Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I turned 39 (2014)

Monday, December 17, 2007

All about John Adams' unknown 3rd cousin North. Also see John Barrett III, Daniel Bosley, Andrea Nuciforo, Denis Guyer.





Mayor John Barrett III


State Representative Daniel E. Bosley

Main Street, North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III



"Mayor has seen it all, including the museum effect"
By Geoff Edgers, Boston Globe Staff, May 31, 2009

NORTH ADAMS - On a recent morning, Steven Zanoli, 19, walked down River Street toward his apartment. He lives just around the corner from Mass MoCA. But he's never been inside. Zanoli, who gets paid $8 an hour at a local Burger King, says North Adams is a tough place to live.

"There's not really any jobs available," he says. "No jobs. Nothing to do."

Right on the Hoosic River, North Adams started out as a thriving mill town before making way for other industry. But the closing of the Sprague Electric Co. in 1985 led to widespread unemployment and empty storefronts.

Mass MoCA has certainly helped pump some life into the downtown. Yet even director Joe Thompson concedes that some believe the museum could have had more impact.

"When Sprague worked here, there were 4,500 people [in these buildings]. We have 60 museum employees," Thompson says. "People still expect us to be the economic engine. They look at the footprint of the facility and expect more than is realistic."

But Mayor John Barrett III, whose term in office began in 1984, says Mass MoCA has "exceeded my wildest expectations."

"I tell new people coming in, you don't know how bad it was," he says. "In 1996, Yankee magazine described North Adams as a sorry gateway to anywhere. That same magazine, five years later, [called] us one of the five hidden jewels."

There are some statistics to back up that idea.

In the early '90s, just a few years after the factory had closed - and during a recession - state labor statistics show the unemployment rate in North Adams peaking at 17 percent. Massachusetts as a whole was at 9.1 percent. Last month, unemployment in North Adams was 9.5 percent, compared with a statewide rate of 7.8 percent.

In 1990, "Eighty percent of the north side of Main Street was empty," says Barrett. "Now you're seeing condo units. When Mass MoCA was first announced, the highest-priced house in North Adams sold for $86,000. Condo units are now selling on our main street for $350,000.

"Are we better off than we were 10 or 20 years ago?" the mayor continues. "Yes. And Mass MoCA's been the catalyst."


Fashion Bug in North Adams is closing at the end of January. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)
"Fashion Bug leaving town: Retail store in North Adams is closing at the end of January.", By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, Tuesday, December 18, 2007

NORTH ADAMS — After 24 years of providing clothing for women in Northern Berkshire, the Fashion Bug store in the L-shaped mall at Steeple City Plaza will shut its doors in January.

Officials with Charming Shoppes Inc., the parent company of Fashion Bug, confirmed Monday that the store is one of several that will shut down due to poor fiscal performance.

"This particular store's lease is up near the end of January," Gayle Coolick, director of investor relations for Charming Shoppes, said. "This store has not met our financial goals, and so we've decided to exercise the 'out' in our lease."

She said the closing was not directly related to the opening last year of Peebles department store, which also carries women's clothing.

"This is something that has been going on for a period of time," Coolick said. "We would never make a decision as important as this based on a few months' worth of data."

She said the Fashion Bug stores in Pittsfield and Bennington, Vt., would remain open, and the corporation was working diligently to place the North Adams store's eight employees within those stores.

A district manager, who was putting out merchandise a week ago Monday, declined to comment on the closing. She said employees at the store were not able to comment and referred all questions to Coolick, who did not immediately respond to questions from the Transcript. Sales offering various discounts have been ongoing for some time.

Mayor John Barrett III said he wasn't surprised by the company's decision, which had been rumored since the middle of the summer.

"First they were closing, then they weren't," Barrett said. "It went on like that for a while. One of the things that alerted us was the fact the corporate offices didn't come before the Redevelopment Authority to apply for a new sign. All of their neighbors have new signs."

He said that the local closing was based more on corporate mandates than on the profitability of the store.

"This store was making a profit, but it wasn't meeting expectations," Barrett said. "It's not the first store we've had close because of corporate — JoAnne Fabrics (formerly in the Big Y plaza off Route 2) closed for the same reason."

When Kmart closed numerous stores in 2002, its "super store" here was still turning a profit, but corporate officials said it wasn't enough, and they opted out of the long-term lease. It's place has been taken by Peebles, Staples, Olympia Sports, the Movieplex 8 and a soon-to-be opened fitness center.

"With stores like Peebles now being in the plaza, I'm sure their lease going back up also had something to do with the decision," Barrett said of Fashion Bug.

He said that Neil Ellis, owner of First Hartford Realty of Hartford, Conn., which owns the plaza, is working to fill the space.

"He has been in negotiations with other similar type stores that are of equal, if not better, quality than Fashion Bug," Barrett said. "I'm optimistic. Mr. Ellis has come through with quality stores in the past."

Ellis declined to comment on a prospective tenant.

"We never comment when we are negotiating," he said Monday. "I will say that the goal is to upgrade the center, and that is why Fashion Bug is leaving."

In November, Charming Shoppes reported a $3.6 million loss at the end of its third quarter and a 4 percent drop in sales from the previous quarter.

In a statement, Dorrit J. Bern, chief executive officer and president of Charming, blamed the third-quarter loss on an industry-wide slump in sales.

"Our disappointing performance during our third quarter was reflective of downward traffic trends, which both we and our industry experienced," he said. "Our fall selling season had a very slow start, particularly at our Lane Bryant brand, and we expect the holiday season to be highly promotional throughout our industry. Given this, we are executing on a number of near-term actions to enable us to manage through this difficult retail environment."

The company announced a series of "action items" to tackle the fiscal backslide, including the streamlining of its operations departments.

The local store opened on March 28, 1984, when the Fashion Bug chain had 440 stores. There are now 1,003 Fashion Bugs across the nation. Charming Shoppes also owns 471 Cather- ine's stores, 825 Lane Bryant stores, 101 Lane Bryant outlets and 52 Petite Sophisticate shops. It recently opened a Lane Bryant, which specializes in plus-size clothing, at the Berkshire Mall in Lanesborough.

"Governor Vetoes Pension Exemption for City Worker"
By Tammy Daniels - December 20, 2007

NORTH ADAMS - Gov. Deval Patrick couldn't forgive a city worker's past conviction, dashing his hopes to retire with a pension in a move described as "callous."

The governor vetoed a home rule bill late Wednesday that would have reinstated the retirement rights of Highway Superintendent Leo Senecal.

"This is the most callous act I've ever seen by a governor," said Mayor John Barrett III on Thursday. "He's hurt someone who doesn't deserve to be hurt."

Senecal pleaded guilty in 1998 to burying hazardous waste (oil) at the city yard. He said at the time that he was trying to save the city money. He was fined $9,000 for the cost of the cleanup, suspended and demoted, and placed on probation. He served no jail time for the criminal conviction.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said he was frustrated and disappointed by the governor's action and vowed to override the veto.

"This is a case of redressing a wrong. It's very frustrating," said Bosley, who filed the bill. "I'm bound and determined to override this thing. ... We'll carry it over [into the new year]."

Pension Revoked

Senecal, a 40-year city veteran, continued to pay into the city's pension fund but was stripped of his rights earlier this year because of his conviction. Retirement Board members had reportedly been told they could be jailed if they OK'ed the pension in defiance of a 1996 law that prohibited convicted felons from receiving state pension benefits.

Bosley filed the bill asking the Legislature to exempt Senecal. The Public Employees Retirement Administration Commission had explained the particulars to the governor's people in support of the bill, he said. The City Council had voted 9-0 in support of the measure.

But what angered both Bosley and Barrett was that the governor never communicated with either one about the bill - or his decision to veto it.

"He never called anybody to find out what the situation was," said Barrett. The mayor said he learned of the veto Wednesday and spent a sleepless night before informing Senecal on Thursday morning.

The governor also didn't return a call from Barrett, instead having his chief of staff respond - which didn't sit well the the state's longest-serving mayor.

"I don't know where this guy's coming from," said Barrett, adding that the governor he supported has done little to back up his claim of bringing compassion to his office.

In his message to the Legislature on the veto, the governor wrote "I do not believe the public is well served by making individual legislative exceptions to a rule that is meant to apply uniformly."

Bosley, however, said those exceptions are very much the purview of the Legislature.

"This is the General Court of Massachusetts. We are the court of last resort," he said, for people who find themselves in difficult situations, such as Senecal has. "We turn down dozens [of requests] a year. We approve precious few because they have merit."

Senecal is the first - and so far only - public employee to be punished under the 11-year-old law designed to prevent corrupt public officials from retaining benefits. The Retirement Board will return the $41,000 or so he's contributed to the system, but he'll have no Social Security, no pension and no insurance. He's paid about $50,000 in attorney fees and will lose an estimated $700,000 in pension benefits, said the mayor.

'Slap in the Face'

Barrett described the veto as a "slap in the face" to Bosley, and wondered why the governor would anger a powerful lawmaker and co-chairman of the Committee on Economic Development and Emerging Technologies - where Patrick's life science bill and casino initiative are currently sitting. Bosley is an outspoken opponent of casino gambling.

The representative said he didn't think it was personal and didn't know why the governor would veto the bill. He and Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, a sponsor of the home rule bill, have been lining up support for a veto override.

"This guy has paid a lot for one transgression in 40 years," said Bosley. "He's paid in money, and in embarrassment every time there's a story."


"A gross miscarriage of justice"
The North Adams Transcript - Letters
Wednesday, December 26, 2007

To the editor:

I normally do not agree with what I read about John Barrett III, mayor of North Apathy, and what he has to say. But this time, I am forced to agree with him.

I have sat on the Grand Jury twice. One time was when Leo Senecal was in the hot seat (for illegally disposing of oil), obviously ratted out by a fellow employee.

The state was represented by a woman from that entity presenting the charges. When I questioned her as to the composition of said oil, she could not tell me.

In my opinion, those charges never should have been brought. I found this guy to be totally ignorant of the potential for what he did. His only intent was to save the city some money and bookwork.

Why didn't the city have a procedure in place to deal with this occurrence? The city itself is the culprit here, to not have covered such an eventuality and have a procedure in place to deal with it!

In my opinion, Senecal was not a highly educated individual and dealt with the problem as best he could, given the circumstances. I voted not to indict Senecal because I saw no malicious intent!

Let me further state, as I reiterated to those in the DA office who I could reach. The DA's office uses a shotgun approach to every case I saw. They normally, in my opinion, have little to no clue. So they bring multiple charges, praying to their god that one will stick. The only guideline they have is WHAT'S MY SCORE?!

Now those in that office might say it's not up to me to judge. To the contrary: It's your duty to judge and not bring trivial cases to court, as I have seen while sitting on the grand jury.

The DA's office puts itself forward as a knowledgeable, all-knowing entity. NOT SO. BUT, they lead those on the jury to believe they know the score. Nothing could be further from the truth. Were Senecal to be black, he would have his pension, and it would never hit the news.

Richard A. Jones Sr.
Lanesborough, Massachusetts
Dec. 24, 2007



"Pension deals still the norm at Statehouse"
Salem, Massachusetts, news, late-December of 2007

After this paper published its series this summer on the burgeoning crisis in state retirement benefits, "Pension Tidal Wave," legislators crowed long and loud about their desire to reform the system.

Come Christmas, however, they were ready to hand out the presents again.

Both the House and Senate approved special legislation to set up a pension fund for a Leo Senecal, highway superintendent for the western Massachusetts city of North Adams.

Under state law, Senecal had forfeited his right to a pension in 1998, when he pled guilty to illegally dumping 150 gallons of waste oil in the city yard.

That wasn't good enough for state Rep Daniel Bosley. The North Adams Democrat, with help from local officials, filed the bill reinstating the pension for his friend Senecal.

Gov. Deval Patrick wisely stepped in and vetoed the measure.

Another one of Senecal's friends, North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, told the local media Patrick's veto was "the most callous act I've ever seen by a governor. He's hurt someone who doesn't deserve to be hurt."

Barrett and Bosley describe Senecal as a good guy who made one mistake, a mistake for which he's still paying.

That may be true, but it doesn't justify rewriting the law for a friend. That's what local legislators did when they helped push through a $33,000 a year retirement benefit for the widow of Salem state Rep. J. Michael Ruane, even though Ruane did not pay into the pension system.

Such favors are the norm on Beacon Hill, and they come at a cost to the rest of us taxpayers. A Pioneer Institute study last year put the price tag of such legislated loopholes at $125 million.

Patrick seems to understand this, telling the State House News Service, "I do not believe the public is well served by making individual legislative exceptions to a rule that is meant to apply uniformly."

We agree with Patrick. Bosley, however, vows to override the governor's veto.

Reform, apparently, is fine as long as it doesn't involve your friends.


"Hunger, homelessness fueled by area's frailties"
By Hinda Mandell
North Adams Transcript

Monday, February 21, 2005 - NORTH ADAMS -- Unaffordable housing, substance abuse, mental illness, low wages, few jobs and regional isolation are all factors explaining the area's economic stagnation and its high numbers of needy people, according to officials with local hunger and homeless assistance programs.

The Transcript reported Wednesday that 85 percent of Western Massachusetts food assistance agencies surveyed in the past year saw an increase in requests. Nationally, that same statistic is 74 percent.

Also, 100 percent of Western Massachusetts shelters saw a jump in requests for services, compared with 65 percent nationwide.

The question persists: Why?

Charlene Lawson, the executive director of Family Life Support Center Inc., pointed to a lack of full-time employment with benefits as a substantial problem.

When people do secure jobs, day care and rent consumes much of their income.

Lawson said more efforts should be placed into preventing homelessness. "Once someone becomes homeless, it costs so much more to support them," she said. If people face extremely tight finances, they should immediately proceed with landlord or utility mediation "so they don't end up at the bottom," she said.

It is not only people who are hurting financially -- social organizations also face financial shortages. When money is tight, Lawson said that the community works together to help people along -- to a certain extent. "We sort of take care of our own," she said. "We work together to make sure people are stabilized."

According to Lawson, the Family Life Support Prevention Office had 1,330 clients in 2004, 215 of whom were homeless. One hundred and 80 of those individuals were accepted into the Louison House shelter. While the organization serves all of Northern Berkshires, the majority of its clients are from North Adams, according to Lawson.

Berkshire County Red Cross spokeswoman Kathleen Phillips said that the county's geographical isolation contributes to the area's increase in hungry and homeless people. Once people go through a shelter it is often difficult to find clean and safe housing, not only due to credit problems, but because, "There's not an inventory of affordable housing in Berkshire County," said Phillips.

The results of the National Student Campaign survey do not come as a surprise to Phillips. "We've been talking for years now that homelessness is increasing in Berkshire County," she said.

A complex web

Whatever the reason that sends people to seek food or shelter assistance, the web of problems are increasingly complex, with a rise in drug and alcohol abuse, as well as mental illness.

"It has to do with stress levels. It's a cycle," said Phillips, referring to the fact that unemployment can trigger a downward spiral into drug and alcohol use as an escape from a burdensome reality. Additionally, many individuals do not "understand what happens to poor people," which makes it difficult to shuffle money to this part of the state, said Phillips.

However in Hatfield, the site of the Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, money is finding its way to a much-needed project: expansion of the pantry's warehouse. U.S. Rep. John W. Olver, D-Amherst, secured $485,000 in funding to help finance this project.

According to Director of Development Christopher Land-ry, the rapid increase in need prompted the project that will double the size of the 17,000-square-foot warehouse. The Food Bank has so far raised $2.2 million for the $3 million project. Food from the warehouse is delivered to pantries throughout Berkshire County.

Landry described Western Massachusetts' rise in needy individuals due to its sluggish economy.

"We just don't have a critical mass of industry. We haven't benefited enough from biotech expansion, the Internet and technology bubble," he said. Western Massachusetts' rural economy does not lend itself easily to booming industry, he said.

Even when the state's economy is strong, its full effect does not usually trickle down to Western Massachusetts. "We don't experience the good times," said Landry.

Add to the pot Massachusetts' exorbitant housing costs -- the most expensive state for housing, said Landry -- and many people cannot make ends meet.

State Sen. Andrea F. NUCIFORO Jr., D-Pittsfield, said that the rise in homeless families occurs most frequently in areas affected by a decline in manual jobs. Fitchburg and Pittsfield share a similar economic structure -- and a similar stifled economy -- with an overwhelmingly white and working class population, he said. They both represent communities "really struggling to find a promising economic picture after a dramatic decline in manufacturing," he said.

The key to alleviating the problem is not just securing money, but channeling it into effective programs. The state legislature is trying to alleviate these SOCIAL PROBLEMS by allocating $2 million in funding for residential assistance for families in transition, said Nuciforo. This program will aid families "struggling to put food on the table."


The North Adams Transcript
Article Published: Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"City residents should ask questions about TCE contamination"

To the Editor:

On Aug. 25, about 25 residents of North Adams and interested parties attended a public meeting at City Hall concerning the state of groundwater.

Groundwater contamination has occurred primarily from the operations of the former Sprague Electric Co. plants at Brown and Marshall streets. What the public heard at the meeting should not put their minds at ease.

While levels of trichloroethylene, or TCE -- a probable human carcinogen made famous in the movie "A Civil Action" -- have decreased over the past five years, they are still dangerously high. The first concern with TCE is that North Adams groundwater, as a drinking water-classified res-ource, must have no more than 5 parts per billion TCE; some wells used to sample water are still reading in the thousands of parts per billion.

A recent study showed that TCE contamination could potentially reach the Greylock Well, a secondary drinking water source for the city, in two to eight years. A second concern, best demonstrated by the purchase and leveling of houses in the 1990s on Avon and Alton streets, is TCE vapor contamination. We learned that more houses in the Harding Street area are under investigation for possible TCE vapor contamination.

The current owner of the Brown Street property, Great American Financial Resources Inc. (GAFRI) and their environmental contractor, Blasland, Bouck, and Lee (BBL) are proposing that the groundwater issues be addressed through a process of either monitored natural attenuation or a type of bioremediation using lactose to enhance biodegradation. Citizens should be aware that natural attenuation amounts to doing nothing except continued sampling and hoping the contamination naturally disappears.

The lactose method is experimental, and BBL has done a small pilot study of its effectiveness to date. There are other, proven methodologies for remediating TCE in groundwater, including air stripping, pump and treat, permeable reactive barriers and others. These proven methods cost more money than natural attenuation.

The former Sprague Electric sites are classified as highly contaminated by the state (Tier 1A classification), and as such are eligible for public involvement plans. Under the Massachusetts Contingency Plan, only 10 residents' signatures are required on a petition to create a public involvement plan which includes requests for extended public comment periods on how groundwater contamination will be addressed.

Community members could request more information about the extent of the TCE plume and which neighborhoods are affected, for example.

The state Department of Environmental Protection oversees the site out of their Regional office in Springfield, (413) 784-1100.

Dori Digenti
Center for Community, Science and the Environment
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, Massachusetts
Aug. 28, 2005



Dear Dan Bosley & N.A. Transcript & Berkshire Bloggers:

Re: "Thanks for stopping by" (An Editorial, North Adams Transcript, 9/25): North Adams (& far moreso than ever before in Pittsfield, for that matter) politics is uninviting and therefore leaves a long shadow of intimidation (and downright corruption in Pittsfield's case) to those of us who are not on the inside. We live in a free country where all citizens have the God-given and Constitutionally protected right to speak out on public matters. However, in North Adams, you have long-standing Pols by the names of John Barrett III and Dan Bosley, among others, who don't really give democracy a chance to elect new leaders because the insiders have an iron grip on political power. In Pittsfield, you have a far worse situation with state Pols such as Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. and Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., who don't even give the even the slightest hint or pretense of democracy by their holding of elections with not more than only one candidate other than their own respective names on the ballot.

While the North Adams Transcript Editors are absolutely correct that in theory and that despite being an outsider, the current short-lived Governor should have made at least one visit to the area, I must ask the North Adams Transcript Editors to look at the real world in which they pen their finger-pointing opinion pieces. To illustrate my point, I am asking the North Adams Transcript Editors the following questions:

(a) Would you rather have the current North Adams Mayor and State Representative with an iron grip on political power for over 2 decades with no new ideas, people or future leaders for North Adams and thereby not giving democracy a real chance for the election of new leaders -- OR -- a short-lived no-show Governor who never once visited North Adams and instead spends more time in Washington, D.C. than even in Boston, Massachusetts?

(b) Would you rather have Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. continually run for Berkshire County Sheriff unopposed every election cycle, be appointed to a local board in the place of a local Pittsfield woman who was not only more qualified but also more experienced than Massimiano by a good old boy Mayor who initially campaigned against the Old Boy Network label that he now demonstrably wears with false pride, be hypocritically voted a pay raise of over 21%/over $21,000 after supporting the current Pittsfield Mayor's policies of diminishing both public school teacher's benefits and incentives to keep and attract quality teachers to remain and come to work for the ailing Pittsfield public schools, and who runs a political machine that makes or breaks people based on their political connections and loyalties rather than their achievements and qualifications -- OR -- a short-lived Governor who wants only to be nominated by the Republican Party as the next candidate for the American Presidency instead of paying a cameo visit to North Adams?

(c) Would you rather have the current Berkshire State Senator by the name of Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. strong-arm two women already running for the state government political office of Pittsfield Registrar of Deeds in the Spring of 2006 and then go onto to unfairly win the September 19, 2006 Democratic Primary unopposed with no opposition in the November, 2006 general election either for this "elected" position of Pittsfield Registry of Deeds -- OR -- would you rather have a short-lived Governor overtly ignore the specific needs of North Adams for his own political ambitions?

If any of the North Adams Transcript's answers are in favor of North Adams Mayor John Barrett III, North Adams State Representative Dan Bosley, Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., and/or State Senator Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. over Massachusetts Governor Willard Mitt Romney's avoidance of visiting and/or specifically focusing on North Adams then I think I am going to vomit. Take a look around North Adams and see how the system works for those of us not on the inside of politics -- and it is even far worse in Pittsfield!

Jonathan A. Melle


"Thanks for stopping by"
Monday, September 25, 2006

Good for Tim Murray, Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor, who took time out from his busy schedule Sunday in Westfield, Pittsfield and points east to make an afternoon stop in North Adams.

North Adams, you remember — the land that Gov. Mitt Romney, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey and time forgot. Mr. Murray didn't forget. He spent about an hour at the Holiday Inn thanking Mayor John Barrett III and other Democratic leaders for their support in the recent primary and touting his running mate, Deval Patrick, for governor. It certainly didn't take Mr. Murray long to learn a team approach.

Despite very short notice, state Rep. Daniel Bosley and other party faithful managed to make it down to listen to his impromptu remarks, in which Mr. Murray proved himself, of all things, an articulate politician. Among those listening were Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President Mary Grant, her husband, James Canavan, City Council President Gailanne M. Cariddi, City Councilor Marie T. Harpin, Williamstown Democrats Margie Ware and Lee Harrison and North Adams attorney and civic leader John B. DeRosa, to name a few.

Mr. Murray hit all the right notes — support for higher education, jobs, working with cities and towns and improving transportation infrastructure. He called the state's aging bridges and roads an embarrassment, while standing less than a stone's throw away from the city's own testimony to that — the crumbling, peeling eyesore known as the Hadley Overpass.

He knew he was preaching to the choir. But he stressed the importance of working hard in the upcoming campaign to defeat the Kerry Healey-Reed Hillman ticket for governor on Election Day. The Republicans will certainly outspend the Democratic team, he warned.

"I come from a blue-collar city where hard work is appreciated. I know North Adams is the same way," said Mr. Murray, mayor of Worcester, which under his leadership has become the fastest-growing city in the state.

But all his comments, as impressive as they may have sounded, paled in comparison to the one thing he did quite right — come to North Adams personally, (for the third time since he first started running — three times more than Ms. Healey and Mr. Romney have ever been here.) He said he had little doubt that Mr. Patrick would be making a stop or two in the Berkshires in the coming weeks — with North Adams high on the list.

We'll listen carefully to what Ms. Healey and Mr. Hillman have to say during the campaign, as most voters likely will. The race will be decided on the issues, of course. But the Republicans might take a hint from their Democratic counterparts and venture west of Route 495. It could help.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007
"Amid fiscal doom art world flourishes"
By Ula Ilnytzky, Associated Press

NEW YORK — Art is hot.

Despite turmoil in the financial markets, there are no signs that the art market is softening.

The fall auction season in New York saw robust prices across most categories, with postwar and contemporary works in particular going through the roof. It seemed like a new record was being shattered every time an art auction was held.

This record haul generated billions of dollars for auction houses such as Sotheby's, contributing to solid earnings but also exposing auctioneers to volatility when sales didn't go as well as expected.

The reason for the art market's strong showing? The weak dollar, expanding world wealth and new buyers from countries not previously associated with the art collecting community, experts say. Over the last five years, wealthy buyers from Russia, China, India and the Middle East have greatly helped fuel the art market.

The boom has occurred against the backdrop of a dreadful year for the financial sector in the U.S. — a slump that seems to have been offset by the influx of foreign buyers and big American buyers who have not been affected by the uncertain economy.

These buyers paid astronomical amounts for art. An Andy Warhol painting sold for more than $71 million in a May auction that brought in a total of nearly $385 million. A Matisse fetched more than $33.6 million in a November sale that also took in nearly $400 million. A limestone lion sculpture that measures 3 1/4 inches hauled in $57 million earlier this month.

Still, the art market hasn't been immune to turbulence.

Sotheby's suffered a lackluster modern and impressionist sale in November in which Van Gogh's "The Fields," estimated at $28 million to $35 million, failed to sell and many other works sold below their estimates. Sotheby's stock plunged 28 percent that day because of investors' fears that the company had overextended itself in guaranteeing sellers' reserve — the price the house promises to pay if a certain item doesn't sell.

"What the market was saying was that the property being offered was very heavily estimated and the quality was not there to support this value," said Ian Peck, CEO of the art-finance firm Art Capital Group.

"If you try to sell stuff for twice what it's worth, the market's going to say no," said Peck, adding that he heard that the Van Gogh later sold privately for about $20 million.

Peck says his blanket advice to clients is to take a wait-and-see attitude for the next year, and see how the art market plays out. "Our view is that within 12 months we'll know if this thing is getting worse, meaning if a recession occurs in the U.S. market or not."

Generally, the art market trails the Dow Jones industrial average and other market indexes by about six to eight months, Peck said. And stocks have been volatile, with big swings up and down, since the summer.

But he was optimistic that the art market would ride out the crisis, and noted that his firm, which is essentially a private banker for art buyers, has seen a spike in loan applications to buy art. And people at auction houses aren't really seeing much of a downturn because of problems on Wall Street.

"If you look around, particularly in New York, it seems like everyone's a billionaire and they don't seem to be affected terribly by this credit crunch," said David Nash, of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, a private New York art consultancy and gallery specializing in impressionist, modern and contemporary masters.

While art from all eras is selling well, works by modern masters like Warhol and Mark Rothko and living artists like Richard Prince and Damien Hirst are especially hot. In oil producing countries like the United Arab Emirates, the appetite is for modern American works by such artists as Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat and Warhol, Peck said.

"The most money is chasing these modern and contemporary names, and that's just what's in fashion really," Peck said, adding that buyers with new money from Russia and China have a "limitless appetite for Western art and objects. Prices in some cases have doubled or tripled in the past year."

Michael Moses, co-founder of the Mei Moses All Art Index, which looks at the historical performance of art as an investment and asset class, said it is noteworthy that the art buying public has become so global.

"This is the first time in a long time where we've had truly universal world wealth expand. ... It's a relatively new precedent that there is so much wealth being created all over the world," he said.

Overall, Peck estimates that the art market gained about 18 percent in 2006 — not a bad return at a time of turmoil in the stock market.

"My experience over the last month or so is that there is a lot of money around, a lot of people looking to buy things," said Nash. "There are not very many people who've said I'm not going to buy this NOW because I'm worried about the state of the economy."


"Mayor predicts projects will be started in 2008"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, December 29, 2007

NORTH ADAMS — With the new year right around the corner, Mayor John Barrett III is predicting that 2008 will be the year that city residents start seeing the development deals and promised projects of the last 12 months begin to come to fruition.

"It's the year that we're finally going to have construction start on the Hadley Overpass," Barrett said Thursday, as he prepared to write his 13th inaugural speech. "We'll finally see that atrocious green monster replaced. But it's also the year that I think Mass MoCA goes to the next level with the opening of the Sol LeWitt Gallery."

While the LeWitt Gallery — which will host some 93 paintings conceptualized by the artist, who is called the father of conceptual art — won't open until November 2008, Barrett said the gallery's significance is sure to draw people to the area.

"There's definitely going to be new investments made in the private sector," he said. "People are going to come to the city and see the opportunity that's here."

And with the development of a Lowe's home improvement store in the North Adams Plaza on Curran Highway, the mayor said, he is sure more retail will follow.

"I'm optimistic that ground will be broken for that development this year," he said. "That's a $12 million to $14 million investment. With that acting as a catalyst, I think we'll see more retail development follow down the road at the former gravel bed."

Over at Steeple City Plaza, work has already begun on the space saved for its newest tenant, Planet Fitness, a gym that will be located between the North Adams Movieplex 8 and Olympia Sports.

"They're working on getting the gym here," Barrett said. "And they're working on finding a restaurant for the former garden center space. I'm certain that there will be something to fill the Fashion Bug spot (in the L-shaped mall) in the coming months and that the makeover of that site will be complete later this year."

With things looking up for the downtown, which is set to see an infusion of $2 million in federal funds for rehabilitative work, the mayor hopes to see a rejuvenation of the Eagle Street shopping district begin this coming year.

"People from outside of the city are always amazed with the makeover that we've accomplished," he said. "I still call Eagle Street the crown jewel of the downtown. The east side of the street is really what's hurting it. I wish the owners of that one section of empty buildings (the Manuel family) would just sell it. Those buildings are just deteriorating, and there are so many investors who want to bring it back to life."

Unfortunately, he said, the owners are asking what he calls "ridic- ulous prices."

"No one could pay what they want for the buildings and then invest what it would take to bring those buildings back to life," Barrett said. "With so many good things going on down there with the businesses, you would hope this would be the year they would sell."

The coming year also will bring with it a stronger housing market as several projects enter the beginning phases.

"This is the year we lay the groundwork for some substantial housing in the city," the mayor said. "We're not talking single family homes here, but townhouses and nice apartments. The H.W. Clark Biscuit building should be coming on line this year — if its not completed, it will be nearing completion. I'm also optimistic that we'll see work begin on the former Notre Dame School."

Arch Street Development of Need- ham is in the process of buying both the Clark Biscuit building on Ashland Street and the former Notre Dame complex on East Main Street from the city. Arch Street plans 43 one- and two- bedroom affordable apartments for Ashland Street, while the former school building will feature 14 condominium units.

"So much more is going to happen with our housing stock in the city," Barrett said. "We have property owners who refuse to clean up the property and are hurting the city pretty badly. We've done a lot to eradicate the poor housing stock, but it never seems like we get it all. There's going to be a real focus over the next two years to take care of this problem, and I'm not beyond using eminent domain to force the issue. There's certainly a public purpose behind it."

He added, "We're going to go after these so-called 'equity thieves' who have been driving up the prices of houses and then leaving with the money. We're just about at full staffing levels in our inspection department, and we're going to go after them."

But one of the biggest decisions facing the city in the coming months will be what to do with Silvio O. Conte Middle School.

"We've got major league problems with that building," Barrett said. "We have to make a decision about what we're going to do with the middle school concept this year. People think the decision has been made, but it hasn't."

After having several meetings with the state, the mayor said he is confident that funding for the needed additions to Sullivan and Greylock elementary schools will come through.

"There's definitely a chance that we could get a lot of money, with the state reimbursing 70 to 80 percent of the costs," he said. "If the middle school concept does go, we need to make sure that a lot of things going on there now carry through to the elementary schools, like the laptop initiative and science labs."

The School Committee has been exploring the idea of moving grades six, seven and eight out of the middle school and making all elementary schools for grades pre-kindergarten through eight.

One thing Barrett is wary of in pursuing that idea is adding new debt to the city's already strained coffers.

"When we take on this project, Brayton School should be paid off," he said. "If there's one legacy I want to leave behind, it's a good school system. I think this is the final piece."

For all his optimism, the mayor said, he has been busy poring over the city's finances, as he predicts bleak times ahead for local communities.

"I've been so consumed with the finances, it's taken away from a lot of the things I could be planning," he said. "The state's inability to understand the fiscal meltdown being felt at the local level, coupled with the federal government's preoccupation with Iraq, is just making it a difficult time. This is the longest period of fiscal concern I've seen in my tenure as mayor. It's been going on since 2003."

While the city isn't in financial trouble, Barrett predicts that things could get bad in coming years if money doesn't start coming in from the state.

"I've been squirreling away mon- ey for the past 15 years, but that's gone now," he said. "I thought that the money would only be needed for a year or two. We're on year five now. I've depleted all of our educational reserves, and the stabilization fund is depleted. If things don't start getting better, we could be in trouble in a three-to-five-year period."

He said the state Legislature needs to give the municipalities the tools to alleviate the property-tax burden.

"If we had an additional 2-cent meal tax, we could raise another $500,000 a year," Barrett said. "Another 2 percent on the hotel/ motel tax would generate another $200,000 for us. We're going to see another 10 to 15 town go into default this year. We won't be one of them, but maybe it will be a good thing for places like North Adams. Maybe it will wake up the Legislature, and they'll give us the ability to make these decisions at the local level."


"Airport nearly ready to break ground on $6.5M runway project"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Thursday, January 3, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — After years of battling over easements, abutters trying to block the cutting of trees and numerous meetings and public hearings, the $6.5 million runway reconstruction project at the Harri- man and West Airport is almost ready to break ground.

"Hopefully, we'll see this project completed by 2010," Alfred "Bud" Dougherty, chairman of the North Adams Airport Commission, said Wednesday. "We've seen this project postponed more than once. Each year we have to submit a capital improvement plan to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Massachusetts Aeronautical Comm- ission, and it's been an issue for many years."

The last piece of the puzzle should be a permit to fill in about 1.5 acres of wetland for the runway reconstruction from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is expected by the end of the month.

According to Timothy J. Dugan, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers, the impact on the wetlands would be minimal and all wetlands affected would be replaced.

"Sometimes plans can't be changed, so we work with the applicant on the replacement of the wetlands," Dugan said last week. "A total of 1.5 acres of wetlands will be impacted by the runway project, so 3.3 acres of land will be set aside to replace the wetlands, and it will be nourished so aquatic plants and habitats can flourish."

He said current plans call for the 1.5 acres in the area of the Paull Brook and its tributaries to be leveled off with fill, which also will call for the relocation of a culvert and a wetlands drainage area.

"The impact on the existing wetlands will be minimal and there will actually be no net loss of wetland area after the replacement process," Dugan said.

According to Dougherty, the 4,300-foot-long runway is not being extended, but rather is being rebuilt with but rebuilt with 200 feet of grassy, level ground on each end of the runway to extend the landing safety zone for incoming aircraft. The safety zone is a requirement of the FAA and was implemented to reduce the number of plane crashes, a majority of which happen during takeoffs and landings.

"This project has been going on for the better part of 10 years," Dougherty said. "Our runway needs to be reconstructed — it's 50 years old. The average runway lasts between 20 to 30 years, so ours is long overdue."

He said the runway was resurfaced with about an inch of asphalt about eight years ago as a temporary fix, while steps to reconstruct it were being taken. To incorporate the 200-foot safety zone on the North Adams side of the runway, the entire runway will have to be shifted 100 feet to the west, but it will remain the same length.

The reconstruction of the runway was included in the airport's master plan in 1985, when the FAA identified both the need to rehabilitate the runway and clear trees within 100 yards of the runway for safety reasons.

"We've been on this since 1984, when we started working on this for the first time," Dougherty said. "At that time, instead of cutting trees we changed the location of the 'touch down' area from the Williamstown end the North Adams end. Under the agreement made with the MAC, the switch was awarded on a temporary basis until the time came that we needed to do something."

With the implementation of the master plan — which requires the reconstruction of the runway — the "touch down" or landing area will be relocated to the Williamstown side of the airport, which has required the cutting and trimming of trees.

"We've gone through this whole tree cutting business in North Adams and are almost finished with Williamstown," Dougherty said. "Safety — that's the one word description that fits this whole project. We're just following FAA regulations on how high or low a tree has to be."

He said the clearing of trees on forested land will begin this winter, while trees on private properties won't be removed until the spring.


"Mayor: Uplifting things in new year"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Friday, January 4, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Mayor John Barrett III plans to lay out a map of what lies ahead for the city over the course of the next two years during his 13th inaugural address on Monday.

"It basically has a theme of where we've been, where we are and where we are going," the mayor said Thursday afternoon. "The city is going to face a lot of problems — mainly financial ones. The seriousness of the state's fiscal crisis is going to have an impact on the community, but I'm also going to hit on many positive things that are beginning. I think there are many uplifting things that are going to be happening."

Although the state has a fiscal crisis looming, Barrett said the city is "very fortunate" to be where it is financially.

The mayor, City Council, North Adams School Committee and the McCann School Committee will all be sworn in Monday night at 7 at City Hall.

"We're breaking with the tradition of a 10 a.m. ceremony," Barrett said. "We wanted people to be able to attend, if not watch it on television."

The ceremony will be broadcast live on Northern Berkshire Comm- unity Television's Channel 17. A reception will follow the organization of the council.

The public is invited to both events.

While Barrett remained elusive about the contents of his speech, encouraging residents to either join the ceremony or tune-in to it, he did say there would be a few initiatives announced.

"I'm going to talk about the Mohawk Theater a little, about dealing with blighted property and about education," he said. "I've been talking about blighted property for some years now, but I'm going to put forth a plan that will do something about it."

He will also speak about initiatives he hopes to see pass through the state Legislature.

"Hopefully, we'll also see some initiatives get passed at the state level that will bring some property tax relief," Barrett said. "I'm still very angry about the bills that were sent out to property owners. As far as I'm concerned, they got shafted by the state."

Barrett said preparing for his 13th inaugural speech hasn't been easy.

