Adams Hires New Town Administrator From Maine
Tony Mazzucco, center, speaks with residents after Saturday's interview. The Selectmen voted unanimously to offer Mazzucco the post of town administrator, which he accepted. He and the board went into executive session to iron out salary and benefits details.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted on Saturday morning to hire a town administrator with experience in public and private management.
Tony Mazzucco, assistant city manager of Caribou, Maine, and a native of Randolph, was the third and final candidate interviewed. The board made its decision shortly after speaking with him Saturday morning.
"I think all three would have done a good job in Adams but I think that there is one who is definitely outstanding," Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington said. "It is fortunate that we have the ability to hire a person of such good quality and character."
The board interviewed Richmond Town Administrator Matthew Kerwood and Brewster Selectmen Chairman James Foley on Wednesday. A fourth candidate had accepted a job elsewhere. Mazzucco was asked the same questions as the other two candidates.
Mazzucco also was a management intern in Milton, Vt., and Bourne, and an operations manager for National Amusements. He earned his bachelor's degree and master of public administration from Bridgewater State University.
"I am ready to take the helm. I am a local government guy, and I have a passion for local government and for community development," Mazzucco said. "I am ready to start the uphill battle with trying to make Adams a better place."
Mazzucco said he comes from an area that is similar to Adams and has similar challenges.
"I think it is a great community with a lot of potential. I think it has a lot of challenges, but I don't think you are going to find a community in the commonwealth that doesn't have challenges," he said. "I work in a community that used to have 12,000 people that now only has 8,000 people. It has an older population and used to be a one industry town … but now it isn't so I understand some of the challenges Adams is going through."
Mazzucco said involvement in the community is important because it fosters communication.
"There is a mix of people in the community from one end to the other, and you need to be able to relate to everybody in the community," he said.
Mazzucco said he helped implement a downtown event series in Caribou, which has had a high vacancy rate since the Air Force base left in 1994. He said he brought in bands and vendors and organized a celebration.
"We have whole generations of kids who didn't have good memories of downtown and now we have changed that and people have started to have positive memories of downtown," Mazzucco said.
When asked about how he would implement a strategic plan in Adams, Mazzucco said he recently developed a comprehensive plan in Caribou. He said he would use the same procedure in Adams and engage the community in planning for the future.
Mazzucco said he would focus on the downtown to jumpstart economic development and try to bring in jobs by continuing work that has been done. He said he would focus on better marketing, talk to local business and look at bringing new ones in.
Mazzucco said he has a background in private sector in service delivery and learned how to compromise. He said this ability transferred well into government. He said he likes to put all "information out on the table."
"I believe in being professional and polite ... my approach is to speak clearly and plainly," Mazzucco said. "I don't believe in raising your voice, I don't believe in shouting. I believe in a certain demeanor and civil discourse."
Mazzucco said this is part of his conflict management style, too.
"I am not afraid to invite somebody to the table who does not agree with me," he said. "When you can't resolve somebody's complaint or conflict, you can at least sit down with them and try to empathize."
He added he does not like to micromanage people, but the process. In Caribou, he would never tell the police chief or DPW director how to do their jobs, but liked to go on patrol with them so he could better understand their challenges.
Mazzucco said his expertise is in general operations in administration with budgeting and expenditure control
"I think you have to look at every dollar that goes out and how you expand every dollar that comes in," he said. "You need to put everything out to bid as often as you can and get the best return that you can because those dollars and cents add up."
Mazzucco said he fostered a love for government at a young age and become a town meeting member when he was 18. He said his own hometown suffered from population decline and he has dedicated his life to bettering communities in need.
"The passion I have for communities and for local government stems out of that desire to want to make sure we don't have communities where people say, 'this just isn't where I want to live anymore,'" he said.
Clarksburg Considers Two Possible Solar Arrays
Kirt Mayland of Reservoir Road Holdings reviews plans for a private array off Gravel Bank Road.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — Clarksburg is considering a municipal solar array on the former landfill.
The Selectmen on Monday were also updated on a proposal for the development of a private array on Gravel Bank Road.
Town Administrator Carl McKinney informed the board that he plans to apply for a state Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative grant that will pay for technical consulting of a 77-acre parcel of town-owned land.
McKinney said the parcel extends from the Department of Public Works building on West Cross Road north to the old dump.
A solar array would be placed on the capped landfill and some of the land could possibly be developed for public use.
"There are 77 acres. We could make mountain bike or hiking trails. We are into this Mass in Motion thing. It is right near the school, and it is right near the Senior Center," McKinney said. "There are 77 acres of land that really do not have much purpose. ... There is a lot of cool stuff we could do with that."
McKinney said the land cannot be sold because of the covered landfill. He said the landfill will continue to be tested and all past readings have deemed it safe.
The consultant's survey will lead to recommendations of what can be done and how to develop it.
McKinney said the solar array would generate revenue as well as provide electricity to save the town money. He said the solar array could power the DPW building and turn the elementary school into an emergency operation center less dependent on unsustainable resources.
He said if Clarksburg does not start looking for similar ways to create revenue it will not survive because it has "limited growth capacity."
"The state owns 53 percent of the town and they give us a whole lot of nothing in the way of pilot money," McKinney said. "I am not against forestland but when they own half of the town, they give the town $20,000 a year, and are looking to acquire more, they are going to bankrupt the town in short order."
Town Administrator Carl McKinney explains the potential for a municipal solar array.
In addition to the landfill solar array, Kirt Mayland of Reservoir Road Holdings in Avon, Conn., met with the board to go over the possible construction of a small ground-mounted array on Ronald Krutiak's land on Gravel Bank Road.
He said he has entered into a possible agreement with Krutiak and would like to build a 4.2-acre array.
Mayland said nearly 75 percent of his arrays are built on gravel or sand pits because he focuses on environmentally degraded areas that are hidden from view.
"I try not to create, as much as possible, any local opposition to the extent of visual effects," Mayland said. "I like to find good sites where there are no wetlands and no environmental issues. I am an environmental lawyer by training so I am particularly sensitive to wetlands and small streams."
Pittsfield Schools Grapple With Enrollment Drop
Superintendent Jason McCandless said enrollment at some Pittsfield schools is unbalanced, while the overall number of students in the district has dropped.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — School officials are mulling the implications of a new report that indicates the district has 170 students less than it had this time last year.
At a meeting of the Pittsfield Public School Committee on Wednesday, Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless presented data from an annual state enrollment report
"Our school-age population across the county continues to decline," said McCandless, who cited rising awareness of an overall population decrease throughout the region recently. "This is a conversation that is taking place, or should be taking place, in every school committee meeting across all of Berkshire County, and across most of Massachusetts."
According to statistical data, the city's school district has seen a 14 percent decline in student population over the past 20 years, though this is significantly less than the 21 percent decrease seen regionally across Berkshire County schools. Only McCann Technical School saw an increase during this time, rising by 4 percent.
While regional population decrease accounts for some of the drop seen in the Pittsfield district, McCandless said a variety of other factors influence the equation, particularly the disproportionate distribution of school choice transfers. Currently, 428 Pittsfield students have opted for other public schools in the district, while only 98 have entered from outside towns.
Added to this are 177 more Pittsfield students who are attending the Berkshire Arts and Technology Public Charter School, for a total of 605 city students learning outside of the district, not including those who are home-schooled or attend private schools.
In an effort to get a better handle on this uneven distribution of school choice, the superintendent has convened a study group to look at the factors leading local families to choice out of the district.
"We're going to dig in with those families and try to understand why," he said. "Not in order to give them a hard time or question them, but to understand how we can get better."
McCandless said that one important element that may need to be addressed is the class sizes at some of Pittsfield's elementary schools, which have grown at some schools as neighborhood enrollment has become unbalanced in recent years.
"I think that we have to take a look at very strategic, specific and well-reasoned redistricting," he told the committee.
Committee Vice Chairman Daniel Elias cautioned that the department should seek a "humane approach" to any eventual redistricting, particularly in regard to the district's policy of allowing students to attend a school in a neighborhood the family no longer lives in, if an older sibling already attends that school.
