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State Secretary Ash Preps Berkshire Leaders For Baker's Economic Plans
Jay Ash, secretary of housing and economic development, gives the keynote speech at Friday's economic development luncheon. See more photos here. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The New England Patriots in the late 1990s were looking to move to Hartford, Conn.   At the time, Jay Ash was the economic director in Chelsea and he launched an effort to bring the team there instead.   He used his connections to set up a meeting with Patriots owner Robert Kraft and arrived with arms full of paperwork outlining a 60-acre site the organization could build a stadium. It was the ideal spot in the center of a highly populated area and close to public transit.   However, the site was made up of some 50 parcels owned by 40 different owners. Kraft told Ash to come back to him when all of the parcels were merged into one and owned by only one person.   "I had done everything I thought I needed to do to be successful. I got in to one of the most influential businesses leaders in the commonwealth, who by the way has a special place in his heart for Chelsea, but I wasn't able to close the deal because I wasn't prepared for success," Ash told local business leaders at the Crowne Plaza during a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce luncheon on Friday.   A few years later, he caught wind that the Federal Bureau of Investigation wanted a new regional headquarters. This time he found an ideal 5-acre parcel and then put the effort in to put the pieces together. "I was prepared for success and as a result, I was able to get the FBI headquarters out of Boston."    A nine-story building is now under construction that will employ 500 or more FBI agents. It is eyed to be a "transformative project" for the city.   Ash has now been picked as the secretary of housing and economic development for Gov. Charlie Baker's administration. He called on local business leaders to align themselves in a way to be successful in growing the economy. Right now, Ash is working on nine different projects that could result in hundreds of jobs in the location they finally choose and the Berkshires could be one of them.    "People have their eyes on your area of the commonwealth," Ash said.   The secretary says the governor's cabinet is crafting policies to build the economy. Rising to the top is a prepared workforce and the administration intends to put an emphasis on education and job training, he said.    "I've heard time and again from businesses that 'it is not taxes that I am most concerned about. It is not regulation that I am most concerned about. It is workforce that I am most concerned about,' " Ash said. "We need to make sure we have a ready and trained workforce."   That trained workforce isn't necessarily the four-year college type jobs that most people envision but rather a growth in science, technology, engineering, and math fields. He said policies will be developed to help get students in middle school looking at modern manufacturing as a potential career path.   "We need to continue to work on the public relations side of the workforce in manufacturing and other industries to help people understand that while it is great for our kids to aspire to go off to four-year colleges, sometimes it is great to aspire to having a great job with great firms," Ash said.   State Sen. Benjamin Downing agrees, saying technology will provide the "baseline" of a new economy.   "When we are at our best, we are forward looking and forward thinking," the senator said.   The city already has a jumpstart on creating that workforce, according to Mayor Daniel Bianchi, especially with the City Council's recent vote to construct a new Taconic High School. The school will provide top notch vocational education and be aligned with the local colleges to create a pathway, he said.   State Sen. Benjamin Downing serves as the emcee of Friday's event. Meanwhile, Baker's administration is also taking a close look at competitiveness, he said, with two concurrent studies. Those will look at taxes, housing costs, energy costs, and infrastructure among the issues facing businesses.    "There are 2,250 regulations in the commonwealth and we are looking at each one of the 2,250 and asking the basic question: what can we do about these regulations that will make it easier for businesses to operate while we still promote the great quality of life we want to have," Ash said.    Housing also also risen to the top, Ash said, in a lack of both housing that is affordable for the "middle income" residents and market-rate housing in the downtowns of gateway cities.   "The cost of housing and the availability of housing threatens our economy. We need to do better at making housing available for all of our residents," Ash said.   He said there is a "gap" in housing options for middle-income and there is a need to revitalize downtown areas by bringing in residents with disposable incomes to support downtown shops.   "We are looking at policies that will help create market rate housing in places that aren't named Boston, that aren't named Cambridge, that aren't named Somerville. We believe introducing market rate housing will have an impact on the local economy," Ash said.   Overall, Ash said he organizes businesses sectors into three "buckets": high-growth industries like life science, emerging technologies, and traditional industries. The administration's policies are aimed to support all three of those sectors, he said.   Ash spoke at a luncheon Friday following a STEM panel discussion led by U.S. Rep. Richard Neal and featuring leaders in business, education, and politics. The focus of that discussion was the growth of high-tech industries along I-90 from New York into Massachusetts.
Clark Art Unveils Super Bowl Prize
Clark Art curator Richard Rand explains some of the details of 'Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast,' on display at the Clark through July 19 because of a Super Bowl bet. WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Malcolm Butler's Super Bowl interception had the feeling of the fantastical so it's appropriate that the Clark Art Institute's winning payout would be just as dramatic. "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast," the prize of the #MuseumBowl between the Seattle Art Museum and the Clark was described Friday by Richard Rand, the institute's Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator of Paintings and Sculpture, as "extremely theatrical and mostly imaginary." In the spirit of cheerful cross-state posturing in such contests, the Clark had found a willing a partner in the Seattle museum for a gamble of fine art against the prowess of their regions' football teams. SAM staked Albert Bierstadt's expansive and detailed "Puget Sound" on the Seattle Seahawks' taking the Super Bowl; the Clark, the smaller but no less dramatic and sweeping "West Point, Prout's Neck" by Winslow Homer, set on a turbulent Maine coast. Needless to say, the Clark walked away the winner of the #MuseumBowl and on Friday unveiled the nearly 4 1/2 by 7 foot masterpiece with the swinging of the main museum's new entry doors. "We decided we'd put up a great painting representative of our museum and our part of the country," Rand said, before taking down a Patriots flag on the glass doors that blocked the view of the painting. "Whoever was the Super Bowl winner would receive it with all the expenses paid by the museum or institution." "Puget Sound" will stay at the Clark through July 19; on Monday, Patriots Day, football fans showing their affiliation for the Patriots (or even the Seahawks) will be admitted for free. Bierstadt, a German native, wasn't a stranger to Massachusetts, having grown up in New Bedford. He joined a number of expeditions to the West Coast and was entranced with the majesty of its landscapes. Stylistically part of the Hudson River School movement, he used sketches and photographs he had made out West to paint large landscapes from his studio in New York. "It really transformed his life and his art," said Rand of Bierstadt's first western journey in 1859. "He returned to New York and really began to develop a reputation as really the foremost painter of the American Western landscape." His paintings are intricately detailed but not necessarily accurate. It was not so much the incredible landscape, Rand said, but "to introduce more or less accurate depictions of local inhabitants and customs." "It's kind of a big Cecile B. DeMille cinematic performance," he said. The painting was purchased by a New York collector with shipping interests in the Northwest and traveled to the West Coast. On either side of the Bierstadt hang Homers, including "Prout's Neck" that the curators were already mentally packing up for a trip to Seattle before Russell Wilson's pass unexpectedly resulted in a Patriot's victory. "It's smaller in scale but no less powerful in its way," Rand said. "You can see it's equally dramatic ... the rocky shore and this spectacular sunset, we felt it was in every way an equivalent painting to the Bierstadt." Where the highly detailed "Puget Sound" was painted miles and years away from Bierstadt's western sojourn, "Prout's Neck" and "Eastern Point Prout's Neck" were created with broad strokes by Homer along the Maine coastline where he spent his final year.      The Clarks liked Homer and Frederic Remington's Westerns, but there is nothing quite like the Bierstadt in the permanent collection, Rand said. "We really felt it was a great opportunity to attract a wide audience to the Clark who might not ordinarily come every day," he said. "This is a special outreach program. I'm sure there's a lot of connections we can make between fine art and football, I'm sure you agree."