"I'm hopeful that my speech will intertwine with the lives of everyday people," he said. "I've always be- lieved that my speech should be at a level that everyone can understand and identify with. I don't want to talk at my residents, I want to speak to them about what I have planned for the next two years. Too many public officials — mayors and governors — talk at the public."

While he's honored to begin his 13th term and hold on to his title as the longest-serving mayor in the state, Barrett said he never planned to be in office for so long.

"If someone was to go back 24 years to that cold, blustery Jan. 1 at Drury High School and tell me that I would still be here, I'd have them committed," he said. "I didn't have plans to stay this long. I'm never finished, though. What you have to do is have the passion to keep moving ahead, not just maintain the status quo. There's still a few things I have to do."

He added, "I still have a love for the job, and I don't know anyone foolish enough to stay as long as I have."

"Barrett Prepares for 13th Term"
By Tammy Daniels - January 07, 2008

NORTH ADAMS - With a dozen already under his belt, you'd think an inauguration speech would come easily to the state's dean of mayors.

John Barrett III straightened out the pile of marked-up pages on his desk Friday. "I'm still working on it," he said. He'd been working on it for more than week.

He plans to outline the year's coming attractions - streetscape improvements, bridge repairs, big box projects and, hopefully, the Mohawk Theater renovations - at his inauguration tonight. He's set to talk about a new initiative to target the city's slumlords.

But it's not all good news. Taxes are up, budgets are razor-thin - and the state just isn't listening, said the mayor.

He can tick off a litany of fiscal woes affecting towns and cities across the state. He expects some to go into default; all have been struggling as the state began cutting back aid over the last five years.

This year, in particular, has been tough because of the soured relationship with Gov. Deval Patrick. Barrett, an early supporter of former Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly, lined up behind Patrick after Reilly dropped out of the governor's race.

Battling Barrett

Patrick's promise not to forget Western Mass. struck a chord with voters and political leaders alike, but hopes for a strong link with Beacon Hill were dashed after the Democrat took office. There was that break with Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, Barrett's friend and political ally, that's widened over the months as Bosley's locked horns with Patrick over casino gambling.

"It's been one battle after another," Barrett said.

Not that Barrett doesn't enjoy a battle or two. Some would seem downright quixotic if he didn't win so often. Corporations, politicos, slumlords - all are fair game.

Last year, he took on the cable company and won. His latest crusade is against high gas prices in the city (which dipped after he made a lot of noise last summer).

Why gas? "Why not?" he responded. "Nobody else is doing anything about it."

The former schoolteacher ran for office, he said, because he was angry about the direction the city was going in back in 1983. It was a bad time: Sprague Electric Co., which had provided good jobs for three generations of North Adams residents, was folding. Unemployment was up and prospects were down.

The city has since begun to blossom into a haven for art and artists under his leadership; political challengers have fallen by the wayside. Last year, nobody bothered to run against him. But Barrett isn't sitting back on his laurels - or mellowing too much.

"I still get angry," he laughed. A full-color, front-page copy of the Boston Herald with Barrett in a particularly pugnacious pose adorns his office wall (along with dozens of pictures and other ephemera). Surrounded by mayors, Barrett is at a podium pointing angrily outward. "I'm still a fighter for the city."

It's that passion, he said, that keeps him running for office.

"I think I reflect the people, even the new people who come to this city," said the mayor, referring to the growing number of artists and art-related businesses that have begun calling the city home. They've been drawn here by the decade-old Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the largest contemporary art museum in the United States and the most prominent symbol of building reuse in the city.

What's Old Is New

Taking something old and making it new is key to reinvigorating North Adams, said Barrett. "You have to build on what you have." He pointed to local artist and developer Eric Rudd's renovation of the Eclipse Mill on Union Street into artists lofts; across the street from the Eclipse, the old Hoosac Mill is being developed.

The storied Fitzpatricks of Stockbridge turned a row of dilapidated apartment houses into the high-class Porches inn and the Clark Biscuit building and the former Notre Dame School are being transformed into housing.

The housing is the exciting part, said Barrett, because it will bring people back into the downtown. Eagle Street is "a diamond in the rough" that would benefit from the establishment of an inn in one of its central buildings, if the owners would develop it or sell it for a reasonable price, he said.

Meanwhile, the city has maintained and expanded on a growing list of properties - Western Gateway Heritage State Park, new sports fields, the skating rink, the library, schools.

"It's government's role to create venues for people," said Barrett.

But that's getting tougher to do. Plans for the historic art deco Mohawk had to be scaled back and then delayed as costs spiraled. Barrett still plans to see the project through, saying it will provide yet another venue for the community. While it will be managed by Mass MoCA, he envisions it as a space for everything from weddings to plays to conventions.

The Hadley Overpass will finally get repaired after a nearly 15-year wait and new signage and traffic lights are planned for the downtown thanks to $2 million procured by U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy nearly two years ago.

The future isn't all bright lights, though. "I see things getting harder," said Barrett, referring to the continuing financial difficulties the city faces.

Staffing levels have been slashed, in some departments in half, over the past two decades to cut costs. The mayor credits the city's "hard-working employees" for keeping it running well. Health care costs and state mandates - like the $12 million water filtration plant - have stretched budgets thin.

One of the mayor's running battles has been over the mechanism for funding charter schools. The Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School is siphoning off nearly $700,000 a year from the city, he said. If the state adjusted the funding, it could put $400,000 back in the city's coffers.

Barrett, who also serves as School Committee chairman, said the city hasn't turned to the schools to cut costs.

"We have not cut programs, we have not charged fees because it would just be another burden on families," Barrett said.

Where's the Money?

Cities and towns need a revenue-sharing plan with the state, said Barrett, and the tools to create new revenue streams. "[The state] is balancing the budget on the backs of cities and towns."

He's concerned that Patrick is counting revenues from casino gambling - which isn't yet legal and unlikely to generate any money for the state for years. He described the state as having "a leadership vacuum" with a governor who "doesn't want to say no to anybody."

The mayor wasn't a big fan of a local hospitality tax when it was first proposed, but now sees at as a useful tool. A meals tax of 2 cents on the dollar could generate another half-million for the city, he said, and the effect would be miniscule on the consumer.

That could come in handy as the average taxpayer will see his property taxes rise $200 to $300 this year because the state rejected North Adams' reassessment of a number of crucial commercial properties.

"I was absolutely shocked," said Barrett. He blames it on the city's (and New Bedford's) legislative success in phasing in a decrease in the commercial tax burden to lessen the blow to homeowners. "This is a way to stick it to North Adams."

The city would have had to send out estimated tax bills if it wasn't for Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray's last-minute intervention, he said, which allowed the City Council to meet and OK the new calculations.

"Your taxes are going up but Time Warner's going to pay less ..." said a frustrated Barrett.

Yet another challenge for a mayor who stays in office because of them. "There is no better and no worse job," he said. A sign on his desk says "Be reasonable ... do it my way."


Over the last few years, he's taken on another mantle as a prophet for the "creative economy."

"That's becoming the new buzzword," said Barrett. He's been invited to speak at conventions and meetings around the country about the North Adams renaissance. Presenting himself as "a blue-collar mayor from a blue-collar community," he tells other industrial cities how they, too, can reinvent themselves.

"You can't have the creative economy unless you have the full support of local government and state government," he said.

As he settles into his 13th term, Barrett looks back on how the city has adapted over the last 24 years.

"Everything that has taken place in North Adams, nobody thought would work."

The City Council and School Committee will also take their oaths of office tonight at 7 at City Hall. The inauguration will be broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television Channel 17; a reception will follow. The public is invited.


"Mayor needs economics lesson?"
The North Adams Transcript - Letters
Monday, January 7, 2008

To the Editor:

Regarding "Barrett going after gas again," Transcript, Jan. 4:

The 20-some-year mayor of North Adams was a schoolteacher before he was elected mayor over two centuries ago. So he must have a four-year college degree. One wonders if he studied Economics 101 during his college education.

Is he aware of the basic rules of Supply and Demand, or Profit and Loss for a business? Is he aware that a private business has different goals than those of local government? They are in business to make a profit, whereas government is not established to make a profit; government should break even.

He said, "I want transparency." Has he forgotten that government is subject to transparency, but the private business world is subject to opening its books for tax purposes — not to make an elected official look good.

If the mayor can attack the retail automobile gas stations and force down profit margins, who would be next? How about doctors who charge high fees, or the local hospitals that have very high service rates? How about the local food stores, if they are forced to sell their food below market? Would large box stores come to town after they learn the local government can set their prices?

One of the problems of selling gas in the greater North Adams area is the cost of transporting gas to the retail outlets. The elected government leaders have never built, and in some cases have blocked, any interstate highways or gas pipelines into the area. Industry, which had skilled workers on board, has left the area due to excessive state and local government control of their operations.

When the government makes it difficult for a private company to make a profit or have what the private company considers a proper return on investment, they leave town.

Statements by government officials such as "or we'll be all over them like a cheap suit" are not the way to deal with local businesses. The mayor has admitted in the Transcript that: "I don't know anyone foolish enough to stay as long as I have." To solve the foolishness, all that is needed is a resignation letter.

Bob Francis
Fort Myers, Fla.
Jan. 5, 2008


These properties on East Main Street in North Adams, across from the former Notre Dame Church, are are marked with an X because they pose a hazard to rescue workers who may need to enter the premises. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)
City seeks to penalize slumlords, rehabilitate poorly-managed houses
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Friday, January 11, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Tired of seeing dilapidated and poor housing stock pop up in pockets throughout the city, City Councilor Richard J. Alcombright and Board of Health member Gary Ghidotti are ready to help the city sink its teeth into a problem created by slumlords and absentee landlords.

"My first priority is to give the city some 'real teeth' with which to go after these properties," Alcombright said. "The mayor said we have about 60 houses in the city that need to be taken care of. We need a solid process to not only penalize these landlords who are letting our housing stock deteriorate, but also a process that rehabilitates some of these buildings with the help of the private sector. A lot of these older buildings have a lot of character that needs to be preserved."

Alcombright was named chairman of a "blue-ribbon" commission aimed at strengthening the city's ability to eliminate urban blight from the city, during Mayor John Barrett III's inaugural address on Monday.

Ghidotti said as a health board member he has seen tons of code violations and even more disturbing pictures in the few years he's been on the board and he's ready to take the next step.

"There are many property owners in this city that take great pride in their homes, but a small minority should be ashamed of what we see," he said. "I think there's a simple test for whether or not a home is in good shape — ask yourself if you would want that property next to yours."

Alcombright said there are a number of things the board can do, but first he wants to round out the commission with a few more members.

"We have a health board member, and besides bringing a City Council perspective, I also bring that of a banker," he said. "I'd like to have someone from inspection services, someone from the real estate field and a few other people."

After appointing additional members, the commission will roll up its sleeves and start a solid fact-finding mission, he said.

"I've got a lot of ideas, but they're not set in stone," Alcombright said. "I think we need to look at what our ordinances and codes are presently and what the issues and problems in the city are. We need to make these landlords more accountable."

He said one way of combating already blighted properties from changing hands continuously, is to find a way to get the city in on the "front-end" of housing sales for particular houses.

"We don't want to impede sales, but with a house that's already under violation, there's got to be a way to get the city to be able to make the new owner bring it up to code," Alcombright said.

He also wants to see what other cities are doing to combat housing decay.

"In Schenectady (N.Y.), they put through an ordinance that says if the owner of an apartment building lives more than 25 miles away, they have to employ a professional property manager," Alcombright said. "We might want to do something like that to keep a point of contact with all these absentee landlords. There's a whole array of ways for us to make an impact."

Ghidotti said he's willing to do what it takes to stop piles of trash, deteriorating properties and unsightly yards piled with debris from forcing down property values and keeping new families from moving to the city.

"We need to curtail and eliminate this," he said. "I'm all for proposing harsh penalties for violations. There need to be consequences. But if we fail to do this now, things are only going to worsen. It's a recipe for disaster if we don't act. Change is definitely needed. I would hope that when we are done with this report, that our policy becomes a paradigm for other communities and that other communities will want to copy it."

Alcombright said he hopes to hit the ground running by the end of the month, with the commission's first meeting.


In a press conference Northern Berkshire Health Systems President Richard T. Palmisano II reported the company is back in the black. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

"NBH is back in the black"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Friday, January 18, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — For the first time in eight years, Northern Berkshire Healthcare officials are celebrating a gain in revenues.

While this year's surplus of $325,000 on revenues of $78.4 million for fiscal year 2007 falls short of the projected gain of $800,000 made by Richard Palmisano, NBH chief executive officer, last January, officials are still optimistic that the healthcare organization has turned a corner.

"We're not out of the woods yet," Palmisano said Thursday during a press conference at North Adams Regional Hospital. "I don't want to imply in any way that the turnaround is complete. We had an excellent year. After posting a loss of $4.6 million in 2005, we have made it back into the black on schedule."

He said the actual gain was lower than anticipated, because some areas of the organization saw slightly lower patient volumes, while a need for temporary staff at Sweet Brook Transitional Care and Living Centers, agency and traveling nurses, pushed expenses higher.

Northern Berkshire Healthcare is the parent organization of North Adams Regional Hospital, the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, the REACH Community Health Foundation, Sweet Brook and Sweetwood Continuing Care Retirement Community.

More than two years ago, the health-care organization hired FTI Cambio Health Solutions, a consultant group known for tightening spending and reorganizing staff, to correct the financial downward spiral — most of which was attributed to North Adams Regional Hospital. The $4.6 million fiscal 2005 loss also included several "one time" expenses, including consultant fees and several severance packages for high-ranking administrators.

Even with that, Stephen Crowe, chairman of the NBH board of trustees had projected a $1.5 million deficit for fiscal 2006.

Palmisano attributed much of the financial stability to measures embarked on two years ago — the recruitment of more staff, the alignment of hospital services, and an increase in patients.

"The major drivers of our profitability are very intense cost management, growth in our medical services and a $2 million Essential Commonwealth Provider Grant," he said.

Palmisano added that in the last two years, the organization has learned to become more efficient, doing "more with less."

"I want to point out that this was done with the same practioners, the same nurses, the same physicians and the same staff," he said. "It was never about the quality of care we offered. It was about the administrative process. There was a lack of administrative support and a lack of understanding the market. There was a disconnect between the medical needs of the community and the medical services being offered."

By hiring more staff — primary care physicians and specialists — patients no longer need to be sent to other hospitals for services.

In the past year, the organization has recruited two internal medicine doctors, a pediatrician, a general surgeon, an oral surgeon and a psychologist through the hospital and its associated medical practices.

"We are continuing to recruit in 13 specialty areas for the hospital," Palmisano said. Some of those areas include neurology, obstetrics, endocrinology, and rheumatology.

The organization also shortened the stay of hospital patients, by shifting rehabilitative care over to Sweet Brook and outpatient services.

"The hospital is now profitable, as is the VNA," he said.

"It's Sweet Brook and Sweetwood that are not profitable at this point. We believe that we will be able to make them break even or have minimal profits."

Palmisano said costs at the Will- iamstown facilities rose because of a decline in nursing staff, which had to be replaced with traveling and agency nurses.

"We have to pay them three to four times what we would pay a staff nurse," he said. "We have just hired eight licensed practical nurses that graduated from the McCann program and are sponsoring the education of six more in the upcoming program" (Editor's note: For more, see story on page 1).

However, he said that even though fruitful changes have been made, the healthcare group has not weathered the storm. There is still a $55 million debt that must be paid down and a host of challenges that lie ahead.

"Our goal is not to be reliant on grant funding," Palmisano said of the Essential Commonwealth Providers Grant that helped the hospital meet fiscal stability. "We have been awarded another $2 million grant by the state for this year, but we realize that Gov. Deval Patrick has expressed interest in finding a different funding mechanism."

There's also the challenge of meeting costs with many more individuals moving onto Commonwealth Care programs — which have a reimbursement rate similar to Medicare, which pays about 60 cents per dollar.

"We will face continued pressure to control costs, at the same time needing to generate new revenue for capital needs, maintaining our facilities and paying off debt," he said.

There's also the need for a master plan to revamp the newly renovated campus.

"While the hospital was just completed, we are struggling to find office space for doctors and specialty services," Palmisano said. "We need to continue to look at our facilities and how we can enhance them. We need to create a plan for each facility, to modernize and expand it."

He said the new contract with the Massachusetts Nurses Association should not have an impact until fiscal year 2009. Fiscal year 2007 ended on Sept. 30.


"Off-duty police sergeant accused of indecent assault"
Friday, January 18, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — A city police sergeant is accused of indecent assault and battery on a 13-year-old girl while off-duty.

James H. Foley, 44, of 82 Winter St., North Adams, pleaded not guilty this morning to the charge.

"The charge against Sgt. Foley, a member of the North Adams Police Department, involves an allegation of a single incident against a girl that was known to Foley's family and did not occur while Foley was on duty," District Attorney David F. Capeless said.

At Foley's arraignment in Northern Berkshire District, Judge Michael Ripps released Foley on personal recognizance and ordered no contact with the alleged victim.

The case was continued to Feb. 12 for a pre-trial hearing.

The incident is alleged to have occurred in North Adams on March 1, 2007.

The investigation was conducted by Massachusetts State Police Lt. Paul Palazzo from the Cheshire barracks.


Sgt. James A. Foley

"Officer denies abuse: N. Adams sergeant faces one charge of indecent assault"
By Jack Dew, Berkshire Eagle Staff / NewsChannel-13 / WNYT
Saturday, January 19, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — A sergeant in the North Adams Police Department is facing a charge of indecent assault of a teenage girl and has been placed on leave while the criminal case is pending.

Sgt. James A. Foley, 44, of Winter Street, pleaded not guilty during his arraignment in Northern Berkshire District Court yesterday on a single count of indecent assault and battery on a child under the age of 14. Judge Michael Ripps released Foley on personal recognizance and ordered that he have no contact with the alleged victim.

Mayor John Barrett III said yesterday that Foley was placed on administrative leave without pay last week, when it became clear that Foley would be facing criminal charges.

In a written statement, Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless said, "the charge against Sgt. Foley, a member of the North Adams Police Department, involved an allegation of a single incident against a girl that was known to Foley's family and did not occur while Foley was on duty."

The charge is based on an alleged incident that happened in March and surfaced a month later, when the girl described the assault to an interviewer with Kid's Place, a Pittsfield center that specializes in child sexual assault cases.

The case was referred to the Department of Social Services, and in September, State Police Lt. Paul S. Palazzo was assigned to investigate the charges. According to a censored version of his report — from which the identities of the girl and others were removed — the girl is close friends with Foley's son, and frequently spent the night at Foley's house.

According to the girl's statement, she, the boy and Foley were watching a movie in the boy's room, all three sitting on a twin bed.

The girl, who was 13 at the time, said she fell asleep and woke to find Foley's hand on her back, rubbing her. His hand went inside the back of her pajama pants, under her boxers and under her underwear, she said.

She coughed to let Foley know that she was awake, she said; he stopped touching her and asked if she was thirsty. The girl said she left to get a drink of water and Foley went back to his room. The entire incident lasted about 10 minutes, she estimated.

The girl's mother told police that she met Foley several years ago and considered him a good father figure for her daughter, who sometimes called him "Dad."

The mother said her daughter told her in April of the alleged touching. The mother confronted Foley in the presence of another witness, and Foley allegedly admitted the abuse.

"He wanted to get (the mother's) trust back," Palazzo's report states. "(The mother) explained that he couldn't after taking away her daughter's innocence. ... He asked (the mother) at one point if she thought he was a pedophile. She told him that only he could answer that. He said, 'Oh my God,' with his head down. Then he would say that he would never do that again. He kept trying to reassure (the mother) that (her daughter) was safe."

According to Palazzo's report, Foley gave a statement to state police on Nov. 8, 2007, accompanied by his attorney, William A. Rota. He said he went into his son's room that night and the girl was on the floor, playing video games. His son asked Foley to get in bed with him. Foley did, he said, and fell asleep.

Foley said he awoke later and found that the girl was also in the bed. The room was dark, but he realized that his hand was on her buttocks. He removed his hand, apologized and offered the children some water. They both declined and he left the room.

Palazzo notes in his report that "Mr. Foley was teary-eyed as he related this information. Mr. Foley was asked why he apologized if the behavior was accidental. Mr. Foley said he apologized because he is an adult and (the girl is) a child. Therefore, his hand should not have been there."

Foley said he took the girl home the next day. He apologized again and told the girl she should talk to her mother about what had happened.

Neither Foley nor Rota could be reached for comment yesterday. Foley's number is unlisted, and an answering machine message at Rota's office said it was closed for the holiday weekend.


Former North Adams city councilor, who twice lost bids for mayor here, is working as a police officer and running for sherrif in Pinal County, Ariz. (Photo courtesy of Paul Babeu)

"Paul Babeu turns new leaf in Arizona"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Monday, January 21, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — In 2002, Paul R. Babeu, former mayoral candidate and city councilor, was at a crossroads in his life — he had just lost a second election to Mayor John Barrett III and finished his master's degree at American International College. He was looking to make a life change.

Then he visited his parents at their new home in Arizona and knew that he and his brother, Shaun, had found the place they were looking for. In 2003, the brothers moved across the country — each starting a new life with a career in law enforcement.

Now Paul Babeu is running for the office of sheriff in Pinal County, where he works as a patrol officer in the city of Chandler.

"Things just lined up for us — we were looking to move to a warm climate with a growing economy," Babeu, 38, said in a telephone interview Thursday morning. "Arizona is the fastest-growing state in the nation, and there is a lot of opportunity out here."

The move led to a new career, drawing Babeu away from real estate investments and administrative work.

"I always had an interest and great respect for law enforcement," he said. "I was looking for something new, so I took a risk and tested for police departments in Chandler and Phoenix. I was offered positions with both departments and chose Chandler."

As a patrol officer, Babeu said he is "just a rank and file" policeman, who responds to 911 calls and does warrant sweeps.

"I absolutely love it," he said.

He also has been deployed to Iraq, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom in the last five years and served as a commander of Task Force Yuma, a group that supports the U.S. Border Patrol in securing the Arizona and Mexican border.

"I've been in the military for 18 years now," Babeu said. "Law enforcement work is paramilitary, so it's a good fit."

A major in the Arizona Army National Guard, he was deployed to Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, for a year, where he worked as a human resource director.

"Most of the time, when a serviceman is deployed, he is located in one area for the entire tour," Babeu said. "I was fortunate because the type of job I had required that I was flown around a lot. I worked to ensure that the command climate was beneficial for the troops. Sometimes there were morale issues, and I worked with the leaders to advise them and implement good practice standards."

He added, "I got to see parts of the world I never expected to see, at the same time as having the opportunity to serve my country."

Five months after he returned home, Babeu said he was asked to join "Operation Jump Start," securing the border between Arizona and Mexico.

"I was able to work on a task that took on two national concerns — illegal immigrants and national security," he said. "I was deployed there for one year and five months."

While serving with Task Force Yuma, one of nine sectors, he oversaw 700 active duty Army and Air National Guard service members from around the country.

"We were able to produce great results because of the members on our team," Babeu said. "We were able to reduce our illegal entries by 74 percent. Other teams enjoyed results in the high teens and 30 percent range."

But over the last five years, Babeu had shied away from public service.

"Anybody back home knows that I've always had an interest in public service, but when I left North Adams, I never in my wildest dreams would have thought I'd run for office again," he said. "I've had people over the years ask me to run for office, but I've always said no."

That was until Pinal County was racked with corruption, he said.

"We have a county manager who sits in jail at this moment," Babeu said. "He was convicted of six felonies and is serving 3 1/2 years for the theft of $637,000. There are a lot of things in my life that trigger my sense of duty and sense of righteousness."

Babeu lives in the Johnson Ranch-San Tan area of northern Pinal County. His brother, Shaun, works as a corrections officers, is married and has two children.

"I really miss friends and family back in the Berkshires," Babeu said. "But it's really nice and sunny here all the time."


William Levi

"Peacemaker Award Presented to Cheshire Man"
By Jen Thomas January 22, 2008

NORTH ADAMS - Growing up in a war-torn country, living in Uganda as a refugee and forced to withstand torture, religious persecution and oppression, William Levi can credit his survival to one factor - his faith.

"When I was baptized, my grandfather held up two objects. In one hand, he held the Bible, in the other, he held an axe. And he asked me 'Which weapon will you use to fight back?' I immediately reached out my hand to the Bible and I knew what my grandfather meant. I must not meet violence with violence; I must meet my enemies with forgiveness in my heart."

Levi, the 2008 Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker Award recipient, addressed a crowd of hundreds gathered at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center on Monday morning to celebrate and honor the life of the reverend and civil rights leader.

"Martin Luther King's words were an inspiration for all of us who learned of his godly struggle against oppression," said Levi in his acceptance speech, calling King's influence in Sudan "profound."

Now a Cheshire resident, Levi is the founder and president of Operation Nehemiah Missions International Inc., a nonprofit Christian relief and development ministry that works to improve the quality of life in Sudan and in refugee camps in Uganda and Kenya. His dedication to providing the Sudanese people with food, shelter and medical supplies while preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ earned Levi the honor and gave him the chance to urge others to remember what it was that made King so remarkable.

"We may lose the meaning of the civil rights movement while we strive to keep it alive. We, here in the Berkshires and around the country, in Massachusetts and beyond, must do our part to refrain from redefining the meaning of civil rights," Levis said. "We must remember King's struggle."

The Martin Luther King Jr. Day celebration and interfaith service brought together community leaders, members of the Berkshire legislative delegation, international exchange students, local faith leaders, area youth and MCLA students and teachers to commemorate the birthday of the famed civil rights leader, orator and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, said King's dream - nearly 45 years after he delivered his historic speech - was more than rhetoric. It was a call to action.

"The dream was a challenge, a mighty challenge, to each and every one of us to see our futures and fortunes tied to our neighbors,'" said Downing. "We live in an age of turbulence and confusion and it is at these times when it is easiest to put our heads down and pass our neighbors."

"It is our duty on this day and every day to remember the dream is not just a dream," he added.

"Society can't truly prosper until we all move forward together," said Bosley. "With your help, we can let freedom ring. From the Taconic mountain range on one side of the Berkshires to the Hoosac Mountain on the other side of the Berkshires, let freedom ring."

Outstanding Orations

The morning's keynote speaker, Joiel Ray-Alexander, elicited a standing ovation with powerful words that preached tolerance, peace, justice and shared humanity. After instructing ceremony attendees to get up and greet a stranger, Ray-Alexander demanded that each person take part in moving the country toward equality.

"Are you a foot shoulder for peace in your homes, in your classrooms, in your workplaces?" she asked. "How can you, when you are exhausted, tired, stressed, find the strength to work a little harder and promote the tenets of peace with you family, your friends, your co-workers?"

She further dared and double dared, even triple dared, Northern Berkshire residents to take King's teachings and incorporate them into their daily lives. Along with encouragement to "apply peace and civility every day," Ray-Alexander asked that every person seek forgiveness and use it to embrace a bright future.

"Unforgiveness is the ugliest, nastiest, most devastating hindrance to living a joyful life," she said. "I dare you three times over seven to not succumb to the darkness of racism ... To stand together in the bright daybreak of peace is within our grasp."

Ray-Alexander and her husband, Thomas Alexander, are the resident directors of the Greylock A Better Chance program, which brings inner-city students to study at Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown.

Anthony Bellmon, a Greylock ABC student and Mount Greylock senior, delivered the most poignant oration of the morning, a prize-winning essay he wrote last year that earned him the right to speak during the celebration. Asking the question "Is King's dream a reality?", Bellmon said the country had lost sight of the real meaning behind the civil rights movement.

"I've come to the realization that Dr. King's dream can now be considered a dream deferred," said Bellmon, referring to Langston Hughes' poem "A Dream Deferred."

"The job is not done, the war is not over and the dream is not fulfilled," he said.

As a young black man, Bellmon said he wanted to truly make a difference, one that would make King proud.

"I want to change what Dr. King wanted to change - the hearts and the minds of Americans who want to suppress or oppress," he said.

The celebration also included performances by local musicians, including soloist Josh Sprague, the Williams College Gospel Choir and Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Envision Step Dance Team and the presentation of NBCC's "SAY (Support and Acknowledge Youth) It Proud" award for his outstanding contributions to the community.

Mayor John Barrett III presents the Peacemaker Award to William Levi.
Joiel Ray-Alexander of Greylock ABC
Envision Step Dance Team
International students studying in the North Berkshires and Southern Vermont.
William Levi

"Major drug ring busted"
By Glenn Drohan, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, January 26, 2008

Authorities have smashed what they described as a major drug ring that had been supplying heroin and crack cocaine throughout the region, arresting five people with ties to Adams on Wednesday and Thursday, and a Pittsfield man on Thursday night.

After a three-month investigation, police made the arrests in separate raids at a second-floor apartment at 58 Howland Ave. in Adams, at room 197 of the Howard Johnson motel in Williamstown, outside a Linden Street house in Pittsfield and at 28 Water St. in Greenfield.

Police seized about $7,000 worth of heroin, a safe and a .22-caliber derringer in the Greenfield raid, $6,400 worth of heroin in the Pittsfield arrest and about $2,000 worth of crack cocaine in the North Berkshire raids, according to the Berkshire County Drug Task Force.

The task force has issued an arrest warrant for the suspected ringleader of the group, Sean "P.R." McGirt, 37, whose last address was 58 Howland Ave. but who may have fled out of state after his wife was arrested in the raid at their Greenfield apartment.

"This is a major drug ring that has been selling crack cocaine in this county for quite awhile," Lt. Joseph McDyer, task force commander, said Friday. "It started off as a cocaine ring, and that's what we went after. But as it progressed to the end here, there was stash of heroin in Greenfield that we intercepted that was coming to Berkshire County through this same organization."

In the Greenfield raid by the Franklin-Hampshire Narcotics Task Force at 5:40 a.m. on Thursday, po- lice arrested McGirt's wife, Lisa Mc- Girt, 26, also known as Lisa Timoney, who is originally from Adams.

Police, acting on a search warrant after receiving a tip from the Berkshire County Drug Task Force, seized 370 small bags of heroin packaged for sale, along with the safe and the handgun at the home, according to court documents.

Police reports state that Lisa McGirt was acting as a "mule" for her husband's drug operation, transporting large quantities of cocaine and heroin to Adams for distribution in North Berkshire and that their Greenfield apartment had been used as a "stash house" for the drugs.

The couple has two children, ages 3 and 6, who were living in the apartment, and according to the police report, the handgun was found wrapped in a sock and hidden in the sleeve of a pink, size 3 toddler's jacket. The apartment is within 860 feet of Green River Elementary School.

In the raid at 58 Howland Ave. on Wednesday night, Berkshire County Task Force members arrested Sahsha Pellot, 29, of that address, her sister, Shamaya Ashley, 24, of the Howard Johnson's motel in Will- iamstown, and Chandra Bourelle, 23, of 11 Sayles St., Adams.

In the raid at Howard Johnson's, police arrested Antonio Spruill, 23, who had registered with Ashley for the room. They are engaged to be married and have three young children, including a newborn, who have been living with Pellot, according to court documents.

McDyer said the state Department of Social Services was called in to assist in all cases because of the young children involved.

He said the Pittsfield arrest of Ricardo Lozada, 30, of Crane Avenue in that city, just after 10 p.m. on Thursday, was also connected to Sean McGirt's alleged drug operation. According to court reports, police confiscated eight grams of heroin worth about $6,400 from Lozado.

Police reports state that Pellot, Spruill, Ashley and Bourelle, among other North County residents who have not been charged, were acting as "subordinates" to Sean McGirt and were required to give him nearly daily reports on drug sales and to keep track of inventory.

All of the North County defendants except Bourelle, who is scheduled to be arraigned on Feb. 5, pleaded not guilty to charges Friday in Northern Berkshire District Court.

Judge Michael Ripps ordered Pellot held at the Berkshire County House of Correction in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $100,000 surety on four counts of distribution of crack cocaine, three counts of a school-zone drug violation and one count of conspiracy to violate drug laws.

Spruill was ordered held in lieu of $2,500 cash bail or $25,000 surety on six counts of crack distribution, four counts of school-zone drug violations and one count of conspiracy. Ashley was ordered held in lieu of $1,200 cash bail or $12,500 surety on five counts of crack distribution and one count of conspiracy.

In Central Berkshire District Court, Lozada was ordered held in lieu of $5,000 cash bail or $50,000 surety on one count of posssion of heroin with intent to distribute (second offense) and one count of possession of marijuana.

In Greenfield District Court, Lisa McGirt was ordered held in the Franklin County Jail in lieu of $10,000 cash bail or $100,000 surety on one count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute, one count of a school-zone drug violation and one count each of illegal possession of a firearm, illegal possession of a firearm while in commission of a felony and one count of improper storage of a firearm.

Det. Larry Ordyna of the Adams Police Department said authorities executed search warrants in all three North County raids, which were the conclusion of a long investigation involving police officers from several departments.

"They were using apartments in Adams, and hotels in Adams and Williamstown to deal crack cocaine," Ordyna said. "There were several transactions done with the sale of crack cocaine to informants and undercover police officers."

According to court documents, Spruill and Ashley had sold drugs at their apartment at 2 Jordan St. in Adams until being evicted after a bank foreclosed on the property in December. They later moved the operation to the Dugout Motel on Route 8 in Adams and then to the Williamstown motel, the documents state.

McDyer said he believes the drug busts will put a dent in heroin and crack cocaine distribution in the region for a while but probably not for long.

"For a time, this will make a difference, but unfortunately it's very easily replaced. Somebody will make up the shortfall very quickly," he said. "The thing that people have to understand with these types of organizations is that it's just as easy for them to find other people to get heroin. If there's a demand for it, they'll find it."

He added, "Police officers worked very hard on this case. Hopefully, it will deter some people, but we're not kidding ourselves. It will be back, probably very fast."

He said he expected Sean McGirt would be arrested soon.

"We want him and we'll find him."

Det. Lt. Joseph Burge of the Franklin-Hampshire task force said police forces throughout the region collaborated well in the drug raids, but he credited the Berkshire County force with doing the bulk of the work.

"Most everything happened on their behalf. They called up and we assisted them," Burge said. "They helped us get rid of somebody very bad who had just moved into our area.."

Despite the arrests in Greenfield and North Berkshire, McDyer said he believed the bulk of heroin and crack cocaine distribution continues to operate with Pittsfield as a hub.

"We just happened to intercept it in North County, for the most part, this time," he said.

Massachusetts State Police and police departments in Adams, North Adams, Williamstown, Dalton, Lenox and Pittsfield assisted in the investigations.

George Claxton of The Greenfield Recorder and Conor Berry of The Berkshire Eagle contributed to this report.


"Another drug bust"
By Bonnie Obremski, North Adams Transcript
Wednesday, January 30, 2008

ADAMS — State police arrested a local man and woman in Cheshire on drug charges Monday night as part of an ongoing investigation that recently led to charges against six people allegedly involved in a crack cocaine and heroin ring serving Berkshire County.

Curtis Thomas, 36, and Laurie B. Mbemba, 51, both of 24 West St., Adams, pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Tuesday to possession with intent to distribute 8 grams of crack cocaine, which has an estimated street value of about $1,600 and which police confiscated.

Judge Michael J. Ripps ordered Thomas held in the Berkshire County House of Correction in lieu of $5,000 cash bail but released Mbemba on personal recognizance. Ripps scheduled pre-trial hearings for Thomas on Feb. 22 and Mbemba on Feb. 26.

Authorities began investigating Thomas in August with the aid of a civilian who agreed to cooperate with the police, according to a report written by the Berkshire County Drug Task Force. The report indicated the civilian had bought 0.8 grams of 56-percent pure crack cocaine from Thomas on Aug. 23 under the surveillance of the task force.

Acting on information from the task force on Monday that Thomas had traveled from Adams to Albany, N.Y., to pick up drugs and bring them back into Berkshire County, state police stopped him on Fred Mason Road in Cheshire at about 9:30 p.m. according to the report.

Mbemba was traveling in the car with Thomas when officers pulled over the blue 1998 Ford Explorer, police said. Both suspects denied possessing drugs, according to police.

Officers strip-searched the suspects at the Cheshire State Police Barracks, discovering a plastic bag of crack cocaine that Thomas had hidden in a body cavity but finding nothing on Mbemba, the report states. Police wrote that when Thomas revealed the hidden bag, the suspect said Mbemba had nothing to do with the crime.

Police charged Thomas with distributing crack cocaine on Aug. 23 and with possessing crack cocaine with the intent to distribute, conspiracy to violate a controlled substance law and driving without a license on Jan. 28.

Officers charged Mbemba with possessing crack cocaine with the intent to distribute and conspiracy to violate a controlled substance law on Jan. 28.

According to the task force's report, Thomas has faced consequences in the past in Massachusetts and New York state for charges of drunken driving, disorderly conduct, loitering and larceny.

A charge of possessing crack cocaine with the intent to distribute carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison or no more than 2 1/2 years in Berkshire County House of Correction — or fines of not less than $1,000 and not greater than $10,000, plus a drug analysis fee.

Police departments in Adams, Lanesborough, North Adams, Williamstown took part in the investigation with state police working with the district attorney's office.

Authorities are still searching for Sean "P.R." McGirt, 37, the suspected ringleader of the drug ring, whose last address was 58 Howland Ave., Adams, but who had been living with his wife, Lisa McGirt, 26, in Greenfield. Lisa McGirt, also known as Lisa Timoney, originally of Adams, was among six people arrested in raids in Greenfield, Adams and Williamstown last week that netted more than $13,000 worth of heroin and $2,000 worth of crack.

The others arrested on an array of drug charges in those raids include Sahsah Pellot, 29, of 58 Howland Ave., her sister, Shamaya Ashley, 24, of the Howard Johnson's motel in Williamstown, Ashley's fiancé, Antonio Spruill, 23, of the same address, Chandra Bourelle, 23, of 11 Sayles Road, Adams, and Richard Lozada, 30, of Crane Avenue, Pittsfield. All have pleaded not guilty.

According to police, Lisa McGirt had been acting as a "mule" for her husband's drug operation, transporting large quantities of cocaine and heroin to Adams for distribution in the Berkshires, and their Greenfield apartment had been used as a "stash house" for the drugs.