"I think it would be very hard for a parent to have children at two different elementary schools," Elias said.
McCandless said any redistricting that occurs should be of a "surgical nature."
"We're working hard to strike a balance," he assured the committee.
Furthermore, he said that while numbers have shrunk, this does not necessarily translate to budgetary savings, such as personnel reductions.
"Our challenge is that while the school-aged population continues to decline, the needs of these student populations do not decline," McCandless told the committee. "In fact, I think you can make a case that the needs have increased to some degree."
Williamstown-Lanesborough Tri-District Picks Interim Superintendent
Gordon Noseworthy, the Williamstown-Lanesborough schools new interim superintendent, answers questions by video conference on Friday.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Gordon Noseworthy of Northampton has been selected as the interim superintendent of Williamstown and Lanesborough schools.
The one-time interim Pittsfield superintendent was picked over two other candidates on Friday afternoon in a meeting of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee and Superintendency Union 71, a combination of Lanesborough Elementary and Williamstown Elementary.
Noseworthy won out largely because committee members thought he had the political acumen to handle the contentious relationship between the rest of the Tri-District and the Lanesborough School Committee.
Together, Mount Greylock and SU71 form what is commonly referred to as the "Tri-District," in which the three independent school districts share the cost of central administration.
On Friday, all seven members of the Mount Greylock School Committee and four of the six elected officials who serve on the SU71 panel, interviewed all three candidates and made the selection in a meeting that took a little more than three hours.
Two of the three members of the Lanesborough committee, Robert Barton and James Moriarty, did not attend Friday's interview, and each is on record saying they favor breaking up SU71. All three school committees' chairs this fall said the discord was a factor in the Tri-District's failure to attract a large pool of candidates when it initially sought a permanent replacement for outgoing Superintendent Rose Ellis.
In an initial "straw poll" of the 11 committee members at the table, Noseworthy had a clear majority overall, but the SU71 contingent was split with two favoring him and two favoring another finalist, Stockbridge's Donna Moyer.
The successful candidate needed a majority from each body, which meant four of the seven Mount Greylock committee members in attendance and all four of the SU71 representatives; the district's counsel had advised the committees that a majority of the quorum was insufficient, and it needed four of the six people who serve on the SU71. By the union's agreement, the SU71 board is composed of three representatives from the Williamstown committee and all three members of the Lanesborough committee.
After the straw poll, the committees discussed the candidates, and while all agreed that Moyer was a strong candidate, Noseworthy was deemed best to equipped to cope with the issues faced by the Tri-District at this time.
"I feel like the political situation in Lanesborough is more charged," Williamstown committee member Dan Caplinger said. "I don't know which of Donna [Moyer] or Gordon [Noseworthy] is better able to handle that."
"Hands down, Gordon," Lanesborough Chairwoman Regina DiLego said. "They'd chew her up and spit her out."
"Let me take it a step further," Caplinger said. "Would they embrace Gordon or would he be the lesser of two evils?"
"I won't speak to that," DiLego said. "They're not here. I can't speak for them."
Moments later, the Mount Greylock and SU71 committees took separate unanimous votes to approve Noseworthy. They then went into executive session to discuss salary ranges so that the Tri-District's Administrative Review Subcommittee can negotiate a compensation package for his six-month appointment.
Noseworthy was unable to attend Friday's interview but instead participated remotely by videoconference.
Several committee members commented on the enthusiasm he displayed during the 45-minute interview and contrasted it with a more reserved style displayed by Moyer, a former interim superintendent in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont and the superintendent for seven years in the Berkshire Hills Regional School District in Stockbridge.
"[Noseworthy] has a high level of energy," Mount Greylock School Committee member Chris Dodig said. "He knows the things we're going through pretty well. Donna I liked, too. As she got going [in the interview], I liked her even more. She was soft spoken but tough."
Dodig's Mount Greylock colleague Wendy Penner was one of those who came out of the interviews rating Moyer just ahead of Noseworthy.
"I was impressed by the way she did her due diligence and knew the challenges here," Penner said. "She didn't convey personal warmth, which was a strength of Gordon's. Donna showed dedication and breadth of experience."
Lack of specific experience as a superintendent weighed against the third candidate, John Burruto of Amherst.
Burruto's resume includes teaching a course on professional development in education at American International College and stints as principal at three different high schools in Connecticut and Massachusetts. Like Noseworthy, Burruto has worked in a nearby district - in his case as a school district examiner monitoring the North Adams Public Schools for the state's Office of Educational Quality and Accountability.
School committee members from Lanesborough and Williamstown interview Stockbridge's Donna Moyer.
But it does not include time as a superintendent or even an interim superintendent, a sticking point with several committee members.
On the other hand, Dodig praised Burruto for his answer to the question of how he would help close the performance gap in standardized test scores - an issue of particular concern at Williamstown, where MCAS scores are high but the school's lag in closing the gap keeps it at Level 2 status with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Another committee member said the Tri-District might be well served at some point seeking Burruto's services as a consultant.
But for its current needs, the choice was Noseworthy, a graduate of McGill University in Montreal who did his graduate work in Edinburgh, Scotland, and at the University of Massachusetts. He was an assistant principal at Taconic High School from 1969-70 before going on to the two longest stints of his administrative career: assistant principal and principal at Frontier (1970-81) and principal at Northampton (1981-96).
He moved on to be an assistant superintendent in Sturbridge's Tantasqua Regional School District (1996-99) and a superintendent in Monson (1999-2002), and Kingston's Silver Lake Regional School District (2002-05).
After retirement, he worked as an interim superintendent in North Brookfield in 2010-11 and Pittsfield in 2012-13.
On Friday afternoon, he emphasized the full range of his experience, which includes teaching in elementary, middle and high school classrooms in Great Britain, Canada and the United States.
"A superintendent ought to have empathy for all the rolls in a district," Noseworthy said. "That's where I come from.
"Basically, I like people. I like teaching. I like to think I hit the ground running and I'm quick to learn."
Friends of St. Mary's Tour Endangered Pittsfield Church
Residents, elected officials and members of a group dedicated to saving St. Mary's toured the empty church on Friday afternoon. See more photos here.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A new advocacy group met with community leaders on Friday to tour the vacant St. Mary the Morningstar Church in the hope of exploring options for redeveloping the historic Tyler Street structure.
"The committee's hope is to provide and access to all interested parties who would like to take an active role in finding a suitable purpose for St. Mary's," said Darcie Sosa, spokesman for the newly formed Friends of St. Mary's.
The Friends were joined by a smattering of local businesspeople, city staff, elected officials and other residents in a walk through of the church building, which has been empty and largely unmaintained since it was decommissioned by the Diocese of Springfield in 2008.
Friends President William Barry expressed cautious optimism about the possibilities for saving the 72-year-old house of worship.
"I'm really excited to see this for the first time in six years, and what really good shape it's in, at least to the naked eye," Barry told iBerkshires.
Some signs of disrepair were evident throughout the tour, from small window breaks to larger degradation of walls and ceilings in a number of the smaller rooms outlying the main sanctuary, though most of the tour participants agreed that overall, the structural integrity of the building seemed far better than they had expected.
"I hope they can do something with it," said Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully, in whose ward the vacant church resides. "It's really a beautiful place."
Tully has been actively engaged in the discussion surrounding the future of the church and remains receptive to concerns from many in Ward 1 and throughout the larger community since demolition of the church was first proposed several weeks ago.
An application previously filed by Cafua Management to level the church and surrounding buildings on the 2.6 acre St. Mary's property to make way for a new Dunkin' Donuts was withdrawn suddenly just two weeks after it was submitted, in response to opposition from more than 1,500 area residents.
"We've knocked down a lot of buildings that we shouldn't have," Tully said. "I'd like to see us stop doing that, if we can. But it's going to take a lot of work."
Mayor Daniel Bianchi, who arranged Friday's site tour, expressed appreciation to the Friends committee, and said he remains open to the possibility that the building could be redeveloped.
