The Meat Market Offers Offal Dinner for All Hallow's Eve
Fettuccine Bolognese from last year's Offal Dinner with pig skin and pork kidney garnished with fresh basil. The annual event serves up little-used butcher portions in a gourmet meal for All Hallow's Eve.
GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — The Meat Market's third annual Offal Dinner is not your commonplace Halloween celebration.
No candy corn or caramel apples.
And there's a lot of detail needed to appreciate this ghoulish gourmet livestock farm-to-table six-course innards tasting dinner.
So for those with the gustatory fortitude, the dinner honoring All Hallow's Eve is Saturday night at 6 p.m.
The Meat Market is the dream child of food entrepreneur Jeremy Stanton. He started the full-service, locally raised animal, nose-to-tail butcher shop in late summer 2011. Eight years before, he had launched his successful Fire Roasted Catering business that brings local food and high heat to parties big and small around New England and New York state.
A year after opening, he offered his first All Hallows Offal Dinner for those who love those often eschewed and avoided animal parts including the nose and tail. He calls Halloween his favorite creepfest. A time to indulge our fears.
Stanton has a natural bent to entertain, educate, excite and dazzle which he intends to do with his Offal Dinners. Just to note, The Meat Market also celebrates Valentine's Day, creates inventive sausage tasting afternoons, holds fried chicken Thursday dinners all summer and runs all cooking classes from knife skills to sausage making.
But the Offal Dinners stand apart.
"In the world of eating, nothing is so creepy to the eater as the unusual," Stanton said.
Third Annual All Hallow's Eve
six-course tasting menu, Nov. 1, at 6 p.m.;
reservations required & costumes encouraged
The Meat Market
389 Stockbridge Road, Great Barrington
Cost is $50 with a cash bar
The first dinner offered small tasting plates of delicacies such as deviled kidneys, pickled tongue, fried gizzards and hearts on a stick with dessert. Stanton encouraged diners to come costumed by giving away a free first drink to anyone who came dressed for Halloween.
The dinner has evolved to a six-course sit-down affair with standing and passed appetizers and specialty and classic cocktails. This year's cocktails include a Brain Hemorrhage, the contents of which remains a secret.
"This food is not for everyone," Stanton said. "But, those who love it, love it."
This year's menu starts with appetizers of whipped lardo (seasoned pork fat), pig ear terrine and chicharrones (fried pork skin), beef tongue Reubens and giblet corn dogs.
There will be a warm winter greens salad garnished with more chicharrones and egg and dressed in a housemade salami vinaigrette.
Main courses will be roasted beef marrow bones, Blutnudeln (pasta made with blood), and what Stanton and his chef Jim Gop have named "Broken Hearts, "a special concoction of trotter, guanciale confit, mustard, and apples," (pig's feet, Italian cured pork jowls, mustard and apples).
Traditionally, dessert has included blood orange sorbet and chocolate, sometimes with caramel, sometimes with bacon. This year dessert will be a surprise.
Everyone will be delighted with diners who wear costumes and dancing will fill the rooms including around the meat cases and lockers.
The dining room is small so reservations are required.
These Mysterious Hills: Pittsfield's Downtown Awash in Ghostly Legends
Some have claimed to see a gentleman in top hat and tails at the Colonial Theatre, above, and strange sounds and footsteps at the Whitney Center for the Arts, also known as the Colt House. The 'Ghosts & Legends of Downtown Pittsfield' walking tour explored these and other interesting incidents at downtown venues.
More ghost stories and local legends can be found at These Mysterious Hills.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — For years now, in these pages and elsewhere, I have tried to advance the observation that paratourism is growing business in the travel industry, and one which the Berkshires is primed to take great advantage of, with its seemingly endless string of ghost stories and curious tales attached to inns, restaurants. museums and cultural venues throughout the county.
In that time, Lenox has perhaps taken the greatest advantage of this trend, becoming host to numerous tours and paranormal conferences at both The Mount and Ventfort Hall, both reputed to be haunted, and little secret made of such persisting stories at a range of other locations, from Whistler's Inn and the Lenox Library to Tanglewood, where such notables as Leonard Bernstein and John Williams allegedly brushed up against paranormal incidents on this former Tappan family estate.
In this burgeoning marketplace of ghost hunting and legend tripping, the city of Pittsfield has in many ways been unduly passed over, a fact I blame in part on my own lack of folklore coverage in "the Heart of the Berkshires" over the past decade as much as any other factor.
For this part of the county, particularly its historic downtown, is replete with such stories, a legacy which I tried to highlight this year with the first ever "Ghosts & Legends of Downtown Pittsfield" walking tour.
Over five tours, about a hundred local residents and a small handful of tourists trekked a portion of the city's Upstreet District to hear the lore accumulated around over the past two and a half centuries. Many had legends and anecdotes of their own as well, enriching my files further and reminding me that the folkloric record is never complete, but always ongoing and particpatory in nature.
Perhaps one of the most retold incidents of ghostly business in the downtown area is that of the Pittsfield "ghost train," a 19th-century steam locomotive said to have twice been seen crossing under North Street by diner customers at the Bridge Lunch ... but in 1958, long after any known steam locomotive was run on the line.
Curiously, while this incident has been widely cited and regurgitated in many general paranormal guides and encyclopedias of ghosts, it remains little known locally.
As in other towns, cultural venues and lodging establishments, perhaps somewhat predictably, seem to boast more such stories, whether out of heightened expectation of such or simply because with a never-ending stream of different visitors, the chances of odd encounters may perhaps be increased.
One such location is the Thaddeus Clapp House on Wendell Ave, formerly a B&B and before that apartments, where accounts of sensing a watchful but benevolent presence have trickled forth for decades. Prior owners of the small inn often said this was the spirit of Mrs. Clapp, and sights and sounds of her presence were said to be seen, heard or experienced by many guests, including several notable artists over the course of its tenure.
More surprising perhaps are those accounts from the Berkshire Crowne Plaza, which has been rumored to host ghosts since at least it's time as a Hilton. This is hard to fathom for many, given the modern nature and age of less than 45 years, but may seem less out of place upon reflecting that its location has been the site of hotels almost continuously for the past 190 years. It was in one of these, in 1862, that cook William Collins murdered his wife, also a worker there, in the kitchen of what was then the United States Hotel. For some, this incident may help explain some of the sightings of an opaque female apparition.
Mrs. Clapp is supposedly keeping a watchful eye on the Thaddeus Clapp House.
While the Crowne Plaza for some years was reluctant to engage on this topic, within the past few weeks I was told by Marketing Director Janet Brennan that the hotel actually has a copy of a photo that allegedly depicts a ghost ... a photo I hope to get my greedy little paracentric paws on in the near future.
Across the street, two major cultural venues are thought to have similarly haunting attributes. The Berkshire Museum is one, wherein strange sensations and sounds have been attributed to the antiquities room with its plethora of arcane objects. The room is also host to the mummy Pahat, who over the millennia has been subjected to significant wear and tear as well as some amount of grave robbery, leading me to think that if there is some kind of "mummy's curse" atmosphere at the premises, said mummy spirit is not without some legitimate grievances.
The Colonial Theatre has also been increasingly on my radar the past few years, as in the time following its restoration stories have circulated of an angry older gentleman in top hat and frock coat seen pacing the upper mezzanine, along with occurrences in the coat room associated with a worker said to have died there in 1903.
In the process of touring downtown with some hundred legend enthusiasts this week, other locales that had not even been on my radar were brought to my attention as well.
Most notable was the historic Colt House, now the Whitney Center for the Arts. This former home of a prominent local family, attendees say, has strange unseen denizens of its own, and stories of footsteps in empty upper floors and lights that turn themselves on and off in unattended rooms poured forth from members of the Women's Club once housed there, as well as more recent Town Players actors who have used the center for rehearsals and performances within the past two years.
To me, this is one of the most wonderful aspects of dealing with folklore, the interactive, ever evolving nature of it. No one person can be the ultimate expert; pieces of the puzzle are held by all.
Such is also the case with the Berkshire Athenaeum, which although never accused of being haunted itself, has seen the emergence of recurring rumors about a spectral prostitute seen wandering outside at the corner of Wendell and East Street. According to Internet conjecture, she is a remnant of a former brothel once housed at that site ... a contention not borne out by more straightforward historical research.
This is the sort of tapestry one deals with in the grayer area of local history that is called "legend," part fact, part allegation, part experience and part embellishment and wild speculation. For whatever is actually at the root of ghost sightings, real or not — and I will leave that question to others — there is a difference between that phenomenon and "ghost stories," which contain major elements of ever-changing social narratives.