BFAIR Speaker Example in Overcoming Challenges
John Anton has become an advocate for self-determination and legislative adviser for Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress. He spoke about his experience in living with Down syndrome at BFAIR's annual breakfast. See more photos here. WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — When John Anton was born in 1965, his mother was told he wouldn't ever throw a ball and probably wouldn't live past his teens. Anton not only broke those low expectations, he's become a forceful advocate for self-determination for himself and others who have Down syndrome. "Labels belong on jars, not people," Anton told the Berkshire Family and Individual Resources annual breakfast meeting on Friday morning at the Williams Inn. The Haverhill native told how he attended a Montessori school but "felt segregated, devalued and found it hard to find my own voice." He later graduated from an agricultural school and was shuttled into fast-food and grocery-bagging jobs. Those jobs weren't challenging enough, he said. He wanted a job were he could wear a suit and carry a briefcase. He found his dream job advocating for independence and as a motivational speaker. He works as a legislative intern for state Rep. Tom Sannicandro, D-Framingham, and as legislative specialist with the Massachusetts Down Syndrome Congress. He was the National Down Syndrome Society's 2010 Advocate of the Year and interned at the U.S. Capitol for U.S. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington, among a number of other accomplishments. Anton was particularly proud of his advocacy on behalf of the "Real Lives" bill enacted in Massachusetts last year, and on a national criminal background checks legislation for providers for the developmentally disabled. Real Lives gives more power to clients to determine and guide services being provided. "I control my own choices and control my own funds and my own staff," Anton said, including hiring a word processing tutor and a physcial trainer. He was particularly proud of his work getting the Department of Mental Retardation to change its name to Department of Developmental Services. "This was a long and hard battle but all our voices were finally heard and we were part of history by doing this," Anton said. It wasn't done alone, he said, and looked toward his role models for inspiration. "I had dreams and goals, with their guidance I'm continuing to move toward my dreams," he said. For Anton, it was about providing opportunities for success, a mission close to the heart of BFAIR. Now celebrating its 20th anniversary, it furnishes a wide range of programs from support groups to rehabilitation to employement for more than 400 people in North and Central County. It operates 11 residences along with its main offices in North Adams. "The growth has been possible by the diversity of our programs that we offer, the superb staffing that provides those services, a kind and welcoming community in which we all live and generous sponsors like Greylock Federal Credit Union," Board Vice President Antoinette Cariddi said, giving kudos this year's breakfast sponsor. Cariddi noted that not only had the program grown 167 percent since it started in 1996, it had become one of North County's major employers, jumping from 147 employees in 2007 to 243 last year. "An interesting statistic, in 2011, the agency processed 694 applicants for employment, in 2014, that number grew to 1,042," she said. "Congratulations to our wonderful HR department for managing such a significant number of applicants for employment. In order to attract the qualified applicant pool, wages increased by 31 percent over the last five years." Some of those employees were honored with awards on Friday, including Board of Directors Award recipient Robert Lemaire, who maintains all of the agency's properties. Other recognition awards are here. Executive Director Rich Weisenflue said BFAIR could not make it without the support of individuals and businesses in the community. "There was a fairly rough patch in the 2000s and we made it through that," he said, looking over the packed dining room. Remarking on "myths of vulnerability" from a recent book he'd read (Renee Brown's "Daring Greatly,") he acknowledged that "we can't go it alone.   "What is extra special to me this morning as we look back at those 20 years, including the rough times, we never did go alone. All of our services, community-based, serving the members of our community ... and when I look out at this audience I see so many people and busineses that played a role in our success." It was a bittersweet breakfast for the leader of one business, Advanced Flexible Composites of Adams, which is relocating. The company, last year's Employer of the Year, was this year given a special Champion Award for its partnership with BFAIR and its Arcadia Employment Services over the past decade. "I am honored and overwhelmed but I am not deserving of this ... it's BFAIR and their clients that are deserving of this. All I give is opportunity its you guys who do the real work," said Michael Baker, chief sales and marketing officer, who also credited AFC's owners, the Lewis family of Illinois, for making participation possible. "Our day-to-day relationship with BFAIR is going to change greatly and that saddens me because the folks at BFAIR have become family to me, they truly have, and I'll miss them dearly." He urged those in attendance to contact their legislators to ensure that funding for the agency continues, especially after attending last week's legislative breakfast for social service agencies. "Tell them to support programs like BFAIR," Baker said. "Not because of the things that they do, but because it is the right thing to do." Awards & Recognitions Years of Service 25 years: Brenda Hawkins, Jamie Williams and Bonnie Duprat 15 years: James Labonte, Roxanne Morton-Fili and Jean Pecor 10 years: Sharon Boyd, Melisa Larabee and Joyce Forth 5 years: Stephen Nyamehen, Doug Gumbs, Jess Lindneer, Angie Phienboupha, Brett Goodermote, Adwoa Frimpomaa and Gretchen Thomas. Level II Staff Certificates: Julia Moreau, Debra O'Neill and Wanda LaFrance Management Training Program Certificates: Mark Barrette, Julia Phykitt, Angie Phienboupha, Amber Boesse, Stephan Rochefort, Jackie Alderman, Jessica Dunn and Macie Blackwood Employee Recognition Awards Edward Frampton Self-Determination Award: Alice Burda Arcadia Employment Services Employer of the Year: North Adams Housing Authority Leadership Award: Erin Shea Armand Quintal Memorial Award: Mark Barrette George A. Crosby Memorial Award: Krystal Beaudreau The Champion Award: Michael Baker Board of Directors Award: Robert Lemaire
Business, Education, Political Officials Eye Growth Of Innovation Economy
Front: Claire Christopherson of Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center, Jim Capistran of UMass, Monica Joslin of MCLA, William Mulholland of BCC. Back: Ross Goodman of the center for nanoscale science and technology, U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Political, educational, and business leaders say the northeast is ready to grow a new economy based on science, technology, engineering, and math.   Berkshire County is just over an hour from one of the largest investments in the innovation economy ever in Global Foundaries, where more than 2,500 employees are developing and manufacturing semiconductors.   Officials in the industry, education, and politics all believe that economy can continue along I-90 all the way into Massachusetts.    "We are in an innovation economy and if we don't invest, if we just have a cutting frenzy, we will fail the constituencies we hope to serve," said U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., said.    Tonko said those words at the Crown Plaza Friday morning as he joined U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., an array of officials in all three of those sectors for a panel discussion.   The panel called for people to shed their ideas that manufacturing is dirty and dangerous and instead embrace the new, clean technology in manufacturing.    The congressman says the federal government has seen the rewards in that economy and is ready to invest more. The two representatives are teaming up to bring that effort to the Northeast.   "A number of these initiatives coming from Washington not only require but get additional points for regional strategies. The collaboration you hear today, where everyone is talking about bringing their strengths together, from a business perspective of all sizes from academia and government is an encouraging note," Tonko said. "When we come together on the same page and speak with the same voice and connect with other regions are doing that, we offer the most powerful opportunity for building hope into these communities with a winning application."   Growing the economy starts with education to create the workforce. That sets the table for private enterprises to join with the public sector to build grow and attract businesses.    "Berkshire Community College, MCLA, and others are going to be the ones that provide the workforce. When you talk about technological skills, they are not going to hire somebody who doesn't have the skills," Neal said.   Berkshire Community College's Vice President for Community Education and Workforce Development William Mulholland said "our deliverable is going to be an incredibly high capability" in workers.   Tonko said the advanced manufacturing sector that seemingly took off in his district grew because of those close partnerships with colleges.   Jim Capistran, executive director of the UMass Innovation Institute, says in Amherst, the college does $200 million worth of research in the field annually. That leads to not only new products but also educates the students studying in the field. Both contribute toward helping businesses grow and creating new businesses.   The university will have a place at the Berkshire Innovation Center, which is eyed for construction this summer at the William Stanley Business Park. There, the hope is to create an incubator-like space for small and medium sized businesses.    Massachusetts Green High Performance Computing Center in Holyoke provides and similar service on that end of the corridor, according to Claire Christopherson, of the center who also sat on the panel.    "We have a special interest in education," she said.    Meanwhile, the Mass Life Science Center, funded through public dollars, has launched programs like paying for interns to work at small and medium sized technology businesses. According to Ryan Mudawar, the center's manager of academic and workforce programs, says the organization has created more than 2,000 internships in more than 140 Massachusetts companies. He said the company is about to launch additional programs to reach middle school aged students to get them interested in the sciences.   "Massachusetts has really emerged as the global leader in life sciences," Mudawar said, as he served on one of two panels to discuss the issues.   Douglas Clark, Pittsfield's director of community development, speaking with U.S. Rep. Paul Tonko. Businesses like Nuclea Biotechnologies are doing their part by letter young students come in and tour and take internships. According to CEO Patrick Muraca, the Berkshires does have trouble attracting the doctoral-level employees so growing the workforce internally becomes more important.    Coupled with the efforts to boost job training, Massachusetts Biotechnology Council, which represents a collaborative of currently existing private businesses in the state to expand and provide those jobs.   However, he said any successful business growth in today's economy is coupled with efforts in the public sector.   "There has been been one success these folks in government haven't been apart of," Coughlin said.    Hunter Richard works in the state office of International Trade and Investment. He says his job to attract foreign companies to invest in Massachusetts. Overseas companies like Saabic have a place in the innovation economy.   "We are really facilitating interactions," Richard said. "We want to make sure they don't just look in Boston."   The Berkshires is poised to put the pieces together that will build that economy, the two congressmen said, and it will yield positive things for the local economies.   "The best social program is a job. When people have a job, they've made the right decisions. There has to be some promise of the economic system continuing to grow so that they might be rewarded in that system for making the right decisions," Neal said of the public good in investing and growing that economy.   Both Tonko and Neal plead the case to invest more in research in hopes to bring those jobs to the northeast. Neal further calls for funding for the National Institute on Health and the National Science Foundation. He also calls for a "big science project" like the space race of the 1960s of the super conductor/super collider which met its fate in the 1990s.    "We need to make certain that we invest in research. Rich [Neal] and I are champions of research because we are an innovation economy. Research equals jobs, good paying jobs," Tonko said.   The panels including others from the private, public, and educational sectors discussed the various efforts to boost the advanced manufacturing economy for four hours Friday morning.   Their efforts are coupled with a report from the New England Council that says New England "enjoys a competitively advantaged position with respect to advanced manufacturing, stemming from an intricate network for cross-sector relationships that have evolved over time."   That report says the region is ready for clusters of industries like navigation and optics, aerospace, defense, medical devices, semiconductors and complex electronics, and precision manufacturing.    "We are ready to grow our economy," said state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, who moderated the panels and who was just appointed to the House Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies.   Coughlin says the region isn't poised to make the next cell phone game, but instead poised to cure diseases. 