"It will take an incredible amount of effort to save St. Mary's," Bianchi stated, suggesting that it may take the collaboration of more than one organization to generate the right proposal. "But buildings like this have been reused."
Sosa said the group envisions working hand in hand with potential developers, local government, and the Diocese, and a variety of local institutions to help facilitate that kind of reuse.
"We welcome the public's input and ideas," said Sosa, encouraging interested individuals to contact the group.
Additionally, she said the committee is working to develop a broader marketing campaign to try to solicit more interest in the property, which Cafua Management has offered to potentially donate back to the community in exchange for support of its revised proposal for a drive-through restaurant. This usage will require approval of a special permit from the City Council, an authorization Cafua was denied last year for another planned drive-through across town at the site of the recently demolished Plunkett School.
Barry said the ad hoc committee has already received inquiries from several parties with a potential interest in taking on the building.
"We have to sound them out and see how credible they are," he said. "This is the first step in what is probably a long, long ways to go."
Former parishioner Tammy Cracolici, who is the committee's secretary, sees potential for the building in which she once worshipped.
"This could be a beautiful space for so many things," she said.
Luma's and New Creperie May Open in North Adams
Luma's Muffin & Mug may be moving down Main Street while its former location, above, becomes Oh, Crepe.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The void left by the closure of Luma's Muffin & Mug on Main Street maybe filled twice over - once by Luma's itself.
Owners Nicole and Glenn Maloney have indicated the shuttered bakery and coffee shop may have found right space on Main Street.
"Last week we did look at a space downtown that is still in need of renovation. We are planning to monitor the work in the space and to continue to work with the landlord to see if we can put together a viable plan that will work in the space and in downtown North Adams," Glenn Maloney said in an email. "Despite the recent business closures, we do believe that downtown North Adams is still a viable place to do business."
Luma's closed and moved out of the space it sublet in Berkshire Emporium in October. Nicole Maloney had cited a desire to have her own space and the ability to expand. Spaces they had looked earlier in the year had been too big so the business closed until they could find the right fit.
But the spot she left behind at Emporium may be the perfect size for Oh, Crepe!, a venture of Emily Schiavoni and her husband, Benjamin Lamb, a city councilor.
"We've wanted to do this for a long time, and it was one of those things where you need to hit the iron when it's hot," Benjamin Lamb wrote in response to questions. "Neither my wife nor I are quitting our full-time jobs, but rather are putting a manager in place to run the day to day operations."
Oh, Crepe is using an Indiegogo campaign to help launch the business; Lamb said they are applying for a loan to buy equipment. He's hoping to be in business by late January but said it could take longer.
He's sure there's room for a creperie in North Adams.
"We do, actually. It's a very utilitarian food, good for breakfast, lunch and dessert fillings," he wrote. "So we are essentially looking at it almost like a sandwich or a wrap. We have a rather thick French heritage here in North Adams, too. While we know it will take some food education to create 'converts' this is something that is easy to access, delicious, and user friendly."
The shop will focus on local produce and offer gluten-free options, as well as baked goods for the not-yet crepe converted. They've selected Assembly Coffee Roasters, a new business out of Pittsfield, for its coffees.
"On top of crepes, we'll be selling some awesome coffee and tea, as well as some standard baked goods for folks who don't want a made-to-order crepe. Additionally, we're going to sell the items used in our crepes to give easier access to locally made food items year round in the heart of downtown," said Lamb.
Glenn Maloney said they were excited to see the Lambs trying out their old space but were now looking for ways to differentiate Luma's to make sure it was "unique, sustainable, and has the potential to be as successful as the first version."
"We understand the benefits and challenges of that space and wish them well. We do also realize we must evolve our future plans, as it is critical to make sure we create diversity in our downtown," he said. "We plan to make a decision on the viability of a relaunch by the end of the year."
Adams Begins Interviews of Town Administrator Finalists
Matt Kerwood, the Richmond town administrator, was the first of two candidates interviewed on Thursday night by the Board of Selectmen.
ADAMS, Mass. – The Selectmen interviewed a former Pittsfield city councilor and a Brewster selectman on Thursday for the post of town administrator.
The two were among three finalists being interviewed; a third candidate, whose name the Selectmen declined to release, will be appear before the board on Saturday morning at 10.
The three candidates were chosen by the Town Administrator Search Committee from more than 40 applicants. The Selectmen will be making the final choice for the replacement of Jonathan Butler, who is now leading the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.
The five selectmen asked three questions each and took turns addressing the candidates.
First up was Matthew Kerwood, a Pittsfield native and former city councilor who has been town administrator for Richmond for the past five years.
Kerwood said being a town administrator is more than just "day to day management" and that the person in the post should be "weaved" into the community.
"Anybody can technically come in and manage a system, but to be an effective town administrator ... you have to embody and embrace the community," Kerwood said. "You have to interact with the various organizations, institutions, and get into the neighborhoods and understand what the issues are."
Asked if his efforts in Richmond have made it a better place, he said he helped bring Richmond into the modern age with up-to-date technology. He said he integrated the software between the school and town that streamlined productivity and cut costs. He added he revamped the town's website and created a newsletter focusing on communication and government transparency. Kerwood said he also helped create Richmond's first long-term plan.
Kerwood said collaboration and cooperation would be the key to developing and implementing a strategic plan for Adams. He said he would bring everybody together to brainstorm. He added he liked Adams' plan but would update it more frequently.
Being from Berkshire County, he said he is very aware of the challenges the town faces. Focusing on the downtown and the Greylock Glen, he said he would look to get "more feet on the ground" by filling in the vacant storefronts. The key to this is making Adams more business friendly by streamlining the permit process and offering incentives for businesses to move in so the town can "foster entrepreneurship."
He added that he sees Commercial Street as the "Gateway to Park Street" and would like to target it for improvement. He gave examples of how he worked with state representatives to secure funds for Richmond and Pittsfield, pointing to efforts to restore the Colonial Theatre, the relocation of Barrington Stage and the Central Block project. He also noted his work as a regional director of the state's Office of Business Development.
"I know where those resources are and who we need to work with," he said "I have experience in bringing in those resources not only as a local official, but as a state official."
The Selectmen asked for examples of when Kerwood has dealt with differing opinions and found a compromise.
Kerwood said Richmond is debating whether or not to keep its elementary school because of the declining population. He said some people feel strongly about keeping it and others think it should fade out as it becomes more fiscally challenging to sustain.
He said he created a committee of 17 people from both sides of the argument and that by driving meetings with data, each side is growing to understand the other perspective.
Kerwood cited his strong background in municipal finances and his ability to monitor and track budgets as a strength along with his knowledge of many aspects of small government.
"Coming from a small community you have to know every job and be able to, in some cases, perform in every job," Kerwood said. "Which is fair to say I have done just about every job in Town Hall in exception to the DPW director."
He said his greatest is weakness is sometimes he focuses too much on getting things done and neglects listening.
He described his style of management has having an open-door policy and not micromanaging, but understanding the connection between all aspects of town operations. Department heads should be trusted to do what they were hired to do, he said.
Kerwood lives in Pittsfield and had two children attending Berkshire Arts and Technology Public Charter School. The job description does not call for residency, and he feels he does not have to live in Adams to be effective.
"I bring my profession, integrity, work ethic, and my desire to see the community better when I leave it then when I started," he said. "In my opinion, and you can ask anybody in the town of Richmond, and they will tell you the same thing, it doesn't matter that I don't live in the community you get 100 percent of me."
Kerwood said he has dedicated his life to bettering Berkshire County.
"I am a Berkshire County guy born and raised, and I have absolutely no desire to live anywhere else," he said. "I have committed my entire career in the public sector to the betterment of Berkshire County."
James Foley, a businessman and Brewster selectman, was the second of three candidates for the town administrator post.
James Foley, a self-described "government nerd," has served on the Brewster Board of Selectmen for 15 years and is currently chairman.
The owner of home medical supply company and former IRS employee, he said his management style depended on communication and integration into the community to create "comfort and growth".
"The job, in my mind, does not exist in an office," Foley said. "I think mingling in the community, at the events, the supermarket, at football games, I think make people more comfortable with you as a community representative."