This aspect is important to history, I believe, not merely for its obvious tourism captivation, but because these stories add color to the dryer, more verifiable names and dates that in many ways round out this thing we call history ... an always relative term that is not only comprised of what has actually happened, but also of what we think about what happened ... and in that story is shown much of who we are, have been, and will become as a people.
The Berkshire Museum's mummy, Pahat, may have cause to moan about his treatment but there's no evidence to the tawdry tale of a brothel and its spectral streetwalker preceding the Berkshire Athenaeum.
Pittsfield Debates Control Over School Department Budget
The City Council sent the petition to the Ordinance and Rules subcommittee.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council is looking to take the final say over the school budget away from the mayor.
Councilor at Large Churchill Cotton filed a petition that allows a supermajority of the City Council to approve a school budget higher than the mayoral recommendation.
Currently, the City Council only has the power to approve or deny the mayor's school budget request.
"I would like to have the opportunity for the School Committee to make its case to the City Council for more funding," Cotton said.
The petition was referred to the Rules and Ordinance Committee to be vetted more thoroughly.
The adoption of a state law would allow the council to approve up to the School Committee's request. Councilors say they may not ever have to invoke the rule but the option would be there to prevent cuts to the school budget the councilors don't want.
"I'm worried about the future. What if you get a mayor who is very much anti-education or school department and wants to make dramatic cuts?" said Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont, who said he'd like to see City Council have the power to override the mayor in all department budgets.
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop said the City Council has been acting like it had already been adopted and it has proven to be beneficial. A few years ago the mayor and the superintendent had a $1 million difference in their budget requests. Operating under the impression that the City Council made the ultimate decision, the two sides reached a compromise, Lothrop said.
But, it turns out the City Council had only talked about adopting the law
"It was a little bit of a surprise to me to find out that although the City Council discussed the matter, we didn't adopt it," Lothrop said.
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo said the ability to override a mayor is an "ace up the sleeve."
Others said the move will bring more voices into the discussion.
"This brings more people into the conversation," Krol said. "Right now, there is one person who creates the budget."
He said if the eight members of the City Council and a majority of the School Committee agree with a budget total, they should have the power to override a mayoral request.
School Committee Chairwoman Kathrine Yon said 12 elected officials would have to approve the budget in order to override the mayor.
The Council's request comes just two weeks after many councilors voiced their frustration that the mayor did not include them in a change to employee health insurance plans. Before that, some councilors were frustrated that the mayor invoked the administrative power to sign a short-term lease to move the inspections department out of the City Hall basement.
And the move also comes months after voters approved a new charter that outlines the roles of government bodies and style of government the city operates.
Councilor at Large Kathleen Amuso and Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi both said they didn't see the need for adopting the law. The mayor and the superintendent of schools work closely on the budget already.
"I also feel this mayor and this City Council has certainly supported education," Morandi said. "I will not support this because the way it has been done has worked."
Lenox Calling Special Town Meeting
The Board of Selectmen set the town meeting for Nov. 18.
LENOX, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen has scheduled a special town meeting to move the proposed solar project at the landfill and waste-water treatment plant forward.
The special town meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 7 p.m. in Town Hall. The warrant will feature three questions: one for the solar array, another to strengthen environmental protections on watershed lands and a third to specify the use of funds in the sewer budget.
"The latter two could wait but if we are going to call a special town meeting it makes sense to dispatch them all at once," said Town Manager Christopher Ketchen.
The Selectmen need town meeting approval to move forward with the solar projects the board is working on with the town of Lee. Town meeting had previously approved the project but that approval was specific to Broadway Renewables, which went out of business before the contract was executed.
The town sought out another developer and brought on consultant Beth Greenblatt. Now, the town has 18 prospective developers in which they hope to spend the winter narrowing down.
"We'll be interviewing potential developers this winter," Ketchen said.
He later said the 18 developers are the only ones allowed to bid on the request for proposal but it is a "it is a very competitive field." Town officials have already met with developers in a pre-bid meeting and are now waiting for the developers to file any questions they may still have about the project, Ketchen said.
But to execute a contract, town meeting needs to approve the new idea.
"We are carrying out the town's will as far as I am concerned," said Chairman Channing Gibson.
The second item asks voters to reaffirm that the town's watershed lands are protected by the state's Article 97, which places requirements on land use to protect the environment. The reaffirmation is what Ketchen says is the quickest way to put the town's own conservation restriction on the watershed land.
What that means is the town will make it more difficult for a developer with a plan like Kinder Morgan's pipeline to develop in Lenox's watershed.
The conservation restriction adds another level of legal protection on that land the proposed Tennessee gas line is looking to go through. The conservation restriction has already been approved by voters but needs to be confirmed by the state.
"If we don't get this, we'd have to find another way to satisfy the state's need," Ketchen said, adding that he reaffirmation tactic was suggested by the town's attorney.
Also coupled with that is the acceptance of a section of land the Berkshire Natural Resources Council is giving to the town.
The final item is one Ketchen calls a "housekeeping item of minor significance." It adds language specifying that certain funds are to be used for the sewer budget, he said.
The Selectmen say that while they don't like holding special town meetings, the timeliness of the solar approval is important enough to do it.
"I feel this is a good reason to do it," said Selectman Ed Lane.
The Selectmen say they don't like special town meetings because attendance is lower. In order to reach a quorum, 1 percent of the registered voters who voted in the last state election is needed. The special town meeting is two weeks after Tuesday's election so how many people need to attend is unknown. But, with the last election being the presidential, the number was 35 and that is expected to be less for the historically lower turnout in midterm elections.
Selectman Dave Roche said strengthening protections on the watershed should drive more attendance because of the heavily debate Tennessee pipeline.
"I am hoping more people will come out to that," he said.
Community Bids Farewell to MCLA's Grant & Canavan
James Canavan and Mary Grant bid farewell to friends, colleagues, students and partners at the Amsler Campus Center on Thursday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Mary Grant lingered at the podium, delaying another step that would take her away from the college she's loved so much.
"I don't exactly know how to wrap up," she said to a who's who of community and educational leaders who gave her a standing ovation at the MCLA Amsler Campus Center on Thursday night. "I'm never really at a loss for words. Maybe it's just hard to think about about leaving this stage and this place.
"And it is."
The crowd was there to bid farewell to MCLA's president and her husband, James Canavan, who have both carved out a large niche in the community over their dozen years in the area. The two will depart at the end of the year for the University of North Carolina at Asheville, where Grant will take up her new post as chancellor.
"She has literally and figuratively changed the face of this campus," said Tyler Fairbank, chairman of the board of trustees at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, referring to the significant renovations of the campus during Grant's tenure and the college's top 10 liberal arts ranking.
Those efforts in large part were capped with Grant's crowning glory: The Feigenbaum Center for Science and Innovation, the first new building on campus in nearly 40 years and a blocklong statement to MCLA's renewed commitment to STEM education.
But Fairbank was the first of a host of speakers who testified that Grant is much more than the two words "science center."
She was a new president who called a new representative in the 4th District to make sure he understood MCLA was a Berkshire County institution that he represented, too, and she consistently reached out to the entire Berkshire delegation.
"I would not want to be the person who is going to take your place," said state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli. "Because no one can your place."
State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, in presenting her with a resolution from the Legislature, described her as an extension of the delegation.
"And a member of the family that is the Berkshires," he said.
She sat with students in the Quad raising awareness of homelessness on the "coldest and wettest night" in November, said Spencer Moser, director of civic engagement.
For students, she is "PMG," a mentor, a cheerleader, an adviser and a willing listener.
"Our president is visible, dependable and approachable," senior Alyson Stoltz said. Mikaelle Olivier, also a senior, thanked the Grant for "being our No. 1 fan."
"She is a fierce advocate for this college. I can tell you that from experience," said Commissioner for Higher Education Richard Freeland, who recalled how he and Grant had been in Washington, D.C., when news broke of the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital. She'd immediately reached out to the state's congressional delegation to advocate for its reopening.
"Mary Grant is an all-in president. She has given this place heart and soul," he said. "I will do everything I can to support this college as tribute to President Grant."
There was a line to speak with Grant and Canavan. See more photos here.
She has been an economic and educational leader through her efforts with the Partnership for North Adams, the development of the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center and its Gallery 51 and Downstreet Art, and partnerships with a host of organizations including Williams College.
"I'm mad at you," said Mayor Richard Alcombright, bemoaning the loss of a "power couple" who have become good friends and key advisers.