Police had suspected other members of the ring would resort to a backup source for drugs after last week's bust.

Transcript staffer Glenn Drohan contributed to this story.


"Frustration mounting"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, January 28, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — North Adams building inspectors say they are spending an undue amount of time and city resources dealing over and over with the same properties owned by a few landlords, citing them for the same violations and rarely seeing any progress on code violations or unsafe conditions.

Mayor John Barrett III agreed, adding that the dilapidated buildings have an even more dangerous effect on the community — they attract drug dealers and the crimes that come along with them.

During his inaugural speech last month, the mayor warned chronic building code violators that there will be little leeway and plenty of consequences.

The reaction from the property owners in question has been varied, ranging from pledges to work with the city to hostile charges of incompetence at the highest levels of city leadership.

During his inaugural speech, Barrett said he is forming a "blue ribbon commission" to propose ordinance changes and to study how other communities deal with chronic code violators and substandard buildings.

"Slumlords are detracting from the good things that are going on in the city," the mayor said in his speech. "There needs to be a no-tolerance policy in this city. If you're going to be a landlord in North Adams, there will be standards that must be met."

Indeed, the catalog of substandard buildings is long, and the dozens of darkened, decaying ones are painfully easy to pick out on many city streets.

For example, in November, according to city inspectors, an eight-unit building on Taft Street, owned by Richard Doherty, was condemned and its tenants relocated.

City officials described the property as a "slum" before they came in and cleaned up the property, spending thousands of dollars on trucking away tons of debris and covering windows and doors with slabs of plywood.

Others are serious about taking care of their properties and are making investments to improve them.

Charles Swabey, owner of Belvedere Realty Co., bought an identical structure across the street about a year before Doherty bought his property.

"These two properties were in shocking disrepair," Swabey said. "Both of them were slums."

Swabey is rehabilitating his property, intending to sell the eight units as condominiums. The model unit is open, and the project's completion is anticipated this year.

Bad intentions

"Doherty was never, I believe, serious about being a landlord," Swabey said. "There was never really an attempt to get (his property) back into shape."

Swabey called the city's cleanup of the property "a big step forward" for the whole neighborhood.

"I'm thrilled to see the city take so keen an interest in the area and what we're trying to do here," he said. "They have to do something, particularly for the buildings where the owners have just walked away and they're just sitting there — another blight on the neighborhood."

Attempts to contact Doherty were unsuccessful. His listed phone number is disconnected, and city inspectors say he has not responded to mailed notices. No one is home at his listed address in Adams.

Swabey, the condo developer city officials have said is reputable and keeps his properties in good repair, admitted that he had some concerns about the mayor's plans.

"This task force idea is, I think, a great idea, but I have some reservations," Swabey said. "I don't think they always realize what things cost. There always seems to be that presumption that landlords have deep pockets and can afford everything — but they can't."

Building Inspector William E. Meranti said the inspectors have a good idea what repairs cost and how much of a burden some repairs can be to a small business.

"But actions, in my opinion, speak louder than words," Meranti said. "I think we show sympathy for landlords that do show some progress. But I also think some of these landlords need to understand that some of those rents need to go back into those properties."

During his inaugural speech, Barrett noted that drug dealers and other criminal elements are attracted to substandard housing, where they perpetuate the degradation of neighborhoods. When a property deteriorates into an eyesore, its value declines and drags down the value of the properties surrounding it, he said. That often sets up a chain reaction that drags the rest of the neighborhood down into disrepair and neglect as families move out to escape the oncoming blight, the mayor said.

The city has partnered with North Adams Housing Opportunity Inc. to purchase and rehabilitate some houses to be sold with low-interest loans to qualified buyers. The city has condemned and demolished other properties, with the cost of the work tacked onto the property as a lien.

But the nuisance properties — the ones that require multiple visits, video documentation of the conditions, repeated visits to court to force the repairs needed — occupy too much of the building inspectors' time and the city's money, inspectors and Barrett contend.

The mayor said the city will spend about $250,000 of its $34 million budget to chase down building code violations this year. He also noted that there are 24 buildings marked with the red "X" designating unsafe conditions, that seven buildings will be demolished by the city this year, with another 20 that would be knocked down if the city had the money. "And there are another 40 in line after that," he said.

About 65 buildings have been demolished by the city in the past 10 years, Barrett added.

Michael Deep was singled out by city officials as being another property owner with a lengthy list of code violations and a demonstrated lack of responding to citations by making timely, satisfactory repairs.

In fact, one of his properties on Bracewell Avenue, a 10-unit apartment building, remains vacant and unsightly. While it had been the subject of numerous citations for code violations, when the retaining wall holding back a bank on the side yard collapsed, the city had to vacate two properties, not only occupants of Deep's property but also the owner/occupant of the single-family home next door.

Dylan Goodrich, owner of the home he had to vacate almost a year ago, said that the retaining wall remains unrepaired and that his property is at risk of collapse because of it.

The two are in court over the cost of the wall repair.

Since then, Goodrich and his wife have been renting a place until the issues are resolved — still having to pay the mortgage and utilities on their home.

"We were doing improvements and had future plans," he said, adding that, even before they were evacuated from their home, "It was a nightmare living next to this dump."

'Worst' in the state

Deep said little about violations at his properties, preferring instead to say that Barrett "is the worst mayor in all of Massachusetts, and you can quote me."

When pressed, he maintained that he has no violations at any of his properties. He added, however, that when Barrett reads his comments in this article, he probably will send code enforcers to find some.

Meranti said that there are more than 50 violations cited at Deep-owned properties.

Meanwhile, two vacant properties owned by Charles "Rusty" Ransford on East Main Street, across from the stately former Notre Dame Church, have been condemned for several years. The city is poised to file orders needed to demolish them before they collapse under their own weight.

Ransford said he is aware of the problems at some of his 30 properties spread throughout Adams and North Adams, but that a lack of cash flow has prevented him from making repairs, and in some cases, has forced him to shut down buildings indefinitely.

But if he can find a way to "generate the cash, we'll do these (repairs) right."

He said he has plans for the two shuttered structures on Main Street, but declined to reveal any details, adding that "they're not as bad as they look from the outside."

A walk by the two side-by-side buildings reveals two structures obviously past their prime. These two multiunit buildings put up during the heyday of North Adams' manufacturing era still retain some of their visual charm, but it is obvious from the slant of the floor lines and the harrowing condition of the four-story back porch structure that pieces of the buildings, or the buildings themselves, could tumble down the hill given the right provocation.

But, Ransford said, if the city tries to raze the structures, "that's fine. We'll see what happens when they try."

He contends that any property of his that has been condemned resulted from tenants who abused the structures and negatively affected their own living conditions.

He said he would like to see more cooperation from the city, adding that it should not fine landowners who have no money to pay the fines.

One land developer, Daniel Borer, whom officials say has been repeatedly cited for code violations and for not moving quickly enough to make needed repairs, said he agrees with the city's actions. He insists that he is trying to work with the city to improve his properties, and that time will show he has honorable intentions: to improve the city of North Adams.

Spirit of cooperation

Meranti and other inspectors contend that they try to work with the property owners to get them the time they need to generate funds and make the repairs, but when the allotted time goes by, the extensions expire and the situations end up in court, the landlords typically will employ delaying tactics, getting the judges to reduce the fines. And after all is said and done, repairs still have not been made to the properties.

In Adams, Building Inspector Joe Mendonca said these same owners provide similar frustrations to tenants and city officials there.

Doherty, he said, "has a lot of issues with a lot of properties — we've had to close up a few of them and have them vacated, they've been so bad."

He noted that inspectors have had issues with Deep, Ransford and Borer as well.

"We're spending most of our time on a few landowners, and nothing is getting done," said North Adams' inspector Meranti. "We go around and around with these guys. And nothing gets done."



So why would any businessman allow valuable assets to deteriorate unless there was simply no profit in maintaining them?

Sounds to me like North Adams is plagued with the same kind of anti-business climate as the rest of Berkshire County.

Anti-business in the form of high real-estate taxes and fees; a lot of unnecessary, expensive-to-comply-with regulations, and arbitrary enforcement of those regs.
Under a heavy-handed Liberal Democrat like Mayor Barrett, do you really expect any of this to change?

No wonder North Adams is losing population and employment-producing businesses.



"Barrett vs. the landlords"
The Berkshire Eagle - Editorial
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Dilapidated buildings can drag down a community like few other factors, and the smaller the community, the larger the impact. They are a magnet to drug dealers and crime and can cause a domino effect in a neighborhood, but beyond that tangible effect they send a message to visitors that the town or city is unhealthy and even declining.

Both Pittsfield and North Adams have been fighting to rid their cities of these eyesores, but in North Adams the problem is more dramatic. The community is smaller, the battle of longer duration. Mayor John Barrett III raised the stakes in his inaugural speech when he declared a no-tolerance policy for "slumlords" he blamed for "detracting from the good things that are going on in the city."

Some of the landlords Mayor Barrett has been at odds with for much of his long tenure have a unique sense of entitlement. A Taft Street landlord never flinched when his apartment building was condemned, his tenants relocated and the financially strapped city forced to dig deep for the thousands of dollars required to clean up the mess. Another landlord declared Mr. Barrett to be "the worst mayor in all of Massachusetts" in Monday's Eagle, a statement that even if true would be utterly beside the point.

Many landlords, of course, are in difficult financial shape and have let their properties go as a result. These are not good economic times and North Adams has many low-income residents struggling to make ends meet, many of whom rent from financially strapped landlords. If these landlords are making good-faith attempts to repair and upgrade their properties than City Hall should, as it has, cut them some leeway. But the city can only give so many extensions and it must crack down at some point with fines or condemnations. When it does, it would be helpful if judges who have been quick to side with landlords would take the greater good of the city into consideration.

There is no doubt that the drug problems that plague Pittsfield and North Adams will decline along with their stock of substandard housing. Landlords who will rent to anyone, references or no, as long as they have the first month's rent money have no incentive to maintain that property as its tenants contribute to its inevitable decline. Residents know where the drug houses are and they will move away from them if they can. A few of these houses can destroy a neighborhood, and a few bad neighborhoods can destroy a city.

Pittsfield's City Hall knows this to be true and has followed through with action. The decrepit mill building at 1277 East Street is still standing, however. The building is tangled up in the PCB settlement and the property undoubtedly will need an extensive clean-up, but the sooner it is addressed the sooner it will cease to be a blight upon the William Stanley Business Park sight line.

We agree with Mayor Barrett's plan to establish a blue ribbon commission to study how other communities deal with code violators and substandard buildings and propose appropriate ordinances. The city's problems in this area are not unique and much can be learned from how other cities confront similar issues. If landlords feel they are under assault by the mayor, who is not known for his subtlety, they have recourse — clean up their houses and properties and keep them up to code.


Sears is considering moving into the space that was once occupied by the Kmart Garden Center, which is next to the Movieplex. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

"Two new stores plan downtown openings"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Tuesday, January 29, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — The city appears to be becoming a destination market for retail stores. Two new companies have sought out locations in Steeple City Plaza downtown, where empty storefronts are fast disappearing.

A new clothing store, Label Shopper, which specializes in discounted name brands, is slated to take over the former Fashion Bug space in the L-shaped mall, while Sears is looking to open small dealer store in the former garden center space next to the North Adams Movieplex 8.

"We're really excited to get into North Adams," Arthur Burke, regional development manager for Sears dealer stores said Monday. "Our corporate office has someone that researches the demographics for new markets, and North Adams popped up as one that's suitable."

Specializing in a wide selection of well-known appliances, consumer electronics, tools, lawn and garden equipment, the company is looking for a person or group of people interested in opening a dealer store in the plaza, similar to the one located in Bennington, Vt.

"We'll see what happens, but it's good to see retail operations taking an interest in the city," Mayor John Barrett III said Monday. "I hope they know something that's positive out there about the economy that may not be on the surface that everyone can see."

Barrett said he first heard about the potential Sears store last month from Neil Ellis, owner of First Hartford Realty in Hartford, Conn., which owns the plaza.

"I know that they are looking for an operator to set up the business," Barrett said.

Burke said he had been working with First Hartford to secure a location in the downtown.

"We looked at several spots near where Staples is and believe one of them will be ideal," he said. "We believe the rent factors also are feasible. We're hoping to have an open house in the next two to three weeks in North Adams, and hopefully we'll get two or three candidates for the store. The dealer store has been a very successful market for us since leaving the catalog business."

There are 860 dealer stores in 48 states, including stores in Ware and Great Barrington. Barrett said the potential of having two new stores at the plaza is another step forward in making the downtown a destination for shoppers.

"Anytime you have space filled with quality stores, it's a good thing for the city," he said.

Label Shopper, a retail chain based out of Latham, N.Y., which specializes in discounted brand name apparel and plus-sizes for women, men and children, as well as shoes and home decor, is expected to move into the former Fashion Bug soon.

"They're ready to go right in," Barrett said. "Neil Ellis told me they have a very successful store in Bennington, and he thinks it will be good fit for North Adams."

Ellis has made it a policy not to comment to the press on development deals until they are finalized.

Label Shopper, which is owned by Peter Harris Clothes, has 20 stores in upstate New York and Vermont. Calls to the corporate office were not immediately returned. However, a small sign announcing the store's arrival was placed in the former Fashion Bug location, following the closing of that store on Jan. 19. Charming Shoppes, which owns both Fashion Bug and Lane Bryant, chose not to renew the store's lease, citing low sales.


Valerie Schwarz is looking for potters to donate hand-crafted bowls to the annual empty bowl dinner on Friday, April 11, at 5:30 and 7 p.m., at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

"Food project needs more bowls for dinner"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Thursday, January 31, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Wanted: ceramic bowls made by professional potters.
If the Berkshire Food Project fails to secure at least 150 more bowls before the end of March, the non-profit organization won't be able to reach its goal of raising awareness of local hunger through the eighth biennial Empty Bowl Dinner in April.

The dinner, held every other year, is the food project's major fundraising effort, with the proceeds being used to provide free lunch daily at the First Congregational Church in North Adams.

The bowls, which are donated by local artisans, are used to serve a simple dinner of soup and bread to donors, who later take home their soup bowls,

"The bowl serves as a constant reminder that there are often people looking at an empty bowl at dinner time," Valerie Schwarz, food project manager, said this week. "This is the first time we have fallen short with bowls. A lot of the potters we usually use have either moved or closed."

She said she has already secured the promise of 150 bowls from local artisans but needs at least another 150. Anyone interested in donating bowls or wanting more information may call Schwarz at 413-664-7378.

This year's event will be held at the First Congregational Church in Williamstown on April 11, and Schwarz expects at least 300 people to attend the two meal offerings. Tickets for the dinner will be available in March at the cost of $25.

"We have two servings, one at 5:30 and one at 7, both of which seat 150 people each," Schwarz said. "It's always very successful. The Williams College students are always very supportive, filling most of the first dinner."

But with donations for the soup dinner and "empty bowls" making up a large portion of the food kitchen's budget, Schwarz stressed the importance of the group's need.

"We've always had handcrafted bowls of Bennington Pottery quality," she said. "We're hoping that artisans from around the area will donate. We get a lot of bowls from South County — Great Barrington and Sheffield, especially."

While the dinner raises money and treats diners to the "finest soups" donated by local restaurants, Schwarz said it is the constant reminder of the bowls that keeps the growing hunger problem in the county fresh in the minds of more fortunate residents.

"It's a big fundraiser for us, but it really keeps people aware of the hunger issues in this area," she said.

In October, the food project expanded its free lunch offerings from three days a week to five — providing full three-course meals three days a week and soup and sandwich meals the other two weekdays at its home in the First Congregational Church in North Adams. From 80 to 100 people are fed daily.

Over the past 20 years, the program has served 17,773 meals, including food to take home, according to Schwarz.

The nonprofit also hired a kitchen manager to prepare the meals so she could step out of the kitchen to run a food stamp assistance program that helps families and individuals register for the federal program.


"Town government at work"
The NA Transcript - Letters
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Editor's note: The town of Brattleboro, Vt,. caught the attention of North Adams City Councilor Clark H. Billings recently after its selectmen voted 3-2 to place an article on its annual town meeting warrant that would allow local police to arrest President George W. Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney for crimes against the Constitution. Because of the national, as well as local, attention the matter drew, we reprint Mr. Billings' letter here, with permission.

To the editor:

I want to congratulate the Select Board and the concerned citizens of Brattleboro who have succesfully placed a question before the town meeting to indict President Bush and Vice President Cheney and subsequently arrest them if they ever show their faces in Brattleboro.

This is a testimony to the Select Board and town meeting that Brattleboro has solved all of its other problems. Your budget is in good shape — revenues are up and spending is low. Streets are plowed and sanded in the winter and paved in the summer. Your school system is riding high with sufficient funding and no problems. Your housing stock is excellent and in no need for code inforcement and inspections.

That you can devote so much time to determine if people should be allowed to walk naked around town — clad, at most, in a fanny pack — and to determine that Bush/Cheney are in violation of the federal Constitution is a testimony to your good management of local government.

When you finish dealing with naked citizens and the present administration in Washington, maybe you can devote your attention to alcohol and drug abuse (see news article in Feb. 1 Brattleboro Reformer). I agree that that is a small problem and certainly should not be as high on your agenda as naked people and Bush/Cheney.

I will add this: Article One of the federal Constitution, Section 9 prohibits any state from passing a bill of attainder, which is a legislative action declaring a person to be a criminal. Isn't that what you are doing? Violating the very same Constitution that you accuse Bush/Cheney of violating?

Of course, that makes perfect sense for a town with naked people, drug and alcohol abusers. And lest any responder say that the town of Brattleboro is not a "state," it is a subdivision of a state and that article applies.

Good luck. I am impressed that you are doing so well that you have the time, energy and money to devote to other things instead of managing town government.

Clark H. Billings
North Adams, Massachusetts
Feb. 1, 2008


"North Adams school district faces austere budget, Barrett warns"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Wednesday, February 6, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Mayor John Barrett III warned the School Committee Tuesday night that a $281,000 shortfall in the city's projected 2009 fiscal year budget would fall upon the school district.

"The school department will take a hit this year," said Barrett, who also serves as School Committee chairman. "The city has been kicking in far more than expected for the last four years, funding the district at $4 million more than the foundation level requirement. I'm already working with half a police force, half a fire department and half of a city yard."

He added, "We're going to need to come up with some innovative ways to fund things — this isn't the creative economy, but creative education."

The district is also expected to lose $1 million in funds to the Berkshire Arts and Technology Public Charter School in Adams in the upcoming fiscal year.

"The charter school alone has a major negative impact," Barrett said. "But to make it worse, we've found out that the state Department of Education changed the funding formula, and instead of it costing us $8,000 per student, we're being charged $12,000 per pupil. We get $5,000 for school choice students. There's a little inequity in the funding formula."

Superintendent James E. Montepare said the school district's payments to the charter school were also increasing because of inflated estimates of students leaving to go to the charter school and an in-crease in tuition for pupils.

"They've also increased our estimate of students going to the school to 126," he said. "This year there was an estimate of 92 kids, but only 86 went. We get reimbursed, but it's at the end of the year when figures are adjusted. We don't know where they are getting these inflated numbers. We've asked Boston, but they can't seem to answer where these arbitrary numbers are coming from."

Barrett said a major downfall is that neither the governor or state Legislature seems willing to take on the funding formula for charter schools.

"The state aid formula also penalizes schools with declining enrollment," he said. "We're getting hit at both ends. To the Boston representatives, charter schools are the second coming. In places like Malden and Boston, the schools are horrible and charter schools can shut one down like nothing. But in rural areas, schools get hit hard."

The mayor also warned that budget projections could get worse.

"Most of the funding is hinged on revenues from casino gambling, which isn't going to happen," Barrett said. "These state aid figures are coming from a fantasy land. Unless the Legislature finds additional funding, we're looking at an even bigger drop in funding."

In other business, the School Committee approved the expenditure $19,600 for a feasibility study by the New England School Development Council to determine whether the city should return to a K-8 program in "neighborhood schools" and eliminate the middle school.

"We've been waiting to see if the Massachusetts School Building Authority would shed some funding for the feasibility study, but it appears there are no additional funding sources," Montepare said. "This company will put together a feasibility study, along with two alternative plans. They will do a more in-depth study than required by the (state) building authority."

He said the group will work with the special committee headed by School Committee member John Hockridge, examining demographics, compiling financial reports and seeking community input.

"They'll bring in another perspective outside the district," Hockridge said. "We expect it to be done in four months."

Also approved was $25,000 from the school choice account for a wireless network at Drury High School. Montepare said the funds would bring the Berkshire Wireless Learning Initiative to the high school for ninth graders. The district is soliciting bids for about 160 laptops for use at the high school.

"We're looking at a neat 7-inch laptop computer," Montepare said. "We've been watching this technology for about two years now. It's an ASSI computer, which uses open source (free software) programs similar to Microsoft Windows and Word. They're in the $400 range. These computers were actually No. 2 on the list of top 10 picks of emerging technology at the Las Vegas technology convention a few months ago."


"Area officials pleased with Romney's departure"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Friday, February 8, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Few tears were shed in Berkshire County following former Gov. Mitt Romney's announcement that he would suspend his presidential campaign in favor of unifying the Republican party.

Romney, who launched his campaign for president over a year ago from his home state of Michigan, won Massachusetts on Super Tuesday, but failed to take a single town in the county. Sen. John McCain won Berkshire County with 3,153 votes to Romney's 1,906 votes.

"I'm sure it wasn't an easy decision (to drop out)," former Gov. Jane Swift, of Williamstown, said Thurs-day during a telephone interview. "I was in a similar position in 2002, when I made the decision to withdraw from the gubernatorial race. It's a very hard thing to do, but it will allow the Republican Party to unite behind Sen. McCain."

Swift, who has been campaigning for the Arizona senator, said she was not surprised Romney bowed out.

"The delegates map of California is very difficult to interpret at first, but by yesterday afternoon, it became increasingly obvious that Sen. McCain was taking a commanding lead," she said.

Swift said her support of McCain had nothing to do with Romney being the favored Republican candidate during the 2002 primary.

"You get beyond your personal hardships," she said. "My support for Sen. McCain comes from his leadership with the issues of national security and the fighting in Iraq. As a governor during 9-11, one of the most important issues is national security. By my judgment, his commitment to fighting terrorism and to finding the right resolution for Iraq are key issues facing the nation."

Peter Giftos, executive director of the Berkshire County Republican Association, said he wasn't surprised by Romney's announcement but was surprised it came so soon.

"When he lost California, I thought it was the beginning of the end for him," he said. "But I thought he'd hold on until after some of the other big states held their primaries — at least until Texas or Ohio had results."

Giftos questioned the sincerity of the former governor's withdrawal, however.

"If Mitt Romney really did it for the reason he's said — unifying the party — then I tip my hat to him," he said. "One state official told me that Romney was backing down because he was afraid that (Sen. Barack) Obama and (Sen. Hillary) Clinton are too far away from the issue of the safety of our country. However, he was spending a lot of his own money on the campaign."

According to The Associated Press, Romney has invested more than $40 million of his own money into the race.

Mayor John Barrett III, who had criticized Romney throughout his tenure as governor, said he had been expecting the announcement.

"A lot of people have been asking the mayors throughout the state why we haven't gotten out there to speak out against him," he said. "The an-swer is, we've been waiting for him to self-disintegrate. He made no friends here, and he's one of the few candidates whose opponents dislike him. He's a divider."

He added, "I've always said the smartest voters in the state are in Western Massachusetts."

Barrett said the majority of the local officials who dealt with the Romney administration won't be disappointed.

"This is a man who left the state with a deficit and balanced the budget on taxpayer's backs," he said. "His record is not a good one. I have no respect for this man, who never set foot in North Adams."

Barrett, the dean of mayors and longest serving mayor in the state's history, said he received only one phone call from the former governor during his four-years in office.

"It was during the flooding of 2006," he said. "He called and said, 'Mayor, I just want you to know that I'm in Berkshire County touring the flood damage.' I said, 'Good, where are you?' He replied, 'Greenfield.' That's as close as he's ever gotten to North Adams."

Clarksburg Selectman Carl W. McKinney, who campaigned for Mc-Cain in 2000 and now backs Clinton, said he was "delighted" by the ann-ouncement.

"We had a no-show governor for four years," he said. "I find him nothing short of offensive, and I say good riddance."

McKinney said the withdrawal would only benefit the final candidates.

"I think I couldn't be happier if this race came down to John McCain and Hillary Clinton," he said. "They're two good candidates, and I'd be happy with either one of them."



"Milan at Fifty-Five Main closes, restaurant up for sale"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Friday, February 22, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- After six years of catering to the stars of the Wil-liamstown Theatre Festival and local residents, Chef John "Jack" Carlow III has shut down his once popular restaurant, Milan at Fifty-Five Main, leaving only a message that the eatery had closed indefinitely on its answering machine.

Earlier this week, the 75-seat restaurant, complete with liquor license, all major equipment and tables and chairs, was posted for sale on, an Internet Web site used for selling, buying or trading services and goods, for the asking price of $50,000.

"When Milan opened, it was one of the best eating establishments in the city," Mayor John Barrett III said Thursday afternoon. "His problem was the logistics -- he lives near Schenectady, N.Y., and teaches as well. He didn't keep regular hours. Many times people would go there and the restaurant would be closed. Jack called me a couple of times in the last few weeks to discuss the closing. He had some issues with his landlord as well."

David Carver, managing partner of Scarafoni Associates, which owns the building, said Carlow had contacted him to let him know the restaurant was closing.

"He sent us a written notice telling us that he would be closing at the end of January," Carver said. "I know that it was very hard for him to commute."

Efforts to reach Carlow were unsuccessful.

Carver said he hopes to see another restaurant fill the spot -- possibly one similar to the former Capitol Restaurant, which closed more that a decade ago.

"We would like to see the return of a restaurant like the Capitol," Carver said. "We think there is a need for a good quality restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in the downtown. The Capitol was there for over 25 years, and I think if you look at the market, there's a need for a diner once again."

He said previous owners have remodeled the restaurant over the last decade, but the original diner layout is still intact, including the original counter and stools.

"When Gordy Hebler remodeled the restaurant, he made it more upscale," Carver said. "He removed the metal counter top and replaced it with a wooden one, but it's still there. He also kept the original stools as well."

He added, "It would be very easy for someone very enterprising to open it up very quickly."

However, the mayor was not as quick to embrace the return of a diner to the city's main street.

"I think Mr. Carver needs to be very careful before he leases out the restaurant," Barrett said. "What goes into that space could have a very negative impact on the city and on the other projects he has going on in the immediate area."

Carver has been developing high-end apartments and condominiums in many of the buildings owned by Scarafoni Realty on Main and Hol-den streets. He has plans to convert the upper floors of 85 Main St. into housing in the coming months.

"As far as I know, he's only had one person express interest in opening a diner," Barrett said. "The city has worked very hard to keep a good mix of restaurants available. We'd like to see something of the same variety replace Milan. One reason North Adams has been able to attract new business and continue to change, is because of the number of fine restaurants we have in the city."

The mayor predicted that the closing of Milan isn't the only change coming to the restaurant community in the coming months.

"I anticipate one or two more changes in the next 30 to 60 days," he said. "We don't know what the final plans for the former Gideon's Nightery are yet. And there's more to come."

Milan is the latest in a list of city restaurants that have closed in the last two years. Chef-owner William "Bill" Gideon's restaurants, Gideon's Fine Dining on Holden Street and EGL (Gideon's Nightery) on Eagle Street, closed because of financial difficulties. However, Taylor's Fine Dining has replaced the Holden Street establishment. Hickory Bill's BBQ on Holden closed after its owner retired but has been replaced by North Adams Pizza Co. Breda's Italian Restaurant on Curran Highway (next to Valley Park Lanes bowling alley) closed, but Modena's replaced it. Sugar Llama, briefly part of Persnickety toy store on Eagle Street also called it quits in 2007, but the toy store has expanded.

"About 80 percent of new restaurants close after the first 18 months," Barrett said. "We're lucky that we've kept this many restaurants open despite the bad economy. I'm still convinced that North Adams will become a restaurant hub. It's great to see the fine restaurants we do have open -- Taylor's Fine Dining, the Freight Yard Pub, Boston Sea Food, Red Sauce Ristorante, Isabella's Restaurant, Gramercy Bistro, Cafe Latino, and Modena's."

The city has numerous other restaurants, including the ever-popular Jack's Hot Dog Stand, Moulton's Pizzeria, the Cup and Saucer, Linda's Café, Steeples, and numerous pizza and sub shops.

Carlow purchased Milan at Fifty-five Main in 2002 from Ray Arse-nault, who had operated it as Fifty-five Main. Arsenault had opened the restaurant in 2000 with long-time restaurateur Jimmy Siciliano, whom he later bought out. The pair took over the space after a legal dispute closed Zoie's on Main, an upscale restaurant opened by Gordy Hebler, Lisa Mallari and Shawn Stemp in 1997.

Prior to the opening of Zoie's, the Capitol Restaurant, a longtime favorite of Sprague Electric employees and people who worked downtown, had filled the spot.


"Contrasting tales"
The North Adams Transcript - Editorial -
Saturday, February 23, 2008

The closing of Milan at 55 Main Street, a high-end restaurant in North Adams, came about the same time as a rash of foreclosures on houses a certain landlord acquired last year at what many had considered high-end prices for low-rent districts. But the two stories of failure came about in remarkably different ways.

More than a few local residents thought Jack Carlow was crazy to try to make a go of it with Milan, where one similar establishment, Zoie's, had already gone under after a very short time, and where the wildly popular but decidedly blue-collar Capitol restaurant had previously operated for more than two decades.

But Mr. Carlow was a fine chef, and he had game. Not only did he manage to keep Milan afloat for six years, he did so while commuting long distances from New York state. And he kept his own with other fine-dining establishments -- Gramercy Bistro, Gideon's and its successor, Taylor's Fine Dining. He helped create the city's surprising reputation as a dining destination in Northern Berkshire -- a reputation that lives on despite this loss. We are sad he had to go.

More than a few local residents thought Carol Borer of Leominster was crazy when she obtained over $1.2 million in financing to buy up North Berkshire rental houses and announced plans to fix them up and fill them up with tenants. Many eyebrows raised at the prices she paid for some of the houses -- and at the second mortgages she later obtained for some of them.

She didn't make much of a go of it. Very little renovation work got done, and the balloon payments came due. Out-of-state mortgage companies or banks have been left holding the tab, and city officials have hinted they may even have to condemn certain properties, perhaps forcing some tenants out.

Whether Ms. Borer's bad fortune came as a result of poor health, unwise investments, unrealistic expectations or otherwise, may not be known for some time. But the situation does not bode well for another of her holdings, the Steeples restaurant in the Holiday Inn.

North Adams need have no fear, however. If Steeples does go out, the inn will move quickly to replace it. We are confident, too, that an entrepreneur -- perhaps one with Mr. Carlow's pluck who can live closer to the business -- will try another enterprise at 55 Main.

What will happen to the foreclosed rental houses in this city and in Adams may be another story. We urge the city's newly forming blue-ribbon housing commission to investigate the matter and to work with The Mother Town to rectify the situation anyway they can. To succeed, North Berkshire needs to cater not only to upscale tourists but also to residents who can't afford to eat out and desperately need affordable housing.



"Deep files new appeal"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, February 23, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Local developer Michael A. Deep has renewed his long-standing feud with the city over his West Shaft Road property, filing yet another appeal in Berkshire Superior Court this month -- this time asking two different judges to reconsider their rulings against him.

"All we want Mr. Deep to do is stabilize the property and stop the runoff from going into the road," Mayor John Barrett III said Friday afternoon. "We want it done without excavation or construction."

Deep's appeal, filed on Feb. 12, requests that Superior Court Judges Daniel Ford and John A. Agostini "reconsider and clarify their decisions of Dec. 22, 2006 and Jan. 4, 2008."

Calls to Deep and his attorney, Fred T. Thompson, went unanswered on Friday.

In 2006, Agostini ruled in favor of the city, allowing an injunction that prohibited Deep from performing any construction or excavation work at his West Shaft Road property, after a special permit from the Planning Board for a 21-lot subdivision on the site had expired in 2005. The ruling also ordered Deep and his company, West Shaft Realty Trust, to stabilize the property, meet all conditions set forth by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, and to level, loam and seed all exposed earth at the site, returning it to "stable, vegetative condition by July 1, 2007.

Agostini later found Deep in contempt of court on March 23, 2007, after the city proved that Deep had continued to excavate the property, despite needing written permission from the court and the city to do so. The city was fined $5,000 for legal expenses and other finances expenses.

Last month, Ford ruled in favor of the city, finding that Deep had once again violated the December 2006 injunction, this time by failing to remove piles of rocks, logs, and screened gravel from the site, and failing to meet the conditions of leveling, loaming and seeding the entire property. Ford ordered Deep to remove the piles and complete the required work by May 15, 2008, with a $1,000 per day penalty for each day after the deadline that the work remains unfinished. The city was also awarded $2,475 in legal fees.

"As much as Mr. Deep would like to blame this on the worst mayor in the state, me, these law suits have been the direct results of complaints made not only by people living in the neighborhood, but also by people who live on that road," Barrett said. "The building department has been very bothered by this and in both cases has been vindicated."

Deep's appeal requests for the right to use excavation equipment in order to remove the three piles and extend his time limit 60 days past the May 15 deadline. It also requests that the judges view the property in order to understand why he can not complete the tasks of removing the piles without the equipment.

"I feel that when the Justice views the premises, he will see why the jobs of removing rocks, gravel and logs could not be done without excavation," Deep states in his appeal.

He also requests that the judges reconsider their rulings requiring him to pay legal fees for the city.

Barrett said he couldn't fathom why Deep would continue to fight the city over returning the failed subdivision to its original state.

"Two separate judges heard these cases and both came to the same conclusions," he said.


"A memorable journalist"
The North Adams Transcript Online:
Saturday, March 1, 2008

Those of us fortunate enough to work with Daniel Pearl here at the Transcript and later at The Berkshire Eagle recognized his special talents, his humor and his love for humanity long before he left for his illustrious and all-too-brief career at The Wall Street Journal.

As we look forward to a talk from his widow, the remarkable Mariane Pearl, at the Hardman Lecture Series this coming Wednesday, March 5, at 7:30 p.m. at MCLA's Church Street Center in North Adams, the Transcript and the college have also looked backward for pertinent articles Danny, as we knew him, may have written during his time here. He wrote many, but this one from our treasure vaults is a standout that many may have forgotten and many more have never seen.


The column ran on July 4, 1986. Daniel Pearl was 23 years old.

"Looking for America"
By Daniel Pearl

NORTH ADAMS -- There is an image that crosses my mind every Independence Day, and it has nothing to do with fireworks, or the Liberty Bell or even the Statue of Liberty. It has to do with Disneyland.

You see, in southern California, where I grew up, yearly trips to Disneyland are almost unavoidable, since every out-of-town visitor wants to see the Magic Kingdom.

And I never complained, because Disneyland is the home of the movie to end all movies, the standard by which I measure my feelings for my country. The film is called "America the Beautiful," and it's 50 minutes of unabashed patriotism.

Basically, somebody had the ingenious idea of mounting eight film cameras on a circular tripod and filming America's highlights. Then they added a travelogue dialogue and a soundtrack that keeps rising in that familiar rousing chorus: America AMERICA." The finished product is projected every hour on the hour around a huge circular room filled with chest-high handrails.

The handrails are essential, because it's not easy trying to watch eight different angles of purple mountains, fruited plains, Miami Beach, Williamsburg, Va., etc. You get dizzy. And each time the scene switches, you get frustrated by how vast and varied the country is -- you're just starting to absorb the cavernous Grand Canyon and now you have to take in the Los Angeles skyline in 40 seconds.

Throughout my Disneyland-defined childhood, I dreamed of crossing America -- by car, not by film, with so many more hours to soak up the scenery and the people without having the whole thing going by too fast and in too many directions at once.

Well, it doesn't work. I've crossed the country twice each way now, and the same thing happens. Not only do you wish you could see in all directions at once, but you end up wishing you could live everywhere at once.

Not that this country isn't downright dull in places. Take California, for instance. Most of southern California is desert. Los Angeles is a desert that stole enough water from other parts of the state to look like an oasis, but the ruse is exposed when you drive east of it and face an endless horizon of cactus and gray mountains.

But then the sun sets, throwing an orange hue over the desert towns and trailer parks, which appear as noble outposts where the beauty of nature at its harshest is savored, because there's nothing else around to savor.

As night falls, the winds blow tumbleweeds in front of your car, which you are sure must be the only one on the highway, and you think with some envy of the people who are blown freely like tumbleweeds across the West.

I met a man from Massachusetts who told me with a smile that he was in Las Vegas because he ran out of money eight years ago while crossing the country. Freedom.

In Utah, the scenery starts changing fast. Huge, castle-like rocks guard desert and pasture. Then it's red-and-black stratified buttes, then rolling prehistoric mounds, then desert again. And Colorado is more of the same, only faster. Green grass, red rocks, pine-covered peaks, the muddy Colorado, now placid and now turbid, and the whole time your eyes are doing figure eights trying to keep up with everything.

Now, I realize that easterners separate the country at the Mississippi, but for me it's the Continental Divide. Water east of this line flows east; water west of the line flows west. People used to die trying to cross the divide. Now they just ski all over it.

There is a unique species of human being residing in the A-frames of Vail and Breckenridge: the ski bum. Not all ski bums actually ski, but all of them have sacrificed their careers to the mountains. They work in restaurants or shovel snow, or start businesses which boom when the tourists come and die when they leave. And if you tell them you're from the city, they speak with pity to you. As you drive back down through Tyrolean meadows, you understand why.

Now it's Kansas. State boundaries aside, Kansas includes the entire distance from Denver through Missouri, Illinois and Indiana, and stretches north through Nebraska and South Dakota. It's so flat out there it's impossible to tell where one state ends and another begins. "I just drove through Kansas" is the exhausted driver's metaphor for hours of boredom. Or so I had heard.

