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Emily Zoltan, left, of the District Attorney's Office, Berkshire District Attorney Timothy Shugrue, Mayor Peter Marchetti, Fire Chief Thomas Sammons, Police Captain Marc Strout and Deputy Fire Chief James Ziter.

'Summer of Water Safety' Includes Lifeguards at Onota Lake

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The District Attorney's Office kicked off a "summer of water safety" at Onota Lake during Tuesday's high temperatures.

At the same time, the city announced that lifeguards will return to the well-loved swimming spot.

"Today's weather cannot be any more suited for why we're gathered here today," DA Timothy Shugrue said. "On days like these, families, summer campers, boaters, and adults will most likely head to one of the beautiful Berkshires lakes to cool off."

The DA highlighted Pittsfield's two lakes, water facilities, streams, and rivers that people flock to when escaping the heat. However, these aquatic activities come with some of the riskiest situations for children and adults, he said.

Two years ago, an 8-year-old girl was found unresponsive at the Burbank Park public beach and later passed away.

"Every year, thousands of accidents including fatalities occur in the water, many of which are preventable," Shugrue said.

"Whether you're swimming in a lake or navigating a boat, safety should always be our top priority. Understanding and adhering to swim and boat safety protocols can mean the difference between a delightful day or a tragic incident. Drowning is one of the leading causes of unintentional deaths worldwide."

The Berkshire DA's Summer of Water Safety program includes education, swimming lessons, vessel safety checks, free water safety materials, and other events across the county.

Mayor Peter Marchetti was happy to report that after years of scarcity in hiring lifeguards, the parks and recreation team has onboarded five for the 2024 season. The guards will be at the Burbank Park beach Friday through Monday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. beginning mid-July and running through the end of August.

"I want to emphasize that even with lifeguards present, people should still practice their skills and remain vigilant in navigating as bodies," he added. "As we want to keep our community safe."

The press conference followed the Child Fatality Review Team's quarterly review that focused on the drowning of a toddler in Clarksburg last year after a motor vehicle rollover into a brook. The meetings are devoted to evaluating cases of child fatalities that could influence changes in policies, practices, and public education.

"Knowing how to swim is essential but it is just the beginning. Always swim with a buddy never alone, heed the warnings and advice of the lifeguards, and swim in designated areas where help is readily available. For children especially, constant supervision is crucial. Drowning can happen in mere seconds and they are very silent. Children can never, never be unsupervised while swimming," Shugrue said.

"Berkshire County has lost children to drowning in recent years. These deaths are 100 percent preventable. Be vigilant, be sober, and never leave a child in the water alone. Swimming is not the only cause in water injuries that include fatalities. Before turning on your engine for your motor boat, ensure your boat is in good condition and that you have all the necessary safety equipment, including life jackets for every passenger. Lifejackets should be worn by all non-swimmers at all times, not just kept onboard."

He could not stress enough that alcohol and boating do not mix it significantly increases the risk of an accident.

Marchetti said water safety is of the "utmost importance, especially during the warm summer months for people of all ages, especially children."

"The first step in water safety is learning how to swim. Encourage every adult parent, guardian, and children to learn this vital skill with classes offered at a variety of locations," he said.

"In Pittsfield, swimming lessons are offered through the Berkshire Family YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and the Gladys Allen Brigham Center, just to name a few."

He added that it is also necessary to recognize the signs of drowning, as it may not be as obvious as people may think.  

"Children should always be supervised by an adult without distractions."

Fire Chief Thomas Sammons seconded the mayor's point, explaining "Even if you are swimming where there is a lifeguard present it is still a parent's responsibility to watch that child and be cognizant of what they're doing at all times."

"Drowning is a silent killer. A child will go underwater and no one is aware of it. That's why you've got to be attentive. Never swim alone, always have a buddy, and always know what each other's doing," he said.

"Be cognizant of any drop-offs that are in a body of water. You're better off if you're staying in a cordoned-off area where you know that it's going to be a nice gentle slope. Know your limitations as a swimmer, either physical conditioning or medical, and the people that you're swimming with. If something happens, know how to yell for help, know how to get help, and if you're responding to somebody that's hurt or if they're having a near drowning experience, know how to call for help, know CPR and first aid."

Partners include the city of Pittsfield, Hinsdale, Becket, Cheshire, Richmond, Lee, Lee Youth Commission, Berkshire Active Team, the Boys and Girls Club of the Berkshires, and Girls Inc.

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Pittsfield Starbucks Closed Temporarily

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff

A sign outside the coffee shop assures customers the closure is only temporary. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Your alarm goes off, you get ready, and you leave for school, work, or whatever your appointment a little bit early to get a cup of coffee to start your day, only to find that the Pittsfield Starbucks, located at  555 Hubbard Ave., is closed. 
The sign has been removed, and the drive-through is blocked, but Starbucks coffee addicts need not worry — this closure is only temporary. 
The coffee shop closed its doors temporarily on July 7 to undergo a standard renovation with the chain's new Siren System, a Starbucks spokesperson said. 
According to the signage, the reopening date is projected to be Aug. 21. 
According to its website, the Siren System is part of the chain's Starbucks Reinvention plan, which aims to improve the experience for partners and staff by responding to changing needs and increasing demands. 
"As a standard course of business, we continually evaluate our store portfolio using various criteria to ensure we are meeting the needs of our customers," the spokesperson said. 
The chain's article on unveiling its innovations said, "Over the past few years, the number of cold beverages ordered has surpassed the number of hot drinks year-round. And, two in three drinks ordered have requested customizations such as extra espresso shots and flavorings."
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