Baker's Western Mass Office Head Fields Berkshire Selectmen's Concerns
Director of the governor's Western Massachusetts office Ryan Chamberland was the guest speaker on Thursday at the bi-annual Berkshire County Selectmen's Association dinner. GREAT BARRINGTON, Mass. — Lee Selectman David Consolati would love to take a bridge down and replace it with a new one in the exact same spot.    But, before he can do that, the town must spend a quarter of a million dollars in engineering and then perform a $60,000 environmental study, among many requirements, throughout a two-year process with the state.   He wants the state to essentially pre-package plans that need to only be adjusted by size of the bridge and shorten the approval time.   "I would like to see the state come up with a set of plans for bridges. Give me something so I can avoid $250,000 in engineering," Consolati said on Thursday. "Give me stock prints that I can just pull off of the shelf."   Richmond Town Manager Matt Kerwood said there are benefits to an array of state programs like the Green Communities one. But, in a small town, there isn't enough staff to handle the paperwork to stay in it so it becomes more of a hassle than it is worth.   Florida Selectman Neil Oleson says the town doesn't have enough demand to hire a full-time building and plumbing inspectors and the state continues to raise the required training for private contractors so much that it doesn't make sense for most to do it part time.   "The state of Massachusetts keeps raising the bar higher," Oleson said. "We've got people waiting for building permits but we don't have an inspector."   Those were only a few of the concerns voiced Thursday night when some 50 selectmen from all over the Berkshires gathered at Crissy Farms for the biannual Berkshire County Selectmen's Association dinner. The guest of honor, Ryan Chamberland, understands exactly the issues towns are facing.   "One of the most frustrating things for me is to do a feasibility study on putting a playground at a school," the former Blackstone selectman joked. "I think there is a lot of things we can do in that area."   Knowing the issues he faced in trying to run a town, Chamberland jumped at the opportunity to work with Gov. Charlie Baker to make it easier. Chamberland now heads the Springfield office, where he sees he can link the administration with the needs of Western Massachusetts towns.   "We are kind of like the first line of defense for Western Mass. We like to think we are a voice to let Boston know what the needs and the concerns are," Chamberland said, encouraging town officials to contact him about any issue they face regarding the state.    The Springfield office director used Thursday's dinner as a way to connect with municipalities. The Berkshire County Selectmen's Association is a collaborative representing all 30 Berkshire towns run by boards of selectmen.   "We basically use these meetings twice a year to give selectmen an opportunity to get some education and network," said Jim Lovejoy, the former president of the organization and now a member.   "It is great to meet selectmen from different communities ... a lot of the issues [we face] are the same."   In addition to the meetings being a source of networking for town officials, who are often volunteers or paid only small stipends, the elected representatives get to connect with others who sit on state boards — like the Massachusetts Municipal Association or the Governor's Council.    "We try to use this as a way to bring concerns from the local select boards to the state... The people who go to Boston can make a tremendous impact," Lovejoy said.    Sheffield's Rene Wood speaks with Chamberland about issues facing her town. For Chamberland, the biannual meeting represented a chance to speak and listen to the concerns of many communities, which fits in with the Baker administration focus on helping municipal governments.   "The governor and lieutenant government made municipal governments a priority," Chamberland said, pointing to the release of $100 million in Chapter 90 road funding for cities and towns as one of the very first things the governor has done.   In the first 100 days of the administration, Baker release that $100 million; signed a bill for $200 million more in March; released $30 million for pothole repairs; and signed a community compact order that increases the role of municipal governments in state decisions, he said.   The executive order of the community compact creates a committee to represent cities and towns in the cabinet, it restructures the Department of Revenue to include a commissioner for the division of local services, and aims to craft contracts between municipalities and the state outlining exactly the expectations they have of each other — creating what the administration sees as more accountability.   "It put the lieutenant government to be the champion of it and it raises town government to the cabinet level. There are selectmen from around the commonwealth on this committee and the lieutenant governor has taken this compact on the road, traveling back and forth. I know it is on her schedule to come out to Berkshire County. This has been a great opportunity for her to sit down and talk to boards of selectmen and town administrators to get a firsthand look at what you guys are dealing with," Chamberland said.    "As you can imagine, there are some reoccurring themes that come up: Chapter 70 formula needs to be changed, there needs to be more money for the beat-up roads. Out here, especially, there is broadband."   The contract is a way for towns to "hold the administration accountable," he said.    Meanwhile, the administration is looking to find ways to reduce the amount of bureaucracy, red tape, and unfunded mandates that have been making it difficult for towns.   "We do need to figure out a way to help you in these areas. We are putting all these regulations and all of these hoops and ladders you have to climb and jump through. It is kind of crazy," Chamberland said.    But, first the administration needs to understand the issues. The director has plans to visit every Western Massachusetts town in the next two years to speak face to face with officials.   "There are a lot of things we need to work on," Chamberland said. "You guys know best what is going on in your communities."   Whether the issue was the time it takes the state to reimburse towns for veterans benefits or getting schools the technology to comply with required testing or bringing broadband to underserved towns, Chamberland listened and noted many of the local concerns.
Williamstown Selectmen Recommend Tabling Anti-Plastics Bylaws
Adrian Dunn speaks to the Board of Selectmen about proposed bylaws planning plastic bags and rigid foam containers. WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Environmental activists have one word for voters at this year's annual town meeting: plastics.   But they don't see a future for the petroleum-based material — particularly in the form of single-use plastic bags and foam and rigid polystyrene food containers.   Two citizen petitions will appear on the May 19 warrant seeking the prohibition of the offending materials in the Village Beautiful.   The first, Article 42, seeks to "regulate the use of plastic carryout bags and paper carryout bags within the Town and to promote the use of reusable bags." It sets standards for an acceptable reusable bag, requires retail establishments to charge customers 10 cents per recyclable plastic bag and enacts penalties of up $200 for violations of the new bylaw.   Article 43 takes aim at foam and rigid polystyrene in takeout food containers and requires "the use and distribution of biodegradable, compostable, reusable, or recyclable products or materials in its place."   On Monday, the two articles sparked a lengthy discussion at the Board of Selectmen meeting. The panel was conducting a review of all 44 warrant articles and making advisory votes to Town Meeting.   Nearly all of the articles — most of which were previously discussed at length by the board — were recommended for approval by a unanimous vote of the four Selectmen present.   The plastic bag and foam container bylaw proposals gave the selectmen pause.   Each of the board's members in attendance went to great lengths to say they agreed with the spirit of the proposals, but instead of recommending adoption, they voted to put the following language on the published warrant:   "We, the Board of Selectmen, wholeheartedly endorse the goal and intent of Article 42. We believe that the implementation needs to be reviewed and improved. We prefer to table the article and spend the next year shaping the implementation under the Board of Selectmen's leadership in partnership with various segments of the community and with full consideration of the discussion of town meeting."   Several of the selectmen appeared to struggle with the decision not to recommend approval of the bylaw. Ultimately, it came down to a desire to see the proposal follow a more traditional path through town committees that then can make a similar proposal to a future town meeting.   "The primary issue here is the intentions are good here, but we're not voting whether to approve the intentions, we're voting whether to approve the bylaw," Selectmen Hugh Daley explained to advocates who attended Monday's meeting. "It hasn't gone through a public open meeting process. It hasn't gone through the regular process we have for zoning bylaws.   "We have to separate the goal from the letter of the law. ... You can be for a bag ban and not think this law is not correctly worded to achieve that end. My position is the selectmen can take on the job of legislating this through the normal legislative process if we choose to do that."   In an email to the board the day after the meeting, organizer Brad Verter said his group is confident in the language used in the proposed bylaw because "virtually every line in this bylaw is taken from laws passed in Massachusetts or elsewhere."   But at Monday's meeting — which Verter did not attend — the Selectmen found several specific aspects of the proposals that they thought required further study and/or review from town counsel.   The most substantive concern expressed by the board at Monday's meeting dealt with the proposed bylaws' enforcement provisions.   Each reads, in part, "Whoever, himself or by his servant or agent or as the servant or agent of any other person or firm or corporation, violates any of the provisions of these regulations may be penalized by a non-criminal disposition process as provided in [Massachusetts General Law] c. 40, Section 21D."   Daley called attention to that provision.   "What that means is the cashier could be held liable for the violation, so the fine, which we assume would apply to the owner of the establishment, could be on the employee," Daley said. "It's not specific here. That's obviously unfair, right? It's not your intention, right?"   Residents Jeanne Marklin, Adrian Dunn and Shira Wohlberg, who appeared on behalf of the petitioners, did not address Daley's specific concern, but they pointed to successful bylaws and ordinances in Great Barrington, other parts of the country and around the world that have addressed the problem of single-use bags that require "substantial energy consumption and [contribute] to greenhouse gases and other adverse environmental effects," as the proposed bylaw reads.   "We are hoping to ban plastic bags that are used once and usually thrown out, or people think they are recycling them but they just get made into smaller pieces of plastic," Marklin said. "They never turn into something you can put in the ground and compost. They just contribute to trash on the ground."   Chairman Ronald Turbin at one point called the plastic bags "sinful." Sheldon said, "my antipathy for plastic bags is beyond description."   "I like the fact that someone has taken the initiative to do something about this," Sheldon continued. "I agree there are potential problems with this exact implementation. I welcome the concept, but I'm troubled over implementation details."   Selectman Andrew Hogeland was the first to mention the idea of "tabling" the bylaw.   "There are a few things I'd like to remove from this and then I could vote for this," said Hogeland, like Turbin, an attorney. "The other option I could see is moving to table this so we could take a year to do it better."   The selectmen did vote 4-0 to recommend adoption of a third citizen-sponsored, environmentally motivated warrant article. Article 44  declares that the people of Williamstown "stand in opposition to the Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct [natural gas] Pipeline."