But the eight-camera effect took over there, too. The panorama, from any vantage point in Kansas, is one of perfect order. On the right is a wood fence running toward the horizon along a slight crest; on the left is a partitioned wheat field, with a small dirt road leading to a white farmhouse. And so forth. The scene will change with the seasons but will then revert to the same comforting tableau. No fast-food outlet will appear in the scene, no Toyota will replace the Chevy truck in the driveway.

It's attachment based on constancy. And when the old brick buildings start appearing, and you start seeing 17s in the dates engraved on porticos of high-steepled churches, you see attachment based on history, and you realize that you are in the East.

Natives of this part of the country have a better feeling than anybody for the forces that brought this country into being. So maybe they can explain the curious omission, when we go over the list of our cherished freedoms, of a freedom which citizens of many countries can only dream of.

I mean freedom of movement, freedom to go anywhere and live anywhere we please, without the government's permission, and on the spur of the moment, if we wish. It's a bittersweet freedom, for there's always the feeling that we are missing out on something, that if only we could divide our lives, like Disneyland's eight cameras, watching everything at once, then we could take this country in the full embrace that it deserves on its birthday.
Daniel Pearl was a Transcript reporter from 1986 to 1987. He was murdered by terrorists in February 2002 after being kidnapped while on assignment for The Wall Street Journal in Pakistan.


"Steeples closes"
By Glenn Drohan, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, March 8, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Steeples has toppled.

Less than one year after Carol Borer of Leominster bought the Holiday Inn restaurant on Main Street from Roberta Gregory, wife of Edward Bassi, former inn and restaurant manager, Borer's son Daniel, the de-facto Steeples manager, has shut it down, locked its doors and walked away.

The restaurant closing comes in the wake of at least four foreclosures on local housing properties Carol Borer bought over the past year after she obtained more than $1.2 million in financing, chiefly from out-of-state mortgage companies. The state attorney general's office will neither confirm nor deny whether it is investigating her investments in the wake of charges by local officials that the property values were inflated. Investigators from the AG's office were seen in town this week touring some of those properties with members of the local police force. No arrests were made, and thus far, no charges have been brought.

Mayor John Barrett III confirmed Friday that the estate of the late Sanford Plumb, which owns the Holiday Inn franchise, is seeking new management for Steeples after allegations that the Borers bounced payroll checks and have had to pay cash upfront for food and beverages because of overdue bills.

"The Borers are no longer operating the facility," Barrett said. "My understanding is the new management is going to undertake renovations over the next 30 to 60 days and get it up and running again. The restaurant will be back, and the inn is doing fine."

Carol Borer, reached Friday evening, issued a statement blaming the restaurant closing on the poor economy and a "change in operations" at the Holiday Inn after the death of Sanford Plumb on Feb. 2.

"As most people in the area are aware, current economic conditions have made operation of any restaurant quite an uncertain pro-position," Borer said in the statement. "Recent restaurant closures in Williamstown and in North Adams, as reported in the Tran-script, for example, demonstrate the difficulty of operating any restaurant profitably in these changing economic times."

She charged that new management at the hotel has reneged on agreements made with Mr. Plumb before his death and that "losing the benefit of these agreements has made our continued operation of Steeples Restaurant unsustainable."

She added, "It is not our desire to close Steeples, but (it) has been required of us by the Holiday Inn. We have agreed therefore to give up operation of the restaurant to the owner of the building and operator of the Holiday Inn North Adams. We wish continued success to the Holiday Inn and to all downtown businesses in the city of North Adams, despite the closure of Steeples Restaurant and the difficult economic times in which we are all operating."

Barrett said the problems at Steeples arose long before Plumb's death.

"They are the ones who have reneged on their commitments, and the Borers should be ashamed of themselves," he said. "People working for them were not paid. They were not meeting their obligations to suppliers. They have been negligent in their operation of that restaurant, and they know it."

Joe Filkins, Holiday Inn general manager, said he didn't know much about the Steeples' situation other than witnessing Daniel Borer closing the restaurant Wednesday afternoon.

"I was standing at the front desk, and Daniel came out and locked the doors and walked away," Filkins said. "His workers said, 'I guess we're closed,' and everyone went home."

The restaurant has been dark ever since. Filkins said his staff has been referring patrons to other restaurants in the city while awaiting further developments. Part of a stipulation in the North Adams Holiday Inn franchise is that it must have a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

"It is my understanding that it will reopen," Filkins said. "It's not even about the franchise; it's the families and the people who come to the hotel. That's my number one job, to serve them."

Efforts to reach Daniel Borer for comment were unsuccessful. According to a message on his cell phone, the number has either been changed, disconnected or is no longer in service.

Barrett said the city License Commission had been poised to call a public hearing to review the restaurant's liquor license after receiving several complaints this week that payroll checks had bounced. Two local business owners confirmed that Steeples owes them more than $3,000 in past bills.

Filkins and Barrett both said rumors have been flying all over the city regarding the Borers' situation.

"I even had some people calling up and asking whether the FBI had stormed the place," Filkins said.

"No one has been arrested or charged with anything," Barrett said. "It is an awful situation, and it's too bad, but I'm grateful this is happening now. We want this restaurant to reopen and to see people out on the patio eating this summer. I fully expect they will be, hopefully by June 1.


"North Adams man claims mayor shoved him"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, March 27, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Mayor John Barrett III is the subject of an assault and battery complaint filed at Northern Berkshire District Court by a local man.

Tom Ryan of North Adams alleges that Barrett shoved him out of the way twice at Xtramart on Ashland Street as the mayor was purchasing a cup of coffee on the night of March 3.

Barrett denied the allegations, referring to them as "frivolous."

Ryan produced a letter from Northern Berkshire District Court notifying him that a show-cause hearing on the matter is scheduled for April 28 at 10:30 a.m.

Court officials declined to confirm that a show-cause hearing had been scheduled.

A show-cause hearing is held to determine if an allegation comes with enough evidence to support a formal charge.

Ryan, 60, claims he was hanging out in the convenience store by the coffee station when Barrett came in, walked over to the coffee station, shoved him out of the way and started to make a cup of coffee. Ryan then walked over to the counter to buy some Keno tickets, he said. The mayor walked up to the counter and again pushed Ryan out of the way and paid for his coffee, Ryan alleged.

The next day, Ryan said, he filed a complaint at the courthouse.

Ryan claims to have a witness to the incident, whom he declined to identify. He also said he viewed the security tape from the store with officials at the courthouse, although they declined to give him a copy of the tape.

"Everything I said is on that tape," Ryan said.

Ryan speculated that the mayor's alleged behavior was because of a letter to the editor he wrote. The letter was critical of the city's snow removal efforts, and was published in the North Adams Transcript earlier that day.

Barrett said Ryan filed assault and battery complaints in the past against another city official. That complaint, he said, did not result in charges.

"If I wasn't the mayor, a show-cause hearing would never have been scheduled on this one either," he said.

Barrett added that Ryan has been banned from the Xtramart as a result of the incident, which Ryan confirmed.

"I hope everything turns out right," Ryan said. "I'm telling you the truth and that's all there is to it."
To reach Scott Stafford:, or (413) 664-4995.


"Sen. Kerry to give keynote at MCLA graduation"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Saturday, March 29, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- U.S. Sen. John F. Kerry will address this year's graduating class at Massa-chusetts College of Liberal Arts, serving as the keynote speaker during its 109th commencement exercises.

The longtime senator and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, who will receive a doctor of laws degree, is one of four honorary degree recipients being honored at the commencement on Saturday, May 17 at 11 a.m.

"It is such a great honor for me to be part of MCLA's graduation ceremonies and to be given the chance to address our nation's next generation of leaders," Kerry said in an e-mail to the Transcript. "President Mary Grant's commitment and dedication to the college and to the students are evident in the strides the school has made in recent years."

He added, "From the renovation of historic Murdock Hall to the completion of the new world class athletic complex; from the school's state-of-the-art technology to its innovative idea that classroom is not bound by place, MCLA is truly a world-class institution able to compete in the 21st century."

Also receiving honorary degrees this year will be Arlindo Jorge, retired engineer and college benefactor; Lola Jaffe, president of the board of directors for the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center Board, and Donald Pecor, a member of the class of 1966 and longtime local educator.

"We're very excited to have the senator coming -- I think the senator will bring a great perspective to nation-wide and state-wide issues," Mary K. Grant, college president, said. "Our students are very excited. The senator has been on campus several times for different events such as the Compact for Higher Education, so he has a good sense of what our mission is and who our students are."

This year, 340 students, including 39 master's candidates, will receive degrees, and 18 students will re-ceive a certificate of advanced graduate studies.

Grant said she looks forward to celebrating the accomplishments of all four honorary degree recipients at the ceremony.

"The whole slate of honorees is wonderful," she said. "Donald Pecor has played such an important role in the lives of so many of our students. As an alumna, it's important to me that we honor our alumni. Lola Jaffe has made such important contributions to the region and creative economy. Her work is so inspiring. Lin Jorge has just been an incredibly generous philanthropist to us over the years. I think it will be a festive way to cap off a day for our students and their families."

Kerry's visit follows that of U.S. Sen. Edward "Ted" Kennedy in 2006. Kennedy was the first U.S. senator to speak at the college's commencement since Sen. Edward W. Brooke in 1969. The late U.S. Rep. Silvio O. Conte served as the keynote speaker in 1972. In 1999, former Gov. Jane Swift spoke while still serving as lieutenant governor, and former Vermont Gov. Madeleine M. Kunin spoke in 1986.

Recent speakers have included city native and state Attorney General Martha Coakley, ABC correspondent Dan Harris, NASA astronaut Catherine "Cady" Cole-man and Blenda Wilson, president of the Nellie Mae Education Foundation.

Currently serving his fourth term in Congress, Kerry was originally elected to the post in 1984. Prior to being elected to the U.S. Senate, Kerry was elected lieutenant governor of Massachusetts in 1982. During his time in the post, he organized the nation's governors to combat the acid rain that was polluting lakes, rivers and the nation's water supply.

As senator, Ke-rry has helped to provide health in-surance for millions of low-inco-me children, to improve public education, protect the natural environment and strengthen the state's economy. An environmentalist, he stopped President Bush's plan to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Other work includes that on the Iran-Contra scandal and leadership on global AIDS.

As chairman of the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs, Kerry worked closely with John McCain regarding American soldiers missing in Vietnam and to normalize relations with that country. As the ranking Democrat on the East Asian and Pacific Affairs Subcommittee, he is a leading expert on that region, including North Korea.

Kerry graduated from Yale University in 1966, where he served as president of the Yale Political Union. After graduating from Boston College Law School in 1976, Kerry worked as a prosecutor in Middlesex County, where he took on organized crime, fought for victims' rights and created programs for rape counseling.

Arlindo Jorge

Arlindo Jorge and his late wife, Evelyn R. Ham-pel Jorge, a member of the class of 1944, have been long-time supporters of the college, establishing the Evelyn R. Hampel Jorge '44 Scholarship in 2002 for students pursuing a career in education at the college.

In 2006, Jorge established a second endowed fund -- the first endowed chair in the college's history -- The Evelyn H. and Arlindo Jorge Visiting Professorship in Education Endowment Chair, allowing MCLA to create an opportunity to bring scholars of exceptional merit to the college.

Jorge began his career with the Electron Tube Division of Sperry Gyroscope Company, developing high-powered final amplifiers (klystrons) for Navy and Army radars; he became section head of the radiation division, where he was an expert on microwave tubes. The klystron since has been used in satellite communications, airplane and missile guidance systems, and telephone and television transmission. At Sperry, Jorge also co-invented the dual-oscillator radar system.

He later founded Syncor Industries Corporation, a company that manufactured electronic e-quipment for the United States Navy and Army.

Although Jorge technically is retired, one of his current projects is in the area of assistive technology, which allows patients to be transferred to and from a newly-designed hospital bed and wheelchair automatically.

Lola Jaffe

Actively involved in the arts for the past 20 years, Jaffe currently serves as the president of the board of directors for the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, where she has been the guiding force behind the restoration of the center in Great Barrington.

She serves as vice chair and secretary of the Jaffe Foundation and has chaired the boards of the Berkshire Opera Company and Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival. Jaffe also has been an overseer of the Boston Symphony and a board member of the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.

Jaffe works to bring appreciation of the arts to younger generations through her work with the Anne Levinson Fund for Experiencing the Arts and her co-sponsorship of the Berkshire Theatre Festival summer program for Berkshire County high school students. She was named the Southern Berkshire Chamber of Commerce Person of the Year for 2005.

Donald Pecor

Pecor is a 1966 graduate of the college, when he received a bachelor of arts degree in history. He went on to earn a master's degree in history from Sienna College in 1969. He has been an active member of MCLA's Alumni Board of Directors for more than 12 years, serving as chair of various alumni committees, including the scholarship, nominating, awards and reunion committees. He served as the Alumni Association Board representative to the MCLA Foundation Board and has served as an adjunct professor in the history department at MCLA for many years.

Pecor received the 1992 North Adams State College Teacher of the Year Award as well as the MCLA Class of 2005 Senior Appreciation Award for his outstanding service to the students at the college. In 2006, he received the Alumni Association Outstanding Service to MCLA award. He is also listed in Who's Who among American Teachers.

He is a member of the North Adams Zoning Board of Appeals, as well as a trustee of the North Adams Library. Pecor recently retired from Drury High School as the dean of curriculum and instruction.


"Xtra, Xtra"
The North Adams Transcript - Editorial
Thursday, April 3, 2008

The Xtramart in North Adams is NOT closing. Pittsfield has NOT landed five major tenants for its industrial park, and the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority won't be filling one of the old GE buildings with PCB-laden sludge from the Housatonic. And believe it or not, Adams won't be buying Toyotas for its police cruisers.

These and other ludicrous assertions appeared in the April 1 edition of the Transcript on Page 3, in a rather innocuous column entitled "Berkshire briefs." The date alone should have told readers something was up -- as should the April Fool's tagline at the bottom of the article. But some people actually believe everything written in newspapers must be true. That's a dangerous belief, especially on April 1.

One would have thought that the pure outrageousness of the stories would have clued readers in: IBM, Pfizer, General Motors, DuPont and Dom Perignon launching major enterprises in Pittsfield and building a Pittsfield bypass? Mayor John Barrett III declaring his favorite convenience store "odious blight" and ordering it demolished by Friday? Williamstown Town Manager Peter Fohlin declared the winner of a Mr. Rogers look-alike contest by the Boston Globe? State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley becoming head of Gov. Deval Patrick's "Casinos Now! Task Force?" Let's be serious.

But some people, no matter how firmly the tongue is planted within the cheek, will always take things literally. Xtramart representatives reported being so inundated by phone calls from people who were upset that the store would be closing that they had to put a sign on the door saying they were very much open. A letter writer to the Transcript became so incensed at Mayor Barrett over the Xtramart supposedly being demolished that he wanted local landlord Michael Deep to run for mayor (we had written that Mr. Deep had offered $8 million for the property or to trade it outright for the blighted former Dex Moore Firestone site). An online commenter accused Rep. Bosley of "fence-riding" and wanted to know how much money he was putting in his pocket from the casino deal. And on and on.

For the record, and to spell things out clearly: The entire column was an April Fool's joke. Many people wrote or called in to say they enjoyed it. For those who didn't get it or who were upset by it, we sincerely apologize (well, maybe not that sincerely). But be warned: We'll probably do it again next April 1.

Meanwhile, remember always to read the fine print. Please lighten up. And don't believe everything you read in the newspapers.


"We believe it"
The North Adams Transcript - Letters
Friday, April 4, 2008

To the Editor:

Toyota Corolla police cruisers in Adams, five Fortune 500 companies coming to Pittsfield and Mike Deep paying $8 million for anything are pretty preposterous on their face.

I think it was me winning the Mr. Rogers look-alike contest that made your April 1 column believable to so many folks.

Peter Fohlin
Williamstown, Massachusetts
April 3, 2008


"Fairbank's BEDC days seen as productive"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Sunday, April 06, 2008

Tuesday marked Tyler Fairbank's last official day as the first president of Berkshire Economic Development Corporation.

After nearly three years at the BEDC helm — he started in July 2005 — Fairbank is taking the reins as CEO of EOS Ventures, a firm created to construct private wind turbines for firms interested in purchasing wind energy. EOS also plans to branch out into other forms of green energy generation for businesses.

During his tenure at BEDC, Fairbank maintained a high profile regionally as he worked to focus energies of the state, the community and business leaders on marketing the best that the Berkshires have to offer, and addressing challenges to doing business here.

In short, he was trying to get everyone to push the rock in the same direction.

According to colleagues and one outside observer, Fairbank was successful in laying the groundwork and then pointing the way for county leaders and businesses to move forward in expanding the Berkshire economy.

He also was successful at making BEDC the central clearing-house for information on permitting procedures, funding availability, tax requirements and a boatload of other data that businesses need in seeking to locate or expand in the Berkshires.

"As far as I can tell, he certainly did a good job of focusing people's attention on Berkshire County's economic issues," said Stephen C. Sheppard, chairman of the Williams College economics department. "He also really reminded us of the need to collaborate regionally to develop a common marketing strategy, and what kinds of businesses could be successful here by identifying industrial clusters such as plastics, the creative sector, recreation and biotechnology."

In the evolution of the Berkshire economy from heavy industrial to a more diverse, nimble group of economic generators, Sheppard noted, Fairbank took on a hard job — being a harbinger of change.

"Whenever a region is in a process of transitioning from one kind of economy into another, it is often very difficult to get policy makers to think outside the box to see what will work in creating new jobs and new economic generators," Sheppard said. "That's a hard process, and it takes a certain kind of leadership."

And during Fairbank's tenure, Sheppard said, "there has been a real tangible sense of progress over the last three years."

"There's definitely been a change in the approach of public policy making — just look at the attitude you have coming out of communities, like Pittsfield, in terms of economic development."

Michael P. Daly, chairman of the BEDC executive committee and CEO of Berkshire Bank in Pittsfield, said Fairbank was exactly what the county needed in an inaugural leader for the fledgling economic development agency.

Professional demeanor

"We would have been hard-pressed to find anyone that could meet our goals better than Tyler," Daly said. "The unified effort in economic development was achieved largely based on his professionalism and demeanor. He exceeded our expectations in many ways."

Fairbank also was effective in helping interested companies locate or expand here, Daly said, which resulted in roughly 800 new jobs.

"Because those jobs came in smaller bites is even more significant in sustaining a diverse economy, and he deserves a lot of credit for that," he added.

And because of his work in developing a strategy for the future marketing of the region, as well as his ability to bring a wide range of different personalities to become invested in the effort, "we can give (his successor), David Rooney, a road map to hit the ground running."

Rooney, who started his job as president of BEDC on March 17, said he is grateful for that road map.

"If (Fairbank) hadn't been there to lay the groundwork for a collaborative environment, I'm not sure I would have made the decision to come over here," Rooney said.

"Tyler supplied really strong leadership at an important time in Berkshire County," he noted. "I'm impressed by his ability to get things done and to rally folks around opportunities."

He added that, even in his new endeavor, Fairbank is in a position to help with the local economy.

"He's establishing a new venture that is an important and positive development in addressing one of the challenges to doing business here — the cost of energy," Rooney said.

Not everyone was impressed with the BEDC under Fairbank's leadership, at least on a philosophical basis.

'Communities doing basics'

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III said he just doesn't agree with the concept of having economic development directors.

"I think (Fairbank) is a nice guy, and he did present a very positive image of the communities, but I'm not a real believer in economic development directors," he said. "I think it's the communities doing the basics that bring in the jobs."

He said that working together regionally is fine, but that each individual community must present itself in a positive way with quality schools, recreational facilities, well-groomed streets, low crime rates and low tax rates.

"It's a difference in philosophy — most of the jobs that you grow, you grow from within," Barrett said. "Maybe what they're doing is right, but I don't believe in it."

As for Fairbank, he contends that whatever was accomplished during his time at BEDC was the result of efforts by dozens of business and community leaders throughout the county.

During that period, there was some bad news as well, such as the closing of three paper mills resulting from the high cost of energy, and the recent news of the closing of Spice restaurant and financial hardships being faced by The Mount.

But Fairbank said those are dark spots in a picture of Berkshire County that is brighter than it has been in some time.

"It is easy for the media to paint a bleak picture based on a couple of specific data points, but a few data points do not make a trend," he said. "The big challenge is keeping people focused on the bigger picture."

His priority, he said, was to find ways to unite the business community in what must be done.

"Most important in my mind was to create a sense of collaboration and a sense of regional unity," Fairbank said. "You can't overestimate the impact of that."

That effort, he noted, resulted in the Berkshire Blueprint, a market study that identified groups of economic generators, their potentials and how best to expand on them. An important piece of the blueprint was a study on the creative economy — the cultural and creative sectors, how they intersect with industry and how to capitalize on that relationship.

'A super success'

"There are 29 different organizations that own a little piece of that blueprint, and they're all working in alignment with one another in marketing and promotion of the region," Fairbank said. "I really think that has been a super success."

He also is happy about the results of those efforts, an increase in gross regional production, job expansion and new businesses coming into the area.

"I was pleased to be in that position and take part in the effort," Fairbank said, "but a lot of the people have a part in that effort, and they deserve as much of the credit as anyone."
To reach Scott Stafford: (413) 664-4995

"Tax Incentives for Lowe's on Agenda in N. Adams"
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff,, April 07, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — The City Council will be asked tonight to declare the former North Adams Plaza as an economic opportunity area to foster its development.

Lowe's Home Centers Inc. plans to construct a 132,000 square-foot home improvement retail store on the site, owned by developer Starwood Ceruzzi. The Lowe's is expected to anchor development at the plaza and the neighboring Curran Highway parcel; a bank branch and restaurant are just two of the potential tenants.

In a communique to the council, Mayor John Barrett III said the city has been working out a tax increment financing agreement with Lowe's Home Centers Inc. and Starwood Ceruzzi.

Designating the site as a economic opportunity area would allow the developers to take advantage of certain local and state tax credits and deductions.

Barrett, in his letter to the council, wrote, "I am confident that this $15 million project will stimulate further private sector investment on the adjacent property. This Lowe's store will have a most positive impact on the city's economy as well as the Northern Berkshire area as a whole."

The development is expected to create 90 full-time and 50 part-time jobs when it opens in 2009.

The TIF agreement the mayor is proposing would gradually increase the tax assessment on the development over a 15-year schedule; the plan would also allow Lowe's to access a 5 percent investment tax credit through the state.

The council will take up both the designation and the tax financing plan.

Veterans Benefits

Also coming before the council is a reworked plan to provide a retroactive benefit to military veterans injured while working for the city.

The Legislature passed an act a few years ago that would allow municipalities to even up a perceived inequity in retirement benefits. It provides veterans injured in a city's or town's employ with the same yearly benefit (not to exceed $300) that retired veterans receive in their pensions; it also had a section for retroactive relief to the time they were disabled.

The city adopted the first provision but balked on the second because of the cost of funding retroactive benefits for the dozen or so veterans. The controversial proposal resurfaced again as the last act of former City Councilor Christopher Tremblay.

The council was ready to adopt the provision until Barrett threatened to veto it, saying the city could ill afford to spend $57,000 on retirees when it was in the middle of negotiations with its current employees.

A compromise solution would pay the retroactive benefit but only up to 50 percent of what it would have been on June 1, 2006. The order would be dependent upon the agreement of the North Adams Retirement Board.

The council will also take up:

The partitioning and sale of the Notre Dame property to Arch Street Development and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
Reappointments to the Hoosac Water Quality District.
Increases in the costs of transfer station permits to offset rising fuel costs.
A request for an awning at the planned Hub restaurant on Main Street.
An increase in sewer use fees to 100 percent for those who don't pay property tax.


Reader's Comments"


when this development came to light we were told there would be no tax incentives.....the developers are going to develop this no matter what, look at the money they have already spent on land...why give them a tif?

from: ctrem on: 04-08-2008


Any tax break given to Lowe's should also be given to any current business that will be in direct competition with the big box store. Positions filled by former employees of businesses that are forced to down-size or go out of business are not new jobs.

from: CJ Vadnais


"Beware the longer school day"
The North Adams Transcript - Letters
Wednesday, April 30, 2008

To the Editor:

North Adams middle and elementary schools will adopt an extended school day next September. Everyone in the community at large should be greatly concerned.

This initiative appears to be a quick fix for the low academic performance of some of the schools' achievement problems. In theory, by adding 1.5 hours to the school day, children will be able to have more time to improve their MCAS scores. Approximately 17 schools within the state, mostly in low-income communities, extended their school day. The reported result is a supposed improvement in academic performance. However, the only validation of this success to date is opinion surveys; it has yet to be verified by more objective and reliable indicators.

Studies suggest that the strongest school districts and communities are made of a mix of students and residents with diverse socioeconomic status and family backgrounds. Except for the high school, we already have 50 percent of a student population who are considered low income. This percentage is likely to increase because of the extended school day initiative.

Many families from all socioeconomic groups with strong family values disapprove of this measure and recognize that children need enough unstructured play and family time to grow and develop properly. Young children's playtime is essential for cognitive development; through playtime and real life experiences, a child makes sense of all acquired knowledge, develops creative, analytical and physical motor skills that will build essential neuronal connections that prepare a child for academic success. In the emotional area, time with family, not school, is the strongest pillar a young child relies on to develop confidence and core values.

The families that relocate to avoid extended day will be those that have access to more informational and financial resources, which are predominantly those with higher income. This will drive the demographic of the North Adams school district toward children from lower income families, causing a reduction in the diversity that contributes to an effective learning environment.

The negative consequences of an extended school day are far reaching. Numerous studies have demonstrated that low-income children are unlikely to thrive intellectually, socially and emotionally in economic segregation. Businesses and homeowners are also affected by this initiative. Economic segregation leads to a decline in real estate values, stimulating an already dire economic downward spiral. In addition, major employers such as the hospital and MCLA will continue to struggle to attract potential employees who are turned off by the prospect of sending their kids to schools with extended day.

Is this what we want in our community? Are we stepping backward? The effects of this initiative seem quite contradictory of the mayor's vision of the city and that of the residents who have supported him.

Only within the middle school, which has achieved moderate increases in performance and holds a No Child Left Behind status, perhaps the extra time may be beneficial because it would provide a structured environment in which in which adolescent children's energy may be directed in positive and constructive ways rather than in the streets. Very young children, in contrast, require time to play and just be kids. Although enrichment programs will be added at the elementary schools, spending almost eight hours in school will ultimately counter-affect the child's overall intellectual and emotional development. It is unfortunate that an extended day will take a big part of this valuable time from my children and yours.

Liliana Sills
North Adams, Massachusetts
April 28, 2008


"City cracks down on taxes"
By Glenn Drohan, North Adams Transcript
Monday, May 5, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Armed with new legal advice on the way state law applies to local permits, city officials are going after tax scofflaws, and Charles R. "Rusty" Ransford, the biggest landlord in North Adams, is tops on the list.

Health Director Manual Serrano and Building Inspector William Meranti condemned Ransford's six-unit apartment building at 168-170 Union St. for public safety reasons Friday afternoon, evicting four families after finding them alternate places to stay. According to Serrano, the back porch of the building, which had been rammed by a car in February, was unsafe, and Ransford has been unable to fix it to meet city building codes.

Ransford said he would happily have fixed the porch, but the city wouldn't issue him a building permit.

That's not the only permit the city is denying him -- over the past week Ransford has been unable to get certificates of occupancy for any of his apartments that have changed tenants -- nor will he get any new certificates until he pays roughly $174,000 in property taxes and water bills that have been delinquent for over a year, according to Mayor John Barrett III.

"We're tired of the games Mr. Ransford is playing, and we are going to use the law to get these properties fixed up -- just the same way he's been trying to use the law to avoid fixing them," Barrett said Friday.

Ransford may believe he's being targeted, but the city has a list of dozens of delinquent taxpayers who may find themselves in the same situation when they try to obtain a building permit or certificate of occupancy for apartments, according to a memorandum sent April 29 to all department heads by Jennifer Macksey Ethier, city tax collector and treasurer.

Previously, the mayor said, city officials had believed property owners must be granted permits for work on any specific buildings on which taxes were up to date. However, the city solicitor's office recently determined that, under state law, the city can require owners to pay all back taxes that have been delinquent for more than a year before issuing any permits on any of their properties.

Ransford, who owns about 200 apartments in North Adams, charged Friday that the city is trying to put him out of business.

"I will pay the taxes, but I can't do it without help from the rents," he said. " Right now, I have 13 apartments ready to rent that the city isn't going to let me rent. You're looking at about $8,000 a month in rental income. Wouldn't that go a long way toward paying off my taxes?"

He said he has a payment plan, which he intends to submit to Ethier on Tuesday -- he said he could pay off the delinquent taxes within 14 to 16 months by following the plan.

"If she doesn't accept it, there's going to be a lot more parking lots in the city," he said.

Ransford said he also intends to discuss his situation with the city's recently formed Blue Ribbon Housing Commission, headed by City Councilor Richard J. Alcombright.

"I've been lax in paying taxes, and I have no one to blame but myself," Ransford acknowledged. "But I intend to pay them, if they'll work with me. What the city's going to have to do is start working with the landlords. They can't just keep punishing them."

The city has tried to work with Ransford, according to Ethier, who said she has agreed to payment plans with him in the past.

"He just doesn't pay. It gets very frustrating," she said.

The city is in the process of taking about 20 properties -- most of which need substantial work -- from Ransford through tax liens. Some have already been condemned, and at least three have been torn down at the city's expense, after approval by the City Council. The city hopes to recoup its money through the liens when the properties are sold.

The city doesn't want Ransford's properties, Barrett said -- officials would just like him to pay his taxes and fix the properties when they need fixing.

"He has let all these properties go," Barrett said. "When he doesn't want them any more, he just boards them up, and we have to rip them down. It isn't fair to the people of this city who pay their taxes and keep up their properties. He's destroying neighborhoods throughout the city and bringing down property values. Something's got to be done. Mr. Ransford is continuing to collect money from a lot of properties, and he's not putting anything back in anyplace that we can see."

Ransford said he has invested thousands in repairs and has been preparing to bring another 13 apartments onto the market within the next six weeks. Over the 40-plus years he's been a landlord, he said, he has renovated dozens of buildings and offered reasonable apartments at prices tenants can afford.

Tina Rodriguez, who had lived at 170 Union St. for the past three years with her husband, Roberto, and their three boys, ages 9, 10 and 12, until being evicted Friday, said she thought Ransford was a great landlord.

"When things need to be done, he gets right on it," she said Thursday in her second-floor apartment. "This place right here is fit to live in. There's not reason for us to move out. Maybe the porch needs a little work, but he wants to do it."

Serrano said the city tried to work with Ransford for weeks to get the porch fixed, but he did not obtain an engineering report for the project, as required.

"I did that," Ransford later responded, showing a letter outlining the work that needed to be done from Gary L. Stephenson, an engineer in Valatie, N.Y.

Serrano responded that a letter was not an engineering report.

"This has been very frustrating," he said. "There was a time when we could call Rusty up with a problem and he would take care of it. The last couple of years, it's been like pulling teeth."

"People are frustrated -- and not just our inspectors," Barrett said. "The action we are taking is a direct result of complaints we're getting from people -- local residents who are fed up with this. If Mr. Ransford has no money, maybe it's time for him to get out of the business."

Ransford said he believes that is the mayor's plan.

"What it is, is the city's trying to bankrupt me," he said.


Thursday, May 15, 2008

A 'prestigious' place to live?

To the editor:

I read, with great interest and a bit of humor, the advertisement for apartment rentals at Franklin Court in North Adams.

This advertisement leads one to believe that if you're living at Franklin Court, you are living in an upscale apartment complex. They advertise a modern building with large rooms, oversize garage, swimming pool and a gazebo. What they fail to mention is that these apartments have not been modernized in quite some time, with most in dire need of some TLC.

The most important omission is the condition of the roads leading into this complex. This is where the humor comes in. I find it quite unbelievable that anyone interested in living at Franklin Court would take an apartment after driving on one of these access roads. I would live to see the look on the faces of those who first see these roads. For the past 10 years, I have watched McLagen Drive go from bad to worse with absolutely no maintenance. This road, along with the entrance road off Franklin Street, are both at the point where they will soon be impassable.

I am told that Franklin Court consists of approximately 80 apartments, all paying between $700 and $800 per month.

Anyone who knows how to multiply can see that the monthly rental income is substantial. It's about time that some of that income is used to improve the condition of the roads. If the owner of Franklin Court truly wants to have a "prestigious place to live" as stated in their ad, they need to make it accessible.

In recent months the problem with absentee landlords, in both North Adams and Adams, had been reported in the local papers, I'm wondering if this is the case with Franklin Court.

Robert J. Canale Sr.
North Adams, Massachusetts
May 13, 2008


"How about real affordable housing?"
The North Adams Transcript - Letters
Saturday, May 24, 2008

To the Editor:

While it was encouraging to see Williamstown is working on creating some "affordable" housing, I was a little disappointed at the town meeting to see that what appeared to be a "major" project would only result in eight units of moderate-income housing.

There already appears to be at least $1,205,000 committed to being spent on these eight units. How many more units could be built for $1,205,000 if the town were to build comparable units on the old town garage site on Water Street and if the town provided some of the infrastructure work?

Using a different perspective, if the town placed the $1,205,000 in an interest-bearing trust fund account earning 4 percent interest and used the $48,200 annual interest earned to provide rental subsidies for eight persons or families, the town could provide each family with a $6,025 annual rental subsidy or a $502 per month rental subsidy without ever touching the $1,205,000 principle.

That is a whopping monthly rental subsidy. (If no interest were earned, these $502 monthly subsidies could be paid out for 25 years before the funds ran out, or a $200 monthly subsidy could be paid out for over 62 years.)

Is the St. Raphael Church rehab project the best use of the available funding? Good thing it is not real money and it is only taxpayer money and the bank's money.
I apologize if my calculations are incorrect.

Ken Swiatek
Williamstown, Massachusetts
May 23, 2008


"Former Sprague Electric Co. Site: PCB cleanup in final stages"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, May 26, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — A 20-acre PCB cleanup that has been ongoing since 1990 is in its final stages: By mid- to late summer, the brownfield site at the corner of Brown and River streets will have been cleansed and released back to the owner.

In December, the demolition of a 75,000-square-foot building was completed, and since then, nearly 20,000 tons of soil has been excavated and purged of contaminants.

There are no plans yet for the property's future use, but Mayor John Barrett III is pleased to know that it will be clean.

"Someday that site will be used for something else, but for now, there's nothing wrong with green space," he said.

The building sat on the eastern edge of the property, and from the 1800s to the 1920s, it was a textile mill. In the 1940s, the former Sprague Electric Co. converted it to manufacture electrical components for the robust postwar consumer market.

Sprague's operations resulted in extensive contamination of the property with polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs; a chemical insulator; and trichloroethylene, or TCE, a solvent. Although PCBs were banned in 1977, both chemicals pose health hazards to humans. Sprague ceased operations at Brown Street in 1985.

Since 1990, the company that now owns the property, Great American Financial Resources Inc., an insurance and annuity firm, has been moving through various stages of cleaning the parcel, which stretches from Alton Place on the west end, where 14 homes were purchased and demolished, east to Brown Street, where the final steps are playing out now. The central area of the site once contained the company landfill, which was the site of major cleanup efforts.

Along the way, according to information provided by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, 6,200 cubic yards of soil have been excavated and treated; 9,000 cubic yards of soil were excavated and disposed of off-site; and 1,450 containers of sludge, and 19,000 pounds and 133 drums of discarded capacitors were removed.

In addition, 361,000 gallons of contaminated water, 90 more tons of sludge and 10 tons of debris have been removed, and more than two acres of impermeable caps have been installed.

Indirect desorption system

At the Brown Street site, after the building was taken down, the foundation and soil beneath were found to be contaminated. So Maxymillian Technologies of Pittsfield was brought in to remove the foundation, and to crush and cleanse it, along with the surrounding soils up to 8 feet deep, using a process called the indirect desorption system, or IDS.

According to officials with both Maxymillian and Arcadis, an environmental consulting firm hired by the property owner, IDS uses multiple chambers to heat the soil on-site to evaporate the contaminants and to capture them in a vapor-liquid channel. Then, separated contaminants are shipped off for further treatment. The soil then is returned to the ground.

Maxymillian developed the IDS process, which has been used on this property in the past and at other sites around the world, said John Anthony, senior vice president at Maxymillian.

The current operation, Anthony said, "is basically the last phase of the cleanup."

He said there are three crews on-site. One crew of three to eight people is excavating the soil by day, and two other crews of seven people each work in 12-hour shifts around the clock operating the IDS process.

Jeffrey Holden, principal engineer at Arcadis, said the owner, Great American Financial Resources, has no development plans for the property at this point. He added that formerly decontaminated sites such as this one are typically limited to commercial or industrial uses.

"By mid- to late summer, we should be all wrapped up," Holden said.

In a statement, Great American Financial Resources said it "is focused on completing remedial efforts associated with former manufacturing operations at the site. Future use alternatives will be evaluated when remediation efforts are complete."

According to Eva Tor, spokeswoman for the DEP, the site will continue to undergo periodic monitoring for undetected contamination.

'Good news'

Barrett commended the property owner for its efforts.

"It was good news when they took down the building, and even better news that they're cleaning up the soil," he said. "They have not walked away from their responsibility — they have not balked. Everything they've been asked to do, they've done."
To reach Scott Stafford:, (413) 664-4995.

"Budget causes teaching cuts"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Declining student enrollment, coupled with decreasing grant funding and rising heating and insurance costs is forcing the North Adams Public School system to once again tighten its belt and cut the equivalent of 7.5 full time teaching positions, a custodian and 27 teaching assistants for the coming school year.

"We're faced with declining resources and this budget should be cut further," Mayor John Barrett III, who also serves as the chairman of the School Committee, said during a public hearing for the budget Tuesday. "But at the same time, we have not had to take the drastic steps that other cities in the state have had to take. In Beverly, if you want your child to go to preschool, it costs a pretty penny. It's about $2,500 and the mayor there just called for an increase. We're staying away from a fee structure because we know what it costs to raise a family."