Foley said he has read Adams' current plan and believes in continuing its efforts and trying to pinpoint priorities. He said he would like to focus on bringing people in from surrounding communities to fill vacant storefronts and focus on recreation and art.
"There is an enormous capability toward tourism in this town," he said. "The Greylock Glen has gone forward to his point, and if you can bring it to fruition I think that is a homerun for the community, but it is only one facet and there is so many other things to do."
He also could see a nursing home rehabilitation center in Adams filled with local employees or people trained by the local colleges in a satellite classroom at the facility.
Foley said he needs to get to know the area better before weighing on its challenges.
"I need to learn a lot about its people, its history, and the background that has formed your past decisions," he said. "I don't think I can come in with a set of blinders on saying this is the only way I can do it."
Foley said his experience with obtaining state and federal funding included his board working with the state to develop Nickerson State Park Campgrounds and restore the Crosby Mansion, built in 1888.
A committee was formed to pinpoint issues in the mansion and was successful in receiving partial funding for restoration needs, a parking area, and the opening up of a mile of beach from the state, he said, adding this has been an ongoing project since the 1980s.
Foley cited the same project as an example of how works with differing opionions, saying many residents around the park did not want a parking area near their homes. He said he was able to hold community site meetings with them and ultimately found a better location for the parking lot.
When asked about his strengths, Foley said he has strong communication skills and that he believes in the constant sharing of information and listening.
He advocated for bringing more technology into government so productivity can be streamlined. He said he believes in communication and the sharing of information with town employees and the selectmen because it "makes the job easier."
He also said he would like to bring a new financial format to Adams that focuses on extrapolating budgets, being aware of leaner years, and planning accordingly to generate more free cash. He said Brewster recently had $2.2 million in free cash.
He said although the two towns are different, he believes the Brewster formula can be applied to Adams with some tweaking. He also spoke of a "Pay as You Throw" plan developed in Brewster that charged people for how much trash the threw away. He said it not only improved recycling, but saved the town over $600,000 in a 15-month period.
Foley said solutions to problems should reflect what the community is asking for and different groups need to be brought together to solve issues. He also does not like to micromanage and said it is important to provide employees with what they need to complete their jobs.
"I think when you hire quality people that have a lot of capacity you tell what you need done, you show them how to do it ... and then you let them do it," he said. "I really don't like hanging over people's shoulder. I don't like it when they hang over mine so ... I am a firm believer in if you have good quality people they will give you good quality results."
Foley said he loves government and would love to work in Adams.
"I am a government nerd; I like the work," he said. "You don't do the job for the wonderful pay, we get $1,000 a year, it's just one of those things you have to love it to do it."
Northern Berkshire Santa Fund Kicks Off Annual Fund Drive
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Santa Fund is kicking off its annual campaign drive to ensure no child in the region goes without a toy this Christmas.
iBerkshires is teaming up with the Santa Fund to help it reach this year's goal of $25,000.
It's easy to donate: Just go to the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund page and (once the fund's Paypal account is set) click the green button to pay online. Checks can also be mailed to: Landmark Federal Credit Union, Attn: Nancy Roy / Santa Fund, 131 Ashland St., North Adams, MA 01247.
Applications will be accepted until Dec. 5 and can be made out online by pushing the red button or downloaded and mailed to: True North Financial, 85 Main St., North Adams, MA 01247.
"There is a need in the county," said Brendan Bullett, treasurer of the Santa Fund board. "Last year, we served more than 600 kids."
The fund drive provides eligible families in Adams, Cheshire, Clarksburg, Florida, North Adams, Savoy and Williamstown with a $40 gift certificate to buy toys for each child up to age 13.
The fund was established by Sprague Electric employees and later was sponsored by the former North Adams Transcript for some years.
The last few years have seen some changes at the fund with the closure of the newspaper and Cariddi Sales Co., a local toy distributor that for years provided a place for parents to "shop" for presents.
Walmart has stepped in to provide the toys and iBerkshires has become the new sponsor. Landmark Credit Union, formerly the Sprague Electric Credit Union, has continued its support for the toy drive begun more than a half-century ago.
"We are pleased that we can help continue a tradition that has been serving the community for more than 50 years," Osmin Alvarez, publisher of iBerkshires, said. "Every child should have a present to open on Christmas morning and the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund plays an important role in ensuring that happens."
iBerkshires is hosting the Northern Berkshire Santa Fund page, which will also list the donors and show the progress of the fund drive.
Bullett, whose grandfather served on the first Northern Berkshire Santa Fund board, said he feels a personal responsibility for making sure the fund is successful.
"We need to do everything we can to keep it going," he said.
A Holiday Gift Shopping Extravaganza to benefit the fund will be held Saturday, Nov. 22, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Houghton Mansion on Ashland Street.
Clarksburg School Committee OKs Pre-K Feasibility Study
The School Committee hears from Town Administrator Carl McKinney, left, on the preschool proposal and food service manager Susan Berger, center, on cafeteria changes.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The School Committee on Thursday voted to move forward with a preschool feasibility study — pending a decision by the MSBA next month.
The school and town are looking at the possibility of moving the Veterans of Foreign Wars post home next to Town Hall for use as preschool.
The School Committee, however, is expected to learn in December whether it will be accepted into the Massachusetts School Building Authority program.
"I would like to hold off until MSBA decides," Superintendent Jonathan Lev said. "If we are not accepted, I would very much endorse using school-choice [funds] for a feasibility study."
The school has been applying for acceptance into the MSBA program for years. Lev said he had confirmed Thursday that the MSBA board would select the next round of candidates in December.
And he learned that any new Clarksburg School could now contain a preschool, a change indicative of the state's push for universal early education. The MSBA previously would not reimburse for preschools.
But, Lev said, it was unknown how much longer the school would have to wait if not accepted in this round.
Even if accepted, a new school might take several years to complete.
"I still would want to move full steam ahead on the VFW," Chairman Jeffrey Levanos said. "I don't think anyone wants to put the pre-K aside another year."
Town Administrator Carl McKinney, who proposed the idea, attended the meeting in case School Committee members had any questions.
He said the preliminary estimate to move the structure across the street was $42,500. He was getting estimates for engineering design.
A study of putting a preschool in Town Hall cost about $8,000; the actual preschool about $250,000.
McKinney said a brand-new basement/first floor would be built as the preschool's home. That would avoid the extra expense of retrofitting for children and handicapped accessibility. It would also allow for a physical separation between the post on the second floor and the preschool.
"I just want to make it very clear that it is in the VFW charter that they do not serve alcohol," he said. "There is no bar."
McKinney had toured the building with a representative of Larmon House Movers of Schuylerville, N.Y., who said the former church was in very good condition and thought it could be moved in one piece.
Both town and school officials have endorsed the concept of using the VFW post home as a way to also preserve a historic building and support the veterans organization, which is having financial difficulty.
"Their work has always been very benefical to the town and to the school," Lev said.
McKinney agreed, saying, "they served their country very will and I think there could be a synergy. I think there is a whole lot of good that can come out of it."
In other business, the School Committee decided to hold off on raising school lunch prices until next fall.
Food service manager Susan Berger said the U.S. Department of Agriculture determined the school should be charging at least $2.65 per lunch, instead of the current $2.50.
The prices are based on a calculation of various factors, she said, noting that North Adams is still at $2.10. She said the committee could raise the price in January but recommended waiting and charging $2.75 next fall to get ahead.
"It's going to be so high it's out of sight but that's what we have to do," Berger said. "We would be ahead of the game for next year."
The cafeteria will also be eliminating the salad bar and replacing it with an alternative lunch bar of sandwiches, premade salads, fruits, vegetable cups with dipping sauces and soup several times a week.
The USDA had awarded the cafeteria a certificate of compliance for standard meals that means an extra 6 cents reimbursement as part of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act. The salad bar, however, was not in compliance because there was no assurance that children were taking the required amounts of food.
The kids serve themselves and they're not taking the reimbursable items, Berger said. "If you walk around and you watch an 8-year-old choose a salad, a lot of it is Chun King noodles, cheese and bacon bits."