"If you were really committed," he joked, Grant would stay until MCLA was No. 1, not just a top 10 school. "True commitment would be to stay until you can make a cell phone call from [the science center]," he said to laughter over the notorious dead zone.
Jokes aside, he said the city has received other grants, but "immeasurable benefits have come from this Mary 'Grant.'"
Professor Frances Jones-Sneed, the only faculty member speaking, thanked Grant "for allowing us to be ourselves, innovators, entrepreneurs going out and doing those things that we really believe in and that we are really passionate about."
Describing Grant as a cowboy, Jones-Sneed, referring to the large MCLA mascot on the wall, said, "she is a trailblazer. She actually exemplifies that mountain lion behind us."
Attorney John DeRosa lauded Grant's tenure as exemplary leadership. "I want to thank you for 12 extraordinary years not just to MCLA, but to your community and for always including us all the time in the MCLA family."
Also speaking were 2014 graduate Jake Powers, Vincent Pedone of the Massachusetts State Universities Council of Presidents, senior Brendan Peltier, Williams College provost, professor and MCLA Trustee William Dudley, Norman Rockwell Museum Director Laurie Norton-Moffatt and MCLA Foundation board member Anthony Dolan.
The MCLA Allegrettos suitably sang "Stay With Me."
Canavan, who has worked with Northern Berkshire United Way and Soldier On, among other groups, and Grant thanked those gathered.
"Institutions that are strong carry on because of the peoplewho are there and the people who have helped to grow it," Grant said. "This is a magnificent team at this institution that will continue to lead and to advance and to innovate."
Adams COA Loads Up 'Buckets of Sand' for Local Senior Citizens
Council on Aging staff and volunteers from Monarch Realty fill buckets of sand up on Thursday for Adams' senior citizens.
ADAMS, Mass. — Senior citizens received free sand for their driveways this winter during the third annual Buckets of Sand program Thursday morning.
Members of Adams elderly community stopped at the Visitors Center to pick up their official Council on Aging buckets. This year the event was sponsored by Monarch Realty and employees helped hand out the sand provided by the Department of Public Works.
Council on Aging Director Erica Girgenti said those who are unable to come pick up their sand can sign up to have it delivered.
"It is very important and has been historically successful, and the majority of the people that use it have no means of transportation," Girgenti said. "Generally when they happen to need it is when it snows or it's too late, so having this ahead of time so they can spread it has been pretty successful."
Outreach Coordinator Linda Cernik said in the two years of the program's existence, they have handed out nearly 75 buckets. She said once the bucket is emptied, they will pick it up and refill it for the seniors.
Linda said the program inspires all around good feelings.
"The feeling of community support through the two realties has been outstanding. We really need their support to provide the buckets," Cernik said. "The seniors are very happy, especially when it might snow this weekend so it's perfect. I think they are very happy and they appreciate the service we are providing."
Resident Roy Thompson utilizes the program and said it is a great service to the community's elderly population.
"A lot of seniors don't have people that can do this for them. They don't have any children that can do it for them and they don’t have any neighbors that can do it for them," Thompson said.
Thompson said it is not only important for senior citizens, but for those who care for them.
"It is important for the safety of any visitors or medical people that come to your house, and in a community like this we have a lot of that," he said. "I think for safety purposes, other than the daily stuff, you need it for the emergency stuff, and it shows there is a community spirit here and I like that.”
Girgenti said the Adams Council on Aging heard about the program at a Massachusetts Council on Aging annual conference. She said a lot of eastern Massachusetts communities do it.
"We are the first that I know of in Western Mass, but it has been gaining some momentum in other communities that are starting to pick it up," she said. "It was our idea to get Steepleview Realty [which did it for two years] and Monarch Realty involved. It's a good unique opportunity for someone like a reality company to give back. It’s not you traditional fundraiser."
BRPC Concludes Train Station Study, Encourages Towns To Stay Involved
The MPO accepted the rail station report on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The six towns a passenger rail line to New York City is eyed to cut through are being encouraged to capitalize on the benefits and minimize the negatives.
The Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's Metropolitan Planning Organization endorsed Tuesday the study commissioned by the federal government and Housatonic Railroad for station locations.
Four towns have been cited as the best locations to host stations — Pittsfield, Sheffield, Great Barrington and Lee. But, Planner Gwen Miller says all six towns need to be prepared.
"We hope the rail company and the state agencies will communicate strongly with the towns. This will help create an end product that is just as much the communities as it is the states or the railroad companies," Miller said.
For those towns recommended to host a station, BRPC isn't making any suggestions on the scale or the ownership model of the stations.
"It really varies. In some cases the stations are owned by the host community. Others are owned by the railroad company," Miller said.
Some stations could be more of a platform costing in the quarter-million dollar range while others could include mixed-use spaces similar to the Intermodal Center in Pittsfield, which cost $11 million to build.
Funding for those stations will likely be from a variety of sources. Federal or state funds have been used in some cases while fundraisers have been held to build others.
Beyond that, Miller is telling those towns to look into their infrastructure capacity near the proposed stations.
Do you have the capacity in place to really benefit from a passenger rail station?" she said. "We want these stations to economically benefit the communities where they are sited."
She encouraged the towns to keep looking at parking capacity and how to tell visitors where the parking is located. The stations should be "an anchor" for the community and not just a place to board or disembark from a train.
For the towns that won't have a station but through which the proposed line will travel, Miller wants them to be part of the conversation moving forward.
"Each of these six communities will want to support any mitigation of predicted impacts," she said.
There will be noise from trains, blowing horns at intersections and vibrations from the increased traffic. She said towns can try to create a "quiet zone" and that requires a lot of safety improvements at crossings. There is also Operation Lifesaver, a public awareness initiative of the dangers of trains to pedestrians and motor vehicles.
Gov. Deval Patrick has earmarked funds to purchase and revitalize the railroad tracks to New York City. Connecticut has not followed suit and BRPC says the state should continue to work to get Connecticut officials to commit to the plan.
In the meantime, Miller says improving the tracks will benefit businesses who use them for freight so she encouraged the state to move forward.
"We've done a lot of leg work for the Berkshire Line communities," Miller said.
MPO member Jim Lovejoy said BRPC did a "comprehensive" job in their study.
The study looked at locations, railroad operations, anticipated benefits and crafted options for types of stations. The study was paid for through a $240,000 federal grant and the Housatonic Railroad contributed $60,000 — making a total of $300,000.
Adams Selectmen Updated on Park Street, Town Projects
The board heard an update on town projects.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Park Street reconstruction should be completed by mid-November.
Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan updated the Selectmen on Wednesday on the streetscape and other of the town's ongoing projects.
Cesan said the sidewalks on Park Street are almost complete, and crews are preparing the street for paving. She said paving will most likely take place Nov. 6, depending on the weather. Line painting should take place the week after.
"It is moving along very quickly," she said. "The weather is setting in so there is a lot of motivation there."
Park Street will have one lane closed during the paving.
Selectmen Joseph Nowak brought up concerns residents had about the loss of parking spots because of the bumpouts being installed on Park Street. Nowak acknowledged that there were a number of meetings at which residents could have stated their opinion.
Cesan explained that the way the street was set up before was illegal and some parking spots would have to be taken away anyway.
"The bumpouts because they are new get blamed, but ... our street has been illegal," she said. "You are supposed to have a certain amount of distance from each driveway opening. We didn't have that."
She said the contractor said they would try to fit in a few more spots where possible.
Cesan also said now that the Greylock Glen's master lease has been signed, she would like to move quickly on the outdoor center.
"This building has been anticipated as a zero-energy facility, and the design process is likely to take close to a year," she said. "I think it is going to be important for us to begin this as soon as possible."
She said she plans to write a letter to the governor requesting the release of $300,000 from from the environmental bond or other sources to begin the design work.
The board approved signing a letter of support for the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum. It also supports the expedited endorsement of the railway before next month's state elections.
Nowak said he has been concerned with the railway's progress.
"I am personally getting a little bit worried with this," he said. "We have a building down there, and ... we have to make sure we get that support and I know we need it."
Cesan said there has been some progress on the railway.
"We heard from Berkshire Scenic, and they have been given the go-ahead to move their trains and their equipment up to North Adams," Cesan said. "We have all been waiting for the big announcement, and the actual acquisition of the Adams line, and we hope that does come soon."
The Selectmen also approved an addendum to the inter-municipal veterans service agreement because Savoy asked to be part of the agreement with Adams, North Adams and Williamstown. The municipalities share a veterans agent.