Superintendent James E. Monte-pare presented a $16.3 million budget to the committee, an in-crease of $115,347, about 0.71 percent, over last year's fiscal budget.

"It's a very meager budget, but we've been able to keep the integrity of all of our programs in tact," Montepare said. "It does not come without cuts, many which are because of declining grant funds."

He said many of the positions are funded through state and federal grants such as Title 1 and Reading First. Grant funds have fallen $380,000 for the coming year.

"It's getting harder to find money," Montepare said. "Three years ago, we were taking in $5 million in grants. This year, it was about $3.5 million. The funds are drying up. We're being forced to compete for federal funding, where the competition is steep. We're now looking to private foundations."

He said funding for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Ass-essment System (MCAS) preparation and remedial work is among the funding that is disappearing.

"At the same time, we're seeing all of our mandates remain and even increase," Montepare said.

Of the 7.5 full time positions being cut from the budget, he said 4.5 are positions that are not being filled after the retirement of a current faculty member. The remaining teacher cuts come from a decline in enrollment in the district.

"Our class sizes will remain small, with between 16 to 22 students in each class," Montepare said. "I just couldn't justify classes with only 12 or 13 students anymore."

Both Sullivan and Brayton elementary schools are scheduled to lose a teacher. Positions on the chopping block at Silvio O. Conte Middle School include a reading specialist, a social studies teacher, a physical education teacher and technology teacher. Drury High School will also lose several positions, including a part-time technology teacher, which will be absorbed by the business department.

"Several of those positions will not be filled after the retirement of a current staff member," he said.

Montepare said at least eight of the teaching assistant positions fall under the English-as-a-second-language program.

"We only have two students in the entire district who are at the beginning level," he said. "The other students are in the upper grades and we have trained at least 30 staff members in the past few years to help those students."

The other teaching assistant positions being cut are partially the result of realigning classrooms at the schools.

"I'd like to have more teaching assistants," Montepare said.

Barrett said that even though the Chapter 70 funds for the state have increased by $85,000, other costs for the district have increased.

"Health insurance has increased, along with the insurance for retired teachers," he said. "We're seeing a net decrease of $161,000. We also no longer receive transportation assistance. The state is continuing to take funds away and I don't see a light at the end of the tunnel. We've always been able to use our reserve funds to fill in the gaps until state funding increased. We don't have that option and there is no hope for more state aid. Our reserve funds in the city are almost depleted, mostly due to rising oil prices and excess snow removal this year."

Another large portion of lost funding is $1.5 million assessment for students going to the Berkshire Arts and Technology Public Charter School in Adams.

"This year the estimate of students going down the road is 115," Barrett said. "That number is inflated in my opinion. We have 86 students going there right now."

He said the charter school receives about $13,900 per student, which far exceeds the $5,000 sent with a school-choice student attending school in a neighboring town.

"We spend about $9,300 per student," Montepare said.

Barrett said that while the district will receive reimbursement for any number of students who do not attend the charter school, the money will not arrive until the fourth quarter of the fiscal year.

"That's great, but we have to take the money out at the beginning of the year," the mayor said.

School Committee member William Schrade Jr. questioned the reason for line item increases for contracted services, van service and text books.

"I'm not trying to micro-manage, I'm just looking at increases in the budget and seeing if they are necessary," he said.

Montepare explained that contracted services, such as auditors, were never included in the budget as a separate line item in the past, thus making the item appear new.

"We have a $20,000 increase for van service," he said. "We have 14 vans that need insurance, gas and repairs. In the long run, it saves us about $150,000 per year to have those vans running. We share costs and programming with other districts and charge for everything we can."

He said that while the district is trying to go paperless, there are some workbooks and teaching materials that must be purchased.

"We're trying to cut down as much as we can," he said. "We've converted the high school and Brayton over to natural gas to keep energy costs down, but I don't think we have enough set aside for heating costs this winter."

Montepare continued, "Part of the problem is our declining enrollment. When the state reworked the funding formula three years ago, it really penalized older cities like North Adams. Our costs are fixed and it's slowing chipping away at what we have available."



"Bywaters pleads not guilty to robbery charges"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Wednesday, May 28, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- A Schenectady, N.Y., man who allegedly threatened tellers at Hoosac Bank on Friday by brandishing a gun and an explosive device strapped to his waist will remain at Berkshire County House of Correction after entering a plea of not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Tuesday to several charges.

Clad in a white inmate uniform and standing behind a protective glass barrier, Robert Albert Bywaters, 54, was arraigned shortly before 11 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Michael J. Ripps. His bail remains set at $500,000 cash or $5 million surety.

Bywaters, who according to the district attorney's office has several aliases, was arrested by police on Friday, just outside of the bank on Main Street, after police received several E-911 calls from employees inside of the bank.

Bywaters' attorney, Richard LeBlanc entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf on charges of armed robbery, armed kidnapping with a firearm, armed assault to rob, armed assault to murder, possession of an infernal machine and intimidating to steal from a depository (the bank). His case is expected to be moved to Berkshire Superior Court, where Bywaters would need to be indicted by a grand jury.

Assistant District Attorney Dean-na Roberts argued for the bail to remain in place because police had recently learned from the FBI that Bywaters could have an extensive criminal history and several aliases.

"This morning, the North Adams Police learned from the FBI that he may be known as Eugene Hine and several other aliases," Roberts said. "We are asking that the cash bail remain intact, based on a variety of circumstances including the six counts in the complaint When police asked him to halt, he refused and had to be subdued with a taser. Police found on his person what was believed to be dynamite, a gun and a lot of money."

LeBlanc said his client would not contest the amount of his bail at this time but would do so without prejudice, allowing the matter to be discussed in the future.

"We'd like to reserve the right to have a comprehensive bail hearing in the future," LeBlanc said.

According to court documents, Bywaters allegedly entered the Hoosac Bank at about 3 p.m. Friday afternoon, taking a seat in the customer service area of the lobby. After asking for assistance from the loan department, he was led into one of the offices used by a loan officer.

"(The loan officer) states that she led the male into her office, where he attempted to close the door by kicking it with his foot," the report states. "The male then stood on the opposite side of the desk, pulled a handgun from his left chest area, pointed the gun at her head and stated, 'We have a real f-ing problem.' Over the next several minutes, the male made several commands, finally ordering the loan officer to summon the person in charge of the teller line. (The loan officer) further stated that the male was wearing some sort of what she believed to be an explosive device around his waist. At one point he removed it from his body and just continued to roll it in the palm of his hand."

Bywaters also allegedly showed the explosive device to several other employees and threatened to use it. The report states that he allegedly ordered the head teller to fill a nylon bag with money and bring it back to the office.

"After the first delivery, the male informed (the head teller) that there was not enough money in the bag and ordered her to retrieve more," the report states.

Bank employees were able to call the police by cell phone while Bywaters was busy getting the money from the head teller's office. Police arrested Bywaters, who allegedly matched the description of the bank tellers -- wearing a hat, a blue nylon jacket, sunglasses, and carrying a nylon bag -- after tackling him and tasing him.

The report also states that the nylon bag Bywaters allegedly was carrying contained about $32,000. He was also reported to have Walther model BB gun that is powered by CO2 cartridges in his possession, along with a pound of what authorities believe to be weapons-grade TNT.

Bywaters' black 1999 Dodge Ram van was cordoned off Friday night in the Big Y parking lot and later taken into police custody. According to police reports, items in the van included "a gray colored wig, a woman's make-up kit, a large brown hat and a pair of binoculars."

LeBlanc requested that Bywaters' prescription glasses be returned to him by the North Adams Police Department. Roberts said she was unsure if the glasses could be returned, since they had been entered into evidence. Bywaters was wearing the glasses, with clip-on sunglasses, when police subdued him outside of the Hoosac Bank on Friday.

"We're just requesting the prescription lenses, not the clip-on sunglasses," LeBlanc said.

Ripps said that he "had not encountered" such a request in the past and said either the police would need to return the prescription glasses after cataloging them for evidence or that the Berkshire House of Correction would need to supply a new pair of prescription glasses.

Bywaters' case was continued until June 10 for a pre-trial hearing.


"North Adams landlord denied permits until taxes are paid"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, June 05, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Last week, William E. Meranti, city building inspector, responded to an anonymous call about work being done at a property owned by Charles "Rusty" Ransford on Union Street.

Meranti hopped in his truck and went to check it out. Sure enough, a crew was atop one of Ransford's Union Street properties trying to do repairs on the roof without the proper permits, according to Meranti. So he ordered them to stop work. But he found the same crew there again two days later. The second time, Ransford was fined for the violation.

But Ransford can't get the proper building permits, or certificates of occupancy, because North Adams won't issue them until he pays $232,787.41 he owes in back local taxes. He faces the same problem in Adams, though the amount of his debt was not available yesterday.

Ransford said a combination of factors led to his tax debt.

"I got nobody but myself to blame for that," he said. "I had a batch of no-pays and a batch of evictions. At one time, I had over 40 vacancies a couple years ago and I never fully recovered from that. But I did get rid of a lot of riff raff — I got pretty good tenants now."

Ransford is one of several landlords the city has targeted as "slumlords," as Mayor John Barrett III has called them, for not keeping their properties in good repair. Two of Ransford's properties were condemned earlier this year for being unsafe and a blight on the East Main Street neighborhood. They are slated to be demolished as soon as the city can find the money to do so.

Meanwhile, the city has rendered another Ransford building unsafe and forced six tenants to find new places to live after declining Ransford's request for a building permit to rebuild the rear wooden stairway — a fire exit.

Monday, Meranti said, he was driving by one of Ransford's properties on Ashland Street and saw the same crew working on another fire exit, without a building permit. They were ordered to cease and desist.

In Adams, Ransford recently applied for a building permit to do repairs. Town officials there also declined his request until his taxes are paid.

Both towns say they would accept an appropriate payment plan, and Ransford has proposed a plan to each town. But officials say the proposals were not adequate and offered no up-front payment on the debt.

"I haven't got the money right now," Ransford said. "With Adams, I could be paid in full in two years. However, they flatly refused."

And the towns aren't willing to trust him for long.

"He's had payment plans in the past but hasn't lived up to them," Barrett said.

"We don't want empty buildings — an empty building doesn't help anybody," said William F. Ketcham, Adams' town administrator. "But anybody who doesn't pay taxes is putting their tax burden on the people who do."

Meanwhile, Ransford said he's got a number of ready-to-rent units sitting empty because the city won't issue the proper permits. As his rental income continues to curtail, he says he knows he will be less able to settle his debts.

The struggle between Ransford and the two towns has been well publicized, and now the public is starting to report when they see his crew working at one of his places without a permit.

"Everybody in the world has read in the paper about what is going on, and knows that he's not to get building permits," Meranti said. "So we've been flooded with calls every time he has somebody working."

"I apply for the permits, if they don't give them to me, I'm doing necessary repairs," Ransford said. "If they want stuff to fall down, I guess that's what they'll do. It isn't a cat-and-mouse game with me. It's just survival."

"Every time he goes to do something, people call in," Barrett said. "The calls come in to the Building Department and the Building Department responds. It's not a case of picking on him, it's just that people are calling him in. People are fed up."

Some of his tenants don't feel that way.

Grace Williams, 74, and her 80-year-old husband, Clarence, have been living in their River Street apartment for 17 years, six years of that with Ransford as her landlord.

"Rusty Ransford is one helluva landlord," she said. "He leaves you alone and lets you do what you want."

The couple pays $350 per month plus utilities. When something needs repair, she repairs it herself. If she can't, she calls Ransford and "he usually comes right down. Of course, if you don't pay your rent you can't expect anything from him, and I can't blame him. He's got bills to pay."

Williams said Ransford is "soft-hearted. If we didn't have him, where would all the poor people live?"

"I ain't the ogre and the slumlord they make me out to be," Ransford said. "I've never gotten any help from the city. Not ever. They seem to be more interested in punitive action than in helping the landlords. I'm willing to work with them. If they're not willing to work with me, I just don't know ..."
To reach Scott Stafford:, or (413) 664-4995.


The 'Hail to the Sunrise' statue in Charlemont is a well-known and easily recognized landmark on the Mohawk Trail. The trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with motels and restaurants. Now only four remain. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff).

"Along the Mohawk: Tourism is down on the Mohawk Trail, but locals celebrate the storied path."
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Monday, June 16, 2008

It's known as the "Hail to the Sunrise" statue in Charlemont. But the iconic bronze Mohawk warrior's raised arms could be seen as a plea to the Great Spirit for a return of the mobs of tourists that once lined the Mohawk Trail every summer from the 1930s through the 1980s.

Others might see the pose of the 1932 sculpture as an exclamation of grief over the loss of the days when the Mohawk Trail was a dirt path used by aboriginal New Englanders as a migration and trade route that wound along the river, through the woods and over the mountains.

The dirt track over the Hoosac mountain range connecting New York to the plains of central Massachusetts was used for centuries by locals on foot and horseback until North Adams city engineer Franklin Locke proposed clearing a road over the mountain through Florida in 1909. By 1912, work had started. Local businessman Clinton Richmond suggested naming the roadway the Mohawk Trail.

After that, its popularity started to soar. Old photos show dozens of cars parked along the hairpin turn, at Whitcomb Summit and at several of the observation towers that dotted the trail at just about every gift shop.

As the years have passed, the "cowboys and Indians" icon of American popular culture has subsided, while at the same time new and faster routes of travel have made the Mohawk Trail a less essential route to Troy and Albany, N.Y. As a result, the phalanx of vacationers has dwindled through the late 1980s and 1990s to the steady, if less populous, stream of travelers it is today.

The Mohawk Trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with attached motels and restaurants, that offered plenty of American Indian arts and crafts. Now only four remain, and three of them are owned and operated by folks who see retirement coming soon, such as the Devanneys.

"The last three or four years, we've been seeing steadily less traffic," said Joseph Devanney, owner of the Eastern Summit Gift Shop for 38 years. He and his wife operate the shop, which looks south over the distant hills. The restaurant was closed when they bought the business in 1974. They closed the motel in the mid-1990s.

Now, he said, they're hoping to find a buyer for the remaining souvenir business so they can retire.

Kim and Joni Estes, owners of the Big Indian Shop in Shelburne Falls, have been running their business for 34 years. Kim Estes said that, although the business is still doing quite well, he and his wife would like to retire at some point.

The building is up for sale, but not the business, which has been in their family since the 1930s.

"People keep telling us, 'You can't retire — we came here when we were kids, and now we're bringing our kids here,' " he said.

Stephen and Karen Andrews moved to the Mohawk Trail from Hawaii and bought the Wigwam and Western Summit gift shop four years ago from the Gertje family, which had operated it for 30 years.

"It's following the same pattern as last year, and we're actually seeing more people coming in that haven't been on the Trail in 15 years," Stephen Andrews said.

He said their plan is to go for a couple more years and then to sell the business and retire.

But just down the road at Whitcomb Summit, relative newcomers Ed and Carol Drummond are seeing enough business and potential in their location to invest a substantial sum to renovate their motel rooms and existing cabins. They even plan to build more than 20 new cabins and to install a pool during the next two years.

They are marketing the location as a condominium/motel, selling each unit to buyers for between $54,000 and $119,000. The owners of a unit could stay there at any time, and the Drummonds would rent out the units when the owners are not staying in residence.

"We'll be keeping the character of the place," Carol Drummond said. "We're very attached to the history of it. And we're very excited because I don't know of any other spot that has this 100-mile view."

In stark contrast to the expansion of the Whitcomb Summit, some of the closed tourist shops, restaurants and motels still stand as dilapidated, ghostly reminders of past glories.

One still bears its strangely undamaged sign — Giovanni's Motel & Ristorante, which stands vacant in eastern Florida, with "no trespassing" and "storage space for rent" signs posted around the property.

It was owned by Giovanni Pizzi, who still owns and operates Giovanni's Red Rose Motel in Charlemont.

Pizzi said he has owned both businesses for 30 years but closed the Florida location in the 1990s because "it was too much for me and the wife to do, and the place wasn't making any money."

He said he recently sold the Florida location to a developer from the state of Florida who plans to renovate it.

Just down the road, there are other, younger businesses that have become part of the new Mohawk Trail and are centered around its scenic beauty, the appeal of the Deerfield River and today's craving for outdoor activities.

At Crab Apple Whitewater on the river in Charlemont, groups and individuals have been renting rafts since 1983, said manager Jennifer Mooney.

"The heyday of the Mohawk Trail is a little bit before my time, but we're doing great — we see 300 to 500 people on the river on any given day during the summer."

She said that, besides their rented rafts, people bring in canoes and kayaks and do plenty of trout fishing.

In the village proper of Charlemont, small shops capitalize on the appeal of the scenery and the river.

"We're seeing more and more tourists coming through," said Curtis Country Store shopkeeper Summer Barkoskie. "And in the off-season, we see lots of local support and skiers. It's picked up a lot in the past few years."

There also are the remnants of the Iroquois Nations and other tribes that come together on a regular basis for powwows.

Although it is called the Mohawk Trail, the Mohawk tribe, one of the five tribes of the Iroquois empire, actually lived in upstate New York. The Mohawks used the trail now and again in their travels for raids and trading. More frequent users were local tribes, such as some Algonkian communities to the east and Mahicans to the west, who used it for migration, hunting, trapping and trading.

Because of that history, the area is still valued by descendants of many tribes from many areas.

Behind the defunct Indian Plaza, a once-famous souvenir shop, a four-acre property is used by members of a number of tribes for their monthly powwows in the summer and fall.

June Pease, a member of the Mohawk nation, was there last week preparing for the powwow slated for the Fourth of July weekend.

Teepees and tents already dotted the grounds, and decorations adorned the Circle of Sacred Fire.

The Cherokee, Cheyenne, Sioux, Blackfoot and Micmac tribes usually are represented, she said.

Since the closing of Indian Plaza, the local community of tribal descendants has sought to purchase the land, with an eye toward making the former shop an education center, Pease said. The location on the Mohawk Trail is good for exposure to visitors but also for its proximity to a place where the group's ancestors spent their lives.

"It is a sacred place," Pease said. "The spirits walk here, and it is the home of our community, so it is very important to us."
To reach Scott Stafford:, (413) 664-4995.


"Anticipation at MoCA: Artists working hard to create LeWitt gallery"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Monday, June 16, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Hundreds of pages of instructions -- all plotting and charting out large geometric shapes, thousands of intricate criss-crossing lines or swirls of bright colors -- are taped to the walls inside the Sol LeWitt gallery at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

Artists are already hard at work creating 100 wall-sized drawings of the late conceptual master for the museum's first "semi-permanent" exhibit which will open this November. LeWitt's works, which started the minimalist movement in contemporary art, exist only as sets of instructions.

"Currently we have 20 professional artists from the LeWitt organization who are working here," Joseph Thompson, Mass MoCA director, said during a tour of the gallery last week. "We have 12 apprentices who arrived in April and have been working alongside the professionals. Twenty-eight interns, who will be here through Aug. 16, joined them this week."

The artwork, some 100 "concept" pieces originated by LeWitt between 1968 to 2007, will be loaned by Yale University Art Gallery through an arrangement LeWitt made just before his death last year, and will be on display until 2033. The gallery at Mass MoCA will open on Nov. 16, 2008. To celebrate the opening of the exhibition, the gallery will be open to the public for free that day.

Thompson said the interns, who are mostly undergraduates, have come to the museum from Yale, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Williams College, Smith College, Mount Holyoke, Bennington College, Syracuse University and the Chicago Art Institute to help bring the 27,000-square-foot gallery to life.

"They've begun with the most labor-intensive pieces," Thompson said of the wall-drawings that have been completed on each of the three floors. "Some of them require tens-of-thousands of lines."

One large piece that uses blocks of colors in an overlapping S-curve design, required great concentration from the artists, he said.

"The rule is that you can only use three primary colors and three secondary colors, but no color can touch itself in the design," Thompson said. "It's a mapping problem. As you fill in the map of colored blocks, it gets quite tricky. It's so complex and intricate. Occasionally, we hear a few groans."

Many of the drawings are "site specific," changing the dimensions of the work to fit the space in which it's being installed.

"A lot of the pieces are unspecific enough to challenge the creativity of the artist," Thompson said. "He (LeWitt) lets the artists creating the work shine through. Sol is also quite funny, and you can feel him poking you in the side sometimes."

One piece, "100 Points," has directions so tailored to the artist that the directions read: "This point is as high as I can reach with my left hand."

Thompson said the work has gone well so far.

"The LeWitt organization feels the work is on target and there is a lot of progress being made," he said. "Work to the building is about 97 percent complete, with a new fire escape being installed and the walkways being renovated."

On the third floor of the gallery, a fresh set of interns were prepping a series of walls with white paint on their second day on the job.

"This is absolutely fabulous," Julia Wagner, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College from Woods Hole, said as she stirred a bucket of primer. "My printmaking teacher gave us a synopsis of what was going on here. I was doing an independent study on minimalism at the time, and had seen an interview with Sol LeWitt during a documentary. I was impressed with the precision of his work. I thought this would be a good step after graduation. I'm moving to Cambridge and hoping to work in either the art field or education after this."

For Corin Godfrey, 22, of Syracuse, N.Y., working as an intern installing LeWitt's work was also a career move.

"I'd seen a previous installation of his work, which was two pieces, and I thought this would be an awesome thing to add to my resume," she said. "I'm graduating from Syracuse University in December and heading on to graduate school for museum studies. This is such a great opportunity to work in a museum and get hands-on experience."

LeWitt, who personally designed the three floors of gallery space in Building 7 and selected the pieces for the retrospective, died in April 2007.



"BArT celebrates first senior class"
By Benning W. De La Mater, Berkshire Eagle
Monday, June 16, 2008

ADAMS -- Nine seniors strong.

That's how the graduating class -- the very first graduating class -- of Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School finished high school Saturday.

It was graduation day for BArT seniors, and although their numbers may be minute when stacked against some of their counterparts in the county, the students said their experiences were every bit as fulfilling.

"We're really more than a class," said senior Luke Madden, 17. "We're small, and we've had a lot of time to bond. We've created connections that students at bigger schools probably don't make."

This class started in 2004 with 38 students. Executive director Julia Bowen said many of those students came to BArT thinking it would be an easy way out of a traditional high school curriculum, but they were turned off by the heavy workload and transferred out.

The school follows a state-mandated curriculum but focuses on the arts, attempting to integrate art into all classes, even math and science.

"There was a lot of misinformation out there when the school first started," Bowen said. "People thought it was a place for students with behavioral issues. It's not."

Now in its fourth year, the charter school on Commercial Street is growing slowly but successfully, she said. The school counts 240 students in Grades 6 through 12. Most hail from North County, but several commute from Pittsfield, Dalton, Lee and Lenox.

All nine seniors were accepted into a college. Six will attend schools in the fall, two have deferred for a year, and one has joined the National Guard.

Madden, of Williamstown, chose BArT over Mount Greylock Regional High School because he said the school offered college prep classes, along with lectures from visiting artists and videographers.

"And we had a lot more one-on-one help here than in most schools," Madden said.

Things such as history might be taught using a graphic novel, and a math equation might be turned into a hand-drawn poster to better help students grasp the skills.

Madden is bound for the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine, in the fall. In his speech Saturday, he said that the first graduating class had its ups and downs, just like the school, but that both came out better because of them.


"Bill ignores MCLA center"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Tuesday, June 17, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- When Gov. Deval Patrick signed the landmark $1 billion life sciences bill into law at the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston on Monday morning, it was missing a key $49.5 million earmark that would have ensured a new science building for Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"Getting an item in a bond bill is only half the battle," state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said Monday. "You also need the administration to go out to bond for the money. The governor has said that he will bond the science center at MCLA in a timely fashion. I feel very good about this."

MCLA President Mary K. Grant also said she is confident the so-called Center for Science and Innovation would become a reality.

"There's always been an earmark in the higher education bond bill for the science center asking for 'not less than $31.5 million' and it continues to stand," she said.

"The science center has been approved as our priority project by the state Department of Capital Asset Management. It also has the approval of the Board of Higher Education, the governor and the Berkshire Delegation. It's just a matter of gathering the resources and the timing."

The earmark's disappearance from the law came after several scathing articles, columns and editorials in the Boston Globe, which questioned the need for a science center at the state's only public liberal arts college and called it a "pork" item inserted by Bosley, who chairs the joint committee on economic development and emerging technologies.

"The earmark became controversial for all the wrong reasons, so after having a conversation with the (Patrick) administration, we agreed that it belonged in the higher education bond bill," Bosley said. "Mind you the only people who were saying the item was controversial were the Boston Globe and a few members of the press. They wanted to know why a college without a graduate science program would need a science building. The college does have a science curriculum, but it won't ever advance to the graduate level if the don't have the means to."

He said he included the earmark because a science center at MCLA makes sense, especially with a burgeoning life science cluster growing between Albany and Glens Falls, N.Y.

"We have the right to the same opportunities as they do in Boston -- training for jobs in the life sciences and the ability to attract businesses out here," Bosley said.

The decision to remove the earmark, he said, was made out of respect and responsibility to other members of the House of Repre-sentatives.

"It's the fifth time that we've done this type of bill and I've never put an earmark for my district in a bill," Bosley said. "I've always tried to make sure the earmarks worked on a state-wide basis. I wouldn't have included the science center at all, if I didn't think it was a way to spur economic development and if I thought there was adequate funding being provided for the higher education bond bill."

He said the higher education bond bill includes several "big ticket" projects including $92 million for a science building at Bridgewater State College.

"I still plan on asking for the full $49.5 million for the building, but we also need to make sure we keep the funding for renovations to Bowman and Veneble halls in the bill as well," Bosley said.

Grant said it was unfortunate that the importance of projects like the Massachusetts Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Pipeline (STEMP) were "lost in the shuffle" because of the Boston Globe articles.

"What they failed to understand is the importance of educating the scientists and researchers of tomorrow," she said. "They also failed to understand the important role that state colleges like MCLA play in building the science workforce of tomorrow."

Grant said she has every confidence that the science center would receive funding in the coming weeks and lauded the approval of the new life science legislation.

"The governor understands the need to invest in education," she said. "Gov. Patrick is a champion of public education and public higher education. The life sciences bill is a very big step forward and we are at the beginning of a process. I think we are in good shape. The governor has told me he is very sensitive to our needs."

Bosley said the higher education bond bill came out of committee last Thursday and that he fully expects it to be signed into law within the next week.



"City schools honor St. Cyr"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Thursday, June 19, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- The North Adams Public Schools honored a beloved principal of Greylock Elementary School and a longtime parent volunteer on Wednesday, with the presentation of the first Stephen A. Boisvert Humanitarian Award to Donna St. Cyr.

"Sue Beauchamp, our LINCS coordinator, came to me with the idea that she wanted to honor the great work of our parent volunteers," Superintendent James E. Montepare said Wednesday. "We thought that Steve Boisvert was the best role model as far as his humanitarian efforts can be considered. Mr. Boisvert was first on our list. Today we're honoring both Mr. Boisvert and someone who has donated endless amounts of time to Sullivan School."

During the end-of-year school-wide celebration at Sullivan, Principal Shelley Fachini surprised St. Cyr with the award.

"This award is going to a super special person we all know -- Donna St. Cyr," Fachini said. "She started volunteering 12 years ago, when her oldest son, Shane, started kindergarten. We haven't been able to get her out of here since. She's now our LINCS Parent Partner and we hope she's a lifer."

A shocked St. Cyr accepted the award and a bouquet of flowers as she choked back tears.

"Thank you all -- I really appreciate this award," she said. "I do everything I do because I love Sullivan School and I love all of you."

Following the presentation, she said she began volunteering at the school as part of the Parent Teacher Group.

"I feel that all parents should be part of their kids' education, whether it's through the PTG or just volunteering in the classroom," St. Cyr said.

She remained active with the PTG at the elementary school through the tenure of her youngest son, Ryan, and then began volunteering at the middle school as her sons moved on. Shane is now 16, and Ryan is preparing to enter high school in the fall. About three years ago, the district created part-time positions at each of the elementary schools to support the LINCS Center.

"Sue Beauchamp suggested to me that I apply," St. Cyr, who also works part time as a floral designer at the Flower Gallery in Adams, said. "It fit perfectly with my job."

Prior to handing out the award, Greylock Elementary Principal Sandra Cote spoke about Boisvert, who served as her school's principal for 46 years before his retirement in 1998. Boisvert died in 2005.

Cote, who had Boisvert as a principal while a student at Greylock, described him to the students as a "man much taller than me with a deep voice." She said she soon realized that he wasn't someone to be afraid of, but someone who was always nice and trying to help others out.

"Way back in the 70s, which for some of us isn't that long ago, but for most of you is non-existent, Mr. Boisvert started something called the Greylock School Campout and we still do that today," Cote said. "Over the years, 1,000 students have gone camping because Mr. Boisvert want them to have the opportunity to go with friends to learn about camping, learn about the environment and have wonderful memories."

She said he also created the school's outdoor classroom in the courtyard, which once housed ducks, rabbits and even a peacock. Today its pond is home to several turtles.

"Another time there was a student at in the neighborhood who was too sick to come to school," Cote said. "Mr. Boisvert got her entire class together and had them walk to her house to wish her well and give her a present ... He did many things the made him special."

Boisvert's widow, Ruth, his sister-in-law, Mary Boisvert, and niece, Sandy Boisvert, were all present at the ceremony.


"Children's memorial to open in city"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Thursday, June 26, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Grieving parents will soon have a memorial a Southview Cemetery in which to honor their deceased children -- the two-year quest of Donna Bona Morgan to build a park in the city will become a reality when it is dedicated on Aug. 17 at 4 p.m.

"We've started working on it already," Morgan said Monday. "We're in the process of digging, pouring and stamping cement. We already have 50 people who have purchased the granite pavers for their children's names."

Morgan was inspired by the Angel of Hope memorial for grieving parents in Easthampton about six years ago. She lost her only child, Diana, in 1996. Diana, 18, a college freshman at the time, was stricken by meningitis and died. Morgan's personal loss led her to try to organize a local Angel of Hope memorial.

"It's unbelievable the things people are doing for us," she said. "So many people are donating their time and skills to making this park a reality. I started to cry the other day when I went down to the cemetery and saw four people volunteering their time. I realized that this is really happening -- it's no longer a dream. It's so amazing."

Granite pavers, which cost $250, will become part of the memorial, bearing the name, birth date and date of death of each lost child. (An application can be found on page A6.)

"We're not just looking for babies or five-year-olds," Morgan said. "We're looking for parents who have lost children.

Your child could have been 55 at the time they died and still qualify. You can be a sibling who wants to recognize a brother or sister who died young. We're encouraging people who have lost children to miscarriage or stillbirth as well. We've had so many people ask us about that. Their grief is just as real as the next person's."
She said the memorial committee is looking to reach out to more families who might want pavers.

"We'll always be able to add pavers to the park, but if families want the granite paver to be in place for the dedication ceremony in August, then we need to hear from them immediately."

The $250 pays for the engraved granite paver, and a portion of the funds goes toward the building and maintenance costs for the park.

"We've received $2,000 in donations for families that have hardships and can't afford to purchase a paver," Morgan said. "Families who can't afford to purchase a paver can contact me about their hardship."

Several years ago, Morgan said, she began thinking about the number of parents and siblings, who, like herself had lost a child at an early age. A handful of parents have been able to keep their children's memories alive through scholarships, memorials and tree plantings, she said, but so many more haven't been as fortunate. It was that fact that pushed her to approach Mayor John Barrett III about finding a location for park. A few days after Christmas in 2006, the city donated a small plot of land, located by a small pond in the far corner of the cemetery, which cannot be used as a burial site because of its proximity to the water.

The city also pledged a base for the Angel of Hope statue, which would have cost about $18,000 for one made out of granite. The base will come from the former Notre Dame Church, which the city recently required. It was once used for a statue that was removed by the Diocese of Springfield before the sale.

"It's really amazing," Angela Poulimenos, memorial committee member, said. "In church, they tell you to give your time, your talent and your treasure. People are really doing that. Some people are giving their time; others are sharing their talents in the building of the park, and others are donating money to ensure children of people who can't afford the pavers are being acknowledged."

Morgan said the $25,000 needed for the park has been raised, including the $14,500 for the 4-foot tall bronze angel statue that will adorn the pedestal in the middle of the memorial. Donations have come from businesses, organizations and individuals as far north as Shaftsbury, Vt., and as far south as Pittsfield.

"We originally had planned to dedicate the park on Aug. 2, but the woman who is coming from Salt Lake City for the dedication, Lisa Johnson, is expecting her first grandchild that day," Morgan said. "She's coming up for another dedication in Uxbridge on Aug. 16, so this works out for her."

The idea for the Angel of Hope memorial parks came from author Richard Paul Evan's book, "The Christmas Box." In his story, a woman goes to a memorial park with an Angel of Hope statue in the center of it to grieve for her dead child. While the story was a work of fiction, people began going to Salt Lake City to visit the park, only to find it didn't exist. Learning of this, Evans commissioned the statue in Salt Lake City and built a memorial park, which was dedicated on Dec. 6, 1994. Since then, memorial parks featuring the angel have sprung up around the country.

To purchase a paver or for more information, call Morgan at 413-663-3555.


"Art Proves Successful Lure"
By Tammy Daniels -iBerkshires Staff- June 27, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Maybe it was just a break in the week's wet miserable weather. Or maybe it was the doing of Jarvis Rockwell's modern temple to the little gods of pop culture.

Whichever explanation you prefer, the end result was blue skies and sun breaking through the gloom that had been threatening rain all day. And they were shining down on Main Street just in time for the launch of DownStreet Art.

While it couldn't compete with Thursday nights of old, when throngs of pedestrians would cover the sidewalks, there were people downtown. And they were going in and out storefronts and gathering in groups to chat.

The attraction was art — seven new gallery openings and a host of related activities and store openings in and around Main, Holden and Eagle streets. It might also have been the chance to stroll Main Street on a pleasant evening and catch up with old friends and meet the artists within their midst.

"This is just really a great idea," said artist Joel Rudnick, who discovered his own work had become a part of Rockwell's "Maya III," a stepped pyramid covered in action figures. Rudnick had done figure modeling years back, including work on some of Marvel's X-Men characters. He found a rubbery Magneto and Nightcrawler tucked amongst the thousands of toys.

"I just got a little thrill out of all of it," he laughed. "I'm just glad someone could use them."

Jessica Conzo, program coordinator for the Berkshire Cultural Resource Center, was marking off visitors to "Maya III" at 73 Main St. It was at 400 about two-thirds of the way through the evening.

"It's just amazing. Everyone's really coming out," she said, adding that local businesses had wanted to be involved, even the new Shear Madness hair salon. "They were one of the first that asked about it."

DownStreet Art's goal was to provide a platform for local as well as outside artists to show their works and create an attraction to lure residents and tourists alike to the downtown area. Some 18 venues, ranging from the North Adams Museum of Science and History to Eric Rudd's Chapel for Humanity to four new temporary galleries in the city center, are marked on a map and brochure available various shops and restaurants.

"I think in general things went swimmingly," said painter Karen Kane at the North Adams Cooperative Gallery at 107 Main St. "I got quite a few comments on my pieces and other pieces ... all positive."

The project runs for four months through the tourist season; the galleries, new and old, will be open all summer. It is a collaboration of the city, businesses, Massachusetts College of Liberal Art, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition (which is helping supply volunteers) and arts organizations and galleries.

There was young and old, newcomers and natives, artists and non-artists mingling Thursday evening.

Artist Jaye Fox, showing her work at the cooperative gallery, said she was rather surprised at who showed up — people she didn't realize lived in North Adams. There were "a lot of unique visitors ... people who were unexpected."

Kathy Keeser of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition said she saw a real cross-section of people, a good thing since that's one of the goals of the art collaboration — bringing diverse people together.

Visitors at the cooperative gallery had a chance to leave their names and comments in a guest book at the entrance. It was, they wrote, "Full of life," "very nice" and "Wonderful."

Eloise and Frank Stevens of North Adams were late getting to Main Street and trying to hit all the spots before they closed. The couple said they really liked what they had seen so far.

"We love it," said Eloise Stevens. "It's exciting, and we get to go out and see everyone."

Readers' Comments:

It may that there will be some profits or not, however, generally, a business takes about a year to see gains and profits. It takes time, in the meantime, I think everyone did a great job in getting the ball rolling. We'll see, but hope they are succesful and continue with events like that was a treat for locals, tourists, young and old, artists or non artists. Congrats!
from: resident on: 06-27-2008

Its a feel good story, but obviously the store owners didn't believe the added over-time to the pay checks was going to made up by sales. I would love to read about the revenue side of the story.

There will be some that say you have to give a little to get the ball rolling and I agree, but how many times have we read about other projects that were shot down because they wouldn't put cash in the bucket from day 1?
from: Barbara on: 06-27-2008

i was told that there was a good turnout. i was also told that only 1 store stayed open late. so something like this is designed to lure people downtown but no one stays open late?
from: ctrem on: 06-27-2008

Here is a perfect opportunity to either shut the naysayers up or prove them right. I hope someone is attempting to record tangible results from this event. Did occupancy rates go up versus same time last year? Did sales increase? Did tax revenue increase? Did other businesses in the city see an increase? Will there be a bump in condo and home sales over the next few months?

Let's put some numbers to this event and see exactly what the benefits are. It could put an end to alot of the controversy that has filled the papers lately.
from: Barbara on: 06-27-2008


"City raising transfer rates"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Wednesday, July 9, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Commercial haulers using the city's transfer station will see two rate increases in the next six months, as the city takes steps to meet rising costs for upkeep on the facility.

The station will see a 5 percent increase on Sept. 1, followed by an additional 5 percent increase on Jan. 1, 2009.

"Fuel charges are hurting everyone from businesses to private individuals, and it is hurting government in the same way," Mayor John Barrett III said during Tuesday night's City Council meeting. "At the transfer station, we need to raise fees for commercial haulers just to break even. Our contract with Energy Answers says we pay them so much per ton to haul from our facility. The agreement also has an escalator clause for fuel, which increases when diesel fuel increases. I believe that mark was $4."

He said the fee for hauling the solid waste from the transfer station has risen by nearly $7 a ton in the past year.