Verizon Set to Switch Service to New North County Tower
The new cell tower in early February shortly after it was erected. It replaces to older ones that collapsed on March 30, 2014. NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Verizon customers should be back to normal on Saturday morning once its service is switched to the new tower. Mayor Richard Alcombright, in a statement released on Facebook and to media, said customers will see a disruption in service beginning at 6 a.m. on Saturday as the new antenna goes online. North County communications were disrupted just over a year ago when high winds took down two radio towers on top of the Western Summit. Described as a "catastrophic failure" at the time, the collapse cut emergency communications as well as cell service for Verizon and other wireless providers. The loss was a particular blow to North County, coming just two days after the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital. Corydon Thurston, principal of North Adams Tower Co., received local permitting last June to install a single 195-foot tower to replace the the two older 150-foot and 160-foot towers that fell. The new tower will be supported with rock anchors drilled 35 feet for each leg, and be installed in-between the two older ones. The tower was installed more than two months ago but the weather had delayed the inspection process. Antennae were installed over the past couple weeks. The city will send out a Code Red alert to remind citizens of the disruption or if it goes longer than the expected 2 to 4 hours. "Further notification will come as other vendors cut over to the permanent tower," said the mayor.
Pittsfield Eyes Return Of 'Rejuvenated' Third Thursday
Director of Cultural Development Jen Glockner announced the series at a press conference on Thursday. See more photos here. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is asking residents to relax, play, and create once a month.   The monthly Third Thursday street fair is returning in May in a "rejuvenated" way, according to Director of Cultural Development Jennifer Glockner, by organizing the vendors in those three ways.    "Anything that has been going for nine years needs a little bit of a kickstart, a little bit of a rejuvenation," Glockner said on Thursday when the summer series was announced.   The south end of North Street will be the "relax" area and will be aimed for adults. Outdoor seating for restaurants will be brought right into the middle of the road and performers geared toward an adult audience will be scheduled to play there.    "We really want to, with these areas, tell people where to go and make it easier," Glockner said.   A Persip Park — at the intersection of Columbus and North — the play zone will start. That will be eyed for families and will, for the first time, be smoke free.   "For the first time we are having a smoke-free children and family area," Glockner said. "We are not shy and our volunteers will not be shy, and I think everybody here who clapped when we announced it won't be shy in saying 'just a reminder, this is a smoke-free area.' "   There will be children's activities like a bounce house or train rides and there will also be diaper changing stations. In this section, food vendors will set up on the street as has been done in the past including food trucks stationed throughout the section. Meanwhile, instead of bringing in the city's stage, the newly renovated Persip Park has a built-in pavilion, which will serve as the main entertainment stage.   "We get to take advantage of the beautiful Persip Park, which was just renovated. There is a new stage, there are new pathways, there are new planters and it is just amazing. We're embracing it and making it our main stage," Glockner said.   The final area will focus on arts including a community art project. There will also be a chalk art gallery and artisan vendors.    "We are big fans of keeping things simple and our themes are simple," said Shiobbean Lemme, Third Thursday coordinator, of the new organization of the vendors.    The monthly summer street fair is entering its ninth year. Each third Thursday of the month brings out close to 200 vendors to North Street, which is shut down to traffic. Each month has a different theme. This year's themes are creative youth; healthy Pittsfield; arts matter; all the world's a stage; walk a mile in her shoes; and harvest fest.    "I am just hopeful with the new season of Third Thursday will re-introduce people to Pittsfield," Mayor Daniel Bianchi said. "Third Thursday is sort of the kick off of the summer season and rejuvenation."   A section of North Street will be under construction as the last and final phase of the streetscape project comes to a conclusion but organizers say that will have limited impact on the fair.   "They do construction during the day but on Third Thursdays, they have a note on file and they tidy it up. They tidy it all up and make it as neat as they can. We can function around them. We've done it before. It is not ideal but they are so cooperative," Glockner said.
'Danny Collins': Idol for the Ages
Popcorn Column by Michael S. Goldberger   Bleecker Street Media  Rock star Danny Collins (Al Pacino) takes stock of his life after a missive from John Lennon finally arrives. I suspect there will be a spate of movies custom made for baby boomers as they proceed into the sexa- and septuagenarian periods of their lives. They will nurture and extoll the virtues of this mixed blessing that's certainly better than the alternative. Call them the Dick and Jane films for golden-agers: i.e. — See Dick have a hip replacement; see Spot sympathize. Hopefully, most will be as entertaining as writer-director Dan Fogelman's "Danny Collins." Supplying both affirmation and eloquently imparted nostalgia, the film chooses for its protagonist the iconic figure of a generation: the rock star. Portrayed with obvious dedication and no small insight into what a successful survivor of the '60s music scene might be like, Al Pacino winningly applies his thespic wherewithal in this delightful paean to a much idolized cliché. While the plot structure is easy to predict, the initial impetus that sets it all in motion wistfully poses a philosophical "what if?" out of 4 Opening with a flashback, a 20ish Danny Collins is interviewed by a canny rock magazine writer, circa 1971. The sagacious scribe, chuckling with self-satisfaction, informs in no uncertain terms that his interviewee will be a major celebrity ... rewarded for his talent with countless wheelbarrows of money and a steady stream of adoring women. He then asks the apparently shy troubadour, "Does that frighten you?" The title character sheepishly answers, "Kind of." The prologue done, we meet Danny after he's had about 40 years to get over that apprehension ... or has he? He seems to enjoy his $275,000 Mercedes-Benz SLS gullwing, and doubtlessly digs the multimillion-dollar manse he drives it to after a day of being worshipped by fans at nearly every stop on his travels. OK, so the audiences he plays are filled mostly with folks who paid their way in with funds from their Social Security checks. Perhaps as compensation, the fiancée (Katarina Cas) who keeps his home fires burning is only in her 20s. It's par for the course. Name more than three rock stars who have marked their golden wedding anniversary. But if Danny is jaded, it is with the implicit suggestion that he is not beyond redemption. Otherwise, he'd be typical, boring and bereft of our concern. Which isn't the sort of characterization that Al Pacino would bother imbuing with the full-scale likeability that has come to be an attraction in and of itself. Thus, after an expository list of Danny's life disappointments are catalogued with both comical and bittersweet charm, hope is dangled with a novel nuance. Rather than being visited by the ghosts of rock 'n' roll past, present and future, the spiritual deus ex machina comes in the form of a framed letter presented to Danny on his birthday by long-faithful friend and manager, Frank, exquisitely realized by Christopher Plummer. Obtained from a collector, it is from John Lennon to Danny Collins, mailed some 40 years ago, but intercepted and kept by a profiteer. The instantly hallowed missive, stating an admiration for the young songwriter who had been compared to Lennon, essentially says be true to thyself. Wow! So this changes everything, right? Well, maybe. If Danny is to atone, he certainly has his work cut out for him. Job No. 1 would be to make amends to the grown son, Tom, he's never met, effectively played by Bobby Cannavale. But sonny boy isn't going to make it easy. Married to Jennifer Garner's Samantha, with one little girl and a new baby due in a few months, he has made his own way and wants nothing to do with his famous dad. Naturally, we're rooting for the old guy, supported by our impression that he is a kind and generous poet at heart who, alas, was led astray by the bright lights and the seductive sirens of success. Sitting in the Woodcliff Lake, N.J., Hilton where he has encamped to deliberate and perchance win over his long neglected progeny, he cuddles the Lennon letter and wonders what path he might have taken had he received the cherished epistle. Would Lennon have taken the trouble if he hadn't perceived some altruistic quality that even Danny himself didn't recognize? Hotel manager Mary Sinclair thinks not. Helping him ferret through the bevy of hypothetical quandaries he poses, she is the voice of reason, propriety and all things optimistic, winsomely played by Annette Bening. Though fending off all romantic advances, including a humorously unrelenting invitation to dinner, she is otherwise fully committed to her legendary patron's reclamation. Now, that's guest services. Granted, although there is a bit of a twist, you know how this better come out ... or else. But no matter. With a convivial cast and the great Pacino in the driver's seat, the worn path "Danny Collins" traverses plays as alluring and fresh as a new hit song. "Danny Collins," rated R, is a Bleecker Street Media release directed by Dan Fogelman and stars Al Pacino, Bobby Cannavale and Annette Bening. Running time: 106 minutes    
Pittsfield's Donati Signs National Letter of Intent to Play Baseball