The new lunch option will begin after the Christmas break.
• The committee declined to endorse a horse racing-based fundraiser, feeling that the adult event with gambling and drinking was not suitable as a benefit for fifth- and sixth-graders and over liability concerns.
The event would have funded the two grades' field trip to Nature's Classroom. Interim Principal Karen Gallese suggested going back to the Becket overnight trip as had been done in the past as a cheaper option. She said she would be meeting with the parents on Monday and would look into getting the Nature's Classroom deposit back.
•The committee also approved expanding its Internet capability by signing on with Crocker Communications to access the broadband line the state ran to the school. The cost is $400 to connect and $99 a month; Time Warner had priced it as $160 a month.
The connection will be needed as the school begins the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, testing in the spring. All of the testing is done online.
Adams Mulls Tourism Director Post, Street Parking Permits
Police Chief Richard Tarsa asked the board about issuing permits for overnight parking.
ADAMS, Mass. — The town's first tourism director, Samantha Talora, has handed in her resignation
Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington on Wednesday said a personnel subcommittee will meet to discuss how to fill the post.
The position was created in December last year and Talora was hired in March. When contacted Thursday, she declined to discuss the reasons for her resignation and referred questions to Town Hall.
Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan at Wednesday's meeting said Talora had done a lot of good for the community and will be missed.
"We are going to miss her. In a very short time she has really created a lot of energy," Cesan said. "She has done a terrific job."
Cesan said Talora was responsible for the farmers market and many of the new and reoccurring activities in town.
In other business, Police Chief Richard Tarsa suggested a new permit-driven method to handle overnight parking in the Renfrew neighborhood.
He would issue 33 permits for parking along one side of Friend Street and have the owners move the vehicles to the other side of the street at certain times to aid with snow removal.
"Because of parking being the way it is, this is an opportunity to eliminate a lot of the congestion and free up a lot of the streets so there isn’t anything in the way," Tarsa said.
He said this may be a practice to use in other parking areas throughout town if it successful.
Cesan agreed with Tarsa and said the Department of Public Works is also on board. She said the idea has been in the works for the last couple of years.
"People just don't have a place to park and some of them just park in the lot anyway," she said. "This way it will be a little more regulated, and people will get a sticker. I would like to go forward with this and use this winter as an experiment."
She said they have discussed using a $50 fee.
• The board approved the transfer of up to $35,000 from the reserve fund for legal fees. Cesan said these fees were unpredictable and have exceeded the $15,000 that was anticipated in the budget.
She said a special counsel must be paid for negotiations with two unions and three separate negotiations for new drug and alcohol policies. More funds are also needed for unexpected litigation involving the town.
She said there is $175,000 in the reserve account and this is the first transfer from it.
"If we have these bills we have to pay them," Selectman Joseph Nowak said. "I know we don't like to do it, but what choice do we have."
• Cesan reported that the Park Street project is mostly done and the line painting is expected to take place Monday or Tuesday if the weather permits. She said painting will take place late at night.
• Superintendent Kristen Gordon also met with the board to update them on the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District and the fiscal 2016 budget that is in its preliminary stages but already has a 4.7 percent increase.
Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan fills the board in on the progress of the Park Street project.
"We are looking at ways to reconfigure and restructure to really solve these budget issues we have had in the past," Gordon said. "We are hoping this year we will have a few solid plans and then pull together and meet with the town and community members so we are working on that."
Gordon said the district's employees are aware of the budget restraints and have made sacrifices in their health insurance. She said their Preferred Provider Organizations are the lowest in Berkshire County.
The district employees are certainly aware of the budget issues in town and nobody is looking for tax increases, she said. "I'm not saying this to whine. I just want to show you the commitment of the employees."
The Soldier On supply drive for homeless veterans has started. Toiletries, shower shoes, calling cards, blankets, sheets, and towels can be dropped off at Town Hall or the Registry of Deeds or by calling Jeffrey Lefebvre at 413-743-5175.
• The winter overnight parking ban is in effect until April 1. Cars cannot be parked on the street between midnight and 7a.m.
• Town Hall will be closed Thursday and Friday, Nov. 27 and 28, for Thanksgiving.
Lanesborough Education Research Committee Loses 3 Members
Carole Castonguay leads Thursday's meeting of the Regional School Options Research Committee.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The committee looking at the town's options for educating its children finalized on Thursday the list of options it plans to study.
The Board of Selectmen convened the ad-hoc Regional School Options Research Committee this fall to look at possibilities after two members of the three-person Lanesborough School Committee pushed to withdraw from the superintendency union Lanesborough shares with Williamstown.
The board named nine residents to the research group, but three — including Lanesborough School Committee member Robert Barton and Mount Greylock School Committee member Richard Cohen — have chosen not to serve. Barton and Cohen each resigned from the panel after a contentious meeting last week.
Four members of the now six-person Research Committee soldiered on to discuss nine potential alternatives to the current arrangement. Currently, the elementary schools share central administrative services under Union 71, which in turn splits the cost of those services with Mount Greylock Regional School, the Grade 7-12 district both town's elementary schools feeds.
That arrangement has been strained in the past because of a perception among some Lanesborough residents that the town's elementary school does not receive adequate attention from the Tri-District administration.
"I'll give you one of the problems associated with our current structure," Research Committee member and Lanesborough Chairwoman Regina DiLego said. "If, say, LES feels it's not getting an equitable share of the administration's time and effort, the Lanesborough School Committee can't address it. Union 71 is the employer.
"You can always talk to the person, but if talking it out doesn't resolve it and you have to go to another level, it has to be SU71."
DiLego — the one member of the Lanesborough Committee who has not advocated for withdrawal from SU71 — said Thursday that she wishes Lanesborough had sought remedies short of talking about dissolving the union.
"If the decision is made to stay with the current structure, we could recommend there be some work toward resolving the issues," DiLego said. "If you have the clarity, you don't run into the issue, regardless of the individual.
"That's why games and everything have rules. That's why there's structure and rules to everything."
"Staying with the current structure" is the first option that the Research Committee has slated for further study.
Other options it discussed included: sharing a superintendent with Williamstown and not Mount Greylock; joining a union with an elementary school not associated with the regional school (as Lanesborough did prior to joining SU71); joining a pre-K through 12 district with Mount Greylock; forming such a district and inviting other elementary school districts; joining a "super region" with a district like North Adams, Adams/Cheshire, or Central Berkshire; keeping students at Lanesborough through eighth grade and tuitioning Grades 9 through 12 to another high school; and becoming a charter school.
The committee decided a couple of the options were not viable, including the super region, creating a pre-K through 12 district in the town and the charter school route.
But the other alternatives will receive further study, starting with the committee's next meeting on Dec. 4.
One of those alternatives likely will be put to town meeting in both Williamstown and Lanesborough in 2015. The Mount Greylock School Committee plans to invite both towns into a pre-K through 12 district.
A member of the Research Committee and Lanesborough Finance Committee said the Research Committee's work can help inform the town meeting vote.
"We're providing information to the residents to make a vote on regionalization," Ronald Tinkham said.
Pittsfield Councilor Files Petition To Restrict Mayoral Employment
Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont has filed a petition to ensure a mayor is available while City Hall is open.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council is being asked to change city ordinances to ensure a mayor is available during working hours.
Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont has filed a petition that will bar the mayor from working for another employer while City Hall is open.
"I'm not going to say the mayor can't work another job, just that they can't work it during City Hall hours," Clairmont said on Thursday.
"If someone wants to go work at night, that's fine, as long as it doesn't affect the running of the city."
The discussion first began during the City Council's debate over pay raises for the mayoral position.
Clairmont suggested a clause that would completely prevent the mayor from working another job.
However, after about a month, Clairmont backed off from the complete ban. He says as long as the outside work isn't interfering with the administrative duties of running city, he doesn't have a problem with it.
However, a mayor should be available and running the city during businesses hours and right now, there is nothing to ensure that, he said. With a four-year mayor to be elected in the next cycle, Clairmont thought it was important to place some expectations on the job.