"Even with this increase, we should still be $3 to $6 a ton lower than what it would cost commercial haulers to bring waste to the city of Pittsfield," Barrett said.

The increase will not have an impact on the cost of bags or stickers for individuals who haul their own trash to the station, he said.

"The customers of commercial haulers shouldn't see a huge impact either," Barrett said. "The haulers are going to pass the increase on, but it shouldn't be more than the 5 percent, which shouldn't come to more than $2.50 a month for customers. The commercial haulers can't say we're killing them -- we've only had two fee increases in the last 16 years."

He said the city also will be cracking down on commercial haulers who aren't participating in the recycling program.

"There are a few small haulers that are throwing it into the solid-waste stream and costing us more money per ton," the mayor said. "We actually make a percentage back on the recyclables and it's a free program."

Councilor Richard Alcombright questioned whether the 10 percent increase was enough.

"Should we raise it even more, so we could have some money in reserve for improvements?" he asked.

Barrett said he felt consumers were taking a hit on all fronts, and the city would be asking the state Department of Environmental Protection for funds to enlarge the current infrastructure and enclose the recycling area.

"When we undertook the burden of hauling solid waste in 1992 for the entire Northern Berkshire area, it made sense," he said. "Just to become part of the Northern Berkshire Solid Waste District back then, when it wasn't even in the business of hauling solid waste, our assessment would have been $100,000. That was just for administrative costs and salaries at the time.

"The DEP needs to step up and help us build a larger facility if they want us to continue taking solid waste from the rest of Northern Berkshire. I believe the only other community still accepting solid waste is Williamstown, and they only take from residents. Clarksburg, Adams and, I believe, Florida, have all shut down their transfer stations. Their residents either bring their waste to us or have a commercial hauler."

He said the E Street facility is not adequate to handle the amount of solid waste coming in.

"It was never big enough when we built it, because we can't build on anything that has been capped," Barrett said. "For lack of a better term, it's a dump up there. Every time the wind blows, the recyclables go all over the place. We spend countless man hours picking it back up. That area needs to be enclosed. If we don't get help from the DEP, we might need to become residential-only at some point."

The council unanimously voted to publish the rate-increase proposal and send it to a second reading.

The mayor also presented the council with an ordinance that would require banks and mortgage lenders to register properties in foreclosure and to obtain a local property manager to maintain the properties. Failure to register a property with the city's building department would carry a $300 fine. Failing to secure and maintain a property would result in subsequent $300 fines that would be levied on a weekly basis.

"North Adams is no different than the rest of the country with the foreclosure crisis," Barrett said. "While our problems are not of the magnitude of Boston, Chicago or New York City, it is impacting the city in the same way, with foreclosed and abandoned properties causing blight in neighborhoods. We took the best of the ordinances, which belonged to Boston, and modeled ours after it."

Many times, city officials do not know which properties are being foreclosed upon and the ordinance gives a tool for the building department to use in making sure those properties don't fall into disrepair, the mayor said.

"When we have to go in and board up vacant buildings, it costs the city money," he said. "Then we have to put a lien on the property, which we most likely won't get back. This is a step we have to take."

Councilor Clark H. Billings questioned how the city would enforce the penalties on out-of-state mortgage lenders.

"This looks good on paper, but how do we get them to do this?" Billings said. "How do we enforce this on a company in California or Arizona?"

Barrett said he was sure the city could take each company to court, seeing that the state would require them to have an entity registered with the secretary of state in order to conduct business.

Councilor Richard Alcombright, who heads the city's blue-ribbon commission to deal with blighted properties, said the commission is ready to make recommendations similar to the ordinance, in the coming weeks.

"This is very timely and very welcome," he said. "We have a property at 94-96 Hall St. that went into foreclosure, and the tenants are being evicted. I don't think anyone has been able to identify who the exact mortgage holder is because of all the service companies involved. We need provisions like this to hold companies accountable."

The ordinance was referred to the council's public safety subcommittee and will return to the full council on Aug. 12.

Also approved were several transfers to balance the fiscal 2008 budget. Funds from the city's reserve account, a total of $159,430, were transferred to various departments in City Hall to cover pay raises for non-union employees and to cover the cost of the annual audit and insurance increases. Three years' worth of pay increases for police officers -- including two years of retroactive pay -- required a transfer of $193,000 from various unused funds, including the Department of Public Services, Department of Public Safety and general government accounts.

A deficit of $84,000 for snow and ice removal and $10,000 for the installation of global positioning systems on city vehicles was transferred from unused funds in the general government, the Department of Public Services, pensions and unclassified accounts. A transfer of $197,914 to cover summer salaries for the North Adams Public Schools was made from unused funds in the district's expense account.



"Coalition settles in to new home"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Tuesday, July 15, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Twenty years ago, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition was celebrating its second anniversary by moving into its first home -- a two-floor townhouse apartment offered by then North Adams State College.

Since then the coalition's staff and mission have grown, requiring it to find new accommodations over the years. Most recently, the non-profit organization moved from 85 Main St., which it has called home since 1997, to a larger and newly renovated suite at 61 Main St.

"We moved in about three weeks ago," Al Bashevkin, executive director, said Monday as he toured the coalition's new space. "There has been a plan in the city (proposed by building owner Scarafoni Associates) for about four years to renovate the fifth and sixth floors of 85 Main St. into apartments. We've been aware of the need to move for some time. We looked at a lot of different spaces and even looked at buying a space."

In the end, David Carver, managing partner of Scarafoni Associates, showed them a space that fit the coalition's current needs.

"When David showed us the space, it was hard to wrap your arms around, but his engineer Ron King, worked closely with us to design it to fit our needs," Bashevkin said. "Scarafoni Associates has been very generous."

He said the rent for the new spot is comparable to what the coalition has been paying in the other building, considering the increase in space.

"It's within our means and they've been generous to make sure it's within our means," he said.

The suite of offices includes a central reception area and six separate office areas, a storage closet, a dividable conference room and kitchen. Two of the offices house outside agencies that work closely with the coalition -- Big Brothers/Big Sisters and Target Hunger.

"The move has let us question who we are and what we do," Bashevkin said. "One of the things we are is a community center. While we might not be a community center in a physical sense, we provide a way for people to come together. This space is allowing us to further define ourselves and take a step towards our ultimate goal."

He said the conference room, which divides into three sections will allow the group to hold large meetings or simultaneous functions.

"We also feed a lot of people during our meetings, so it's wonderful to have a dishwasher available to us," he said. "This space is just so beautiful and welcoming."

The move also gave the group a chance to purchase new furniture -- desks, conference tables and chairs.

"Our old conference room tables were huge, where these new tables are light and easily reconfigured to meet the needs of the group using the room," Bashevkin said.

The coalition has several community arms, which include the Northern Berkshire Neighbors, UNITY (United, Neighboring, Interdependent, Trusted Youth), the program to prevent underage drinking, and its core programs, which consist of monthly community forums, a television program and monthly newsletter.

The organization will have an open house in the fall to welcome the community into its new home. It is currently looking to give away several file cabinets, two conference tables, a computer desk and several smaller tables.

For more information, contact the Northern Berkshire Com-munity Coalition, (413) 663-7588.


"Council OKs retroactive pay bump for vets"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- A retroactive pay increase for a group of 15 veterans who retired from city jobs with disability status was approved by the City Council during Tuesday night's meeting, but the payments would be contingent on the North Adams Contributory Retirement Board agreeing to meet specific conditions.

The retroactive benefits, which total about $58,000, would only be given to the 15 veterans if the Retirement Board agrees "to fund the payments in interest free installments over the remaining term of the funding schedule."

The benefits were approved 6 to 2, with City Council President Alan L. Marden and Councilor Marie Harpin dissenting. Councilor Michael C. Bloom was absent.

Councilor Richard Alcombright championed the benefits noting that in the two years since the two-part legislation granting an annual pension increase withheld from a select group of retired veterans and retroactive benefits back to the time of retirement, 87 of the state's 104 retirement boards, including the city, had granted the first section and 68 had granted the retroactive pay.

"The majority of the boards that have not granted the second section have either been so small that they did not have any retirees affected by the legislation, or have said the payments were so enormous it would have created a financial burden," he said. "Many pension boards in the area including Greenfield, Pittsfield and the Berkshire County Regional boards have already granted this payment."

Alcombright said that two years ago, when the issue of the retroactive benefits was first raised, Retirement Board Chairman James Brown had said that the board would fully fund the $58,000 and amortize it over 20 years, adding about $3,000 to the city's annual assessment.

He said the $3,000 would not be a financial burden equivalent to those cities such as Boston or Springfield, which have voted against the retroactive benefits.

Councilor Ronald Boucher questioned if the council had the consensus of the entire retirement board or just an agreement from Brown.

"This has not been on the retirement board's agenda in the past two years," Marden, a member of the pension board, said.

Councilor Clark H. Billings said he still did not understand the connection between the retiree's military status and their retirement status.

"Do they deserve something special because they are veterans?" he said. "I have no problem honoring our veterans, but I don't think this is our responsibility. I can't connect service in Korea, Vietnam or World War II to climbing into an attic and falling through the floor during a fire call or being hurt when a police cruiser is crashed into. I'm not taking about money right now, I'm talking about principle."

Alcombright challenged that the benefits were being held up by the political process.

"I agree that I fail to see the logic, but we are not acting on logic but on legislation that has already been granted to other veterans throughout the state except where it creates financial hardship," he said. "The first section gave these veterans parity to every other veteran in the state. This second section gives them parity to the veterans (who retired on disability from municipal jobs) who have received this benefit. This $58,000 is not going to have a real impact on the city's annual assessment when we're talking about a multi-million dollar retirement system."

Several council members, including Billings, said they would support the benefits if the retirement board met the condition of interest free installments dispersed over a 20-year period.

Mayor John Barrett III, who supported the approval of the annual pay increases, vetoed a compromise that would have paid out only 50 percent of the retroactive benefits. The council failed to override the veto at its last meeting.

"We righted the inequity (by approving the first section)," he said. "When you say the retirement board will fund this, I ask you to consider who funds the retirement board -- the city. We are at a point where we laid off people in the school department who were making $8 per hour. This year we're facing a $117,000 increase in our pension assessment. Pensions are going to become budget busters in all communities."

Following the meeting, Harpin said she did not support the retroactive pay because the retirement board had not put the item on its agenda during the last two years.

"Where are we going to get the money?," she said. "This $58,000 isn't going to fall out of the sky. We're in a tight financial situation without this being added on."

In other business, the council approved the donation of the former Tropical Gardens building at 17 Eagle Street, from Eric Rudd and Peter May. The mayor said the pair would not receive a tax credit for the donation, as previously reported.

The council also gave preliminary approval to a $750,000 loan for the purchase of four to six trucks and a payloader for the city yard.


"Fay Vincent to Lead Sports-Themed Fall Foliage Parade" - July 23, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — The 53rd annual Fall Foliage Parade will celebrate the loyal sports fans who populate North County with former baseball commissioner Fay Vincent as grand marshal.

"We are particularly honored to have Fay Vincent as this year's grand marshal to help us celebrate the splendor of the Northern Berkshire fall foliage festivities,” said Mayor John Barrett III in a statement. "Fay has been part of the Northern Berkshire community for nearly 50 years and we are pleased to recognize him for his many contributions to the area."

The Fall Foliage Festival Parade Committee selected "Salute to Sports Fans" as the theme for the 2008 parade, which will be held Sunday, Oct. 5. The theme is an opportunity for sports enthusiasts to celebrate their favorite teams, sports heroes, or even the history behind the nation's beloved pastimes.

"Our committee wanted to pay tribute to the loyal sports fans of Northern Berkshire County, whether they’re supporting youth football, T-ball, high school, college or pro teams," said Rod Bunt of the Mayor's Office of Tourism and parade director in a statement.

Francis T. "Fay" Vincent Jr. is a 1960 Williams College graduate and a resident of Williamstown. He was Major League Baseball's 8th commissioner from 1989 until 1992 after serving as deputy commissioner under A. Bartlett Giamatti. He also was president of the New England Collegiate Baseball League from 1998 to 2003.

He has written a number of books on baseball, including "The Last Commissioner: A Baseball Valentine," which looks at some of players and controversies during his tenure. Vincent frequently speaks about baseball at venues around the area. The former corporate lawyer and CEO of Columbia Pictures was most recently at the Bennington (Vt.) Center for the Arts to speak about his latest book, "We Would Have Played For Free," in conjunction with the Bennington Museum's exhibit on summer baseball.

Bunt, who is directing the parade for the second year, said, "The theme opens the door to a lot of interesting possibilities for floats and mascots and marching teams and more.

"There are a lot of athletes and fans out there, and this year's parade is a chance for them to be recognized."

The two-hour parade will step off at 1 on Oct. 5 from the Wal-Mart parking lot and continue down Curran Highway before winding through downtown North Adams. Thousands of Berkshire residents and visitors enjoy the annual parade, which commemorates the autumn season. It is sponsored by the city and the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. Last year's parade was themed for transportation.

Although the parade is still months away, the organizational effort is already strong, said Bunt. Over the next few months, parade committee members will coordinate an array of marching bands, floats, banners and other marching units. With so many tasks ahead, the committee welcomes volunteers to help with the parade effort.

This is a perfect opportunity to bring together a team and show support for the annual event, said Bunt.

For more information on the parade or to volunteer, call Christine Hoyt at 413-499-4000, Ext. 26, Bunt at 413-664-6180 or visit
Fay Vincent speaks at Williams College last year. iBerkshires file photo


"Coalition wants people to 'Take Charge' with energy"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Friday, August 15, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition is challenging city residents to save energy and money by making four simple changes in their homes.

Changing traditional light bulbs to energy-efficient compact fluorescent bulbs, turning down the thermostat when heat is not needed, stopping up drafts from doors and windows and lowering the use of hot water, are all part of the Taking Charge challenge launched by the coalition Thursday at the North Adams Public Library. The challenge also includes a fifth step -- getting a home energy audit.

"The time has passed to wait for experts to come up with brilliant solutions," Morgan Goodwin, an intern at the coalition spearheading the effort, said. "The time has passed to wait for the technology to be invented. We have the technology and the know-how to help ourselves, our neighbors and our parents save energy and money."

The program, which had 105 residents sign up in its first week, aims to have 1,000 homes pledge to make the four simple changes.

Mayor John Barrett III said the city has joined the coalition in asking residents to join the challenge as a proactive way to combat the predicted rise in heating costs this winter.

"There are going to be a lot of bad stories this winter about people trying to afford heat," he said. "We're trying to be proactive and give people the smaller steps to take. We need to give our seniors the ability to stay in their homes and at the same time educate future generations about energy conservation. It's easy to support a program like this, but we need the support of the community to make it happen."

Goodwin stressed that simple steps such as using cold or warm wash cycles in washing machines and dishwashers and using low-flow faucets would lower electric bills.

"We need to go and check our water heaters and make sure they're not set to 180 degrees, when no one uses water that is heated above 120 degrees," he said. "Why heat water to a temperature that isn't necessary? We can save energy by turning down the temperature."

He also said a programmable thermostat can save hundreds of dollars in heating costs over the winter months by using heat only when people are home.

"We're not asking people to freeze this winter, but only to have it up during essential times," Goodwin said.

Marie Harpin, director of Berkshire Community Action North, said many residents qualify for fuel assistance, but don't apply for it.

"Community Action offers fuel assistance, refrigerator replacements and furnace replacements," she said. "But in order to get the services, you have to apply for fuel assistance. As the income guidelines go up, more and more people qualify. In the last 15 years that I've worked there, we've been able to keep so many seniors in their homes because we've been able to replace their furnaces at little or no cost."

While the new income guidelines won't be released until October, she said an individual making less than $20,420 or a couple making less than $27,380 is eligible for fuel assistance.

"People need to find out what their parents incomes are and help them apply," Harpin said.

Community Action also partners with Williams College to winterize homes in the city.

"Every year we take care of about 15 to 20 homes at Wheel Estates," she said. "This program just isn't for the low-income either -- it's for everybody."

The Take Charge campaign also aims to connect residents with the Mass Save program for a no-cost home energy audit. The audit qualifies residents for rebates and incentives, as well as connects them with qualified contractors

"What's great about this program is that anyone can do it," Kathy Keeser, of Northern Berkshire Neighbors, said. "These are steps anyone can do, whether they're a home owner or a renter."

The North Adams Public Library and Hoosac Bank will both encourage their patrons to join the Take Charge campaign with energy displays, free light bulbs and a raffle for energy saving items. The library also will host a series of energy workshops throughout the fall on electricity, heating, insulation and renewable energy.

For more information, visit the library, Hoosac Bank, or visit the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's website,



"Library opens third floor to public"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Friday, August 15, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- When the North Adams Public Library reopened in 2005, following its new addition and renovations, only one piece was left uncompleted -- the third floor, which had been closed to the public for over 50 years.

"Many times over the last three years, I had doubts that this floor would be completed during my tenure," Library Director Marcia Gross said during Thursday's dedication of the newly opened section of the historic library. "I thought it would take a miracle, but the Friends of the Library took on the challenge to raise the funds for the materials to complete it. Then the mayor said the city workers could complete the work. I consider the city workers to be miracle workers."

The library re-opened in 2005, after a $4.5 million addition and renovation project. Over the last three years, the Friends of the Library raised about $100,000 to restore the third floor, which now hosts a community room, kitchen and staff room.

Joseph Truskowski, chairman of the library trustees, said the third-floor renovations had been part of the original plans in 2003, but fundraising efforts then fell short.

"We were only able to open the first and second floors," he said. "Today is an exciting day because we have reached another milestone for the library and are able to open the third floor, which has not been open in over 50 years."

The floor had been used for storage and filled with historical items that weren't in use.

"It was impossible to come into this area without getting dust and grime all over you," Ken Best, principal with Drummey Rosane Anderson Architects, recalled as he clicked through a slideshow of photos of the space before restoration. "The floors were covered in grime and dirt, which had an accompanying smell of a mix of old wallpaper and the glue used for it."

Mayor John Barrett III said the completed library renovation is an example of the community pulling together to make things happen.

"This is some undertaking," he said. "People said we'd never be able to do this. Hulda Hardman Jowett began talking with me in 1997 about how we could start making changes. Renovating the library was something that the trustees had talked about beginning in the middle of the 1970s, when they bought the land behind the library for the parking lot."

He credited the determination of the Friends of Library for raising the additional funds to complete the upper floor.

"It took a long time to get it done, but it's been a labor of love that will be left for future generations," Barrett said.

While the space will be used primarily by the library, Gross said, it will be open to the community for other functions.

"This is another plus for the city," she said. "It belongs to the people."

David Dupee and Sons donated an oak hardwood floor after efforts to restore the original flooring failed. Kitchen cabinets were donated by Ronald and Nancy Hayden, and Sam Restino restored the antique gas light fixtures and wired them for everyday use.


"Beacon Hill Roll Call"
By Bob Katzen,, 08/08/2008

THE HOUSE AND SENATE. Beacon Hill Roll Call records local representatives' and senators' votes on six roll calls from the week of July 28-August 1, 2008.

"Pension for convicted criminal (H 4139)"

House 128-27, Senate 26-6, overrode Gov. Patrick's veto of a bill that would exempt former North Adams Highway Superintendent Leo Senecal from a state law that prohibits convicted criminals from receiving a public pension. Senecal pleaded guilty in 1998 to the 1996 charge that he ordered city workers to dump 150 gallons of waste oil into an unlined trench instead of shipping it to a hazardous waste collection site. Senecal was placed on probation, fined thousands of dollars for the cleanup of the contaminated soil and went without pay for six months. The measure was filed by Rep. Daniel Bosley, D-North Adams, and received the approval of North Adams Mayor John Barrett and the city council. Supporters of the bill said that Senecal has an outstanding 40-year career in public service and should not be denied an estimated $36,000 annual pension because he made one mistake. They noted that he did not profit from the crime and was only trying to save the city some money. Some noted that the obscure law that he broke has not been enforced since his actions. In his veto message, the governor said, "This legislation authorizes an unwarranted departure from the general law for a named individual, rather than addressing any legal or policy concerns posed by the law that it circumvents. I do not believe the public is well served by making individual legislative exceptions to a rule that is meant to apply uniformly." Patrick vetoed the bill in December. The Legislature did not override his veto until last week. (A "yes" vote is for giving the pension to Senecal. A "no" vote is against giving the pension to him).


"North Adams condo project to offer sweeping views"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff
Thursday, September 04, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Eric Rudd is at it again.

The artist was the driving force behind the Eclipse Mill condo development and the retrofit of the Flatiron building into small condos, and part of the brain trust behind the redevelopment of Whitcomb Summit Resort. Now he is working on a new condo project.

Actually, it's a project he bought into before the Eclipse Mill idea came along and caused him to put this one in "cold storage."

In 1999, Rudd bought two buildings on High Street, just west of City Hall, on the side of a hill overlooking the city and the surrounding hills.

Both are wood-frame, multi-family, simple Victorians built in the early 20th century.

Phase One is a four-story unit on the front section of the property. By early spring, it will have been sectioned off into seven units, with the top three units having two stories and "spectacular views," Rudd said.

"This is going to be as nice as anything in Berkshire County. Each unit has its own covered deck, and the name of the game here is views," he said, looking out the window at the North Adams vista.

There are three other partners in the project, including two who are actually doing the work.

Tony Scieszka, owner of Scieszka Mechanical, is handling the plumbing and other mechanical work on the building. Roger Rice is handling the rest of the building. Both were partners with Rudd in the Eclipse Mill project.

"We have a good working relationship — we did 40 units at Eclipse Mill on a handshake," Rudd said. "So it made sense to bring in these 'working' partners again."
The fourth partner, an investor in the project, is Theodore Agranat.

Rudd said he bought the property from the previous owner for very little money about eight years ago.

Since then, it had been partially rented, then vacant.

But because the roof was in good shape, the structure was well preserved, although extensive work had to be done to bring it up to current building codes, Rice said.

Scieszka noted that it took more than two years to get the project moving, largely because the financing element took a long time to fall into place.

"It took quite a while, mostly because of the state of the housing market," he said. "The banks are being very careful."

The nearly $3 million project will yield seven top-of-the-line condos with all the modern conveniences, including wireless Internet access, for between $160,000 to $260,000 each.

And early buyers will be able to customize some of the details, like countertops and flooring, Rudd noted.

The project is about 50 percent complete, with Sheetrock, flooring and ceiling coverings soon to be installed, and exterior work to begin as soon as the decking is completely installed.

The condos should be substantially ready for move in by early spring of 2009, Rudd said.

His market will be retirees or second-homeowners looking for maintenance-free ownership.

Phase Two of the project with be five to seven condos in the building of similar style and history behind and up the hill from the first structure.

Aside from the views, the site is a short walk from downtown and Mass MoCA, and a short drive to many of the other cultural and outdoor attractions Berkshire County has to offer.

"When you put it all together it's quite attractive, plus it's a great project for the city," Rudd said.

He added that the market for this project won't be soft, despite the state of the real estate market in general, because of the location.

"This is the most pristine location in Berkshire County," Rudd said.
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413) 664-4995.

"MCLA to honor Mayor Barrett at Monday's Golf Classic event" - September 11, 2008

NORTH ADAMS – On Monday, Sept. 15, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) will honor John Barrett III ’69 at its 12th annual Golf Classic, at Waubeeka Golf Links in Williamstown. Mayor Barrett has been a strong supporter of the both the college and this event, which he has participated in and supported for many years.

Barrett received both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in education from the college. He also received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree in 2000.

As an alumnus of the college, Barrett is an integral part of our campus community and attends a number of events on campus. Every year, he attends MCLA’s opening breakfast to personally welcome back faculty and staff. As an avid golfer, he plays in this event every year, encouraging local businesses to come together in support of MCLA’s Athletics Program. As mayor, he has overseen many projects to improve the city’s recreational facilities, improving and providing playing surfaces for athletes of all ages throughout the city. Projects include the Noel Field Complex, the Alcombright and Greylock Field Complex and the Vietnam Veterans’ Skating Rink.

The annual golf tournament brings together area businesses and community members in support of MCLA’s Athletic Program. A barbecue lunch begins the day at 11 a.m. The event commences with a shotgun start at noon; prizes for winners will be awarded at a banquet following the tournament. There also will be a raffle and silent auction with prizes generously donated by area businesses, community members and MCLA alumni.

MCLA would like to thank Time Warner Cable, this year’s President’s Club Title Sponsor, for their generosity. In addition, other sponsors include Covidien; Follett Higher Education Group; Coakley, Peirpan, Dolan, and Collins; Adams Co-Operative Bank; Aramark; Arrow Press; Berkshire Direct; Greylock Federal Credit Union; HESS; Hoosac Bank; Kappa Delta Phi Fraternity; Kelly's Package Store; Petricca Industries, Inc.; South Adams Savings Bank; True North Financial Services; Alton and Westall Agency; Liberty Mutual; O'Connor & Drew, P.C.; ADVIA Communications; Air-Tite Holders, Inc.; Becks Printing; Berkshire Bank; Berkshire Gas; Senator Benjamin Downing; Hillcrest Educational Centers; Legacy Banks; MacFarlane Office Products; Maxymillian Technologies, Inc.; Jim Canavan for Northern Berkshire United Way; Kevin Plankey '88; Plimpton and Hills; Quality Printing Company Inc.; Scott and Valerie Nichols; Smith, Watson & Company, LLP; Souliere and Zepka Construction, Inc.; Stanley's Lumber and Building Supplies, Inc.; Vallone's Automotive; and Smith Brothers-McAndrews Insurance Agency.

For more information, go to In addition, sponsorship information can be found on, or call the MCLA Advancement Office at 413-662-5224.


"Barrett Wins Veterans Pension Battle"
By Tammy Daniels -iBerkshires Staff- September 09, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — The war is over.

At least until another councilor or two tries to overrun the mayor's position on retroactive benefits for the military veterans who were declared disabled while working for the city.

Those benefits, championed to the last by City Councilor Richard Alcombright, went down to defeat on Tuesday night with a 5-3 vote that upheld Mayor John Barrett III's veto.

The campaign began at the end of last year, the final volley of Christopher Tremblay, who lost his seat in the November election. Tremblay had brought the issue to the forefront after veteran and former city firefighter Howard D'Amico had run for City Council on a platform representing the veterans.

At issue was a state law that allowed municipalities to provide veterans injured in their employ with the same yearly benefit (not to exceed $300) that retired veterans receive in their pensions. The City Council adopted that section two years but not the section of the law that would pay the benefit back to the time they were disabled.

The mayor immediately threatened to veto its adoption, saying the city couldn't afford to pay the estimated $57,000 in extra benefits.

Over the following months, councilors tries a range of compromises to provide the veterans with some relief while also reducing its financial impact on the city.

A home-rule petition by Councilor Gailanne Cariddi that would have reduced the amount paid out was vetoed by the mayor in June. The council then adopted the law with the caveat that North Adams Retirement Board would pay the benefits and be reimbursed by the city over a period of years.

Barrett vetoed that plan on Aug. 7, saying the council couldn't enforce conditions on a state law.

In a last ditch effort to override the veto, Alcombright said on Tuesday night that a reading of the section shows the city would not have to pay for the benefit immediately, that the Retirement Board would.

This was confirmed, he said, after speaking with with the state's Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission and checking with two other towns that had adopted the law.

"If the city agreed to Section 2 to pay this pension benefit to the 16 or 17 people, the city would not have to appropriate the $58,000 in this case to pay this off. ... this would have been difficult for the city to do. We all agree on that," Alcombright said

Rather, once those eligible retirees apply within 120 days, the board would make the determination to pay out in a lump sum or over time.

"It becomes a natural piece of our funding schedule beyond that," said Alcombright. "Our fund now is worth about $37 million from what I understand. This represents about 15/100ths of a percent; it's an infinitesimal amount."

Barrett, however, said his reasoning hasn't changed — the city can't afford to hand out extra benefits when current employees are making do with barely cost-of-living raises.

"You've got employees here tonight screaming about their insurance costs," he said, noting the dozen or so teachers in the audience who have been urging the city to join a different health insurance plan.

"Our pension costs have gone up over a half-a-million dollars in the past five years," said the mayor. "They're up $117,000 in this year's budget and these types of actions continue to add to it. I have to be the bad guy and say that's not the way to go."

Alcombright and Barrett skirmished over whether the council had supported the mayor in his long running battle to force the Retirement Board to cut costs, with Alcombright noting the council had passed a resolution backing him.

The mayor said the council should try another year when the city's fiscal condition was better. Alcombright responded that "if we can't afford it this year then we can't afford it next year."

It was time, he said, to decide "are we going to pay them or aren't we?"

But his plea failed to sway enough of the councilors to override Barrett's veto. Only Councilors Cariddi and Michael Bloom joined him; Councilors Lisa Blackmer, Ronald Boucher, Clark Billings, Robert R. Moulton Jr. and Chairman Alan Marden voted to uphold the veto. Councilor Marie Harpin was absent.

Insurance Opinion

In other business, council was read the opinion of city solicitor John B. DeRosa on adopting yet another state law, this one to allow the city's unions to bargain for health insurance benefits as a group.

The seven unions' leaders have been lobbying the council to adopt the law in a move that the mayor says is an attempt to improperly negotiate.

However, DeRosa's opinion states that the city can begin negotiations with the unions, through a "public employee committee," without the council's approval. That, he said, would only be necessary once an agreement has been reached with the mayor.

"We conclude that failure of the City Council to consider acceptance of the Statute now does not preclude the Public Employee Committee to coalition bargain with City over health insurance."

Christopher Caproni, president of the teachers' union, said he did not agree with DeRosa's finding and that the unions would seek their own opinions.

The state law would allow the unions to join the Group Insurance Commission, which covers the state's nearly 300,000 employees. The unions say the savings for the city would be $1.5 million and that their members desperately need to lower their insurance costs.

Caproni said the unions have been negoiating since March; they had hoped to have an agreement in place by Oct. 1, which would allow members to join GIC for fiscal 2010.

Debra Alves, a teaching assistant at Brayton Elementary School, offered the council a look at her $8 paycheck and the IOUs she owes the city because her health insurance is taking so much of her wages.

"I am a working mother of three children and my husband is unemployed right now, so I am the sole provider for my family," said Alves, president of North Adams Teaching Assistants Association, United Steelworkers 1235. The state requires individuals to carry insurance but she's not eligible for Mass Health."I have to keep the insurance I have right now. It's breaking me, literally."

Several other school employees spoke during open forum. Five of the councilors had met with the union representatives at a Finance Committee meeting on Monday.

Barrett said the city has been reviewing all the options and "number-crunching" to determine which way to go. GIC, he said, had elements that may not good for retirees or for employees.

"We have to examine this very, very carefully," he said.


Readers' Comments:

Let's face it, Barrett and Derosa have lost credibility a long time ago with citizens and councilors. Funny, now Barret defends and advocates the teachers' and other unions, but not when it is unions issues. Ha, again he uses his "taxpayers" argument to gain symphaty. Glad to see some city councilors looking at other angles of this issues and standing in their position.

from: ha on: 09-10-2008


Isn't it funny how DeRosa's opinions never contradict the mayors state policy goals.

Has our "city's" solicitor becomes the mayor's personal legal deflector shield.

from: Anon


Photo: A beautiful hillside view from North Adams.
"John Kerry On Your Corner visits North Adams"

On Monday, August 4th, Senator John Kerry visited the town of North Adams to discuss the issues with his constituents. At the restaurant Taylor's Fine Dining, the Senator was eloquently introduced by North Adams Mayor John Barrett, along with State Representative Daniel E. Bosley. Greeted by a large group of local democratic voters, Kerry spoke mainly of health care and the energy crisis, two issues that the residents of North Adams seemed to be very interested in and care deeply about. He also showed his strong support for presidential candidate Barack Obama, indicating that with him as our next president, great positive change to the government and the country would result.

With the Mayor close behind, Senator Kerry shook hands, greeted residents, and stopped into local small businesses on North Adams' bustling Main Street. As reported by The North Adams Transcript,

While in North Adams, Kerry visited Moulton's General Store on Main Street, where he asked manager Laurie Moulton about the business and what the store carried."It was nice he took time out of his busy schedule to come to North Adams and find out what's going on in our end of the state," she said.

John Kerry also visited The Mohawk Theatre, a historic theatre built in 1938 that he and Ted Kennedy have been securing funding for. He learned about North Adams' aritist community when he visted the North Adams Artists' Co-op Gallery, spoke with local artists, and viewed their impressive art collections.


Photo: Senator Kerry meets with artists at North Adams' Co-op Gallery.

At Taylor's Fine Dining, Senator Kerry spoke to constituents about the necessity of achieving a strong democratic majority in the Senate, the future of Massachusetts jobs being in fields such as nanotechnology and green energy products, and rights for workers. "What we need to do is restore the rights of the people who work hard to make this country what it is," he said, as quoted by The North Adams Transcript.


Photo: John Kerry greets voters at Taylor's Fine Dining in North Adams.

Photo: Kerry candidly gives his speech from atop a chair at the North Adams restaurant.

Upon meeting with Boxcar Media LLC owner Osmin Alvarez, it became clear that energy costs and health care were the two ideas that were on everyone's minds. Acting as a good representative of the creative side of Massachusetts' economy, the small business is experiencing financial burdens due to high energy costs and health care benefits, as expressed by Alvarez. While the business wants to grow and succeed, these factors are begining to inhibit this. With energy costs on the rise, the company is finding it difficult to afford to hire and retain workers. Also, their inability to provide large health care benefits, due to high costs, is deterring workers. Kerry responded that he has recently filed a health care bill to help companies cover their employees, and ensured that with Obama as president, there would be much health camuch debated issue of oil drilling, according to iberkshires.

As for energy, Kerry said it was time the oil companies were brought to heel.

"Last quarter, Exxon reported almost $12 billion in profit, which is a larger profit that any American company in history has ever reported," he said. "The idea that we couldn't take a component of that to buffer the American economy is simply unexceptable."

He later scoffed at the idea that offshore drilling would alleviate the current energy crisis, calling it a "phony argument" because millions of acres could already be drilled.

"Our future is not in drilling more of that black stuff ... the future is moving the world to something other than fossil fuels," Kerry told a gathering of Democrats at Taylor's Fine Dining.

He predicted that "three or four Google equivalents" in energy production would happen in the coming years.

He stressed that big oil companies desperately needed a reality check, and that the response to the energy crisis is not to drill more, but to utilise alternate sources of energy. According to local NBC network Channel 13, Kerry was concise and matter-of-fact on the much debated subject of offshore oil drilling.

"There are 68 million acres of available leases right now that are already permitted, that they're not drilling. Forty million of them are offshore today and they're not using them. So this is a phony argument," Kerry said.
During a tour of downtown North Adams, the senator was very clear about his view of the offshore drilling issue.

"America only has three percent of the world's oil reserves. We can go offshore and we can't affect the price of oil and we can't affect our independence. I think it's phony, phony, phony governance. They're trying to mislead people and pretend they're going to affect your gas price. They're not going to do that and they're avoiding doing the things we really need to do, which is put money into alternative and renewable fuels and research," Kerry insisted.

In response to recent concern over skyrocketing heating oil prices, John Kerry also stated that additional funding for LIHEAP was needed immediately, given the rising costs of energy, and the fact that Republicans are refusing to provide more funding for the program that would help low income families to heat their homes in the winter.

John Kerry cleared up many issues for North Adams residents on Monday. Talking to both small business owners and working residents, he explained what is being done to provide people with better health care benefits, and the direction the country should be taking in alleviating the current energy crisis. But his bottom line was clear: the best way for the country to carry out lasting reform would be if Barack Obama were elected president. And Kerry was very optimistic that this would indeed be the case. By providing needed facts and a sense of hope to North Adams residents, Kerry stressed that great change would soon be on the horizon. This was one of many "Kerry On Your Corner" visits John kerry will be making to voters in towns around the state.


Photo: John Kerry talks to North Adams residents outside a store on Main Street.


"Hadley Overpass construction to start in 2 weeks"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Monday, September 15, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- The estimated $24.4 million reconstruction of the Hadley Overpass on Route 8 is set to begin within the next two weeks, but any physical repair work won't start until after the 53rd annual Fall Foliage Parade has made its way over the bridge on October 5, 2008.

"The first work will begin with the parking lots at Western Gateway Heritage State Park," Mayor John Barrett III said Friday. "The survey crews are out on the bridge doing the preliminary work, but the first thing that will be done is the replacement of the parking places that will be lost while the construction crews are working under the bridge."

He said a grassy area adjacent to the parking lot near the Northern Berkshire Creative Arts and North Adams Museum of History and Science will be turned into parking spaces while the overpass is under construction -- three to four years, according to state officials.

"There's also a possibility that parking will be added in the grassy area near the north end of the park," Barrett said.

Klark Jessen, a spokesman for the state Executive Office of Transportation, said work on the parking lots should begin in two weeks. In the days after the parade, he said, stage-one work will begin on the bridge itself, and a meeting will be held on-site to review the construction work with contractor J.H. Maxymillian.

"Stage one is the removal and replacement of a 9-foot section down the center of the existing bridge," Jessen said in an e-mail. "Traffic will flow on either side of the center section while it is reconstructed."

He said construction is expected to be completed by June 15, 2012. A firm date for the on-site review has not yet been scheduled. Plans for the reconstruction of the 940-foot-long bridge over Heritage State Park, the north branch of the Hoosic River and the historic city rail yard -- the longest span in Berkshire County -- include replacing trusses, bridge subsections, beams, deck and deck railings.

The ghastly green, rusting eyesore, which is the major entranceway to the city from the south, will also undergo a deck redesign featuring more pleasant colors -- black on the top deck and maroon on the lower portion. Period lighting will be installed to make the bridge more visually compatible with the downtown.

Original plans to reconstruct the bridge first surfaced in 1988, but delays were numerous, and the project underwent several redesigns. In May 2001, former Massachusetts Highway Commissioner Matthew Amorello stood before the City Council pledging to move up the planned construction for the overpass -- making it a priority and setting construction work to begin in fall 2002.

