay the balance within 45 days or the sale would go to the next highest bidder.
Atwell said he had no immediate plans for the Park Street diner but wanted to assure he would get some return. 
"I had $170,000 worth of debt on it. So I wasn't gonna let it go for ... you know," he said with a shrug after the auction. "If we had gotten a bit closer, I would have let it go but I wasn't going to take a haircut at 50 percent. It's too much money."
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