North Adams High School Athletes Place Flags on Veterans Graves

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Raegan Keil, daughter of VSO Mitchell Keil, participates in placing the American Flag on veterans' graves. The first flag she placed was in the marker of Michael Kline, her grandfather.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Athletes from Drury High School and McCann Technical School gave up the rare free Saturday morning to place flags on veterans graves in Southview Cemetery.
 
"I was very humbled when I saw the cars coming in, and I actually had to go over to the corner and put my sunglasses down and hide my tears, because it was very, very humbling to see everybody show up," said Travys Rivers, the city's veterans grave officer.
 
Rivers, a firefighter and veteran, said he sent out the "bat signal" and called John Moore of Drury and Robin Finnegan of McCann to see if any of the sports teams were free.
 
River said he was unsure what to expect, knowing many student athletes likely had games or practice. But come Saturday morning, around 100 students showed up with coaches and high school athletics administration. 
 
"I am amazed by these kids. They gave up a Saturday morning. They could have slept in if they didn't have practice or whatever," Rivers said. "They did not have to do this but instead came down and busted their butts."
 
Northern Berkshire Veterans Service Officer Mitchell Keil added that he often hears that the youth do not participate in civic activities. He said Saturday proves the opposite.
 
"As a veteran, it is heartwarming to see this type of participation from today's youth and encouraging for the future of the community. They may not understand the impact their involvement has on those that see them in action or those family members that visit a departed loved one's grave and see them continuously honored," he said. "Our city has a large group of individuals that are dedicated to honoring those veterans that have passed. This long tradition is in good hands, and as we move forward I encourage all to take part in the pursuit of honoring our veterans daily."
 
Rivers said Edward Marino used to run the program and he was only recently asked to take over. He said he knows he has "big shoes to fill" but wanted to do what he could to improve upon the program Marino fostered over the years.
 
He explained the importance of Memorial Day and what distinguishes it from Veterans Day as the day honoring military personnel who died in service of their country.
 
"I think it's important for kids to go out and learn to do this so they can have the history behind it. It is important to be able to see what ship someone served on,  what branch of the military a person was in, what war they fought in," he said. "Today's world is so fast-paced and the history of different wars and Memorial Day seem to be sped up."
 
Rivers' thanks also stretched to the business community, and he said Berkshire Emporium purchased doughnuts for the crew and McDonald's donated coffee; Big Y gave a gift card to purchase more doughnuts. 
 
He said he walked the cemetery after and felt the student-athletes did a very thorough job but noted there are more than 3,000 veterans in the cemetery. He said that if anyone finds a grave without a flag call the Veterans Department at 413-662-3040 and he will personally bring a flag down once the grave is located.

Tags: american flag,   cemetery,   Memorial Day,   

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North Adams Council OKs $49M Budget for Fiscal 2025

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday approved a $48,891,455 fiscal 2025 budget, up $1,481,385 or 3.12 percent over this year. 
 
The budget includes a school budget of $20,357,096, up $302,744 or 1.51 percent over this year. 
 
The major drivers are the general increases in the cost of supplies, utilities and insurance; a 2 percent cost of living raise for nonunion employees; upgrades in software and equipment; reclassifications of several positions and additional clerical staff. 
 
Mayor Jennifer Macksey provided the city budget, school budget, compensation and classification plan and capital improvement plan in a bound document with summaries and graphs explaining expenditures. 
 
Finance Committee members recommended the total to the full City Council, calling it "fiscally responsible."
 
Councilor Keith Bona, Finance chair, said committee members did raise objections or concerns during deliberations, particularly Councilor Andrew Fitch over the lack of a city planner and Councilor Ashley Shade over the need for more building maintenance. Shade voted against the public safety budget Tuesday over that issue.
 
"The majority did support each department recommending it to the council and again, there were some some minor changes between the draft budget and what's in front of us," he said. 
 
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