"There should be some expectations and parameters to the job," Clairmont said. "The same rules that apply to the other municipal employees should apply to the mayor."
Being an elected official, the mayor doesn't have to answer to the City Council on such a matter so that is why the petition calls for a change in the charter.
One argument is that the charter intentionally left off any restrictions to help encourage business and other leaders to run for office.
"The way I wrote this, I don't think it would prevent someone with outside employment from running," Clairmont said.
Triggering the conversation wasn't just the lack of parameters to the position. Current Mayor Daniel Bianchi has been highly criticized by Clairmont and others for working a second job.
"I don't believe the public is being short changed," Bianchi said in a recent interview.
The mayor says he reviews contracts "from time to time" for Global Montello. But, he is available 24/7 as mayor and works more than 50 hours each week, he said.
Bianchi said nobody counts the number of hours the mayor volunteers with community or church groups and characterized the debate as more of a political one.
"Many mayors are engaged in many things. Talking to other mayors, they own businesses on the side," Bianchi said.
"But you have to remember, we work in an atmosphere that is politically charged. As soon as I became mayor there were a few city councilors working furiously so that I wouldn't be re-elected."
He called the first debate "bad politics" and "vicious." Clairmont says it isn't a political maneuver.
"It's not personal. I think it is sad that the mayor seems to think this is personal because it is not," Clairmont said.
Bianchi that many municipal employees — from cops to firefighters to teachers — have outside employment.
"We live at a point in time when you can't dictate that to people. A lot of our municipal employees work other jobs," Bianchi said.
Clairmont agrees — citing a mayor who ran a restaurant. But, those employees are required to be available during their working hours, he said.
The petition will go before the City Council next week. Likely, the petition will be passed onto a subcommittee for further review.
Pittsfield Sets Fiscal 2015 Property Tax Rates
Connie Boyle told the City Council that the Berkshire Hills County Club has seen its taxes increase by 400 percent in the last decade.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After about an hour and half discussion, the City Council voted in favor of the administration's proposed tax classification.
The council set the tax rates for fiscal 2015 at $18.06 per $1,000 for residential properties and $36.62 per $1,000 of commercial.
The rates raise the taxes on the average single-family home by $131.05 per year.
The rate divides up the needed $73.5 million from taxes to balance the $148 million budget.
The city is once again going with a split tax rate — charging businesses more than residential properties — but has moved slightly closer to a level rate than last year.
Last year, property owners were paying 63.93 percent of the overall tax levy and this year they are being asked to pay 64.19 percent with a shift of 1.66 toward the commercial side.
"The average single family tax bill is $3,179.73. Last year the average single-family tax bill was $3,048.69, which is an increase of $131.05," Board of Assessors Chairwoman Paula King said.
King outlined the change in the taxes. The budget increase and, as a result, the needed revenue from taxes grew by $3.1 million. Total property values dropped by .38 percent or about $12 million.
Ward 6 Councilor John Krol twice tried to move the commercial and residential tax rates closer together. Krol eventually wants the city to eliminate the split rate and instead charge one property rate.
His first motion sought to charge residential properties to $18.18 per $1,000 and businesses to $36.19 per $1,000. That translated to increasing residential taxes by an average of $152.17 per year and commercial $402.91 per year. That was denied in a 7-4 vote.
Krol tried again— moving closer to the administration's proposal — with rates of $18.11 for residential properties and commercials at $36.42. That proposal would translate to $139.85 per year for residential and $519.19 for commercial. That also failed in an 6-5 vote.
Krol's opinion is that the city isn't business friendly enough when it comes to taxes.
Connie Boyle, president of Berkshire Hills Country Club, agrees. He told the City Council at Thursday's hearing that the golf course and resort venue will see its taxes rise by $4,000.
"We don't have children that go to school. We don't have garbage pickup," he said. "That has a tremendous impact on businesses."
Over the last decade, Berkshires Hills taxes have risen by 400 percent. Meanwhile, the golf course pays for permits, inspections and licenses, all which cost money as well. Boyle made similar statement during last year's hearing.
"It makes doing business in Pittsfield very difficult," Boyle said.
Boyle said he is willing to pay more on his own residential property if it helps to attract more businesses. But resident Robert O'Connor disagreed.
O'Connor is on a fixed income and he told the councilors that he is considering moving out of town because he can't afford the residential prices. He questioned the City Council's priorities in setting the budget — citing the recently completed airport renovation and the upcoming Taconic High School project.
"I am totally disgusted with this council," O'Connor said. "Every year, we keep raising taxes."
Hearing both residents and commercial property owners say similar things, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi voted against the spending plan that was approved in June.
"These are tough economic times and there are a lot of people struggling out there. I hate to see people forced out of their homes and businesses are not coming here," Morandi said on Thursday.
Morandi and Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully were the only two to vote in June against fiscal 2015 budget that calls for a $4.1 million increase in spending. Morandi says he is worried about the impact building a new school will have on the budget once that is approved.
Board of Assessors Chairwoman Paula King outlined the accounting that led to the tax rate options.
"We need to consolidate some things and departments on the school side and the city side," he said.
Tully said the city has the 7th highest commercial rate and at the same time, residents are struggling. She said she hopes that eventually the city will craft a budget that calls for no increases in taxes.
Krol, however, said the councilors' nays were"disingenuous" because neither one offered any dramatic cuts or increases in revenues.
Council Vice President Christopher Connell said he isn't calling for cuts but rather looking for ways to raise revenues — either through fines or fees.
"I think that is the better solution right now. Let's really attack the line items on the revenue side," he said, volunteering to sit on a subcommittee to look into revenues.
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo encouraged residents to spend their money with businesses inside the city limits to feed economic development and raise city revenues.
"The more dollars you spend inside city limits is economic development," Caccamo said.
Nonetheless, after Krol's two attempts to move the burden more toward the residential side, Councilor at Large Churchill Cotton motioned to keep the burden the same as last year. That would have resulted in residential rates of $17.98 for residential and $36.89 for commercial.
That motion, too, was denied and the City Council approved the proposed shift and residential factor. The proposed factor passed 8-3.
For Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli, the tax classification hearing is his "least favorite" meeting of the year. The hearing sets the rates to pay for a budget already approved. While he did vote in favor of this year's budget, he gave a shot over the bow to department heads about the next.
"Obviously there are some fixed costs where there is nothing you can do about it. ... The residents and the commercial are experiencing tough times," he said. "We knew what the final figures were tonight when we voted in June. But what needs to be said is that next June, I would like to certainly ask, caution warn, department heads and the School Committee to please take a close look at their budgets when they come next year."
Thursday's hearing also weighed using additional income sources to offset taxes. Resident and former School Committee member Terry Kinnas suggested using the $5 million or so left in the General Electric Economic Development Fund.
Connell suggested using more of the city's $4.7 million in certified free cash. During the budget process, the City Council approved using $2 million of last year's free cash to offset property taxes.
"I don't advise using any more free cash," said Director of Finance Susan Carmel. "Our free cash is at the level we were at in 2003."
The free cash acts as reserves and there is already about $1 million worth of requests expected in the next few months, she said. In all, the reserves are just 3.2 percent of the total budget.
Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont agreed with Carmel and expressed concern with even using the $2 million. Clairmont said since the city is borrowing millions of dollars for the upcoming school project, those reserves need to be healthy to get the best bond rating.
"We have to stop using this amount of free cash to offset the tax rate," he said. "We will pay dearly in the long run if we don't keep the bond rating where it is now."
Lanesborough Elementary Top Level School in MCAS
Secretary of Education Matt Malone points to Lanesborough's certificate during a recent visit.
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — The Elementary School is again one of the top schools in the state.
The school recently received its standardize testing scores and has ranked as a Level 1 — the highest designation — for the second year in a row.
"We are Level 1 for the second year in a row and that is not easy to accomplish," said Principal Ellen Boshe. "It is the support of the community that allows us to have the services we provide."
Based on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing, the state sets target scores that measure both the grow of students throughout their educational career and the school's ability to narrow proficiency gaps. For Lanesborough, a score of 75 meets the state's target and Lanesborough Elementary scored 95 for all students and a 98 for students with high needs.