Pittsfield High senior Kevin Donati, flanked by his mother, Paula, and grandfather George 'Buddy' Pellerin, has signed with the University of Albany to play Division I baseball. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Pittsfield High senior Kevin Donati was a strong enough baseball player to draw interest from a number of Division I colleges.   But the standout shortstop had a strong feeling about the D1 program just a short drive from home.   "Albany was just amazing," Donati said on Thursday afternoon. "The campus — I got that butterfly feeling on campus. It was just amazing. I can't even say it."   Donati let his pen do the talking earlier in an afternoon ceremony in the high school's lobby.   Surrounded by family, friends, teammates and classmates, Donati signed his NCAA National Letter of Intent to attend the University at Albany, N.Y., with a scholarship to play baseball for head coach Jon Mueller.   Donati joins an elite group of student-athletes who have come through the Generals' program for legendary Pittsfield coach Bob Moynihan.   "Kevin obviously is a great athlete and puts his name up there with a bunch of other great athletes who have come through Pittfield High," Moynihan said during the ceremony. "In my 37 years associated with Pittsfield High baseball, this has only happened six times — that one of our players has gone on to play Division I baseball. And certainly Kevin's scholarship is one of the best that's ever come out of Pittsfield High."   Donati said his scholarship includes the full cost of books, 50 percent of tuition the first year, 70 percent his sophomore year and 75 percent his junior and senior years. As with the vast majority of Division I programs, UAlbany divides its NCAA-mandated number of scholarships across its roster.   Donati hit .521 with 38 hits and 22 RBIs as a junior last spring, helping Pittsfield finish 15-6.   Add that to his smooth play at shortstop, and he was a natural target for college programs, including the University of Rhode Island, University of Massachusetts at Lowell and American International College in Springfield.   "It's a fun process," he said of the recruiting process. "It was an amazing opportunity, an amazing experience, and I had a fun time with it.   "Albany just stuck out as a perfect fit for me. It's somewhere I can see myself truly succeeding both academically and athletically."   Donati said he is undecided on an academic major, and athletically he figures to learn a lot from UAlbany's current shortstop, Karson Canaday, who will be a senior next spring.   He said the baseball program at the New York school stood out as he he weighed his options.   "The coaches were just very supportive, they have a strong history, and it's somewhere I can see myself grow as a person and as a player," he said.
New Children's Book Showcases Imperfect Produce
Pittsfield resident Amelia Ritner has released a new children's book called 'Ugly Farm,' filled with photos of unusual-looking vegetables she took while working on a Connecticut farm last summer. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Never judge a book by its cover, so the saying goes. Local author Amelia Ritner doesn't want you to judge a vegetable by its appearance, either. Ritner, who currently lives in Pittsfield, just released a children's book called "Ugly Farm" that features pictures she took of strange-looking produce while working on a Connecticut farm last summer. It all started when her boyfriend discovered an eggplant that had an unusual persona. "He picked an eggplant that looked like Richard Nixon," Ritner said. "It got a lot of laughs." She started photographing the unusual plants they came across, such as a carrot that looked like its arms were crossed and really had to pee, using the camera on her cell phone. This was for her own amusement until one day her sister suggested she put them into a children's book. She loved the idea, especially because she thought it would be a good way to get people interested in local food and sustainable agriculture in a fun way. "I know I'm not the only one used to seeing the weird-looking vegetables," she said. And she wanted to emphasize to children that just because it looked strange — and unlike something they would see in a supermarket, which has higher standards for the appearance of the produce it sells — didn't mean it wasn't safe and delicious to eat. "The ugly-looking vegetables tasted just the same as the prettier ones," she said. In addition to taking the pictures, Ritner also wrote the poem to go with it, hoping to encourage people "not to be afraid to try something just because it looks different." She has taken that message into her off-season job as a substitute teacher in the Pittsfield school district. When appropriate, especially with elementary school kids, she will talk with students about where their food comes from. "Most of these kids don't know anything about agriculture. Half of them don't know vegetables come from the ground," she said. "The kids are interested. They aren't given the opportunity." While she is thrilled with how the book came out, Ritner said it was admittedly an easier undertaking than her first two books, both of which were full-length novels. "They took a lot longer to write," she said. "Ugly Farm," however, was an easier message to convey as it is something she is passionate about. "I literally jumped out of bed and grabbed a notebook and pen and started writing," she said. She then showed it to her own children, who are 2 and 5 years old, and they loved it. "They're the best focus group." She published the book through Amazon's CreateSpace program after she had a friend help design it. CreateSpace is an inexpensive way to self-publish, as books are manufactured to meet demand, so the title is always in stock but there are no upfront costs and no need to carry inventory. Ritner had success using CreateSpace for her two novels and anticipates a good run for "Ugly Farm," which she hopes also to be able to sell at local farmers markets and other niche stores, as well as online through Amazon. "It came out really nicely," she said.
Lanesborough Elementary Principal Named
LANESBOROUGH, Mass. — Martin J. McEvoy Jr. has been named principal of Lanesborough Elementary School effective July 1, 2015.   Gordon L. Noseworthy, interim superintendent of schools for the Mount Greylock Regional School District and Union 71  Superintendency Union announced the appointment on Thursday. McEvoy is currently vice principal for curriculum and instruction at Hoosac Valley Middle and High School. The Pittsfield resident completed his  doctoral studies last year and received a doctor of education degree with a concentration in educational policy and leadership from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. He earned a Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study in educational policy and leadership also from UMass-Amherst, and holds a master of arts in English for teachers from Western New England University. He previously had taught English at Lee Middle and High School. McEvoy replaces Ellen Boshe, who is retiring after eight years of leading the K-6 school. According to the announcement, he was the "enthusiastic choice of the Search Committee and highly recommended by his employers" and blends knowledge of school leadership for the 21st century with a talent for working collaboratively in the school community. McEvoy is excited as he anticipates meeting the students, teachers and parents at  Lanesborough  Elementary School, according to the announcement.  
Mazzucco Recommends Override Instead of Cuts
Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco is recommending a Proposition 2 1/2 override rather than cutting from the town side to fund the school budget. ADAMS, Mass. — Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco on Wednesday explained the consequences of shifting funds from the municipal budget to support the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District budget. Mazzucco recommended a Proposition 2 1/2 override as the most feasible way to supply the additional $360,000 assessment voted by the School Committee two weeks ago. "An override from a financial standpoint is the only way fund our school system at the level needed," Mazzucco said. "Otherwise, we are walking down the path of permanently shutting down portions of our community with no hope that they will come back, subjecting future generations to a bleak outlook." He said he wanted townspeople to understand the fiscal realities and by shifting funds the town would "continue to kick the can down the road" and both the school and the town would be in the same position next year. He said this is because of a structural deficit both the town and school has because revenues do not match expenses. "I don't want anyone to have false hope that if town meeting does decide to switch funds from one side of the balance sheet to their other ... that it would solve the problem," Mazzucco said. "We will be facing the same problem next year." He said shifting funds would mean losing nearly six more full-time positions along with the four full-time positions that were reduced in the budget. He said the town next year would have to do the same thing and within two years, it would lose 30 percent of its workforce. If this continues, four years from now the town's work force will be reduced to a third of what it is today. "There would certainly be permanent losses of services at that point in time," Mazzucco said. "Shifting expenses is only going to lead to further fiscal ruin and at some point we will run out of municipal employees to lay off and the school will still be in the same situation." Mazzucco said even with the override, there will be continued challenges and the town and school will still face a structural deficit. The total budget prior to being presented to the Selectmen had no additional positions or increases in services and was cut by $500,000. "It was a budget that already had cut half a million from just last year's numbers, and these are real cuts or hard cuts from last year's appropriation and not just something we wanted to do and decided we couldn't," he said. Mazzucco said that although there may be a rift between the school and the town, at the professional level he and the school administration are in understanding and in constant contact. He asked to hold a meeting between School Committee members, administrators and town officials throughout the county to start a dialogue about a countywide regionalization and consolidation. "I don't know who is going to start that conversation, and I don't know where its going to go," he said. "Maybe Adams could host a meeting in a couple months' time ... and start this discussion in how to move forward." The board also approved an agenda item that would allow Berkshire Health Group to start discussions about plan changes because of difficulties keeping costs down in some communities like Adams. Mazzucco said it will not change anything but allows for the process to begin and will allow Adams down the road to meet with bargaining units to talk about plan changes outside of the contacted amount. "It starts no clock ticking, it has no impact on anyone's insurance or what they pay or what their plan, and it just allows us to begin that process of discussing changes," he said. The Selectmen approved town election date of Monday, May 4, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the DPW garage on Summer Street. A household hazardous waste collection will take place Saturday, April 25, from 10 to 2 at the police station. Prescription medication should be kept in original bottles and any needles should be safely contained. 