In a May 2005 interview, Ross B. Dindio, then MassHighway District 1 director, said the bridge would take nine to 12 months to fix -- at less than half the cost of the original $17 million budget to replace it. He said construction was scheduled to start in October 2007 and maintenance repair work would be taken care of by state workers.

In 2006, officials with the state Executive Office of Transportation said they were shooting for a 2009 start date to refurbish the bridge, after tossing out plans to rebuild it. In December 2007, the project was estimated to cost $20.6 million -- nearly double what had been projected 10 months earlier, when state Highway Commissioner Luisa M. Paiewonsky said the bridge would undergo a "25-percent rehabilitation."

Current plans call for at least one lane of traffic on the bridge to be open during all phases of construction.


"The slow green fix"
The North Adams Transcript Online - - Editorial
Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The long wait is over, and the abomination that has been the Hadley Overpass on Route 8 will soon start to be transformed into an entranceway that befits the resurgent city of North Adams (Page 1 story, Monday).

The badly deteriorating 170-foot span over the north branch of the Hoosic River and Western Gateway Heritage State Park will be reconstructed and firmly shored. Crumbling sidewalks will be replaced, period lighting will be installed, and we'll finally be rid of that ghastly green, peeling paint.

With the good, of course, comes the bad. The Massachusetts Highway Department has estimated it will take up to four years for the construction to be completed. That seems excessive, but we have long been aware that the state works in geologic time. And, to be fair, part of the delay will stem from keeping the major Route 8 corridor into the city open to traffic at all times. (We'll cross our fingers on that).

The $24.4 million cost is more than double what would have been paid if the 68-year-old bridge had been fixed 10 years ago, as it should have been, but why quibble? At least we aren't getting a crazy detour that would have had tourists scratching their heads and wondering where the heck they were -- and that could have led to huge cost overruns involving negotiations with the always-obstinate railroad company and the building of a temporary bridge to the south. So what if a couple of tenement house were bought and knocked down unnecessarily? The bridge is getting fixed.

Get prepared. When construction starts, it will mean frustrating traffic delays. It will put an end to the nifty little shortcut under the overpass to get out to Route 8 from American Legion Drive (or the other way around). But perhaps that's for the best. It will also cut down on the often-dangerous interactions of drivers at the intersection of the Holiday Inn parking lot and the road to the police station. And far fewer drivers will try the folly of turning left from the City Hall lot across Route 8 traffic toward Main Street.

Some parking for Heritage State Park will be lost for a time, but the plan to create new parking, if less than aesthetically pleasing, at least looks plausible and functional. Fans of the Freight Yard Pub, Talia's Quilt Shop, the state visitors center and the North Adams Museum of History and Science may have to work a little harder to get there, but they will be able to get there. And they know it will be worth any hassle.

Ultimately, the bridge work may lead to the emergence of the park as the downtown jewel it should be -- it could end up being a lot more than a depository for nonprofits. Residents might even discover it has benches. Imagine that: benches, right in the downtown.

Then there's the Fall Foliage Parade, which, with its traditional route along Curran Highway, over the bridge to Main Street, could complicate matters in October of 2009, 2010 and 2011 (construction will be held off this year until after the grand event on Oct. 5). But there's plenty of time to plan, and we're confident things will work out. The parade is always on a Sunday, after all, when no one works construction (except in Wilmington, Vt., where things have been a little dicey on Route 9 this summer).

Meanwhile, rejoice. Patience has finally paid off. The bridge will be fixed. It bears repeating: The bridge will be fixed! If a little more patience is required, it's a price North Adams should be more than willing to pay.

Now, on to the mall connector road.


"North Adams Lowe's project on hold for at least another month"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript
Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- A Lowe's home improvement store is still in the works for the defunct North Adams Plaza on Curran Highway, but the state won't rule on whether or not the store's plans are "green" enough until the end of October.

In August, state Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles said the 700-page environmental impact report filed on behalf of Lowe's didn't pass the state's newly instated Greenhouse Gas Emissions Policy's litmus test.

On Sept. 24, Vanasse Hangen Brustlin Inc., an engineering-design firm that is working for Lowe's, submitted a supplemental environmental impact report for the project.

"The public comment period ends on Oct. 24, and the secretary is expected to issue a certificate on Oct. 31 stating whether or not the plans are adequate or not," Lisa Capone, environmental affairs spokeswoman, said Monday.

Lauren DeVoe, an environmental planner in charge of the report for Vanesse Hangen Brustlin Inc. of Watertown, declined on Monday to comment on the group's supplemental report, which is available only by going to state offices in Boston or by request from DeVoe (write to her at Vanesse Hangen Brustlin Inc., 101 Walnut St., Watertown MA 02471).

In August, the design firm had expected a certificate of compliance to be issued through the MEPA (Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act) process. Instead, Bowles called for the supplemental report. He asked many questions, including why the company would not consider installing a photovoltaic (solar-powered) system that would cost between $350,000 and $450,000 and how it proposed to offset the emissions caused by 3,000 additional weekly car trips expected when the store opens at the former North Adams Plaza.

At that time, Devoe said the bulk of the problems stemmed from air quality issues.

"The policy is relatively new, and the law is still evolving," she said in August. "We have received different comments from numerous offices. The law is still a moving target with what the state is looking for from projects like this."

She would not comment on what changes Lowe's has made in the project since Bowles' ruling.

Lowe's plans to demolish the existing strip mall at the plaza, which once housed Gringo's, North Adams Cinema and at one time a Price Chopper, to build a free-standing 126,501-square-foot home improvement store with an attached 28,600-square-foot garden center. A proposed 3,600-square-foot bank building, near the abutting Bounti-Fare restaurant, also is included in the plans.

In the original report, Lowe's had already committed to several emissions-lowering measures , including a high-efficiency Energy-Star-compliant HVAC (heating, ventilation and cooling) system, double Low-E glass windows to minimize heat loss and motion sensors for lighting in the office space.

The plans said additional insulation would be installed in the roof to minimize heat loss, and white-colored "thermoplastic olefin membrane" roofing would be used to reduce a "heat island effect" on the rooftop. Also planned were partial skylights in the garden center to reduce electrical use and the purchase of "green power" for 2 percent of the store's energy.

According to the environmental impact report, the chain store also encourages ride-sharing programs, participates in a SmartWay Transportation Partnership Program with the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection Agency to reduce idling freight trucks, and has its own company-wide program that requires stores to take simple steps such as shutting off display lights 15 minutes after closing to conserve energy.

Bowles commended Lowe's for it's commitment to mitigation measures butg said the plan for the North Adams site did not reflect it.

He also questioned why Lowe's would not commit to the photovoltaic system. In its reports, the company indicates the cost of the system, at a cost of $350,000 to $450,000, would exceed a company policy requiring a pay-back period of no longer than seven years. Lowe's is currently experimenting with solar panels in California and Hawaii.

All comments about the supplemental environmental impact report should be sent to: Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, ATTN: Deirdre Buckley, MEPA Office, EEA No. 14180, 100 Cambridge St. Suite 900, Boston MA 02114.


North Adams, Massachusetts
"NBC Coalition to hold voter sign-up drive"
Community, Tuesday, September 30, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — The Northern Berkshire Community Coalition will hold a non-partisan voter registration drive for the November elections at Berkshire Food Project.

To help ensure that a greater percentage of the Northern Berkshire population is represented in the voting process, the coalition is working with residents to overcome obstacles to voting, such as transportation barriers, disability or inability to read or write.

Registration sessions will be held through Oct. 10 at the free community lunch provided from noon to 1 p.m., Monday through Friday, at the First Congregational Church. Voter registration forms, absentee ballot applications and non-partisan voting information on the candidates and questions appearing on the ballot will be available. In addition, food stamp advocates at the Berkshire Food Project are able to register voters year-round while helping people apply for federal food stamp benefits.

Eligible voters must register by Oct. 15 to vote on Nov. 4.

For more information, contact Kathy Keeser at (413) 663-7588 or Valerie Schwarz at (413) 664-7378.



"Officials laud Hadley Overpass construction"
By Glenn Drohan, North Adams Transcript, Friday, October 3, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- As dog and pony shows go, this one on Thursday wasn't much. The speeches by dignitaries were short and to the point. There were no glossy press packages or PowerPoint presentations. And the small tent set up near the southern foot of the Hadley Overpass for a crowd of about 40 nearly toppled during a sudden rain squall.

But this one was special. It was one the city and its mayor, John Barrett III, had awaited for more than 17 years. This one was a matter-of-fact, yet nonetheless joyous and almost relieved celebration of a mission about to be accomplished.

At last, at long last, construction on this eyesore of a bridge, the main connector to the city from the south and the longest span in Berkshire County at 940 feet, was officially underway. Or at least it will be, after Sunday's Fall Foliage Parade.

"What a wonderful day. This is a day we at MassHighway have been waiting for a long, long time," said State Highway Commissioner Luisa M. Paiewonsky, who joined Barrett, state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, several city councilors, contractor James Maxymillian and a host of MassHighway employees for a ceremonial kickoff to the $24.5 million rehabilitation and replacement of the 68-year-old Hadley Overpass on Route 8.

The jokes flew -- about how long this mission had been in the works -- about how concrete chunks had cascaded down onto cars parked underneath the overpass -- about how Barrett would now have to find something new to grouse about when visiting Bosley in his office.

But after the jokes came praise from virtually everyone about how Paiewonsky, at the urging of Gov. Deval Patrick and the ever-persistent Barrett, had done what she set out to do, a short 18 months ago: get the Hadley Overpass project going, and what's more, turn it into the statewide model for the way the Patrick administration will approach future projects: Tackle the work. "Streamline." Don't talk about them and study them to death; do them.

Sometime in 2011, if all goes well, North Adams will have a southern gateway officials have long dreamed about -- not only a functional bridge but also, in Paiewonsky's words "a beautiful bridge," with period lighting, proper paint, new sidewalks -- a bridge that will live up to its glorious views of the City of Steeples, Mass MoCA and the surrounding North Berkshire mountains.

"MassHighway has a very special feeling about bridges," said Paiewonsky, who worked her way up through the agency's ranks before becoming highway commissioner in 2005. "They're not just steel and concrete structures. They are important community links; they are important historical links; they have memories for people. ... This is the largest bridge in the Berkshires and it is an important regional link. It's important to the commonwealth of Massachusetts that we get this job done right."

She told the brief story of how last year she had sat in Barrett's office and assured him the bridge would get done, noting how important it was, what a priority it would be -- and related how the mayor had listened patiently and then told her, " You are the fourth commissioner to sit in this chair and make this pitch to me."

But then he added, " You know something? I believe you."

Barrett said it was nothing short of "remarkable" that MassHighway has managed to go from the design phase of the bridge project to construction in a mere 18 months -- light speed for state projects. He said the deteriorating bridge has too long detracted from the potential of the city and been a perpetual embarrassment.

"Image is so important in economic development, and we are so grateful this is finally going to be done," he said.

Sen. Downing said the project is not only important for its impact on the city's future but also for its impact on local employment.

"Especially in this challenging time, it's all about jobs," Downing said.

Rep. Bosley recalled that the renovation and improvement of the bridge had been on residents' minds since 1987, when as a freshman legislator he had held a series of economic summits at then-North Adams State College (now Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts).

"With over 12,000 cars a day, this bridge is integral to North Adams; it is integral to the Northern Berkshire community," he said.

Few details of the construction schedule were discussed, but state officials said both lanes of the bridge, which spans Western Gateway Heritage State Park and the north branch of the Hoosic River, will be open for the duration of the work. Maxymillian will complete one side at a time. There will be no parking under the overpass, and the shortcut from American Legion Drive through the City Hall parking lot to Route 8 will be closed. Parking for Heritage State Park will be created at the south end of the park, near the North Adams Museum of History and Science.

Colleen Reinhard, owner of the Freight Yard Restaurant and Pub, the business most likely to be affected by construction and the lack of parking, said she was "completely on board with the project."

"The way I see it is North Adams has stood by us for 17 years. Now we'll stand by them," Reinhard said. "They really are trying to give us good parking. It's a great effort, and I think the construction workers will come down and give us some good business -- and our local clientele is very faithful.

"Besides, we all know this is something the city really needs."


"North Adams, Massachusetts - A bridge for progress: After 14 years, the Hadley Overpass project is under way."
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, October 03, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — After more than 14 years of grousing, arm twisting, false starts and lost battles, Mayor John Barrett III finally got to see the symbolic start of the Hadley Overpass reconstruction.

"It's been a long time coming," Barrett said after a groundbreaking ceremony yesterday afternoon.

Under a blustery, rainy sky, about 30 dignitaries from state and local offices gathered under a small, open-sided tent in sight of the crumbling, 68-year-old, 940-foot concrete and steel span.

They listened as Luisa M. Paiewonsky, commissioner of the Massachusetts Highway Department, State Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, and Barrett praised the administration of Gov. Deval L. Patrick and each other for keeping up the pressure and finally moving the $26 million project forward.

Later that afternoon, Barrett reminisced about the long, arduous process of trying again and again to get the project on somebody's radar, only to have it yanked out of the budget.

In the early 1990s, he said, community leaders were hoping to get the bridge painted.

"Anything to improve its appearance," he said.

But in 1994, chunks of concrete started falling onto parking areas below, threatening the safety of the citizenry.

"Some people almost got severely hurt," he said. "That's when we started to think, 'Wait a minute, we could have a serious problem here.'"

So the city embarked on a long campaign to get the bridge fixed. The first attempt resulted in a design to rehabilitate the structure, which was never funded.

Under former acting Gov. Jane Swift, hopes were again raised in 2001 when the highway department committed itself to a complete rebuild of the bridge, then budgeted at $17 million, Barrett said. Two adjacent houses were acquired by eminent domain in anticipation of the work.

But when Mitt Romney was voted into the governor's mansion, the project was abandoned.

"The Romney administration abandoned the whole thing," Barrett said. "Under Romney they didn't fix a single bridge in the commonwealth of Massachusetts. And he never once set foot in North Adams."

At one point, in 2006, Barrett got wind that the commissioner of MassHighway was passing through town. So at 7:30 a.m., Barrett ambushed him, showed him the bridge and berated him for as long as he could to get the bridge fixed.

No such luck.

The last push started during the last gubernatorial campaign, when, three days before the election, Bosley and Barrett gave Patrick a personal tour of the bridge. They toured the bridge again with the governor several days after his 2007 inauguration, and managed to get a promise out of him.

"He said, 'I'll take care of this for you, I promise,'" Barrett recalled. Two weeks later, Commissioner Paiewonsky was in his office saying that the governor had sent her out to North Adams to come up with a plan to get the job done.

Barrett says he believed her, even though he had heard the same promise from four other highway commissioners over the years.

"She guaranteed it and put it on a fast track," he said. "And she meant it. It will be such an improvement to get this bridge done — it's one of the biggest embarrassments to this city."

Kimberly A. Haberlin, deputy press secretary for Patrick, said the governor "has long recognized the importance of this project and made it a top priority to get shovels in the ground so that residents of North Adams and throughout the region can begin to benefit from a revitalized and rehabilitated overpass."

Earlier that day, Paiewonsky spoke to the damp, chilly gathering.

"This has been a day that we at MassHighway have been anticipating for a very long time," she said. "And one that Mayor Barrett has been waiting for even longer."

Bosley said he could remember community members seeking bridge repairs as early as 1987.

"This bridge carries more than 12,000 cars daily," he said. "It is integral to our downtown, it is integral to the Berkshire community."
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413) 664-4995.


"Thousands throng parade; Gov. Patrick marches"
By Meghan Foley, North Adams Transcript, Monday, October 6, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Spirited marching bands, colorful sports-themed floats and the flamboyant Melha Shriners of Springfield with their miniature cars highlighted the 53rd annual Fall Foliage Parade, seen by a crowd of an estimated 40,000 on Sunday afternoon.

Gov. Deval Patrick was among the dignitaries, marking the first appearance at the local parade in memory by a governor other than North Berkshire native Jane Swift.

Patrick said Mayor John Barrett III and state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, had been trying to get him to march in the parade for the past three years and were insistent this year.

"They double-teamed me," he joked, just down the street from the high-rise apartments on Ashland Street, after making the long march up from Wal-Mart on Route 8, down Main Street and along Ashland to the parade's completion.

"I'm glad I could come," Patrick said. "This is a wonderful community. It's been great to me, as a candidate and as a governor."

The governor marched with Barrett, Bosley, Bosley's wife, Laura, and state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield.

Barrett said Patrick has helped out the region every time there has been an opportunity, noting his recent support for a new science building at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and repairs to the Hadley Overpass.

"We're appreciative, and I think people are appreciative of what he has done," Barrett said.

He said the crowd was the biggest he's seen in years.

"The weather was out of this world, the crowd was huge, and the icing on the cake was the governor coming," he said. "This is a great day for us to forget all our problems and the rough road down ahead of us."

The mayor wasn't the only one who was glad to see Patrick.

"It's good to see our elected officials out and about with common folks," said Bill Kelton of Adams, who attended the parade with his wife and their three children. He said it seemed a little longer this year.

"I think this year was one of the best years in a few years," he said.

Gregory Betti of North Adams, who has been coming to the parade for 26 years, said he most appreciated the bands.

"To me, it seemed this year the bands were more professional and easily heard, and stood out among other participants," he said.

People began gathering Sunday morning along the parade's route.

"I'm just amazed at everybody out here," Cindy Yarnel of Bennington, Vt., said late Sunday morning.

Yarnel said this was the first year she has come to watch the parade, and she had been sitting on Main Street since 9:30 a.m.

"They have a good turnout for this parade, and it's well known all over,"

Albert Lambert of Pittsfield said the Fall Foliage parade and the Fourth of July parade in Pittsfield are the two best parades in the area.

"The parade itself, it's a really nice parade. It draws so many people," he said, as he sat along the Curran Highway before the parade began with his daughter, Jeannette, 11.

Douglas Reynolds, Christine Kelly and her son, Thomas, all of North Adams, were watching at the corner of Main and Eagle streets. Reynolds said they try to come every year.

"It's one of the few times you see most people who live here together in one spot," he said.

Mark Jagiello of Lanesborough said he had not been to a Fall Foliage parade in six or seven years, and this year's parade renewed his appreciation for it. He said some of the floats were pretty cool, and he liked the one done by Mass MoCA of the giant Cracker Jack box spilling onto scarecrows dressed in SteepleCats uniforms.

Jagiello's wife, Kristen, said, "It's nice to see families and people just take time out from their schedule to relax and enjoy the simple things."

"It's a very nice parade and a very picturesque town," said Charles Race, whose two sons, Ethan and Aldan, were in the Ichabod Crane High School marching band from Valatie, N.Y.

"It seems like an appropriate place to have a fall foliage parade," he said.



"North Adams hosts annual Fall Foliage Parade"
By Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, October 06, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — In the staging area of the 53rd annual Fall Foliage parade yesterday afternoon, the Taconic Pipe Band of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., was warming up.

The group of bagpipers were asked what they'd be playing that afternoon. Oh, all the standards, was the reply.

Ever think about playing something a little more, well, rock 'n roll-ish, they were asked.

"How about some AC/DC?" suggested one.

And with that, bagpiper Merrick Hard launched into an outstanding version of "Thunderstruck," AC/DC's early 1990s hit from its album "The Razor's Edge."

The "backstage" or staging area of the 53rd annual Fall Foliage Parade is actually several areas. There is the Wal-Mart parking lot just off Curran Highway, packed with cars and with local and regional bands rehearsing. There is the area behind Wal-Mart, where the Shriners assemble their legion of cars, motorcycles and other vehicles.

There is also Curran Highway itself, where dozens of floats and marchers assemble on both sides of the road.

"We have 17 bands, including seven local high school bands, and 10 professional bands," explained parade director Rod Bunt. "There are 12 floats and public service units from throughout the area."

Counting all the units, floats and banner carriers, Bunt said there will be 120 "elements" in the parade.

The secret of coordinating all this is to assign numbers to everything, according to Dale Waterman, a member of the parade committee. Every float and band and marching unit gets a number, and when your number is called, you'd better be ready to go.

This year's Grand Marshal was ex-Major League Baseball commissioner and former Berkshire Eagle sports correspondent Fay Vincent.

Vincent worked for The Eagle while a student at Williams College, under former sports editor Roger O'Gara.

"Roger O'Gara was a great man," said Vincent, shortly before he was to be driven to the head of the parade. "He taught me how to write. 'Take out all the thats' is what he told me."

Vincent was asked who he liked in the World Series.

"Red Sox-Dodgers," he said without hesitation. "With the winner a tossup. I think that's the matchup the world wants to see. And I always root for (Dodger manager) Joe Torre, who is a gentleman. I remember thinking his (managing) career was over when he was fired from St. Louis (in 1995) and now he's going to be in the Hall of Fame."

Vincent was at the parade at the behest of his longtime friend, North Adams Mayor John Barrett III. Barrett was one of a host of politicians who were hanging around the front of the parade, waiting for it to start.

"We've known each other since Fay was at Williams," said Barrett, who met Vincent when Barrett was still a high school student in Williamstown. When Vincent relocated to Williamstown several years ago, the two were reacquainted.

"(Vincent) has always been very supportive of the city and the area," said Barrett." He does a lot of things, behind-the-scenes things, for people and organizations that he won't discuss.

"This is one of our biggest crowds in a couple years," said Barrett. "And (Vincent) is the reason."

"When John calls, I just show up," said Vincent.

This year was unlike the two previous years, in which rain fell for at least part of the parade. State Sen. Benjamin Downing was grateful for that.

"This is my third parade," he said. "The first two I marched in, it rained. I was beginning to feel I was jinxing it. I'm kind of relieved."

Gov. Deval L. Patrick was a little late, having to drive up from Connecticut. He showed up in a state police car and shook hands and slapped some backs.

Lest there be any misunderstanding, U.S. Rep. John Olver assured the media that the rest of the Massachusetts delegation was happy to wait for the governor.

"We're glad he decided to march with us," said Olver.

This is Olver's 17th Fall Foliage Parade. By his estimation, he has missed only one since being elected to Congress.

"I'm not sure anyone would actually remember if I missed one of these," he joked, "but I remember, at least."

While everyone was talking, organizers were asking participants to go to their assigned areas.

It was a little after 1 p.m., and the parade was about to start. The bands began warming up, drummers and horn players running through their chops. (The bagpipers returned to more conventional tunes.)

Bandleaders and float coordinators began silently counting heads to make sure no one was left behind.

The Shriners began lining up their formidable array of vehicles, looking not unlike a small army situating itself. The young people carrying the banners made sure they all faced the right way. A few participants rushed over to the food stand operated by the Rotary Club of North Adams, grabbing a quick hot dog before shipping out.

The day was not hot, but many marchers began storing water bottles on floats or in handbags or pockets.

A whistle blew. Fay Vincent's car slowly pulled away from the curb. The Drury High School Marching Band high-stepped smartly through the entrance to Wal-Mart, onto Curran Highway. The Shriners' cars, motorcycles, trucks and other assorted vehicles began gunning their engines.

It was time to go.


"Barrett calls for cuts"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, Wednesday, October 8, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- As the national economy continues to falter, Mayor John Barrett III is telling departments to tighten their belts and cut costs ahead of time.

"The economic downturn is going to have a bad impact on the local level," the mayor said during a North Adams School Committee meeting Tuesday night. "If the governor is given the power to make the emergency 9c cuts, we can expect the impact to be in the range of $1 million for the city."

Gov. Deval Patrick, who can only reduce spending in office under his direct control, is currently lobbying the state Legislature to grant him the power to make mid-year cuts to the general budget, or so-called "9c" cuts.

"We're preparing, but the cuts could have a real dire impact on the school budget -- we only have 22 cops left, 20 firemen, 18 employees at the city yard and 17 employees at City Hall. We're not there yet, but it's coming," Barrett said

Barrett, who also serves as School Committee chairman, said he has instructed all city departments to freeze accounts that are not urgently needed.

"The state has told us to be prepared," he said. "We've also been warned that our excise tax reimbursements may be off. We receive all the revenue from the excise tax, but people are not buying new cars, as was expected. Our return could be off by $100,000 to $200,000. I think things are going to be tight for the next two to three years."

School Committee member William Schrade Jr. expressed his concern about making additional cuts to the school department's budget.

"I'm concerned because our budget is a shoestring already," he said. "I'd like the superintendent to keep us up to date with which accounts are being frozen."

In May, the school department was asked to tighten its belt and cut the equivalent of 7.5 full time teaching positions, a custodian and 27 teaching assistants from its $16.3 million budget.

Barrett said the cuts to the state budget were expected to come in December, but warned they could come earlier.

"We don't know what the magnitude will be," he said. "I've asked the departments to look for things that don't have to be purchased. If we keep purchasing unnecessary items, it could mean people. It's the sign of the times, we're at the will of the national economy. It's not just happening on Wall Street anymore."

He said the cuts would sting more than those made back in 2003, when the state budget was slashed after an economic crisis.

"We're not talking about $5,000 to $6,000 -- we're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars," Barrett said. "We don't have the reserve (funds) we had in 2003. We need to try to save every nickel and dime that we can. If the cuts come, they are going to be big."

He added, "I don't think many of the people who work for the city understand that we are not flush with cash. We have several groups at the bargaining table -- I won't mention which ones -- but they want certain raises. We say we don't have the money. They say to get it."

Vice Chairwoman Heather Boulger said the ripple effect that is going on across the nation isn't just affecting towns and cities.

"It"s every state organization that's being affected," she said.

In other action, Superintendent James E. Montepare announced the district had secured about $3.5 million in grants, including a $61,275 Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program grant.

"The grant not only provides enough funding to give fresh fruit and vegetable snacks to 100,000 children over the course of the school year at Brayton and Sullivan schools, it also provides a healthy fruit and vegetable snack for the children enrolled in their afterschool programs as well," he said.

Other grants included funding for the Community Partnership Program, $104,300 for Quality Full Day Kindergarten, $102,500 for the Parent-Child Home program and $22,415 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council for programs involving KidSpace.

In other action, the Drury Principal Amy Meehan demonstrated how parents will be able to access student grades and attendance records through an online program called Power School. The committee also approved a field trip in April to New York City for the Drury High School Chorus, and approved use of the Drury High School auditorium on March 14 for the annual Berkshire Idol fundraiser.


"Lowe's project still kicking"
The North Adams Transcript ( - Editorial
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The ink had barely dried on the Transcript's story Tuesday about the possibility of Lowe's pulling out of its Curran Highway project in North Adams when the naysayers and gloom-and-doom bloggers hit the Web to blame Mayor John Barrett III.

Well, Lowe's hasn't pulled out yet, but if the huge home-improvement chain does forego North Adams, the finger of blame should be pointed squarely at the state of Massachusetts for requiring excessive environmental restrictions under its new Greenhouse Gas Emissions policy.

We're not talking about a coal factory here; we're talking about a retail store. While we're all for solar power, requiring the company to install a photovoltaic system to supply the store's energy needs simply isn't cost-effective at this time.

State Secretary of Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles should move swiftly to approve this project, which will bring much-needed jobs to this region -- construction jobs and long-term service-sector jobs -- during the toughest economic times we've seen in decades.

Now is the time to promote and encourage new business, not to stifle it over trifles and technicalities. While the mayor has his faults, he has battled hard for this project, which already has netted the city over $700,000 for the sale of the old gravel bank.

Despite the tumbling stock market and tight credit, we're still optimistic Lowe's will see the opportunity here, but if the market (and state regulation) dictates otherwise, don't blame the messenger.


"North Adams Council OKs Lease for Family Practice"
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff - October 15, 2008

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council approved a 25-year lease extension and transfer on Tuesday night for a family practice building on airport property that will come under the umbrella of Northern Berkshire Healthcare.

"We know it's important for us to keep in our area and in our city as many physicians as possible," said Mayor John Barrett III. "This will allow this to proceed and be used for that type of facility."

NBH, parent company of North Adams Regional Hospital, is acquiring Northern Berkshire Family Practice at 820 State Road, located on Harriman-West Airport land to keep it operating as a family clinic.

In announcing the acquisition on Wednesday, NBH President Richard Palmisano said, "It's no secret that there are immense pressures on primary-care doctors across the state and especially here in Berkshire County, and it's important to do all we can to strengthen the provision of those services here."

NBH was looking toward ensuring a 50-year lease from the North Adams Airport Commission as part of the financial packaging for the acquisition of the building, which became available because Drs. William Kober and Stephen Payne decided to go their separate ways.

The current practice has a 35-year lease on the property under the name South Coast Partners LLP; the 25-year extension would kick in after that lease has run out. Barrett said most leases at the airport run about 20 years with options to renew.

The transfer to NBH will give the building nonprofit status, which concerned several of the councilors. The mayor said NBH had agreed to payment in lieu taxes on par with the current tax evaluation. Councilors Michael Bloom, Clark Billings and Richard Alcombright asked if the lease would reflect the PILOT agreement but the mayor said it would likely be a separate agreement. He expected it to occur by the sale closing.

He also said there would be no tax increment financing package included in the transfer; the family practice had received some type of monetary break, though not a TIF, and that had run out after five years.

"I think it has to be understood that we intervened a little bit in trying to bring everybody together to save this building in order to keep it going as a medical facility," said Barrett. "A lot of discussion went on, back and forth, and the hospital stepped up to the plate. ... It's a win-win situation for everybody."

Attorney Jaime Art of Grinnell Smith LLP, representing NBH, said he thought the taxes on the property were "in the neighborhood of $20,000" but cautioned he did not have the exact amount available. In response to a question by Councilor Gailanne Cariddi, he said the wording in the old and new leases were not significantly different.

The newer one included "some clarifying amendments" to reflect that it was an existing building rather than bare land and accommodation for possible uses related to NBH subsidaries, all in the medical field. NBH could not go beyond the parameters without gaining permission from the Airport Commission, he said.

"In other words, a Taco Bell couldn't be there," said the mayor.

"There is a real effort here to find a way to keep primary-care physicians in the community," said Art. "There is a real shortage of primary-care doctors and there's an opportunity here for Northern Berkshire Healthcare through some of its subsidiaries to keep enough doctors here to take care of all of us."

NBH officials said Kober would remain at the practice as medical director; several other health-care professionals, including Dr. Linda Hill from Williamstown Medical Associates, are joining. The health care system is continuing to recruit other doctors, as well.

The council unanimously approved the lease.

Councilors also briefly discussed an ordinance suggested by Alcombright to regulate the use of motorized wheelchairs, or power chairs, within the city.

The measure is before the Public Safety Committee and was reported to the council by committee Chairman Ronald Boucher.

A number of recommendations had been made at the last committee meeting he and Alcombright said, including defining what a motorized wheelchair is (nonregistered motorized vehicle designed and used as an assistive device by a person with a disablity), mandatory education sessions, limiting who can operate one (the owner, the disabled), abiding by pedestrian laws, using safety flags and operating on sidewalks.

Several citizens concerned about the ordinance had contacted him said Alcombright. "Nothing here is carved in stone," he assured the audience, including two women in power chairs who attended the meeting. The goal of the measure is to improve the safety of the power-chair users, he continued.

The Public Safety Committee will resume discussions on the ordinance on Tuesday, Nov. 18, at 4 p.m. in the Council Chambers. Cariddi asked if the city's disability commission had had input into the regulations. The mayor said the dormant commission was in the process of being reactivated.

In other business, Boucher said conditions at a residence at 129 North St. had not improved. Neighbors have complained of poor conditions and haphazard work at the property. Owner Edward Burdick appeared before the council in August to say there had been a fire at the home earlier this year.

Boucher passed around pictures of the building, saying the Board of Health and the building inspector were sending letters warning Burdick to clean up the property. He has scheduled a meeting with abuttors, the owner and building and health officials on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 4 in the council chambers to discuss the issue. If no significant progress is made, he anticipated a public hearing in November to declare the property a public nuisance.

"If you look at the timeline really nothing has been done," he said. "In fact, it looks even more congested and the neighbors are really in an outrage."

North Adams, Massachusetts
"Former mayor, leader dies: Frank Florini was known for his bluntness and his kind and generous nature."
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, Wednesday, October 22, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Francis "Frank" C. Florini, mayor of the city from 1964 to 1968, and an active civic leader throughout his life, died Friday at the age of 89.

Known for his blunt comments during City Council meetings and to the press, Florini prided himself on never "caring what way the wind blew" politically when he made decisions.

"He always stuck to his guns," Mayor John Barrett III said yesterday. "He became the first mayor under our current form of government — Form A — which is the strong mayor form of government. You always knew where he stood on an issue."

During Florini's three terms in office, many vital projects were completed in the city including the construction of a new school and an addition to another, the installation of sewer lines in the city's south end, two expansions to the airport and the controversial purchase and development of Windsor Lake as a major recreation area.

Florini also began the city's Main Street Urban Renewal project and stressed the importance of improving the looks of the city, which he said had been "ignored for 35 years."

In 1966, during his inaugural speech, Florini challenged the critics who were in an uproar about an increased budget and plans for both Windsor Lake and the urban renewal program.

"Critics who formerly characterized us as a 'dead town' that never did anything, now are complaining we do too much," he said during his speech.

"He was the right person at the right time," Barrett said. "He was a very forceful leader. He always ran on the belief that the strongest way to improve economic development was to improve the way things looked. He had come back to visit the city on several occasions and always stopped by to give me a few words of wisdom. He was always pleased to see the progress of the city and happy with the changes we have made to the downtown."

While his "bluntness" was his trademark, Florini is most often remembered as a kind and generous man who was an active political leader and had a great love for his hometown.

Retired Judge Rudolph Sacco, of Pittsfield, said Florini and several members of his family helped him with his campaign for a state Senate seat.

"My memories of the Florinis are so pleasant," Sacco said. "We had so many different discussions over the years and became good friends. I always associated North County with Frank Florini. If I was asked to say one negative thing about Frank, I couldn't. He was such a great person."

Mary Rosasco, whose late husband was Florini's cousin, described him as a "wonderful gentleman, who was always very caring."

She said Florini's health had been failing for some time.

"He's going to be missed," Rosasco said. "Many, many people knew and loved him. There are many, many people he helped over the years as well."

Several current city employees, including Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco, began their careers under Florini.

"He appointed me as a provisional policeman," Morocco said. "I'd known him most of my life. I grew up right next to him — his house was about three doors down from ours. I remember he had a lot of daughters. He really was a super individual and I can't say enough good things about him."

After losing the 1968 election, Florini went to work for the Massachusetts Department of Community Affairs under Gov. John A. Volpe as the director of the Division of the Office of Central Services in Boston. In 1978, he was elected alderman for Ward 6 in Beverly.

He retired in 1981 and moved to East Boothbay, Maine, where he served on the town's Water Board from 1985 through 1995.


Paul Babeu

"Former city man wins Arizona sheriff election"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, Friday, November 7, 2008

NORTH ADAMS -- Former North Adams City Councilor Paul Babeu, who twice lost bids for the city's corner office, will soon have a staff of 800 law enforcement officers under his command -- the Arizona police officer recently became the first Republican in the state's history to win the Pinal County sheriff's race.

"It was a long, hard-fought race," Babeu said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "It feels fantastic to know that I had the support of so many individuals. It's also very humbling. I received over 50,000 votes and won with a margin of 7,000 votes. It's a huge victory."

According to results posted on the Pinal County Web site, Babeu received 50,091 votes, 54 percent, while incumbant Christopher Vasquez, a Democrat who was appointed to the position in 2005 and re-elected in 2006, received 42,723 votes.

Babeu moved to Arizona in 2003, following his parents, shortly after his second loss after Mayor John Barrett III and earning his master's degree at American International College. After moving across the country, he decided to take the police academy entrance exams for the Phoenix and Chandler police departments -- he received offers from both departments and went to work for the Chandler Police Department, where he was a "rank and file" policeman responding to 911 calls and conducting warrant sweeps.

He also served as president of the Chandler Law Enforcement Association, a police union, before taking leave to campaign for the sheriff's position.

"I talked about simple issues during the campaign -- improving training for the deputies in areas such as first aid and CPR," he said. "Many of the deputies don't have this simple training. I talked about improving services and technology. You can't operate a sheriff's office as if it's 20 years ago -- you need technology and accountability."

During the campaign, Babeu criticized his opponent's use of vans equipped with radars and cameras for speed enforcement. He also pledged to put computers in all of the police cruisers, increasing the number of deputies and detention officers trained in immigration enforcement laws, and improving response times.

"I also talked about issues such as fairness with promotions and ending the favors and politics from the office," Babeu said.

He said his win bears significance in the county, which has a history of being "very Democratic."

"I was the only Republican to win a sheriff's race in 15 counties that had elections this year," Babeu said. "Pinal County is arguably the fastest growing county in Arizona -- there are a lot of unincorporated areas in the county where the sheriff's office is the only law enforcement agency available."

In his new role as sheriff, Babeu will also oversee a 1,500-bed jail and a $46 million departmental budget. His new position also comes with a salary of $101,000, which is set by the state of Arizona, he said.

A major in the Arizona Army National Guard, Babeu was deployed to Tikrit, Iraq, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, for a year, where he worked as a human resource director. He has also served as a commander of Task Force Yuma, a group that supports the U.S. Border Patrol in securing the Arizona and Mexican border.


"In Arizona, ex-city councilor wins county sheriff election"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers, The Berkshire Eagle Online, Saturday, November 08, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Former North Adams City Councilor Paul Babeu, who twice lost bids for this city's corner office, will soon have a staff of 800 law enforcement officers under his command.

The Arizona police officer recently became the first Republican in the state's history to win the Pinal County sheriff's race.

"It was a long, hard-fought race," Babeu said in a telephone interview Wednesday night. "It feels fantastic to know that I had the support of so many individuals. It's also very humbling. I received over 50,000 votes and won with a margin of 7,000 votes. It's a huge victory."

According to results posted on the Pinal County Web site, Babeu received 50,091 votes, 54 percent, while incumbant Christopher Vasquez, a Democrat who was appointed to the position in 2005 and re-elected in 2006, received 42,723 votes.

Babeu moved to Arizona in 2003, following his parents, shortly after he lost his second challenge to North Adams Mayor John Barrett III and after earning his master's degree at American International College in Springfield.