The Selectmen asked for someone to donate two Christmas trees: a large one for the town common and a smaller one for the Summer Street location. The Department of Public Works will cut them down and plant a new one if desired. Anyone interested can contact the DPW or Town Hall.
Visitors Bureau: Tourists Spent $161 Million In Lenox Last Year
The Selectmen say the money spent with the Berkshire Visitors Bureau has been well worth it.
LENOX, Mass. — Visitors coming to the Berkshires spent $403 million in 2013 and about 40 percent of that was spent in Lenox.
Berkshire Visitors Bureau President Lauri Klefos told the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday that the county has seen a 4 percent increase in visitor spending.
That percentage increase is similar to the preliminary numbers the town is seeing in meals, hotels and motels tax.
"Visitors are coming to Lenox and spending dollars," Klefos said.
The continual increase coincides with the town's expanded marketing efforts. In 2013, the town spent about $17,500 with advertising through the Berkshire Visitors Bureau — particularly in the New York and Boston market.
Concurrently, the town hired Studio Two to run a Google ad campaign at about $10,000.
The results are $161 million being spent in Lenox and the Berkshires having some of the highest hotel and motel occupancy rates in the state.
"The news from the BVB is outstanding," said Selectman Dave Roche. "Their efforts seem to be increasing revenues each year."
The increased spending directly helps the town's tax base through business growth and additional tax revenue. Chairman Channing Gibson said the impact is huge for the town maintaining its level of service. The revenue pays for a lot more than the cost of the advertisements, he said.
The Selectmen are now being asked to grow that even more. The Visitors Bureau is asking the town to spend $3,000 more to boost the advertising. Currently, the town advertises on targeted months but the bureau is proposing year-round marketing.
"We looked at the results from the last two years and we really feel that it is time to make that message all 12 months," Klefos said. "I think it really is time to step up and talk about the 12 months of a year."
Director of Marketing Lindsey Schmid said the new proposal includes some changes beyond just expanding the length of time, such as a more focused campaign on Lenox. The advertisements were coupled with ads in eblasts for individual businesses through a shared cost. This time, the focus will be solely on Lenox.
"It is just a more consistent, solid Lenox message in those eblasts," Schmid said.
In other business, the Board of Selectmen are preparing for a discussion on new solar bylaws for commercial photovoltaic arrays. The Planning Board has crafted a bylaw and is expected to hold a joint meeting with the Selectmen to discussion the details. The bylaw is focused solely on larger-scale commercial arrays.
"This is a bylaw the Planning Board is developing to regulate large scale solar," Gibson said "This is for the purpose of generating power and selling to the grid."
Clarksburg Seniors Have Deadline for Cable Discount
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Selectmen on Wednesday signed a long-term contract with Time Warner Cable.
The regional agreement is for 10 years — but seniors only have two days to apply for a monthly discount included in the contract.
"Ultimately what's going to happen is they are expecting Comcast to buy them out," Town Administrator Carl McKinney said. "But Comcast will honor the discount only if they sign up by Nov. 1."
In other business, McKinney said the town is looking into a dumping area off East Road.
"The woods are littered like a dump," he said, including car parts, heating oil tanks, tires, lawn mowers and a broken down shed. There is also an old unsecured well that could pose a danger to children.
The town's Board of Health, Conservation Commission and police have been working on a resolution for cleaning up the area, which is on private property.
"You can't see it from the road," McKinney said. "I didn't know how bad it is."
Officials are also working toward an anticipated special town meeting in early December.
Should free cash be certified by that time, voters will be able decide on outstanding bills from last fiscal year.
A special town meeting earlier this year failed when all the fiscal articles had to be pulled back because the town did not have enough free cash to fund them.
The Selectmen are preparing the warrant as far in advance as possible to comply with a new policy that calls for all town department heads to sign off on the validity and legitimacy of each article related to their departments.
Officials hope that by including more expert review, they can avoid another debacle.
Lanesborough School Committee Delays Vote on Superintendency Union
Parents and teachers spoke out against attempts to dissolve the union with Williamstown Elementary.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The School Committee on Wednesday put off a decision on whether to end its affiliation with Williamstown Elementary School.
Robert Barton and James Moriarty, who forced a special meeting of the committee to vote on the dissolution of Superintendency Union 71, agreed to wait until a recently formed ad hoc town committee conducts its study of options for superintendency services for the pre-K through 6 district.
At a well-attended 4 p.m. meeting of the three-person committee, at least eight residents commented from the microphone or their seats. All but one [the wife of a School Committee member] spoke in favor of maintaining the current arrangement in which Lanesborough and Williamstown share a central administration with Mount Greylock Regional School. Several of those comments drew applause from others in attendance at the school's cafeteria.
Richard Cohen, who is running unopposed for the Mount Greylock School Committee in the Nov. 4 election, came with data supporting his contention that SU71 is not too expensive and has been beneficial for the town's elementary school pupils.
Barton, the most outspoken critic of the union, gave a brief presentation focusing on the elementary school budgets in Williamstown and Lanesborough.
Several residents questioned why the School Committee was voting on an issue that the Board of Selectmen two nights earlier appointed a nine-person committee to study — a committee that includes Barton.
The turning point of Wednesday's meeting came when Moriarty said he would vote to dissolve the union unless he was convinced the town was "committed" to study the affiliation.
"I'm committed to looking at alternatives other than SU71," Moriarty said. "Whether that [town] committee does it or we do it or in some combination. If I don't see a commitment, I'm going to force a vote tonight."
At that point, Chairwoman Regina DiLego (also a member of the ad hoc committee) read aloud from the study committee's charge, which was posted more than a month ago, to demonstrate to Moriarty what it would study.
"Fair enough," Moriarty said.
That ensured the Superintendency Union will continue ... at least until the next School Committee meeting on Nov. 19, but possibly until the December meeting. DiLego noted that the original posting by the Selectmen said the study committee's work would take at least eight weeks — a term that appeared to satisfy Barton and Moriarty.
Nevertheless, Barton did not withdraw his original proposal, which brought about the extraordinary meeting.
The timing of the meeting itself was questioned by members of the audience.
"I'm a teacher, so I'm lucky," resident Michelle Johnson said. "I can be here. But I know there are at least a dozen parents who want to be here but they can't because they can't take time from work."
"You owe an apology to all the parents who had to take time off from work to be here," said Christine Canning-Wilson, who also will serve on the town education study committee.
Canning-Wilson harshly criticized committee members pushing to seek break up SU71 and affiliate Lanesborough with another school district in the county.
At one point, she told the committee that she had been talking with state officials about how to initiate recall measures against members of the panel.
She accused committee members of having secret meetings with other districts to talk about their finances, specifically the cost per pupil for administrative services.
"If you're going to continue to have closed-door meetings with these people, I'm going to call [state Attorney General] Martha Coakley's office," Canning-Wilson said.
She seized on the comments of dissolution advocates who have mentioned the Central Berkshire and Adams-Cheshire districts in particular, as options.
"All you have to do is go on [the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's] website, and you will see Lanesborough is a Level 1 school," she said. "Adams-Cheshire is a Level 3 district. ... Dalton is a Level 2 district."
Level 1 schools are the highest performing schools on a scale of one to five.
"The comments from DESE scream wonderful things about this district under [Tri-District Superintendent] Rose Ellis," Canning-Wilson said. "Rose is not my best friend, but I respect her as an educator."
Cohen came armed with a number of those "wonderful things."
In 2014, Lanesborough was the highest performing school in Berkshire County on the state's Cumulative Progress and Performance Index, which looks at narrowing proficiency gaps, growth and graduation rates over a four-year period. The number of Lanesborough students achieving "proficient" or "advanced" scores on the commonwealth's math and English assessment tests has risen steadily in the six years since SU71 began.
Earlier Wednesday, the commonwealth's secretary of education praised Lanesborough's program during a site visit.
"His comment about our [sixth grade] math students was they were doing north of a sixth-grade curriculum; they were headed toward calculus," Principal Ellen Boshe told the School Committee in a report on Secretary Matt Malone's visit that preceded the SU71 discussion.
Cohen's presentation, which he made enough copies to have on hand for members of the public, challenged the notion that Lanesborough pays too much for its administrative services.
After discussing all the district's academic successes since the creation of the union, Cohen pointed to numbers from the state indicating Lanesborough paid 25 percent less per pupil for administrative services than did Central Berkshire for the period 2008-12, the last year for which data is available.
Cohen joined a number of voices asking why the School Committee had not studied the issue more before jumping to a vote.