PEDA Fighting New EPA Requirements
The Pittsfield Economic Development Agency is preparing to fight new requirements the federal EPA seeks to impose on the property's stormwater runoff. PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The federal government is looking to raise the quality of the storm water running through the William Stanley Business Park, which is now PEDA's liability.   The Environmental Protection Agency has issued a draft permit that calls for significant more water monitoring and efforts to improve the stormwater quality, which officials say could both hamper development of the property and cost the organization more money.   "They are substantially higher quality requirements now and they could cost the city and taxpayers thousands or millions of dollars and potentially stymie economic development growth at the park," said Pittsfield Economic Development Agency Executive Director Corydon Thurston.    "I have a real challenge with this requirement in that, the standards are so much greater than EPA had previously required the property to be remediated to. We've been meeting those standards since the remediation efforts took place and the property was transferred to PEDA. Now it is our hands and they are changing the rules in the middle of the game."   General Electric had polluted the park and later cleaned the land up to standards first established in a 1992 permit and provided, through negotiations, money for the PEDA to redevelop the former manufacturing property. In 2005, the land reached those requirements and the EPA signed off on transferring the property from G.E. to PEDA to redevelop.   "They required GE to clean the property to X and now they want Y. We can't go back and clean the property, we don't have the funds to do it. We took it only after EPA had essentially declared it as meeting the standards," Thurston said.    On April 8, the EPA issued the new permit that will require the park to be in line with the federal and state Clean Water Acts. The new National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permit supersedes the previous permits and not only has lower thresholds for pollution but also requires more testing.    That draft is now out for public comment and PEDA's attorneys and environmental team are preparing to fight the requirements. The organization has until June 6 to file all of its objections.   "The draft permit has been issued, which started the clock on our response," Thurston said. "We will object to most of the provisions."   Currently, some 90 acres of city land also drains through the park's runoff system, according to Thurston, and the water is tested monthly. Should the new permit be approved as is, the city may be required to disconnect from PEDA's stormwater system and reconnect elsewhere so the stormwater stays on the park. Another option is to reduce the area for development to increase the amount of natural absorption.    "We're looking at various scenarios and different solutions. We'll make our comments and, hopefully, we have a settlement that works for everybody," Thurston said.   The testing for PCBs, oil and grease, and suspended solids are currently done monthly costing PEDA some $15,000 a year. The new permit would quadruple the amount of testing, bumping those tests up to weekly and adding more chemicals and bacteria to be monitored.    "Now they want the tests weekly instead of monthly and they added 10 more tests that they want to see done, I believe, of a variety of other chemicals," Thurston said. "It is over four times the current cost just for the monitoring and test reporting requirements."   The monitoring, testing, and reporting could jump to more than $50,000 per year, the executive director said.
Adams Selectmen Close Warrant, Approve Special Town Meeting Articles
The Selectmen last week approved three articles for a special town meeting set for April 30. ADAMS, Mass. — The Selectmen have approved three articles for a special town meeting and closed the warrant. Town meeting members will determine on April 30 an easement on contaminated land, temporary land acquisitions for the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail and a municipal aggregation plan. The Selectmen approved the three articles at last week's workshop meeting. The board voted to suspend workshop meeting rules, which normally do not allow board authorizations, to ratify the time sensitive articles. Chairman Arthur "Skip" Harrington said Article 1 will be to see if the town will grant an easement and a declaration of restricted covenant on a Columbia Street property to Massachusetts Electric Co. (National Grid) to record the notice of activity and use limitations in regards to property. Harrington said this property is the park area in front of the Memorial Building. He said tests have found that contamination may have leaked across the street from the electrical substation.    Article 2 will see if the town will acquire or take by eminent domain easements needed for the construction and maintenance of the rail trail extension from Hoosac Street to Lime Street. These easements will also accommodate the Berkshire Scenic Railway. Director of Community Development Donna Cesan said these parcels are on both town and private property and are not all permanent, but mostly land needed temporarily for construction.   She said Community Development is still in the process of securing easements. All land owners have a right to compensation and appraisals, she said, and they have been made aware of this and have been supportive of the project. "We are in various stages of discussions and meetings with people and it is definitely a process," Cesan said. "Most people are aware of the project, and they know that it is coming. People have been very supportive." Cesan said many of these easements will be lifted when the project is completed or after a three-year period. Article 3 will see if the town will initiate the energy aggregation process. Because of the recent increase in electricity rates, many towns and cities have joined municipal electrical aggregation plans that allow residents to purchase power from another provider at a cheaper rate. Although all residents would initially be within the town group, they can opt out at any time and look for another source. The special town meeting will be Thursday, April 30, at 7 p.m. in the C.T. Plunkett Auditorium.  
'Furious 7': Makes Six Too Many
Popcorn Column by Michael S. Goldberger   Universal Pictures  The Fast and Furious family's latest road trip is a retread of explosions, speed and gunfire. But this one's got cars falling out of the sky! So it's totally different! Trying to figure out the renegade ethos that Vin Diesel's Dominic Toretto and his "team" are trying to exemplify in the frenetically action-packed "Furious 7" leaves me at a loss. Still, I'm going to have a go at it anyway ... but not for diehard fans of this hot-rodding franchise that has skidded miserably off course. Devotees couldn't care less what this O.G. (Old Gangsta) thinks about their choice of entertainment. Nope, this is in the service of auto enthusiasts and anyone who feels being well-rounded means having at least a tangential knowledge of popular culture. "The Fast and the Furious (2001)," certainly not Shakespeare but at least fresh and unsullied, paid slick and informative homage to the new breed of gearhead: young folks who exercise their passion by hopping-up inexpensive, used Japanese imports. Reflecting the changing landscape of automobilia in general, eking relatively big horsepower from low displacement engines, was the new way to go ... literally and figuratively. Adding a fictional component to this basic chassis, the film delved into the then current world of illegal street racers. out of 4 Thus was sown the initial enmity and ensuing mutual admiration between tough guy racer Toretto and the late Paul Walker's goody-two-shoes L.A. cop, Brian O'Conner, originally assigned to infiltrate the speedsters. In succeeding editions, the "Furious" idea succumbed to the same fate that befalls a breakthrough car when the designers can't top the germinal creativity. With cars it means lots of chrome and adulteration of the original curves. In drama, it means shifting into soap opera mode. Gosh, there's even an amnesia angle here as Dominic's gal, Letty, played by Michelle Rodriguez, forgets almost everything except how to stomp down on the accelerator. In fact, she's a legend at the racetrack. It's all part of the two concurrently running love stories, which now play second string to the tale of international derring-do that dominates the "Furious" product. The only question to answer with each succeeding issue is, "Just how much more insanely ludicrous is this one?" The short answer is, "a lot." The long answer is, "a whole lot." This go-round, the gang has to fend off an oath of vengeance from Jason Statham's class-A villain, Deckard Shaw. You see, Toretto & Company previously rendered comatose the evildoer's almost-as-evil brother. But y'know, we have a sneaky suspicion that this scourge, a rogue, former black op for the Brits, would find a reason to kill everyone in sight even if he didn't have a brother. Such is his charm. But have no fear. While I won't tell you the final score, our down-home, American-raised gaggle of multicultural ragtag fringe folk are up to the task, each member a self-taught specialist in some field that contributes to the group's cool quotient. It's a curious conceit, but nothing new. Scratch the cliché just a tad and there you have the East Side Kids/Bowery Boys led by Leo Gorcey's Muggs McGinnis. Our 1940s version of street ruffian, they are counterculture patriots. Preposterous or not, in "Ghosts on the Loose" (1943) they thwart Nazi spies. They're also funny. Too bad this contemporary permutation takes itself so seriously. "I don't have friends; I have family," Toretto apprises an adversary with sanctimonious smugness. He and his are the outcast nobility. They are secretly believers in the American Dream, but only if it can be achieved through their code of values. The status quo? As Brando's Johnny in "The Wild One" (1953) appraised, "That's square, man." Denied the straight and narrow, ostensibly by humble birth, dysfunction or an amalgam of both, it makes them, like Johnny, cynically starry-eyed. Therein lies the adolescent appeal, an invitation to identify with these motley comrades who cut through life's red tape with Devil-may-care disregard for convention. The other attraction is, of course, the violence. It is no longer enough to dangerously race cars through the streets. Like substance addiction, the thrill level bar has been raised. Here, flivvers go flying off cliffs and diving through towering high risers with a redolence of past real-life tragedies hard to dismiss. Oh, the plot ... I almost forgot. It really can't help but get obfuscated by all the boom, boom, boom and pretentious prattle. But in any case, good guys, bad guys and the gray folk in-between are all after the God's eye chip, a little bit of inscribed silicon that'll enable its possessor to track down anybody in the world quicker than you can say Big Brother. So that's it for Waldo. Those who enjoy this sort of visual and aural cacophony will certainly get their money's worth: one hundred and thirty seven minutes of it. As for us car buffs who will only find minor solace in the eclectic array of hot machines (Dominic et al. driving mostly American ... the villains in foreign makes), "Furious 7" reminds that we were left in the dust after the inaugural edition. "Furious 7," rated PG-13, is a Universal Pictures release directed by James Wan and stars Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Jason Statham. Running time: 137 minutes