"We were certainly right at the top of the list," Boshe said.
The principal added that reaching the Level 1 designation two years in a row is significant. The state sets progressively higher goals to close the proficiency gap, making it more difficult for school's to repeat good performances.
"Every year it becomes harder and harder because you've made improvements and need to make more," Boshe said.
School Committee member James Moriarty said, "at some point, you can only improve so much."
The sixth-graders exceeded state averages in both subjects tested — math and English. A total of 84 percent of the students were proficient or higher in English compared to the state average of 68 percent. Only 13 percent of the sixth graders needed improvement and only 3 percent were failing.
In math, 78 percent of the students were proficient or higher compared to the state average of 60 percent. Only 16 percent of the students needed improvement and 6 percent was failing.
In the fifth grade, where science is tested, 68 percent of the students were proficient or higher in science compared to the state average of 53 percent.
The third-graders also showed impressive numbers with 74 percent of the students scoring proficient or higher in both reading and math. That is compared to state averages of 57 percent for reading and 68 percent for math.
The scores earned the school a certificate from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Lanesborough MCAS Scores 2014
Pittsfield Committee Supports Changing Public Health Nurse Position
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A move to revamp the position of public health nurse was received favorably by the City Council's Committee on Ordinance and Rules, which voted unanimously on Monday to recommend the council approve the proposed changes and salary for the new post.
Director of Public Health Gina Armstrong said the position, which plays a key role in monitoring and combating infectious diseases locally, has gone unfilled.
"In our attempts to fill the position we've had real challenges finding qualified nurses," said Armstrong, who indicated that while the job includes managerial as well as nursing duties, the compensation offered has been less than what many starting nurses are paid in the area.
Currently the position is classed at a pay rate of $23.06 to $23.52 per hour; in the revised position of "Public Health Nurse Manager" that amount would increase to anywhere from $28.03 to $32.30, which would bring the annual salary for this part-time position above $51,000 a year.
"The current rate is really not competitive to find the candidate we need," Armstrong told the committee.
"From a responsibility perspective, I certainly think it would be difficult to recruit at that salary," agreed Councilor Jonathan Lothrop.
Under the proposed revision to the personnel ordinance, the public health nurse manager has a voluminous job description that includes a variety of nursing and administrative functions. This individual would be responsible for all public nursing functions, monitoring and treating communicable disease threats, conducting data surveillance, and developing an annual action plan for public health outreach to the community.
In addition to existing functions such as overseeing immunization for city employees, the public health nurse manager would also help the director in a variety of tasks, such as inspecting camp health records, food-borne illness reports, and "oversee education and supervision to contracted per diem and volunteer nurses."
"It's the kind of thing you don't think you need, until all of a sudden you really need it," added Lothrop, who along with the rest of the committee voted unanimously to recommend the council accept the changes.
North Berkshire Waste District Reports Successful Paint Collection
Sandy Totter fills in the Solid Waste District committee on the recent paint collection.
ADAMS, Mass. — The Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District deemed this year's paint shed program a success.
Program Coordinator Sandy Totter met with the committee last week to go over details of the paint round up.
She said both Cheshire and Williamstown collected 600 gallons each of oil-based paint to be recycled. She said Cheshire also has seven 55-gallon drums of latex paint and two 30-gallon drums of spray paint. Williamstown has six 55-gallon drums of latex paint and one drum of spray paint.
"We have been doing it since '98 so we aren't going to find that last can of paint," Totter said. "I'd say we had another wildly successful collection this year."
Totter said only eight collections were held this year rather than the usual 14, but collected just as much paint.
She said 90 percent of the paint is shipped off through a vendor and recycled. Some of the paint has never been opened and can be used. She said 10 percent is sent back to the community.
"We have been shipping it to a facility in Detroit, and I am not sure where it is going to go this year because it is a new company, but it's not good to have all that paint in your house," Totter said. "Fire Departments love this program."
The committee also approved the purchase of 3,000 car litter bags for $600 that will be handed out at the transfer stations on Earth Day, April 22, 2014.
Windsor representative Robert Bradley said the small plastic bags will help keep Northern Berkshire clean as well as advertising the waste district.
"Instead of throwing a McDonald's cup out the window they might roll it up and throw it in the litter bag," Bradley said. "We can get some reasonably and pass them out to see if there is any interest in it, but it gets our name out there and it gets people thinking."
Totter also discussed adding antifreeze collection to the district's services. She said she looked at Colrain's model and that the collection system consists of a steel drum and a funnel.
"We collected 100 gallons last time at the hazardous waste collection, and I think a lot of my phone calls lately, for whatever reason, are about antifreeze," Totter said. "That's why I thought if it wasn't a big deal maybe we should try it."
Lanesborough representative Joseph Szczepaniak Jr. said he was not sure if people would have a use for the service.
"Forty years ago, when everybody changed their antifreeze," Szczepaniak said. "Nobody changes it anymore and when they have a problem, it is on the ground anyways."
Totter said it is not something the district would do until spring.
Totter also reported that the district received a grant award of $1,500 from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
She said Cheshire, Williamstown and Windsor also received grant rewards that can be used for transfer station upgrades that range up to $1,400.
She added that in October, five towns had savings in recycling over trash. These towns include Adams, Cheshire, Hinsdale, Lanesborough, and Savoy.
"Savoy saved $309 by recycling and that's pretty darn good for a small town," Trotter said. "So it was a very good month."
Pittsfield Rules Panel Rejects 'Debate' Idea, Gets Records Tip
City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan told the Ordinance & Rules Committee that councilors could make informal requests for documents and not be charged for them.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A City Council subcommittee looked dimly on a proposal to alter its public input procedures from a city resident who has twice been chastised for being out of order at city meetings in recent months.
The petition, put forth by Pittsfield resident Craig Gaetani, seeks to amend these strictures to permit members of the council to engage in direct questioning by a member of the public at its open microphone and allow them additional time for this purpose.
"When a speaker goes over their three minutes allotted time, any councilor who wants to hear more from the citizen speaker can request additional time to allow the speaker to continue," wrote Gaetani, who was not present at Monday's Ordinance & Rules Committee meeting, in his petition. "When all the councilors are through asking information of the citizen speaker, then they can announce that the speaker's time is up. This is a very democratic way to ensure that decisions are made by the council and not just the Council President."
"It's not a debating society," stated Councilor Jonathan Lothrop. "I don't believe that this petition is in proper and good order, for the health of the body, or for this community."
"I wholeheartedly agree,” said Council President Melissa Mazzeo, pointing out that the council's procedures are in keeping with Massachusetts General Laws governing public bodies.
The councilors voted unanimously against the petition, which was put forth by Gaetani on Nov. 5.
"We could be here all night," Councilor Kevin Morandi said of the structure proposed in the petition. "These meetings run long enough as it is."
The committee also voted to table a petition from Councilor Barry Clairmont seeking to make record requests free of charge for city councilors.
The at-large councilor said he put forth the petition following a request of records pertaining to the city's lease of space at 100 North St., for which he was charged $63.95 for 63 pages of emails pertaining to the rental move, much of which consisted of forwards and email headers.
"In my own three years as councilor, I've never been charged,” Clairmont told the committee. "I believe because this request went through the mayor's office, that there was a decision made that I was going to be charged for this."
Clairmont noted that according to the state's handbook on records, public record keepers are "encouraged" to waive fees, but are not obligated to.
"When other public officials have road blocks put in front of them in order to get records, to make sure things are working the way that they're supposed to be working, that's bad government," said Clairmont, who said he believed neither city councilors nor School Committee members should be charged fees associated with such requests.
According to City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan, fees for such information requests are required only if the party requesting formally acknowledges it as a "public records request," whereas more informal requests that do not use this wording can be provided free of such costs.
"Municipal officials do not have to make public records requests. They can simply come ask the custodian of those records, and they will get them," Degnan told the committee.
"Once you say those three words, 'public records request,' the public records law applies," said Degnan. "If you don't say it, it doesn't."