"You've had most of this data for months," Cohen said, referring to the information in his handout. "Why have you not asked any questions about it?
"Because you are rude to me," Barton shot back. "You have accused me of Open Meeting Law violations that have been rejected by the state attorney general three times."
Above, parent Michelle Johnson speaks out against dissolving the union; right, Richard Cohen presented a detailed argument of the union's success.
In August, the AG's office declined to review an OML complaint against Barton and the Board of Selectmen on the narrow grounds that the complaint was filed too long after the alleged violation.
"Although we do not review the merits of the complaint, we remind the Board that 'deliberation' is defined in the Open Meeting Law as an oral or written communication through any medium, including electronic mail, between or among a quorum of a public body on any public business within its jurisdiction," Assistant Attorney General Jonathan Sclarsic wrote in response to the complaint.
In July, an OML complaint by Cohen was rejected by the AG's office. That complaint involved an incident in which Barton was stopped by the district's legal counsel from discussing the job performance of a Tri-District employee in open session.
On Wednesday, Barton presented his case for dissolving SU71 with a single slide that purported to show the per capita incomes of Williamstown and Lanesborough ($31,087 and $21,836, respectively) and each town's per capita cost for education ($1,246 and $1,747, respectively).
Barton said Lanesborough is treated like a "poor cousin" in SU71 and showed the audience a slideshow with pictures of the Clark Art Institute and Williams College's '62 Center for Theatre and Dance alongside shots of the Lanesborough Historical Commission's building and Lanesborough sidewalks in disrepair.
Barton did not explain how private nonprofits in Williamstown that pay no town property tax relate to Lanesborough's finances.
He did argue that the Tri-District administration's inattention to Lanesborough's needs are to blame for recent shortfalls in the elementary school's budget.
DiLego challenged that assertion and questioned Barton's and Moriarty's motives for pushing dissolution of the superintendency union.
"Your decision to leave SU71 has absolutely nothing to do with any educational value for the children?" DiLego asked. "It's based on your thinking that Williamstown is responsible for the fact that this School Committee has not monitored its budget."
Education Secretary Tours Lanesborough, Hancock Schools
Stanley Dykes, teacher Beth Nichols, Trevor Sawyer, Nick Duda, Secretary of Education Matt Malone, Jordyn Codding, Principal Ellen Boshe, and Kendra Buda on Wednesday at Lanesborough Elementary School.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Keeping up with the ever-changing technological world is something even the county's top performing schools struggle with.
That's what school officials from those districts told state Secretary of Education Matt Malone during his four-school trip to the Berkshires on Wednesday.
After a stop at Lenox High School, Malone moved on to the 44-student Hancock Elementary School and then Lanesborough Elementary School before concluding his trip at Kittredge School in Hinsdale.
"I've been really impressed with the quality of teachers. I was very impressed with the instructional practices I've seen. I've seen some some innovation," Malone said at the end of his third stop of the day.
Lanesborough was ranked a Level 1 this year based on standardized test scores. The school was one of only a few statewide to earn a letter of commendation because of its Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System scores.
Hancock would be at that level if only it had enough data to receive a ranking, said school officials.
While the education levels may be high — with Lanesborough being recognized as one of the top five performing schools in the state — the struggle Berkshire schools have is with upgrading technology.
Hancock Principal Tracey Tierney said the school is switching to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, which is being considered as the next standardized testing system. While next year the school can perform the testing on paper, PARCC is based on a computerized system. Should PARCC become the standard, the school's computers are not up to par to handle it.
Malone encouraged Tierney, Superintendent Barbara Ripa and School Committee Chairwoman Patty Bishop to apply for a grant through the state's information technology bond bill, which will allocate some $5 million by the end of the calendar year to improve technology.
Malone said he'd like to see one device for every student in Hancock and the grant would be one resource toward making that happen.
"We are tiering these grants so it isn't just the gateway cities," he said.
Hancock has formed an IT committee to examine its needs but the school doesn't have the funds to purchase the equipment, Tierney said. School officials in both Hancock and Lanesborough said oftentimes they are overlooked for funding because of their size.
"Our issue with grants is we are too small to quality for most of them," Lanesborough Director of Pupil Services Kimberly Grady said.
In Lanesborough, there is a similar gap in technology. The technology has been underfunded for a number of years, said Superintendent Rose Ellis, and only recently has there been the ability to upgrade some of the technology.
"We created a tech committee and went into overdrive because all we had were computers we bought in 2000," Ellis said.
Julianne Haskins, the school's computer teacher, says the school doesn't have the amount of technology she would like.
"We have a working lab but we do not have computers in the classrooms. I would like to see three computers in each classroom," Haskins said.
And it isn't just about conforming to the test, Malone said. He envisioned bringing in 3D printers, iPads and ChromeBooks to the elementary schools to improve overall education.
"The misnomer about this grant is that it is to prepare people for PARCC. This is about instructional technology to get people ready for the 21st century. That's what it is about," Malone said.
Again, he pushed for schools to apply for funding through the IT bill because with the upcoming change of administration, it isn't known what level of support there will be on Beacon Hill.
Outside of the grant, Malone said the restrictions on the number of 4-year-old students has been lifted in an effort to reduce wait lists in pre-K programs.
After looking through all of the egg helmets Hancock students designed and built for a competition, Malone wasn't sure who would win.
"To me, it is going to be a revenue generator to help the foundation," Malone said.
Malone told the school officials to enroll as many 4-year-olds in next year's kindergarten program to boost state reimbursements and foundation budgets.
While technology may be an obstacle, that hasn't stopped both Lanesborough and Hancock from achieving high rankings in the state's assessment.
Hancock doesn't have enough data with 44 pupils to get a level, but Tierney said the students exceeded the school's goals.
"We have insufficient data. But, we not only met our target, we exceeded our target," Tierney said. "We'd be a Level 1 school if we had the data ... We are proud of the achievement of our kids."
Malone said the "cross-functional" programming and staffing is something the Berkshires do well and is something he wished the rest of the state would replicate.
Besides talking shop, Malone took time to meet with students in array of classrooms. He read books. He read student short stories. He looked at science projects. He interacted with the children. He shook hands and thanked the teachers.
The secretary said since he was appointed two years ago, he set a goal to visit a school in every town that has one. He checked off four of those towns on Wednesday. The goal of that, he said, is so every town will know he is a friend to their schools.
For Hancock, Malone was the first state official to visit the school.
"We are trying to go to places no one has ever been," Malone said.
Adams Planners Approve Bond, Screening for East Road Array
Seth Ginsberg of Apis Energy Group LLC goes over the conditions and screening plans for a solar array on East Road at Tuesday's Planning Board meeting.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board has approved financial surety and planting buffers for the controversial East Road private solar array despite continued questions of its legality by abutters.
Planners met on Tuesday with Seth Ginsberg of Apis Energy Group LLC, developer of the 1.5-megawatt array, to discuss conditions put on the project by the Zoning Board of Appeals, as outlined by the Community Development Office.
The board accepted a performance bond of $100,000, which will be released upon the completion and approval of the solar array. It also approved a surety of $30,000 for the removal of the solar array in the future.
Ziemba asked if the $30,000 would cover the disposal of the panels in 25 years.
"At basic bank growth rate, $30,000 would be more than enough," Ginsberg said. "They are recycled. There are business who would be happy to take them for nothing because they usually have to pay for them."
Building Commissioner Don Fitzgerald said he was happy with the amount.
"It is recyclable stuff that actually has value so I don't think the town gets hurt at the end of the life cycle," he said. "This is good coverage for the town and what they are leaving in for the surety bond to guarantee completion of the project is a little bit more than adequate."
Ginsberg said a greenbelt will be installed along the western edge of the property to screen the project from residents. The various trees that will be planted will grow from 40 to 70 feet high and provide year-round coverage.
Some residents opposing the project's placement on privately owned property at 217 East Road attended the meeting.
Edward Driscoll, a former selectman and East Road resident, asked how the project could move forward when the plan was approved at what he said was an illegally posted meeting.
The site plan initially met resistance from the Planning Board in 2013 when it unanimously disapproved the installation of the 6,500-panel, ground-mounted solar array.
The board felt the development would negatively affect the surrounding residents and environment. Planners also feared that drainage would be an issue and interpreted state law on the subject as not allowing a by-right installation of a large ground-mounted system in a residential area. Rather, the board described the array as an industrial/commercial structure.
The site plan then went to the Zoning Board of Appeals where the Planning Board's decision was ultimately — and somewhat confusingly — reversed.