Clark Celebrating Patriots Day With Super Bowl Prize
Albert Bierstadt's 1870 epic painting 'Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast' will be at the Clark until July, the result of a Super Bowl bet. WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The New England Patriots weren't the only big winners on Super Bowl Sunday. Malcolm Butler's last-minute interception of Seattle Seahawks' quarterback Russell Wilson's pass also resulted in a victory for … the Clark Art Institute. While the Patriots' dramatic victory brought Super Bowl rings to the team, it also brings a very special loan to the Clark. As a result of a friendly rivalry between the Clark and the Seattle Art Museum, Albert Bierstadt's epic painting "Puget Sound on the Pacific Coast" will spend its summer in the Berkshires. The painting will be unveiled in the Clark's galleries at 1 p.m. on Friday, April 17, and will remain on view through July 19. To celebrate its arrival and to commemorate Patriots Day, the Clark will offer free admission to all visitors sporting New England Patriots or Seattle Seahawks gear on Monday, April 20. In the days prior to the 2015 Super Bowl, the Seattle Art Museum approached the Clark to ask if the two museums might undertake a similar match-up. Each museum put the loan of one of its prized works on the line. The stakes: a three-month loan of a painting would go to the winning museum. The arts-world throwdown, quickly dubbed #MuseumBowl, created an exceptional opportunity for football fans and art lovers to share in the fun of Super Bowl Sunday. The lineup pitted Seattle's magnificent Bierstadt against the Clark's beloved Winslow Homer's "West Point, Prout's Neck," creating a coastline-to-coastline competition between the grandeur of New England's rocky Atlantic coast and an equally majestic view of the Pacific coastal region. The losing museum would be responsible for crating and shipping their masterpiece to the winning institution. Leading up to gameday, the Clark and SAM engaged in a lively social media showdown, including a Twitter battle that trended in major cities across the country. By the day of the big game, art and football lovers united in cheering for their home teams. With Butler's goal-line heroics securing a New England victory, the Clark's curatorial team began the happy task of planning for the installation of the massive (nearly 5 feet by 7 feet) painting. "I have to admit that in the last few minutes of the game, we began thinking about what it would take to crate and ship our 'Prout's Neck' to Seattle," said Richard Rand, the Clark's Robert and Martha Berman Lipp Senior Curator. "I'm sure Malcolm Butler didn't realize it at the moment, but his heroics were a tremendous gift to New England art lovers as well as to football fans."
E3 Students Market New Line of NAMApparel
Keith Bona, center, speaks to students from the E3 Academy about their new line of products, which he helped them design and which he is selling in his Main Street, North Adams, store. NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — A group of North Adams teenager who participate in the E3 Academy stormed the streets of downtown North Adams on Wednesday morning spreading one very important message: "It's gonna be a great day!" That message is part of the second round of "NAMApparel" now being sold by E3's dozen students, having been added to the original "Find It, Love It: North Adams" logo of last year's inagural line. E3 Academy is a program of Drury High School for over-age, under-credited students at risk of dropping out. On Wednesday, the students donned the new black and copper-colored shirts and visited some downtown businesses to thank some supporters, spread the word about their endeavor and find out what the business owners like about North Adams. A highlight of this whirlwind tour was entering Greylock Federal Credit Union's Main Street branch and being surprised by seeing the employees wearing E3 T-shirts in a show of unity and support. Greylock was indeed a supporter of the program, according to Maureen Phillips, a loan officer with the credit union. Phillips said she visited the group to do some financial literacy planning with them and couldn't stop talking about them afterward.   "I was so impressed with them," she said as she walked down Main Street with the group. "They're so engaged. They're bright and well-spoken." Phillips recruited John Bissell, executive vice president at Greylock, to be part of the effort, and he then guided the students through developing their marketing plan to promote their line of T-shirts, sweatshirts and hot/cold mugs. "He didn't come and do it for them. He walked them through the process so they can do it themselves," Phillips said. "These guys are stars." After leaving the Greylock office, the students crossed over to visit Kim Oakes at Shear Madness Salon and presented her with a mug. They made quick stops at the Edward Jones office and the Verizon store before wrapping up their tour at Berkshire Emporium and Antiques, where they thanked owner Keith Bona, who not only helped them with the design of the logo but also is selling the products in his shop. "What I helped them with is refining it," Bona said, emphasizing that the end result did indeed come from the students' original design. Abby Reifsnyder, a counselor that works with the students, said that process of going "back to the drawing board" aided the students. "It was wonderful part of the experience," she said. Another part of that experience was creating a business plan, which included both short-term and long-term goals. In the short term the groups wants the profits from this first round of merchandise to repay the initial investors and order a second run of the items. A major long-term goal, besides keeping the program going for future E3 classes, is to see NAMApparel merchandise become the official clothing line for the city of North Adams. That goal came up Wednesday morning as the students chatted with Bona, and Reifsnyder said she was hoping for the best. "We've made our pitch to the mayor," she said. In a happy coincidence, two of the E3 students got the opportunity to speak on camera to three students from an Advanced Television class at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, who were on Main Street at the same time doing interviews for a documentary they are working on about the North Adams arts community in the context of economic development. Poised and confident on camera, E3 student Jason Morin, 18, said he sees the assets of North Adams being its open spaces and willingness to host creativity. "Every day I see new art," he said. Then he responded to a question about what North Adams would be like without the creative community. "I think we'd be a pretty bland town without art." That includes art like the new E3 logo, which the students said they had a lot of fun designing. "It was very exciting, feeling like we're doing something good for the community, sending out a good vibe," said student Mariah Arnold, 17. And the feeling they got when they saw the finished products? "It was awesome," Arnold said.   (function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = "//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3"; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk')); Posted by iBerkshires.com on Wednesday, April 15, 2015  
North Adams Planners OK Motocross Track, Solar Arrays
Range owner David Bond was approved for a motocross track on Curran Highway. NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Planning Board on Monday approved the development of a motocross track at the Range on Curran Highway despite concerns from residents over noise. Owner David Bond said the recent use of the property for snocross and declining interest in the driving range led to the decision. "The success of our two snocross races over the past couple of seasons sort of lead us in this direction," Bond, a golf instructor, told planners. "Professionally, it was kind of sad to see the golf range ... see not as many people as we had in the past. "A lot of families had contacted me that are actually involved in the [motocross] sport. Those two races sort of gave me a crash course in the way that motorsports are here." He initially plans a practice track that would be open Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays form 10 to 6. However, he is looking into hosting a a NESCMX, or New England Motocross racing for next year. The popularity of the snocross event, which drew 3,000 to 4,000 people in 2014 (this year's racing was cut short because of extreme cold), gave him optimism for the plunge into motorsports. Bond was also hopeful the owner of East Coast Snocross would return next year. "If they feel they want to be in North Adams, we'd love to have them back," he said. Several residents, however, were more concerned about the noise impact on Southview Cemeter on across the Hoosic River from The Range. Richard Zona, of D Street, said he didn't see anything in Bond's noise impact study stating that the motorcycles would not exceed the city's 80 decibel noise ordinance. "The level of noise and the amount and the time it's going would be a burden," he said, adding all residents own the cemetery.  "I think the public has some type of legal standing as an abuttor." Bond's impact study had been done by an engineer who had looked at several tracks and done one for another track in Massachusetts. Planner Kyle Hanlon said the study had convinced him the noise would be mitigated. "I was very concerned about noise in relation to the cemetery," he said. "I was very concerned until I read the sound engineering report  ... it pretty much put my mind at ease that the noise spillage is not going to be nearly as much as I anticipated." The closest description of the noise would be similar to a car driving by the cemetery on Church Street, said Planner Brian Miksic. "We don't shut down the road." Bond said he had contacted Flynn & Dagnoli-Montagna Home for Funerals to discuss the possible effects of the track. He and the funeral directors had agreed that any racing would halt during a graveside service; Bond would be texted when one began and ended. Beverly Whitney of Mohawk Trail pointed out that people are in the cemetery at all times of the day, visiting, walking or caring for graves. "The cemetery is supposed to be a serene and meditative state," she said. Building Inspector William Meranti said if the noise does exceed 80 decibels, the city ordinance would come into play. Abuttor Michael Sarchi of South State Street was concerned with the possibility of motorcycles driving up and down the road or revving up before as they were unloaded. Bond said there would be full-time workers on hand during practice days to prevent such incidents and that he had visited a number of tracks to learn best practices. The area would also be fenced to prevent people from using it when the track was closed. He said the project had received all its state and local environmental permits last month. "It's been engineered to the point we meet all the standards," he said. "This would be our final permit to move forward." Local real estate developer David Moresi stood up in support of the track, saying it was economic development for the area and noting a steam train, the Berkshire Scenic Railway, would be going up and down the tracks on the weekend. "Everybody is very mindful of the cemetery, but this is economic development," he said. Whitney, however, retorted, "we're talking about a quality of life and that's something." Planners voted 6-0, with Lynette Ritland Bond, Bond's sister-in-law, abstaining. The hearing was almost postponed because the permit needed six planners to pass it and Ritland Bond could not vote; Jay Walsh arrived in time to allow it to go forward. Planner Paul Hopkins expressed reservations at the last minute but in the end voted in the affirmative. Robert Burdick and Joanne DeRose were absent. In other business, planners approved three solar arrays on private property. The first, a 642-kilowatt array for Holland Co. would be located on South State Street; the company would own the system on its own land. Two others by the Clean Energy Collective, 1.32 megawatts, would be located on Reservoir Road and Furnace and Witt streets, on either side of the high tension wires. The projects were revamped from a proposal last fall that ran into opposition over water concerns. This time around, the company is buying the lots, shifted the arrays and engineered a runoff system of catch basins that passed muster with city officials. "We've looked at it and certainly they've made the effort to divert anything from the neighbors," he said. "It's there and they put the effort into it." TJ's Southwestern Bar & Grill's and the Dairy Barn's new signage; a change requested by the state at the Cumberland Farms project on Union Street resulting in a 4 percent reduction of permeable surface; a trucking maintenance facility for aton's Trucking Service Inc. in the old Shapiro parts and service buildings on Union Street; and the Mohawk Tavern were all approved. Open Meeting Complaint Prior to the Planning Board, the Redevelopment Authority met to hear an open meeting complaint filed by Berkshire Eagle reporter Phil Demers on a meeting held four years ago. The authority had voted to purchase the Sons of Italy for $150,000 after the city and its owners had failed to come to an agreement over septic and parking. The complaint stated the vote on June 29, 2011, had taken place in executive session. Mayor Richard Alcombright said the city's response was that, first, the complaint was filed far beyond the 30-day limit and that the newspaper Demers had worked at at the time had written about the purchase in July of that year. A response from the attorney general's office to the city basically said the matter was moot, the mayor said, but he had been informed the Eagle had appealed the complaint. The mayor and all three board members also stated the vote to purchase the property was taken in open session. "I want to reiterate any votes that were taken were not taken in executive session," said Vice Chairman Michael Leary. "The only vote was to go back into open session." The complaint was filed until further communication from the attorney general's office. Alcombright suggested the board at its next meeting vote to release the executive session minutes. However, he admitted that he had not forwarded the minutes he took to the clerk at the time of the meeting; instead, they have been sitting on his computer.
Williamstown Town Manager to Return on Interim Basis
Town Manager Peter Fohlin holds a painting by a local artist presented to him on Monday by the Board of Selectmen on the occasion of his retirement. WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Meet the new boss, same as the old boss ... at least temporarily.   The Board of Selectmen on Monday decided to hire retiring Town Manager Peter Fohlin to return to his post on an interim basis at the beginning of June.   Monday marked the last Selectmen's meeting for Fohlin at Town Hall, where he has served the Village Beautiful for 15 years.   One of the selectmen who served when Fohlin was hired attended Monday's meeting to join a chorus of praise for the outgoing administrator.   "At some point someone will write an epitaph for me," Anne Skinner said. "And I'd be content to have it read, 'She helped bring Peter Fohlin to Williamstown.' "   Skinner's remarks came toward the end of a nearly three-hour meeting that saw the board review 44 articles for the May 19 annual town meeting.   At the beginning of Monday's session, Chairman Ronald Turbin began with a look back at Fohlin's tenure.   "Like so many of us in town, I'm still suffering from denial," Turbin said. "I have to say again that our town has been so fortunate, and if I can say blessed, to have Peter at our helm for 15 years.   "It's obvious to everyone that under Peter's stewardship an already beautiful town became even better."   The board has hired a Midwest headhunter to help find Fohlin's replacement and has appointed a committee of townspeople to help screen the applicants. But that process likely will not wrap up until early June, and since whoever the town hires would have to give notice at his or her current job, the potential of a two-month vacuum in the corner office led the selectmen to ask Fohlin to consider the interim appointment.   The deal proposed Monday night would see him work four days per week starting June 1 at a per diem rate that would be one-fifth of his current weekly salary.   Although he is retiring on April 26, state law prohibits Fohlin from working for the town for 30 days, explained Selectman Thomas Sheldon. That is why his service as an interim town manager will not start until June.   "It just means I'm taking a four-week vacation," Fohlin said. "And two-week vacations are not unusual. Four weeks is survivable. And I'll still be in town and at the other end of my cell phone."   That comment came in response to questions from the board about the transition plan to manage town government in Fohlin's absence.   Fohlin explained that town government will operate in his absence much as it has during his tenure — with department heads making the same kinds of decisions they make on a day-to-day basis. Fohlin's assistant, Debra Turnbull, will stay on in her current capacity and serve as the point person for coordinating communication among the departments and with the public.   "No one has to do anything differently than what they've been doing for 15 years," Fohlin said. "If you have a question, you call 458-3500, and Debbie takes it from there. All day long I hear her forwarding calls to the treasurer, forwarding calls to public works."   Fohlin said that in his absence, Public Works Director Tim Kaiser will be the acting town manager, much as he currently fills that role if Fohlin is out of town.   "When the Spruces flooded in 2004 or 2008, it was in October, and I was in Martha's Vineyard, and the storm was such with the ferry schedule I couldn't come home," Fohlin said. "[Kaiser] called me in the dark of night and told me they were evacuating the Spruces."   Considering Turnbull's added responsibilities during Fohlin's absence, the Selectmen agreed that she should receive extra compensation after Fohlin departs later this month.   Fohlin's interim contract — likely to be formalized at the next board meeting on April 27 — will not include vacation or personal days and be limited to 960 hours (120 days) per year, the maximum allowed by law.   No one is hoping the arrangement lasts that long, least of all Fohlin himself.   "No matter what happens, I'm not spending another winter here," he joked.   The due date for applicants to replace Fohlin is April 20. The town's consultant, GovHR USA of Illinois, reports it already has a "handful of applications," Sheldon told his colleagues on Monday. The town's search committee will review the applicants on May 11 and conduct preliminary interviews in executive session the week of May 20. The board will hold public interviews at the end of May or beginning of June.   In other business on Monday, the BOS approved a license to install a 4,000-gallon below ground propane tank at a residence on Hopper Road, appointed Holly Edwards to represent the town on the Northern Berkshire Cultural Council, granted a five-year use license for a 4-acre portion of the Eastlawn Cemetery property to an abutting farm to graze horses on the land and finalized an option agreement to allow Berkshire Housing Development Corp. to develop subsidized housing on the former Photech Mill site on Cole Ave.   Last spring, the board chose BHDC as its developer of choice for 330 Cole Ave. The document signed on Monday night allows Berkshire Housing to move forward with applications to the Massachusetts Department of Housing and Community Development for funds to build up to 46 units of affordable housing on the site.   "The final mix and final number of units will be based on input from the community, zoning restrictions, a market study, environmental constraints and, obviously, financial feasibility," Berkshire Housing President Elton Ogden told the board.   "The goal is to do at least 46 units, and I believe 40 is the minimum. We think that's achievable."   Ogden said he hopes to submit an application for funding to DHCD in early 2016, but he expects it will take a couple of funding cycles for a proposed project to get to the top of the list for state funds.   The option signed on Monday night has a two-year window, after which the town and Berkshire Housing will re-evaluate.   As for the annual town meeting warrant articles, the four selectmen in attendance on Monday voted unanimously to recommend the town adopt all of the proposals except for two of the citizen petitions.   The members of the board praised the intent of a pair of citizen-drafted articles — one to regulate plastic bags and promote the use of reusable bags and the other to prohibit the distribution of foam and rigid polystyrene containers in restaurants.   But the board voted unanimously to recommend that those issues be addressed by town boards for the development of a bylaw that could be adopted at the 2016 annual town meeting.
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