"I'm finding it a little hard to wrap my head around the fact that we can just walk in an office and say 'I'd just like to have these minutes, or this information,' and not utter those words," said Mazzeo, suggesting the committee table the petition until it had more time to research legalities surrounding the issue.
"I've never heard of any department that waives charges [for an official records request]," said Degnan, saying she believed such action would be illegal. Informal requests, the solicitor said, need not be subjected to such charges.
"All of this could have been avoided by simply asking [for the documents]," Degnan told the committee.
In light of Degnan's testimony, the committee agreed to table the petition.
Clarksburg Selectmen Revisit Special Gravel Removal Permit
Attorney Stan Parese said the failure to include the two-year limit on his client's gravel removal permit meant the permit was still viable. Selectmen said they'd get their own legal opinion.
CLARKSBURG, Mass. — The Selectmen will seek town counsel's advice over an expired special gravel removal permit.
Michael Milazzo and his attorney, Stanley Parese of Parese Sabin Smith & Gold LLP,, met with the board Monday night and claimed that the expiration of Millazzo’s gravel removal special permit is void.
Parese said the permit failed to mention a two-year expiration date and no one challenged the mistake in the allotted 20-day appeal period. Because Milazzo continued to work and use resources on his gravel business under the belief he was covered under the permit, the permit cannot be revoked, he said.
"After the 20-day appeal period it's forever hold your peace, because routinely people are off spending hundreds of thousands … based on the fact they have been given permission to move forward," Parese said. "This is statewide statutory law."
The board decided the issue should go to town counsel first, but felt the permit did not have to state an expiration date because both the town's zoning bylaws and Massachusetts General Law state that there is a two-year expiration date on all special permits.
Selectman William Schrade Jr. said, in his opinion, the laws written are very clear and stating that on the permit would just be redundant. He said Parese's argument implies that whenever the town wrote a special permit, it would have to spell out every law already written.
"It's spells it out pretty clear, and it was adopted by the attorney general," Schrade said. "It is pretty clear, and there is no gray area ... I'm not an attorney, but it is not too often I see 2 plus 2 equals 4."
Resident Paula Wells attended the meeting and referenced a 2006 news article from the North Adams Transcript that she said claimed the permit had a two-year expiration date in order to protect the residential area from becoming an industrial area.
"People have built houses up there and we would have never had done that if it had been adjacent to an industrial area," Wells said. "It is unfair to the neighbors to change the character of the neighborhood after all these years."
Wells said the operation is too loud and causes disturbances in the neighborhood.
"We hear the screener it is a noisy nasty thing; we don't like it and we can't live that way," she said. "Gravel banks belong in an industrial zones not on the side of a beautiful mountain where it can project noise outward to everybody."
Milazzo responded and said he prefers not to argue at the meeting and just wishes the select board listen to facts.
"I think there is a lot of half-truths being spread around this town about me, and I would like for the board to at least listen to the facts not just what feelings are," Milazzo said.
Milazzo acquired a one-year permit in 2008 after filing suit over the lengthy conditions attached to the 2006 permit. It's not clear if he had refiled for permits since but residents who searched the 2012 Selectmen's minutes said they could not find a recent one.
The issue had attracted neighbors' attention because of Milazzo's recent request to amend the permit to allow a rock crusher and extend the hours. The gravel bed at the top of Wheeler Avenue has been in existence for decades although not consistently operated.
None of the selectmen on the board were present during the original permit request. They said they had received calls from people who claim there is rock crusher illegally operating on the premise but they know that not to be true. The board toured the site in September.
Schrade said his opinion will rest on what town counsel says and he just wants to do what is right and legal.
"I am looking just at what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong," he said. "If our lawyer comes back and says Mr. Milazzo is right in his thinking, then we have to relook every time we have to do a special permit."
Parese said the best way to handle the issue is in incremental steps.
"I am not here on a posture of 'bang on your table'; I am saying let's have this conversation and we will come back," Parese said. "I don't want to go ready firing into this, and we are going into the winter so there isn't great urgency."
Although Parese said the issue may not go to court, Schrade said he believes ultimately it will.
"I want to make sure it is done right so we can make sure we have done everything by the letter of the law," he said. "Then we will let the court system play itself out because no matter who wins or loses, this is ending up in court."
The Selectmen voted to request an opinion from town counsel and meet again with Milazzo in December.
Area Responders Prepared for Possible Ebola Cases
The Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee discussed the topic on Wednesday morning. The committee consists of fire, police, emergency managers, and EMTs including the four pictured here: Lenox Fire Chief Dan Clifford, Dalton Fire Chief Gerald Cahalan, BMC Emergency Management Director Lucy Britton and Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski.
LENOX, Mass. — The hospital and area first-responders aren't naive enough to think an Ebola patient can't come here.
So over the last six weeks, they have been making sure they know what to do if that happens.
Now, area responders have plans right from start. A protocol has been developed for dispatchers with certain questions as to help determine if the caller is a suspected Ebola case.
From there, a system to alert the responders, state Department of Health and the hospital has been arranged.
The first case was found in the United States in September. By the middle of October, area responders had already outlined their own response plans.
"We have been in the planning process for weeks on the whole subject of Ebola," Brian Andrews had said on Oct. 15.
Andrews heads Emergency Medical Services Corp. of Berkshire County and the organization worked with ambulance services throughout the county and Western Massachusetts trying to ensure "everybody has a universal approach to it."
Those protocols have since been developed and two weeks ago, Berkshire Medical Center held a simulation that started with the ambulances. Both BMC staffers and emergency medical technicians participated.
"Everything went very well as far as I am concerned," said Emergency Management Director Lucy Britton on Wednesday during the Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee's monthly meeting.
The hospital will have hazmat suits and proper disinfectants will be made to clean the ambulances. The patient will be dropped off in a certain location with health agents closing off the area to prevent others from accessing it — and preventing the ambulance from leaving uncleaned.
The patient will be taken through a series of decontamination rooms including a "negative pressure room."
"There is nothing fast about dealing with an Ebola patient," Britton said.
Britton said BMC is going to have to be ready to admit the patient. The Department of Public Health will have the say over where the patient would be transferred to but BMC would have the patients for at least 10 hours.
One aspect Britton suggested all responders should practice is getting in and out of the hazmat suits.
"You really have to practice donning and doffing," she said of the way the suits, particularly in getting out of them in a safe manner. "It almost takes three people."
The impermeable suits are something Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski thinks first responders are going to have to get used to. He said he wouldn't be surprised if future regulations require responders to carry hazardous material equipment.
Since the first Ebola patient brought it into the United States, emergency responding organizations nationwide have been ordering appropriate equipment.
"I ordered stuff back in October and still haven't gotten it," Czerwinski said of the backlog of orders on the equipment. "It is a hurry up and wait thing."
The county does have an advantage to other parts of the state in that there are fewer numbers of responders so ensuring everyone is on the same page is easier. All three of the county's emergency facilities are under Berkshire Medical Center's umbrella so the procedures are the same in all three.
The effectiveness of the Berkshire's communications and team work was highlighted by Czerwinski on Wednesday morning in regard to a recent car crash on Route 20 in Hancock.
That accident posed a lot of difficulty for responders. A truck had gone off the road, crashing into trees and crushing the cab. The truck settled at a steep angle on a muddy and slippery hill. It took more than two hours each to extricate the driver and get to the passenger.
The response include fire departments from Hancock, Pittsfield, Richmond and Hinsdale, and Lebanon Valley and Chatham, N.Y.; Pittsfield Police and Massachusetts and New York state police; and the state Department of Transportation. In total more than 30 responders were on scene.
"For a motor vehicle accident, I have never seen so much equipment on the ground," said Hancock Fire Chief Dave Rash.
The organizations all worked together — whether it was closing roads or helping each up get footholds on the steep, muddy climb - Czerwinski said. Eventually, the two victims were airlifted out of New Lebanon, N.Y. and to Albany (N.Y.) Medical Center.
"My guys were totally impressed," Czerwinski said. "Everything was controlled and coordinated."