A collective of nearly 20 residents who live near the site took legal action against the developer and the town of Adams because they felt the appeals board acted beyond its purview and the decision was made unfairly.
In a letter to the planners, Driscoll said the abutters had dropped their suit after being "intimidated" by a potential legal cost of $50,000 to $80,000. They had agreed to a settlement requiring they not speak of the agreement; Driscoll, however, did not.
East Road resident Edward Driscoll urged the board to table the conditions and hire a lawyer, claiming the ZBA's vote to approve the site plan was done in violation of Open Meeting.
Driscoll asked the planners to table their decision and seek funds for an expert lawyer to help with the issue.
"I don't wish to participate in the meeting because I believe it validates an illegal meeting so I am going to take off," Driscoll said. "My only suggestion would to be to, prevent litigation, table it and ... ask the selectmen to transfer funds for an expert lawyer like they have done in the past."
He referred to a Nov. 19, 2013, meeting at which town counsel advised that the ZBA's initial vote of 3-2 against upholding the Planning Board's rejection of a building permit would stand. Since it did, the ZBA then voted 4-1 to approve the site plan.
Driscoll claims there was an opening meeting violation because it was believed the continuance on Nov. 19 was only to determine the result of the building permit vote, not for the site plan, and that abutters were not informed there would be a decision on the site plan. However, the agenda for the Nov. 19 meeting refers to an appeal of "the Planning Board's denial of the Applicant's site plan approval application which resulted in the denial of the building permit." The wording of the agendas is similar for all three meetings held by the ZBA on the issue.
Chairwomen Barbara Ziemba said the board cannot take up legal action because it is not on the agenda, and there is nothing they can do as a board.
"The Zoning Board technically approved the site plan, and that's where it stands. We have to go along with it whether we approve of that decision or not," Ziemba said. "Our hands are tied."
Driscoll thanked the board for listening and left the meeting along with the other residents.
Lanesborough Contracts With PCTV To Run Television Broadcasts
The Board of Selectmen approved the contract on Monday.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Pittsfield Community Television will be contracted to run the town's local access station.
The Board of Selectmen approved Monday of a six-month contract with PCTV to film and air a few meetings a month. Town Administrator Paul Sieloff says the first six months will be "low risk" period to see how well the new relationship will.
"We picked six months because we thought that would be a time period of low risk," Sieloff said. "We looked at this as a potentially long-term relationship."
PCTV staff will do the filming and broadcasting for Lanesborough's channel for $25 an hour.
"What we would normally charge for a technician is $25 an hour," said PCTV President Peter Marchetti.
Resident Ronald Tinkham has been running the town's community television station but wants to give it up. No one else stepped up to take over when the town sought volunteers. Sieloff then approached PCTV for an agreement.
The town also wants to improve the equipment over time. Sieloff said PCTV staff will help the purchasing of items in the future.
Bernard Avalle, PCTV executive director, estimated it will cost $27,800 to upgrade the town's equipment. That includes live streaming, on-demand showings, remote posting to the bulletin board and school closings, and archiving, among an array of benefits. The more upgraded equipment the town has, the less manpower it will require for PCTV to run the station.
"That would be an investment that goes on for years," he said.
The town is paid by the cable companies a franchise fee to run the station. LCTV currently has about $15,000 in that account to pay PCTV for operations and to upgrade equipment.
In other business, the Selectmen denied a resident's request to use the Bridge Street baseball field as a dog park.
Selectman Robert Ericson says he wants to look at the specs on the heating equipment before the town replaces the oil burner at the Police Station.
"I'm sure people were sincere with their request, it is just a problematic request," Sieloff said, adding that both the animal office and the recreation committee voiced concern about the idea. "It just did not seem like a good request."
Board of Selectmen Chairman John Goerlach said while this request was denied, the town will look into another location. Selectman Robert Ericson, however, didn't agree with the concept at all.
"The truth is, I've seen a lot of places with dog parks and people don't pick up after their dog. Or the dogs attack one another," Ericson said.
Sieloff also reported that all of the quotes to replace the heating system with an oil furnace at the Police Department were lower than switching to propane.
"In every case the oil-fired was way less," Sieloff said.
O'Connell was the lowest bid with $6,960.
However, the town is looking to become designated a green community by the state, which would gives the possibility for grants so the Selectmen opted not to award a contract at this time.
The Selectmen also put off a vote on installing a small hot water heater. The police station's heating system still works but there is not hot water for a sink the officers use to wash their hands.
Ericson, who is on the town's energy committee, asked to put off the vote on both a water heater and oil heating so he can review the proposal. Ericson said with the town renovating the station over time, including adding more insulation, he wants to make sure the heating system isn't too big for the future.
State Fire Marshal Offers Halloween Safety Tips
It's time to release the ghouls and goblins onto the streets in search of treats. The state fire marshal has offered fire safety tips for celebrating Halloween.
* Children should carry a flashlight and their costumes should be bright-colored or have reflective tape to highlight them.
* Be sure all parts of the costume are labeled flame retardant.
* Costumes should not have trailing material or tails long enough to cause falls.
* Pointed objects such as swords and devils’ forks should be made of soft material.
* If your child wears a mask instead of make-up on their face, double check that the eye holes are large enough to see through clearly.
* Children should wear sturdy shoes and temperature appropriate clothing underneath their costumes.
* Use a small flashlight or battery-operated candle in pumpkins instead of an open-flame candle.
* Keep dried leaves and cornstalks away from all flames and heat sources.
* Only use flame-proof crepe paper.
Checking Treats and Welcoming Trick-or-Treaters
* Make sure your own home is well-lit and that there is a clear path to your door. Bicycles and lawn furniture can trip youngsters in the dark.
* Throw out anything that appears tampered with, home-made foods or home-packaged foods unless you are certain of the source.
* Inspect fruit closely and take away treats that may not be age appropriate. Young children may choke on things like hard candy or peanuts.
Discuss Safety Rules with Trick-or-Treaters
* Smaller children should always be with an adult. It’s best to take little ones out early. If older children are going out without you, go over the ground rules first!
* Know what neighborhoods they will be in.
* Don’t allow them in areas with which you are not completely comfortable.
* Have the children stay in a group.
* Let them know what time to be home.
* Give them a cell phone to use if necessary.
* Use sidewalks.
* Cross only at the corners, never dart out between parked cars.
* Cover one side of the street at a time, no criss-crossing.
* Never go inside someone’s home unless it is a friend’s.
* Never accept a ride in a car.
* Only approach houses where the outside lights are on as a signal of welcome.
* Bring their bags home to be checked by an adult before eating a single treat.
For more information on Halloween Safety, contact your local fire department or look at the Department of Fire Services website at www.mass.gov/dfs, click on Halloween Safety, or call the Public Fire Safety Education Hotline at 1-877-9-NO-FIRE.
Williams Dormitory Plan Part of Larger Renovation Project
Stetson Court will be the location of the college's first dormitory in nearly a half century.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — When Williams College first opened its doors to students in 1793, only 65 boys were enrolled.
Now it has a diverse population of approximately 2,100 housed in dormitories and small houses around the campus.
Of the more than 30 student residences, West College, constructed in 1791-1793, is the oldest dormitory. Tyler Annex, built in 1972, is the newest.
Williams is planning to add its first new dormitory in 42 years and has selected Stetson Court for its location.
"We hope the new dorm will be completed in the fall of 2016," Frederick Puddester, Williams' vice president for finance administration and treasurer, said in a telephone interview.
The need for new residential space took root in a college planning process that goes back several years.
"We looked at all the spaces and many were in need of major renovations," Puddester said. "To start that project, we need extra beds. Now we only have enough space for current students."
Garfield House, named for college President Harry A. Garfield, is scheduled to be the first building renewed in the multiyear renovation project. The former fraternity house dates to the 1880s and is built in the Tudor style.When renovations are under way, the 41 students living there will be placed in the new Stetson dormitory.
Another 25 or 30 students will be housed across the street at Bascom House, currently the Admissions Office, in effort to create a new student "neighborhood" along with Agard House on South Street.
The new dormitory has caused some consternation because it will require the removal of the 1840 Mather House and 1854 Harper House.
"At first, we looked at gutting Mather House and Harper House and connecting the buildings to form a dorm, but we determined it was not feasible," Puddester said.
Guntlow & Associates has purchased Mather House and it will be relocated to the corner of Lee Terrace, with the cost of moving absorbed by Williams College.
