North Adams Council OKs $49M Budget for Fiscal 2025

By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
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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. 
"This was my first budget process so I just really appreciate everyone taking us through the whole thing," said Fitch. "My perspective is that this budget is fiscally responsible in spite of the fact that it is increasing, like Councilor Bona was saying, there have been natural increases out there."
Shade called it "definitely a well-balanced budget. We've learned a lot through the process." One thing she pointed out was overtime lines, explaining that the majority of that was for training so the city's public employees would be able to do their jobs better. 
What the budget did not have is a city planner, which Fitch had championed during the compensation and classification plan review. He voted against recommending the plan on that point but voted for it on Tuesday. 
Instead, he was joined by Shade in voting against the General Government budget. Both said afterward their vote was not so much specific to a city planner but their perspective that the city's community development arm needed to be beefed up in terms of planning and grant management to address needs including housing. 
This stance did find support in the community, with Planner Rye Howard offering Monday's Planning Board meeting as an example. The board had been presented with a 100-page traffic study related to the retail development on Union Street.
"We're not necessarily planners, we don't have the resources to review the 100-page traffic study. That's not our role," they said. "But there's one person in the city government whose job it is to read that and report back on it and tell us about it and help the Planning Board make the right decision. Who is that person? The city planner."
Virginia Riehl of the North Adams Community Housing Organization presented a petition with 238 signatures. "They are asking you in the budget to include a city planner and grant writers," she said. "There are $6 billion that has just come out of the state House of Representatives for housing. We should catch every penny of that for North Adams. The need is so significant. We owe it to the citizens of this community."
Macksey responded that the city does have grant writers and that while a city planner is needed, it wasn't the priority in this budget. She noted, again, that the city is participating in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development's Distressed Cities Technical Assistance program that is looking at organizational needs.   
"I hear you. I understand the need but this budget presentation does not include a city planner, and it will not include the city planner at this time," said Macksey. "We need to go through the process with the DCTA which we are actively doing. And again, shame on me. I don't like to play my cards until I'm ready to execute. And that's the last time I'm going to talk about a city planner."
Councilor Peter Breen expressed concern about adding positions in areas that are anticipated to have automation. "We're supersizing the office and we should wait to see," he said. "I'm just worried that we're going to be hiring people and that it's not the right time."
The mayor disagreed saying the departments will still need people to operate the systems. 
"It's not that we will be lacking for work. I understand what your position is, but I respectfully disagree," she said. "These are people that we need. We certainly need more staff and the City Clerk's office. We've been limping along for years before Miss [City Clerk Tina] Leonesio's time. ... When I left the treasurer's office, we had 6 1/2 people in that office. And the reality is we need to have some succession planning, especially in the treasurer's office."
Breen also raised the need for a public safety building but Bona said this was getting into projects that were not part of the budget. Councilor Lisa Blackmer said it was better suited for discussion on the capital improvement plan; Macksey said she wanted to "dig into" the plan at a later meeting. 
"We had 12 hours of meetings this was not discussed during those meetings," said Bona, adding Breen had only attended the one meeting about the McCann Technical School budget when he didn't speak. "So you saved that I guess for tonight."
The council also approved a compensation and classification plan including the reclassification of several titles, higher grade levels for several positions and some added clerical positions. 
"We tried to adjust some of the salaries to be more reflective of some analysis that we did,"  said the mayor. "But overall the comp plan went up 2 percent, and that does include the City Council as well, except for police, fire and public services union employees. Those contracts are still in negotiation, so there's no change to their scales at this meeting. I will return back at a later date to update those contracts as they are settled."
The council appropriated $1,865,326 from certified free cash from fiscal 2023 to the Stabilization Account. The mayor said this will put the Stabilization Account at about $3.7 million.
"We've been working very hard and pushing our revenues and collections and monitoring our expenses," said Macksey. "So we are in the black and significantly ending in a good way for fiscal year '24. ... 
"This also helps us moving forward with our bond rating to show that we're fixing our reserves and increasing our reserves."
In other business:
The council confirmed the appointment of Isaiah Moore to the Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access Commission to fill the unexpired term of Erika Adams ending Feb. 8, 2026. 
The council approved a National Grid's request to install a utility pole on Oak Hill to accommodate a new house being built. 
The council continued a litter ordinance and a feeding of wildlife ordinance to the next meeting when an opinion should be available from the city solicitor.
The council postponed a communication brought forward by Fitch regarding crosswalks and safety to August, when the mayor will be asked for an update. 
• The mayor read a proclamation declaring June as Pride Month in the city.  
• The council approved an application from Gregory Acevedo to drive a taxi-cab for RJ's Taxi.

Tags: fiscal 2025,   north adams_budget,   

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Hundreds Still Without Power in North County, Stamford

A new pole is in place for a transformer on Main Road in Stamford. 

Update: The National Weather Service in Albany, N.Y., has issued another severe thunderstorm watch until 8 p.m. for Berkshire County, eastern New York and Southern Vermont. 

STAMFORD, Vt. — Nearly 18 hours after severe thunderstorms pummeled the region, hundreds of customers are without power. 

The latest update estimates is that power will be back on at 2 p.m. in North Berkshire. Green Mountain Power's outage map could not provide an estimate on power restoration.  
Many residents woke up to the sounds of chainsaws and generators on Wednesday morning as clean up from the storm continued.
Stamford was hit hard with trees blocking roads and broken utility poles. Some 499 customers in Stamford and Readsboro were without power.
A post from Stamford's emergency management director said conditions in North Berkshire were delaying power re-energizing in the Vermont town because it's sourced from National Grid in Massachusetts. 
More than 800 customers were without power in Williamstown, Mass., as noon approached. Tree and lines down along Main Street had taken hours for National Grid crews to address and hampered their ability to aid smaller outages in nearby communities. 
Williamstown Police posted on Facebook that because of the extensive damage to the electrical supply lines to town, parts of Williamstown may not see power until later tonight or possibly tomorrow.
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