The Historical Commission in August invoked a three-month demolition delay on Harper House. Subsequently, Williams advertised "widely in the community" that it was available for moving. As of mid-October there have been no inquires, according to Rita-Wallace Coppolo, Williams College director of development and construction.
If no interest in shown, it will likely will be demolished. The Historical Commission would not pursue the matter further, said Chairman William Barker.
"We will have done our job," he said,
If demolished, the college will be required to perform any abatements; if someone buys it, the college will move it but the new owner will be responsible for any code compliance.
"On the costs, our estimates of moving vs. abatement and demolition are close, but we will not get final costs until we have signed contracts," Puddester said.
There are many decisions yet to be made with regard to the proposed new dormitory.
"We are in the early stages of design and don't have a final rendering yet," he said.
The architect is Centerline Architects and Planners PC of Bennington, Vt., which previously worked on redesigns of some of the college's dining areas to accommodate the closure of two of its facilities.
The new dormitory will be a two-story energy-efficient building. There will be 60 beds — in single and double rooms — small study spaces; a kitchen and gathering spaces.
"It will not be like Mission [Park,]" Puddester emphasized, speaking of the 1971 glass and concrete building that is the largest of Williams' dormitories. "It will fit in with the other buildings on Stetson Court."
When asked why Williams had not opted to erect the new dorm in the open space that will be left when the old Sawyer Library is torn down, Puddester explained that there had always been other plans for that area.
The site of the old library will be turned into green space connecting the new library and Hollander Hall and Schapiro Hall with Paresky Center and the Freshman Quad.
As for the location Williams did choose for the new dorm, Puddester said, "We like Stetson Court. It's a great street."
Pittsfield Approves Raise For Mayor, Stipends For School Committee
The City Council approved the raise and the stipend on Tuesday night.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After the next election, School Committee members will be eligible for a stipend and the mayor's position will pay more.
The City Council approved raising the salary for the mayor to $95,000 and have it increase each year with the Consumer Price Index.
They also approved a $4,000 per year stipend for School Committee members. The raises are the next step in a series of raised given to department heads earlier this year.
"This is not something that is politically a great thing to vote on but we are here to make these decisions," said Ward 6 Councilor John Krol. "It is not popular to do but we've had reports from consultants saying it is the right thing to do."
The raises go into effect in January 2016, when the newly elected officials take office. The School Committee stipends passed easily with only some discussion on possibly giving more to the chairman, which was ultimately rejected.
"In the big picture in our budget, it is a low amount but I think it is a big gesture to the School Committee," said Councilor at Large Kathleen Amuso, who served on the School Committee for a decade and knows the amount of work the members put in.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi opposed the stipend, saying it "sends the wrong message." He said he wants School Committee members to be community oriented and instead of doing it for pay.
Krol, however, said that argument was "hypocritical" because the councilors themselves get an $8,000 stipend and are eligible for benefits. School Committee members put in just as much work and are not eligible for benefits, he said.
The raise for the mayor passed without opposition but not until after a lengthy discussion that brought the base salary down from a proposed $110,000.
"This is not my number. This is the number the consultant came up with," said Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop, who filed the petition. "This is not about this mayor. This is not about the last mayor. This is not necessarily about the next mayor."
The debate was simply, he said, what is the reasonable amount a mayor of a city like Pittsfield should be paid?
Previously, the mayor's salary was tied to that of the police and fire chiefs, a stipulation the City Council removed Tuesday night. Instead the base salary is linked to the Consumer Price Index, per Tuesday's vote.
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi opposed the stipends and the raises, saying it sends the wrong message about public service.
This year the mayor is making about $87,000. The consultant who recommended the raises for department heads also said the mayor's salary was too low.
Councilors in favor of the raise said more money will give taxpayers the right to demand more and encourage a greater pool of candidates.
"Talent goes where the money is," Lothrop said.
Morandi, again, voiced opposition but voted in favor after the base salary was dropped from $110,000 to $95,000.
Morandi listed an array of communities with similar populations and median incomes where the mayor is paid less than the $110,000.
"The salary for the mayor is right where it belongs," he said, later adding, "Taxes keep going up, unemployment is high, we're losing populations and our tax base isn't growing. Our costs in running the city is getting higher, higher and higher."
Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully agreed saying, "I thought the pay was a little bit too high. I would agree to a lower pay."
Vice President Christopher Connell opposed the amendment to link the salary adjustments to the Consumer Price Index saying he wanted to move away from automatic step increases. However, he was outvoted.
After the motion for the base salary to start at $95,000 passed in a 6-4 vote, the council unanimously agreed on the final outcome.
"It is better than where we are currently," Lothrop said.
North Adams' Proposed Bike Path Connects Community Assets
Maps of the proposed bike trail route will be reviewed at a public information on Wednesday evening at Greylock School.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city is laying down plans for a bike path in the West End.
The trail would run from downtown to the city's western border on Route 2, cutting mainly through municipal properties.
The approximately 3-mile route would line up with another 2.5 miles in Williamstown near Galvin Road.
"I think the route is really cool," Mayor Richard Alcombright said in a presentation prior to Tuesday's City Council meeting. "It takes in some city assets that weren't talked about several years ago."
An informational session will be held on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Greylock Elementary School for residents to provide input.
The last trail proposal in 2010 had encountered a number of objections from residents whose properties would have been affected.
This latest version seeks to reduce those concerns by sticking largely to municipal lands and riverbanks along the south side of Route 2 until crossing the highway by Brayton School to cut through former Sprague Electric property to Brown Street.
Lauren Gaherty, senior planner with the Berkshire regional Planning Commission, and City Planner Makenzie Greer presented the plans to the City Council on Tuesday night.
The initial idea for a North Adams to Williamstown pathway was raised around 2000, and further efforts were made after the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail opened in Adams and Cheshire in 2001.
The proposal in 2011 received $560,800 in a National Scenic Byways grant, with a matching grant of $140,200 from the state.
The city is working with $81,000 of that for planning on the ground. The balance, about $620,000, is being used by Williamstown for engineering on its end of the trail; some of that funding will also go to bring the North Adams engineering to 25 percent. Williamstown's path will run through town and Williams College property
The Scenic Byway money dictated efforts begin on Route 2 rather than along Route 8, where the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail is set to be extended from Adams to McCann Technical School.
"The trail coming from the south, but our opportunity now is coming from the east," said Alcombright.
The designs for the proposed Mohawk Bike/Pedestrian Path is being built around input from residents during the Vision 2030 process and federal and state requirements.
"We heard, 'make it off road as much as possible,'" Gaherty told the council. "They want the trail to be scenic and somewhat wild."
The realigned route connects several of the city's assets in the West End, including Greylock and Brayton elementary schools, neighborhoods, the airport, Alcombright Athletic Complex, and proximity to the Northern Berkshire YMCA and Stop & Shop and Price Chopper supermarkets.
Both Gaherty and Greer cautioned that the route laid out so far is very preliminary and will depend on a host of factors, including community input, engineering and the state Department of Transportation.
The path would hug the north side of the Harriman-West Airport, which would require approvals through the Airport Commission and Federal Aviation Authority, and consideration of the eventual solar array planned for the property.
It would also mean at least one river crossing, possible wetlands disturbance, the use of a residential road (Barbour Street) and a tunnel through a railroad berm.
Pan Am Railways has not ruled out the tunnel, preferring it to a grade crossing. The railway has already signed off on a pedestrian tunnel under its rails near Western Gate Heritage State Park to allow access to the Berkshire Scenic Railway line.
"Pan Am was very cooperative through that process," Alcombright said. "I think they would be with this one."
Once exiting the tunnel just north of Avon Street, the trail would run over an old service road that cuts through the Sprague property, now owned by a holding company.
"I think what's more difficult is where there's very little real estate," Gaherty said. "It's where there's no real estate and steep slopes. ...
"I think that's where the challenges are going to be."
But connecting the trail to the downtown once it arrives at Brown Street won't be easy either.
Greer said Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is very interested in having the trail run through its campus, even considering a bridge and possible "tunnel" through its buildings along River Street.
If that is not feasible, a number of possible routes along city streets are being looked at.
"It's a very preliminary conception plan to see whether those plans are doable," Greer said.
Construction would be several years out. There's $4.7 million currently available and building both sections are estimated between $6 million and $12 million.
"We need to sort of get all of our ducks in a row and we become very good candidates for that funding," she said.
Among the goals is to provide a safe, accessible route for pedestrians and bicyclists to get work, school and other destinations. That mission aligns with the state's Safe Routes to School and Mass in Motion initiatives.
"I think this has tremendous possibilities," said the mayor.
Pittsfield Neighborhoods Weigh In on St. Mary's, Pay Raises
Councilors Kevin Morandi and Lisa Tully meet with constituents on Monday night. Among hot topics for Wards 1 & 2 are the future of St. Mary's Church and doughnut shop drive-throughs.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Residents from the city's northernmost two wards offered their input on neighborhood and citywide issues at a meeting with their councilors at Morningside Community School on Monday.
Ward 1's Lisa Tully and Ward 2's Kevin Morandi have teamed up a couple of times previously in the past year to bring together constituents from their two neighboring wards on either side of the Tyler Street commercial district, but are now planning on holding these summits monthly on the fourth Monday of each month.
"We had this meeting so we could get your input," prior to Tuesday's City Council meeting and other upcoming meetings, said Tully.
By far the hot topic on the agenda at Monday's session was the uncertain situation surrounding the former St. Mary the Morningstar Church property on Tyler Street, about which there has been widespread confusion and misinformation following the surprise media announcement one month ago by Dunkin' Donuts developer Cafua Management that it intends to purchase and donate one of several buildings on the church campus to the city, while demolishing two other structures for a drive-through establishment to replace its current location on Dalton Avenue.
Morandi said they were interested in hearing from their constituents on what usages they would and would not like to see at the 653 Tyler St. location.
Little to no support was heard from the dozen Ward 1 & 2 residents for seeing a new doughnut shop replace the church building at the site. They grilled the two councilors about the alleged revised proposal to subdivide the 2.6 acre campus and have the church be re-purposed to some other beneficial use.
"From conversations I've had with the mayor, the city is not interested in taking the property," said Morandi.
Mayor Daniel Bianchi has nonetheless issued a press release earlier this month, asking any developers or other interested parties with a serious proposal for the former church to contact his office. The two councilors invited ward residents to offer less formal suggestions for things they'd like to see there.
Some suggestions included a new police station, a food center, elderly services, housing, or "giving it to Arlo Guthrie."
It was also noted that the Berkshire Carousel organization may potentially be interested in the building as a permanent home for its long anticipated carousel. The carousel, however, currently has a location in Dalton.
Residents asked what comes next in the process of determining the outcome for that property, and were told that the City Council is being asked on Tuesday to formally accept the withdrawal by Cafua of its original site plan, and expects a new plan will be forthcoming from the Dunkin developer within the next two months.
Regardless of whether some kind of deal is struck to preserve the main church building, Cafua will seek to demolish at a minimum the former rectory and convent buildings on the plot and erect a drive through facility, and for that the city must issue a special permit.
"The City Council has the final say when it comes to a drive through," said Morandi.
Tully said she was also interested in getting input from her residents on what conditions would make a new drive-through at that location more palatable and reduce their concerns about traffic and other neighborhood impacts if the drive-through does come to fruition.
The Ward 1 councilor said speed bumps at the entrances of the proposed Dunkin was one recurring suggestion she'd heard so far.
"I want to hear everything you have to say," Tully told attendees.
Ward 2 resident Peter White said that if developed commercially, one business he would like to see somewhere on the acreage is a pharmacy, something absent from the city's most densely populated Morningside neighborhood.
"I would love to see the [church] building saved," White said. "But I'd also like to see something on the tax rolls."
A secondary issue that will come before the council on Tuesday is a proposed ordinance to increase the salary of Pittsfield's mayor and create small stipends for elected School Committee members, beginning text term.
In particular, constituents wanted to know how the new proposed salary compares to that of other cities in the region.
According to Morandi, Springfield's mayor makes $95,000, while mayors of cities such as Chicopee and Agawam make salaries in the $80,000 range comparable to that currently in place in Pittsfield.
"I haven't seen any mayors in Western Mass. making more than a hundred thousand," said Morandi.
Most of the residents at the meeting did not feel it necessary to increase the mayor's salary so substantially, but some support was heard for the School Committee stipend.
"The mayor doesn't put his life on the line, like the chief of Police and Fire do," said June Stewart.
"I think the School Committee should be paid something," said Michael Lefebvre. "They do a lot, and it's all for our children."
"I've worked with them, and I've seen what they have to do," agreed White in support of the $4,000 annual compensation.
The next joint meeting for Ward 1 & 2 residents will be held at 7 p.m. on Nov. 24.
Coffee and cookies provided were purchased from Donut Man.
Lanesborough Asked To Put Expanding School District To Town Vote
Mount Greylock School Committee Chairwoman Carrie Greene told the Selectmen that the town will save money with regionalization.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — School officials want voters to decide if the regional school district should be expanded to include the elementary school.
Mount Greylock Regional School Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Greene asked the Selectmen on Monday to put it on the town meeting agenda. The vote, if approved by both towns, would create one organization for both elementary schools and the high school.
"We need to let the voters decide," Greene said.
The high school is already one district with one budget and one school committee. The elementary schools operate on their own with their own committees, collective bargaining agreements and budgets. They share an administration through the Superintendency Union 71 agreement.
Under a new pre-kindergarten through 12th grade region, there would be one school committee, three collective bargaining agreements and one budget for all three schools.
"I see this as an opportunity to reboot. We have been doing really well educationally and we need to think about the future," Greene said.
The high school won a $50,000 state grant to work with a consultant and formed a subcommittee to look into the matter. Greene says there are three main benefits for regionalization — education, finances and politics.
Since the two elementary schools feed into a common high school, the principals of each elementary school have been working together to align curriculum. Creating a K-12 region would provide a formal structure for that relationship, Greene said.
"We have three amazing schools ... The kids are doing great. The faculty are functioning well," Greene said. "We've got a good thing going. But, it is all based on good-will."
Financially, Greene said Lanesborough would save just short of $300,000, according to a simulation run by the consultants. While Williamstown would actually pay more for the district — in total the finances would remain the same.
"Lanesborough stands to save considerable dollars and Williamstown does not," Greene said.
One of the largest differences is in regional school transportation. Currently, the state does not contribute to Lanesborough for the elementary school transportation. The state reimburses for regional school district's transportation — this year at the highest rate in recent history of 90 percent.
Greene said overall it is a "wash" because the creation of SU71 and the tri-town district with Mount Greylock Regional School District saw most of the benefits with shared services.
Selectman John Goerlach wanted to make sure that regionalization won't lead to the closing of Lanesborough Elementary School.
"There are other benefits we will see but those will be off set by aligning the contracts," Greene said. "We're not going to save large dollars now."
As for politics, Greene hopes the move would lead to the towns working closer together. Right now, the political atmosphere is making the regionalization effort difficult, she said.
"The political discussions in Lanesborough have really hurt us in Williamstown in trying to sell regionalization," Greene said. "I am hearing more support in Lanesborough than I am in Williamstown."
On Wednesday, the Lanesborough School Committee is voting whether or not to dissolve SU71. A vote to regionalize would supersede that.
"The district supersedes the union. We would have to dissolve the union anyway," Greene said. "That would become a non-issue."
The Selectmen, however, had concerns with the control over the school. Board of Selectmen Chairman John Goerlach questioned the process of closing schools — a concern many Lanesborough residents had when the regionalization discussions first began.
Greene said a clause has been developed that would require the town of the home school to approve the closure of its school.
Selectman Henry "Hank" Sayers questioned the control over the budget. In the district agreement for Mount Greylock, a district vote can supersede the town's vote on a budget. Sayers said he is concerned Williamstown will have the overall say in the budget.
Greene, however, said Williamstown is beholden to Lanesborough right now. While Williamstown voters want to spend more on their high school, the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee has been reducing budgets for Lanesborough.
"Lanesborough has been controlling out budget more than Williamstown," Greene said, and that is actually becoming a sticking point Williamstown residents are concerned about with regionalization. "In the current history and recent history, Mount Greylock has been more beholden to the Lanesborough fiscal constraints than Williamstown's willingness to pay."
She added that the Mount Greylock School Committee is voted on by the entire district.
"Many of us have worked very hard to improve the political relationship between the two towns," she said.
Greene also said the towns could earn additions percentage points in the reimbursement rate from the School Building Authority in a new building project. And, she said it would be easier to hire executive leadership.
"It is going to be really hard to hire a really strong leader in he district with the current bureaucratic structure," she said.
Sayers said he would have liked to see the district expanded to include other towns as well.
"I would like to see it expand to more than we have now. That would answer a lot of our questions about tuition and choice," he said.
Greene said, "once we are streamlined into one regional school district it is much easier to share services."
New Ashford and Hancock have been approached about joining the expanded district, she said.