After moving across the country, he decided to take the police academy entrance exams for the Phoenix and Chandler police departments. He received offers from both departments and went to work for the Chandler Police Department, where he was a "rank and file" policeman responding to 911 calls and conducting warrant sweeps.

He also served as president of the Chandler Law Enforcement Association, a police union, before taking leave to campaign for the sheriff's position.

He said his win bears significance in the county, which has a history of being "very Democratic."

"I was the only Republican to win a sheriff's race in 15 counties that had elections this year," Babeu said. "Pinal County is arguably the fastest growing county in Arizona. There are a lot of unincorporated areas in the county where the sheriff's office is the only law enforcement agency available."

In his new role as sheriff, Babeu will also oversee a 1,500-bed jail and a $46 million departmental budget. His new position also comes with a salary of $101,000, which is set by the state of Arizona, he said.


"Grant Will Help Complete Alcombright Field Renovations" - November 07, 2008

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Building projects at the Alcombright Athletic Complex will finally move forward thanks to a nearly $300,000 state grant.

Over the past several years, the West End park has seen major upgrades and fields added for softball, baseball, T-ball and soccer, along with better parking facilities. But construction on restrooms and storage facilities have been held up because of lack of funds and the state's fiscal condition.

"This funding will allow us to finish up a good portion of the work needed to complete renovations to Alcombright Athletic Field, which will meet the needs of over 600 children as well as adults," said Mayor John Barrett III.

Nearly a $1 million has already been spent on refurbishing and expanding the complex, named for the late City Councilor Daniel Alcombright.

The grant was announced by state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield, and Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams.

"This grant is a crucial to continue developing the Alcombright Athletic Field complex and I am grateful that North Adams was selected as a recipient," said Bosley, adding that it will make "the facility more accommodating for visitors and [expand] the accessibility for alternative community use."

The $291,900 in funding comes from the Parkland Acquisitions and Renovations for Communities grant program (formerly the Urban Self-Help grant program), administered by the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

It will be used to erect a new building, equipped with concession, restrooms, storage rooms, and a garage/maintenance room.

"This funding provides for Phase III of renovations at Alcombright Athletic Field," said Downing. "Once complete, it will be a newly renovated venue and serve as the hub of local activities, sporting events and gatherings. I commend the Patrick administration for awarding these funds so the city can continue its work at the field."

Since its inception in 1977, PARC has helped cities and towns acquire and develop land for park and outdoor recreation purposes. The grants are administered through EEA's Division of Conservation Services and are available for the acquisition of land as well as construction and renovation of property for park and outdoor purposes such as athletic play fields, playgrounds and game courts.

Any town with a year-round population of at least 35,000, or any city regardless of size with a park or recreation commission is eligible to apply to the PARC program. With a finite amount of grant funds and an overwhelming application response, the selection process is highly competitive.


"Conference will showcase service-learning projects"
The Berkshire Eagle, Staff, Saturday, November 08, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — In partnership with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts and the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, North Adams Public Schools will host its 10th annual Service-Learning Conference on Wednesday, Nov. 19, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., at the college.

Service-learning is a method of teaching and a way of learning whereby students use academic knowledge and skills to meet real community needs through service activities connected to their curriculum. The theme for this year's conference is "Reflections, Traditions and the Promise of Service-Learning."

Local dignitaries and leaders speaking at the conference include North Adams Mayor John Barrett III; state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams; Al Bashevkin, director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition; and MCLA President Mary K. Grant.

At the conference, MCLA will be the first college to receive the Massachusetts Community Service-Learning Higher Education Partner Leader award, which will be presented to Grant.

The award, from the Community Service-Learning Advisory Council to the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, is in recognition of MCLA's development of future service-learning teachers, and of the college's partnership with public schools to promote service-learning, civic engagement and community improvement.

The event is free and open to youth, educators, community agency staff, civic leaders and interested citizens.

Sample workshop offerings include "Intro to Service-Learning," "Breaking Ground: Drury Gardens," "Top Secret Tips for Youth/Adult Partnerships," "Take Charge with Service-Learning" and "Water is Essential," with additional themes of local history, pre-kindergarten service-learning, addressing hunger, bully prevention, solar energy and more.

For more information or to register, contact Debbie Rosselli, service-learning coordinator at Drury High School, at (413) 662-3240, ext. 1205, or at


"North Adams Marks Veterans Day"
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff, November 12, 2008

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — Amidst the hundreds of bronze names of city residents who served in nation's wars is that of Peter W. Foote, who lost his life in Vietnam.

An Army sergeant, he was only 21 when he was killed in combat in 1968, saving a comrade. Four decades after his death, Mayor John Barrett III wants his name on what is perhaps city's largest memorial — the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink.

"Some 40 years this city lost Peter W. Foote, from my generation," said the mayor at the Veterans Day ceremonies on Tuesday. "He was one of the finest athletes who ever came out of this city and he was lost saving a fellow soldier in the field and rice paddies of Vietnam."

Barrett said he would ask the City Council in the coming weeks to petition the Legislature to rename the rink for Foote.

Still, he said, Veterans Day cannot be just about honoring the dead but remembering the living as well.

"We also have to make sure as many of us have learned over the past few years, that we make sure our veterans that are coming home are taken care of," he said. While it is a national obligation, it is also the responsibility of this "small community tucked away in the far corner of Massachusetts that our voices are heard, too.

"... today, as we speak, there are Americans being killed in action," leaving grieving families," said the mayor. "We must remember those who are giving their lives in sacrifice."

Communities around the nation observed Veterans Day on Tuesday, marking the 90th anniversary of World War I, the "war to end all wars," and commemorating the sacrifices of America's servicemen and -women.

The city's annual parade stepped off in the chill air at 10:30 from the American Legion to a sparse but patriotic crowd waving small American flags.

The main speaker, Petty Officer 3rd Class Sherman Baldwin III, son of WUPE radio host Sherman Baldwin and his wife, Susan, said he had no doubts of his future course.

"When I graduated from high school there was no question in my mind what the next step would be — to serve my country," he said. While his classmates were heading to jobs, he joined the Coast Guard, becoming part of the naval force that serves both a peace time and national defense role.

He spoke of his voyages, and of the force's role as "the front line on the war on drugs," in which one of his ships intercepted 3.4 metric tons of cocaine.

Baldwin described the thrill and fear of breaking 15-waves as a ship heads to sea, "but I can't imagine this factor is anwywhere near that felt and faced down by any of the veterans in this group. It is a great honor to be part of the North Adams Veterans Day celebration.

"I'm humbled to be sharing this day with you."

Taps played, the firing squad squeezed off the traditional three rounds and two jets screamed over the city. People wandered away to enjoy, for some of them, a day off.

Timothy Girard lingered along the granite wall of the Veterans Memorial with its bronze plagues full of names. There were three Girards listed, he said, his grandfather in World War I, his father in World War II and himself, right there, amongst the Vietnam veterans.

He and his family had come back to the city from New Jersey to visit. "It's nice in the country, North Adams has a nice ceremony," he said. "It's kind of a catharsis walking down the street in North Adams ... you feel it."

"Let us be reminded of life, liberty, justice, freedom and democracy," said American Legion Chaplain Louis Floriani. "That we be ever grateful to those comrades who gave their lives."

Timothy Girard served in Vietnam
Petty Officer 3rd Class Sherman Baldwin III speaks at the North Adams ceremony.
View Slide Show

Mariola Costa takes time to look at the newly opened Sol LeWitt installation at Mass MoCA in North Adams yesterday (11/16/2008).

Spectrum of design
"Rave reviews for wall drawings"
By Dick Lindsay, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, November 17, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — Susan Mooney, of Pittsfield, wasn't planning to take her three children to Mass MoCA yesterday for the opening of the exhibit of wall drawings by the late Sol LeWitt.

"We were talking about colors (on Saturday) and how they made you feel," Mooney said. "I then happened to learn about the exhibit online and we decided to go."

"It's a major coincidence we are here," she added.

Her reaction after viewing the exhibit?

"Really impressive," said Mooney.

Her children were equally awed by the huge pieces of artwork, especially the ones on the third floor.

"Really cool," said MaryElizabeth, 10. "The bright colors stand out."

"All the colors are, like, shooting at me," said 8-year-old Liam.

His 6-year old brother, Conor, chimed in, "The colors make me feel different ways."

The Mooneys were among the estimated 1,500 people to view the 105 wall drawings on three floors of the 27,000-square-foot Building 7 in the heart of the MoCA complex in North Adams.

LeWitt never did the wall art himself during his 40-year career, but pictured in his mind what the drawings would look like and let others do the work based on his written instructions. Nearly 70 artists, apprentices and art students spent from April to September recreating his visions.

LeWitt did help plan the exhibit, but died last year before seeing it completed. He, along with the Yale University Art Gallery, Mass MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art, collaborated to create the retrospective.

"The partnership is so natural," said Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale Art Gallery. "It's a home run of harmony in the sense of people working together."

Lisa Corrin, director of the Williams museum, said the collaboration made sense.

"We've learned we can do more as one, rather than separately," she said.

The three-tiered exhibit begins on the middle floor, where patrons read about LeWitt's career and view a video showing how his wall drawings come to life. Mass MoCA guides encourage people to start the tour on the first floor to view LeWitt's early works, and then ascend to the second and third floors to follow how his drawings evolved over the years.

Many who viewed the exhibit were seeing LeWitt's conceptual art for the first time, including North Adams Mayor John Barrett III.

"I didn't know who he was until I read about him," Barrett said. "Now I believe he's one of the best."

"I'm in a state of great excitement because it's so complex," said Santina LaCava, of Hopkinton, N.H., whose daughter worked on some of the drawings.

"There's such a social dimension to it, because so many people had to create the exhibit," LaCava added.

Even those art lovers familiar with LeWitt are still impressed by his style.

"When you go inside, time stops," said Corrin. "You can feel the power of his imagination."

"We used to be in awe of his work, but this exhibit is added pleasure," added Neil Gottfried, from LeWitt's hometown of Chester, Conn. "His thought process is intriguing, more than the art."

LeWitt also thought three-dimensional: He designed a Jewish synagogue and Hebrew school in Chester.

"He was a genius at architecture," said Reynolds. "He was one of the few artists to understand it."

Reynolds said LeWitt's knowledge of architecture was crucial in his visualizing how 105 of his drawings would be placed in the former factory.

The exhibit will have a 25-year run and is exclusive to Mass MoCA, which could work to the art museum's advantage, according to director Joseph Thompson.

"More and more people will come to know and love his work, because they will have to come here to view it," Thompson said. "Over time I believe this installation will become a national treasure."

Barrett said the LeWitt drawings further validates MoCA — which celebrates its 10th anniversary in 2009 — in the art community.

Corrin said more important is the continued support from the locals.

"Mass MoCA belongs to the community, not the art world," she said. "I do think that feeling is in place."
To reach Dick Lindsay: or at (413) 496-6233

North Adams, Massachusetts
"Unions fight health plan: Seven North Adams units contend they were left out of negotiations; Mayor says actions short on facts."
By Ryan Hutton, North Adams Transcript, Tuesday, November 18, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — All seven of the city's labor unions have filed or will file prohibitive practice charges against the city with the Massachusetts Division of Labor Relations over alleged violations of state law, the head of the North Adams Teachers Association said yesterday.

The unions have charged that the city introduced a new health insurance plan without first negotiating with them and refused to negotiate to enter the state's insurance plan with the Group Insurance Commission (GIC).

"All aspects of insurance are subject to mandatory bargaining by Massachusetts state law," said Christopher Caproni, association president. "So basically, the mayor is unilaterally imposing new insurance options that he hasn't negotiated with any of the unions or discussed. So instead of sitting down and talking to us about what will benefit the workers, he just moved by himself."

Mayor John Barrett III said he offered every union in the city a pay increase "that most in the public would find generous in these tough economic times." He said insurance rates are only rising about 1.5 percent this year while GIC's rates are predicted to go up 17 or 18 percent.

He charged Caproni with being disruptive and doing "irreparable harm" to his union's relationship with the School Committee.

"They're misleading their people on the facts," Barrett said. "Unfortunately, Mr. Caproni's inexperience in handling negotiations is really a problem. I've been mayor for 25 years. I've gone through some tough disagreements with unions, but this is mind-boggling to me. When you have an opportunity to offer lower rates, which they asked for, and they don't want their membership to get the lower rates, it doesn't make any sense to me."

The state has extended the deadline to join GIC from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1. Pittsfield recently joined the state-run program, and officials have said the move will save the city more than $2 million in annual health care costs.

Caproni said an analysis was done that shows the city would save roughly $1.5 million in insurance costs by switching to GIC.

"We had our analysis done by Boston Benefits," he said. "It was an independent analysis done comparing the current insurance situation to what GIC's projected costs would be. Boston Benefits doesn't have a stake in GIC. They're an independent insurance analysis company."

Barrett rebutted Caproni's assertions.

"It's absurd about what they said about saving the city $1.5 million — totally crazy," he said. "The company that is pushing it, Boston Benefits, works for the Massachusetts Teachers Association and also is on GIC's payroll — which Mr. Caproni is not telling, but maybe he doesn't know. But they are paid by the GIC. They have received compensation from them in the past, and it is their job to get as many new enrollees as possible."

He added, "The deadline with GIC is Dec. 1. There's going to be no GIC this year. Our numbers show there would be no significant savings whatsoever for the city."

Caproni and the other union heads said the city owes it to the employees to look for the best possible deal.

"In these tough financial times, it's more important than ever that we give people the best value for their money," Peter Robare, president of the local firefighters union, said in a statement. "The unions stand ready to negotiate over health insurance, including the new plans the city wants to offer. We also remain eager to negotiate entrance into the GIC, which could produce a significant savings for the city and employees."

Barrett said the only new plans the city offered came at the request of union employees who were trying to compare potential savings.

Caproni said North Adams has some of the highest insurance premiums in the state, and its insurance splits are among the highest in the county. The city pays 70 percent of employees insurance costs, and the employees pay 30 percent.

"Anything that could even potentially save 25 percent (of all costs) should have all of us sit down and look at it," Caproni said. "We need to find affordable insurance solutions with good coverage, and GIC offers that solution."

Barrett said Caproni is not telling the pubic that the unions have proposed hiking the city's share of payments from 70 percent to 85 percent.

"I don't know what time zone he's living in, but he's obviously not reading the news coming about the national economy, about the cutbacks in state aid, those kind of things," the mayor said. "We're in a recession, and to have a city government offer a pay raise and an insurance plan that only went up 1.5 percent, it just doesn't make sense for the unions to reject it."

The seven unions are expected to finish filing their grievances by today at the latest, Caproni said. The unions are the teachers association, the North Adams Paraprofessionals; the North Adams Police Association, Local 382; IAFF Local 1781, representing the North Adams firefighters; Teamsters Local 404, representing employees of the Department of Public Works; the North Adams Teachers Assistants Association; and AFL-CIO 204 State Council 93, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees/City of North Adams.

"We have exhausted every measure before taking this step," Brian Kelly, president of the North Adams Police Association, said in a statement. "We want all the people of North Adams to know that the switch (to GIC) could produce a significant cost savings that will benefit all of us."

Barrett said he cannot and will not comment on the grievances and the filings. However, he said he feels the city put a generous offer on the table and continued conflict would only further damage the unions' rapport with city.

"If they want to battle, we'll battle," he said. "But they are doing irreparable harm to the relationship between the school committee and the teachers, and more importantly, they're doing harm to their members."


"North Adams Unions File Complaints Against City"
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff, November 17, 2008

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The city's seven unions have filed complaints with the state's Division of Labor Relations after their attempts to negotiate entrance into the Group Insurance Commission was rebuffed.

Union officials say the city's "unilateral" attempt to offer different insurance options is also in violation of state law.

"We've been trying to get the mayor and the city to talk about insurance since last March," said Christopher Caproni, president of the North Adams Teachers Association, the city's largest union. "We're very willing to sit down and look at plans together. ... But [the city] can't just unilaterally add them."

Mayor John Barrett III said he could not comment on grievances filed against the city but said the unions' actions were unhelpful.

"What they are doing and what they have done has critically injured irreparably harmed their relationship with the city administration and the School Committee," said Barrett.

The seven unions are filing the prohibitive practice charges separately; Caproni was not sure if all seven had been filed by Monday.

The two sides have been at loggerheads over the unions' desire to join the GIC, an option offered to governing bodies across the state as part of the Municipal Partnership Act. The GIC covers nearly 300,000 state employees and retirees; it was opened to municipalities as an option for saving money on health plans.

The unions say joining the GIC would save the city more than $1 million; the mayor has been extremely skeptical over the savings claims and warns retirees would be hurt by transferring insurance carriers.

Section 19

The unions went to the City Council this past summer to request it adopt the state law (Section 19) that would allow all seven unions to negotiate as a single unit on health care, a requirement of the partnership act. Union officials hoped to beat the October deadline to register for next year's enrollment. That deadline has since been moved to Dec. 31.

Councilors were intrigued by the potential savings but wary of trespassing on the mayor's turf by interfering with the bargaining process. Barrett, in turn, said the city's counsel was concerned that by adopting the measure, the city would be forced into negotiations.

Undeterred, the seven unions covering educators and education staff, police, firefighters, public works employees and custodians have joined forces as the North Adams Public Employee Committee in anticipation of GIC negotiations.

"We have seven labor unions sitting at the same table all in agreement that something has to be done about insurance, said Caproni. "It needs to be done collaboratively. These employees have some of the highest co-pays in the state and the highest splits in the county."

Barrett countered that the city had put a "very, very fair" offer on the table only to have the unions walk away.

"I don't think [union members] realize that they're not going to have Blue Cross Blue Shield if they join GIC," he said, adding that abandoning the city's self-insured plan would mean locking into GIC for three years — with no way out if the purported savings fail to materialize.

The unions also want to raise the city's split from 70 percent to 85 percent of the premiums, said Barrett.

High Premiums

In response to complaints about the high cost of premiums, the city has offered open enrollment for several new options with lower premiums and higher deductibles. Caproni said that was a prohibitive practice.

"All changes or implementation under Massachusetts law are bargainable," he said. "We're very willing to sit down and look at plans together. ... They can't just unilaterally add them in."

"In these tough financial times it's more important than ever that we give people the best value for their money,” said Peter Robare, president of the IAFF, Local 1781, in a statement.

Pittsfield recently negotiated with its unions to enroll in the GIC next year. Last year, the first year for enrollment, only 12 governing bodies (mostly school districts) signed on.

The prohibitive practice charges are being filed by all the unions that constitute the NAPEC. They include the North Adams Teachers Association; the North Adams Paraprofessionals; the North Adams Police Association, Local 382; IAFF, Local 1781 representing North Adams Fire Fighters; Teamsters Local 404 representing employees of the Department of Public Works; the North Adams Teachers Assistants Association; and AFL-CIO 204 State Council 93, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees/City of North Adams.


"Conte tested for mercury"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, December 02, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — More than 400 students, teachers and administrators were evacuated from Conte Middle School on Monday morning after the discovery of several small puddles of what officials suspect is mercury.

A District 1 hazardous materials crewcleaned up the spill after the evacuation. The atmosphere inside the school was being tested into the evening Monday by health department officials and by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection.

James E. Montepare, superintendent of North Adams Public Schools, said school will not be in session today to give officials time to be sure the environment is safe. He added that the outcome of the testing will determine whether school will be in session Wednesday.

Mayor John Barrett III said several small puddles of a substance were discovered, and that depending on testing, the school could be closed for several days.

E. John Morocco, North Adams' public safety commissioner, said the source of the spill is still under investigation by the police department. The material will be tested to confirm it is mercury, Morocco said.

He said the spill was discovered in a first-floor corridor at about 10:20 a.m., and the puddles were the size of a half-dollar coin.

Students were evacuated to First Congregational Church on Main Street, about half a block away, at 10:30 a.m., Morocco said. From there, buses transported the students home starting at 11 a.m.

"The bus company was notified, we coordinated very well, and the students were transported," Morocco said. "We've practiced this on many occasions, and it worked out well."

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, when mercury is breathed as a vapor, it can cause tremors, emotional changes, insomnia, muscular weakness, muscle atrophy, twitching, headaches, changes in nerve responses, or cognitive performance deficits. At higher exposures there could be kidney effects, respiratory failure and death.


North Adams Mayor John Barrett III listens Tuesday as city officials outline the difficulties of dealing with a mercury spill at Silvio O. Conte Middle School. An unidentified youth brought the substance to school, allegedly to get out of classes. It did the trick -- school is canceled at Conte for the rest of the week. (Ben Garver / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

"Intentional act: Youth allegedly dumped liquid to get out of class"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, December 03, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — A Conte Middle School student who wanted to get out of attending classes brought liquid mercury to school and intentionally spilled it in a classroom and hallway, city officials said Tuesday.

The Monday incident has spurred a sizable cleanup involving the school, students' homes and a church, and will close the school through the remainder of the week at least. A firm price tag has not been affixed to the incident, but it is costing thousands of dollars, according to the city's mayor.

"The spill itself was intentional," said Mayor John Barrett III at a City Hall press conference Tuesday afternoon. "It must be treated in a most serious manner. And it is a much larger health risk that's out there than just at the school."

The amount of spilled mercury was about the size of a half-dollar.

In addition to the school cleanup, officials have been tracking down students who may have had direct contact with the mercury. Those students' shoes and clothing are being tested for contamination, as are their homes. Meanwhile, officials are collecting voluntary urine samples for analysis.

More than a dozen homes and up to 30 children have been tested for direct exposure. No one has reported any symptoms of mercury exposure, and testing at homes has found no signs of contamination, officials said.

The student has been identified using surveillance tapes. Meanwhile, authorities are weighing charges against the juvenile, said E. John Morocco, commissioner of public safety. Officials withheld the students name because he is a juvenile. Until charges are decided, potential penalties will not be disclosed.

The director of the Indoor Air Quality Program for the state Department of Public Health said this instance is the first time in his 20-year career he has heard of an intentional mercury spill. Michael Feeney said mercury vaporizes at room temperature, and inhalation would pose the biggest risk to humans.

The investigation is ongoing, with a number of individuals still to be interviewed, Morocco said.

Morocco said the mercury was dumped at about 10:05 a.m. on Monday, and was discovered by a nurse at about 10:15 a.m. By 10:30, about 400 students were evacuated to a nearby church, where buses arrived at 11 a.m. to transport students home.

The First Congregational Church on Main Street, where students were evacuated to after the spill's discovery, was also tested and came up clean.

Superintendent James E. Montepare said the lost school days will have to be made up, and if the school has to remain closed past the end of this week, alternate sites are being considered to house middle school classes until the school reopens.

"This has been a very expensive experiment this young person has gotten us into," Barrett said. Barrett is also chairman of the city's school committee.

In the past two years, accidental mercury spills have caused the closings of Pittsfield High School, Hoosac Valley High School in Adams, and Sullivan Elementary School in North Adams. North Adams City Hall was also closed for a day after faulty switches in the air supply units leaked small amounts into the ventilation system.

Response to the incident has involved school administrators and staff, the North Adams Fire and Police Departments, North Adams Ambulance, the city's health department, the Massachusetts Department of Health, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and several contractors involved in the actual clean up of the school.


"North Adams Unions Protest Failure to Join GIC"
By Tammy Daniels -iBerkshires Staff- December 02, 2008

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The unions say they're willing to talk; the mayor says they won't listen.

And so on Monday night, some three dozen or so members of the city's bargaining units marched around the walkways of City Hall holding signs as the lights in Mayor John Barrett III's corner office glowed above them.

"I've come back for this," said one worker dressed as Elvis and holding a sign with R.I.P. GIC in bold red letters.

The mayor and the city's seven unions have been at loggerheads over the unions' push to join the Group Insurance Commission. The state opened the GIC, which covers some 300,000 state employees, to municipalities two years ago as a way to help lower costs.

It's a matter of putting needed cash back into the pockets of workers while saving the city upwards of $1.5 million, said Brian Kelly, president of North Adams Police Association 382. "We could potentially save $50 a week on a family plan — that's $2,500 a year."

Monday was the deadline to join the GIC for the next fiscal year. The Police Association is one of seven unions, including the city's largest, the North Adams Teachers Association, that have been lobbying to join the GIC. Their representatives have met with the mayor's office, the City Council and Finance Committee to no avail over the past months.

"We've expired everything else," said Kelly as workers chanted "GIC, a million bucks for you and me" and the occasional motorist honked in support. "This is a final measure to show what GIC is."

Teachers Association President Christopher Caproni said the unions were still "willing to sit and talk about any insurance ... we really need to talk about insurance in North Adams."

Mayor John Barrett III, not surprisingly, had a different take on the issue.

"We have sat with them, they don't want to hear our figures," said the mayor. The unions' claims of 25 percent reductions in premiums wasn't based on comparable plans offered by the city through Blue Cross Blue Shield, he continued. "You're not comparing apples to apples."

"I am facing a budget deficit next year that could reach a million dollars," he said. "Why in God's name wouldn't I accept a plan that could save us that? ... Because it's not there."

Barrett said he wasn't against the GIC, which already covers the city's retired teachers, but about the timing and the unions' insistence on boosting the city's portion of the premium split from 70 percent to 85 percent.

Sitting behind his desk, the mayor frequently turned to the city's business manager Nancy Ziter for corroboration or correction.

It didn't make sense for the city to enroll in GIC this coming year for a number of reasons, said Barrett, including the thousands it could have cost in "run out," or payment for claims dating back months on the city's self-insured plans. He also pointed to an increase in GIC rates earlier this year, the doubling of GIC costs for retired teachers and the effect on retirees who are now on Medex, a Blue Cross Blue Shield program.

Both the city and the unions dispute recent insurance options put on the table.

GIC does not offer Blue Cross; it provides various tiered plans including Tufts,Fallon Community and Harvard Pilgrim.

Caproni and other union officials have stood by a GIC analysis provided by Boston Benefits that touted big savings, although Caproni admitted they would like to see the premium split restructured.

"It is one of the things we've talked about right in the beginning of negotiations," he said. Caproni said the city's split is the highest in the county, which averages 80/20 or little bit more. "We're looking for North Adams to stay competitive with other communities in the county."

The state opened the GIC to civic bodies two years ago as a way to help contain insurance costs. GIC has historically maintained lower rates although many of its plans have higher deductibles and co-pays.

But despite the claimed millions in savings the group can offer there hasn't been a stampede to join. Some 21 governing entities have or are about to enroll in GIC; of those, only 14 are towns or cities (including Pittsfield). There are 351 municipalities in the state.

GIC is also warning it has to raise premium costs on active workers or sharply boost co-pays and deductibles for all enrollees after Gov. Deval Patrick cut $32 million from its budget.

It takes a 70 percent vote of all governing bodies bargaining units to join; it also takes that many to get out. Once in, the city would be locked in for three years or six years and the GIC would set the rates; the only option municipalities have is in determining premium splits.

Barrett called the push for GIC a ploy by the Massachusetts Teachers Association for control because its members would be the determining factor. Rather than protesting about the GIC, they should be protesting the contract offer their leaders rejected, he said. "They are misleading their members."

Barrett said the offers for the teachers, police, fire and public works also expired on Dec. 1, and that with looming state and city budget cuts, the "generous offer" was not likely to survive.

"This was about the demise of the GIC, well, they're going to be out there protesting the demise of their salary increase."

Caproni said the unions were willing to work collaboratively with the city to solve the health care issue. "The unions are the backbone of the city and they need insurance relief."

"We are united in what we want is GIC," said Kelly as horns honked behind him. "This is for us but also for taxpayers and retirees."

Conte Middle School Mercury Spill
"Girl, home exposed"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Thursday, December 04, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — An elementary school-aged girl underwent medical treatment and her family's West End home has been condemned in the aftermath of an intentional mercury spill at Conte Middle School, city officials said Wednesday.

The girl, whom authorities would not identify, underwent a decontamination procedure Wednesday at North Adams Regional Hospital after a urinalysis found she had been exposed to high levels of mercury.

A Conte Middle School student hoping to get out of school early on Monday intentionally spilled liquid mercury in a classroom and hallway, school officials said. Meanwhile, authorities have engaged a clean-up effort that has spread far beyond the confines of the school itself.

The girl was not exhibiting any symptoms of prolonged exposure to airborne mercury, according to E. John Morocco, commissioner of public safety.

Mercury, when it dissipates into the air and inhaled, can cause symptoms ranging from tremors to respiratory failure. In some cases, exposure can be fatal.

Authorities suspected the girl became contaminated because high levels of mercury were found on her clothes and her home.

During a briefing at City Hall on Wednesday afternoon, Morocco said authorities have been tracking further exposures of the chemical from its original spill point on the first floor of Conte Middle School.

The trail has led to environmental testing in school buses used to transport Conte's roughly 400 students home Monday after the school was evacuated, a day care center, a nearby church, Greylock Elementary School, and two locations in Pittsfield. All areas tested, other than the girl's home, were found to be OK.

Morocco said it is possible the chemical was tracked into either New York or Vermont. The investigation is ongoing, he said.

Meanwhile, the homeowner — whom authorities would not identify — has the option to clean or demolish the condemned home. Unless it is cleaned up, no one is permitted to enter the house, Morocco said.

Mayor John Barrett III, who is also the chairman of the school committee, said the cleanup at the school is progressing well.

Pending further testing, Conte is expected to reopen on Monday "due to the great efforts we got from the clean-up contractor," Barrett said.

Joseph M. Jammallo, a principal of environmental consultant Cushing, Jammallo & Wheeler, said the spill's cleanup has run into the "tens of thousands of dollars." The city and state are being charged for the work.

Morocco said North Adams police investigators are consulting with the Berkshire County District Attorney's office to decide what charges will be leveled against the young male student who dumped the mercury. He declined to say if any other individuals might be implicated.

The middle school student was caught on school surveillance camera videotape. Authorities have contacted the suspect and his family.

"There's been a lot of damage," Morocco said. "We're looking at filing criminal charges — pretty serious charges."

Authorities are not permitted to identify juvenile suspects.

Response to the incident has involved school administrators and staff, the North Adams Fire and Police Departments, North Adams Ambulance, the city's health department, the Massachusetts Department of Health, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and several contractors involved in the actual clean up of the school.



"All lit up",, Friday, December 5, 2008

Hundreds attend the tree lighting at Monument Square in North Adams Thursday night. The tree at Monument Square has 42,000 lights while the tree at City Hall has 28,000 lights.


North Adams, Massachusetts
"Arts program hailed: The summer's DownStreet Art filled downtown"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers, The Berkshire Eagle Online
Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NORTH ADAMS — A giant pyramid filled with action figures is the remaining piece of this summer's DownStreet Art, which filled galleries in the city's downtown with artwork and visitors for four months. The project's success has its organizers scrambling to plan a second event — DownStreet Art 2009.

"DownStreet Art had 14,738 people who visited the exhibitions over the four-month period this summer," said Jonathan Secor, director of special projects at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, on Tuesday. "We're delighted with the turnout. It definitely drew people to the downtown and to local businesses. Next year, we want to make it bigger."

DownStreet Art is a collaboration of the city, MCLA, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition and Scarafoni Realty, which donated empty storefronts on Main and Holden streets. The project debuted in June with four galleries featuring the work of Jarvis Rockwell, the North Adams Artists' Cooperative, the artists preparing the Sol LeWitt galleries at Mass MoCA and the installation "Lumens: Reconnecting the Adams(es)."

"It was tremendous. It brought in all those people and it brought them into the downtown," Mayor John Barrett III said Tuesday. "It's one of the most successful ventures we've seen. It had a really positive impact and created a lot of activity in the downtown. It also helped our economy — the people seemed to enjoy our restaurants and stores."

Secor said the planning committee hopes to build on this summer's success by working with the city's other summer venues — the June Food Festival, Eric Rudd's Beach Party in July, and the Mayor's Downtown Celebration in August.

"We want to begin in June and culminate with North Adams Open Studios in October," he said. "We want to incorporate gallery openings and performances as well. We want to bundle everything together and market it together. In addition to the map, next year we want to create a calendar to make visitors aware of the other activities and attractions that will be going on during that four-month period from mid-June to mid-October."

He said the group is looking for artists and ideas for the upcoming season.

The 2008 project included 19 venues on its map. Secor said the expansion would require some additional fundraising in addition to the support received from the college and city.

"The college can't make any promises past 2009, but we'd like to see this become an annual event," he said. "We want to create that critical mass again with a diversity of venues — from galleries you can buy artwork at to large installations. It's all about getting people into the downtown."



"The year in art: A local explosion"
By John E. Mitchell, North Adams Transcript, Friday, January 2, 2009

More than any year before it, 2008 was a period in which the local art scene came decisively into its own.

Not only did new venues to display art and new ways for more people to participate appear, but local artists seized an identity for their community.

Northern Berkshire artwork is often quirky and very much its own thing -- if you want something completely different, this is the place to find it.

January can be a slow month, but that didn't stop Greylock Arts from bringing in Todd Holoubek to share his quirky technological creations. Holoubek's contraptions included a Japanese fighting robot, large metal puzzles and a miniature light garden, made of an LCD screen and tiny bits of film.

Jeff and Jane Hudson opened their second store, Hudson's, in the Mass MoCA complex. Meanwhile, the high standard of their North Adams Antiques Gallery continued with an idiosyncratic show of Christopher Kurber's collection of early 20th century mahogany casting molds originally used to create machine parts, coupled with Kurber's drawings and sculpture.

February saw the opening of "Eastern Standard: Western Artists at Mass MoCA," which focused on China, including several documentaries playing in constant rotation and the fascinating work of photographer Edward Burtynsky, as well as numerous other artists.

March ushered in Io Gallery on Main Street in North Adams, Jason Morin's new space specializing in digital artwork.

Williamstown author Paul Park's final book in his Princess of Roumania series, "The Hidden World" -- a series about alternate worlds and history for young adults that partially took place in Williamstown -- was released in April.

Also that month were two successful new art events. The Hoosic River Lights Project, helmed by Ralph Brill, mixed LEDs with fabric and aluminum materials in the Hoosic River flood chutes to create an outdoor light show. The Eclipse Mill Gallery debuted the Berkshire Salon, an egalitarian multi-artist show that highlighted local artists looking for exposure for a reasonable entry fee.

"Badlands" debuted at Mass MoCA in May, gathering together art addressing the landscape and ecological concerns -- some of the work had a gloriously science-fiction influenced tone.

Seattle artist Vaughn Bell created little take-home biospheres, as well as hanging ones that visitors could stick their heads inside. Joseph Smolinski built a wind-powered artificial tree based on images from his apocalyptic artwork. Also featured were Alexis Rockman and his gargantuan masterwork -- an all-encompassing landscape painting of the Antarctic -- and Williams professor Michael Glier, who offered selections from his "Latitudes" project, which had him make a painting a day for a year in order to document the local change of seasons.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts released "Exploring Nirvana: The Art of Jessica Park," the first comprehensive published collection of the artist's vibrant images, accompanied by thorough and insightful academic essays.

In June, DownstreetArt came to North Adams, a massive effort to invade the city's downtown with a critical mass of art spaces for the summer. Among featured attractions were a gallery of work by interns at Mass MoCA's Sol LeWitt wing, video work by David Lachman, Mark Mulherrin's meticulous window sculpture tribute to time travel called "The Grandfather Paradox" and the North Adams Artist Co-op, a progressive group effort to display and sell work from local creators, such as Laura Christensen, Diane Sullivan, Martha Flood and Erin Ko.

One of the most anticipated shows of summer was the return of Jarvis Rockwell's huge action figure pyramid, this time christened "Maya III," a sequel to his Mass MoCA installation from several years ago.

Also featured was Lumens, an interactive computer-networked installation fashioned by Ven Voisey, Matthew Belanger and Sean Riley. Local people donated lamps, which were networked online between the North Adams location and Greylock Arts in Adams. The idea was that what affects a light in Adams would result in the same in North Adams and vice versa.

This was a symbolic show that was but a portion of the larger project "Networked Realities: (Re)Connecting the Adamses," a collaboration with MCLA Gallery 51 and that sought to create interactive art opportunities based on the idea of the sister cities and their disconnection more than a century ago.

June also saw the Kolok Gallery return for public consumption with a show from Brandon Graving, whose show "Wonder: Works in Progress" featured three-dimensional paper work drawing from Graving's career as a printmaker, as well as her life in New Orleans, both before and after Katrina. This was followed up by a show of Rochester, N.Y., photographer Katrina d'Autremont's work -- alluring documentation of her family's life in Argentina.

Melissa St. Pierre released her debut album, "Specimens," in the summer. The eight-song collaboration with Collections of Colonies of Bees featured St. Pierre performing her own compositions on prepared piano.

The Williamstown Theatre Festival returned for its new season under the guidance of Nicholas Martin, who -- in the eyes of many -- brought the festival back to form.

Rich Remsberg made his local gallery debut with "Terms of Surrender" at MCLA Gallery 51. A photographer and documentary researcher, Remsberg's show utilized his work and love of the past, creating found film collages and displaying other weird items formed from relics of the past. Later in October, Remsberg rounded off his banner year with an Emmy win for his work on the episode of PBS's American Experience "The Living Weapon."

MCLA's Gallery 51 followed with the first joint show by husband-and-wife artists Joshua Field and Melissa Lillie. Field's work draws inspiration from wunderkammers -- huge cabinets that are used to display sprawling collections of scientific objects and specimens -- while Lillie creates abstractions through macro views fashioned from aerial drawings of city parks.

Guitarist for The Books and Williams College artist-in-resident Nick Zammuto debuted his "Laser Show" at the Williams College Museum of Art. This installation was made entirely of speakers emitting low frequency sound waves and lasers vibrating because of them and creating patterns on screens. Zammuto was using sound to paint with light.

In July -- while Florida schools were dealing with a naughty book on the middle school reading list -- the Brill Gallery in North Adams debuted its "Nude and Naked" show featuring photography in which the models were either one or the other and often both. Leonard Nimoy was one of the featured photographers.

Work began on the Mohawk Theater. The first phase of renovations would include repairs to the front facade, a new back exterior, restoration work on the interior and a new back entrance that will open up on Eagle Street.

In August, Pittsfield's Storefront Artist Project hosted a show by a true legend in his field, comic book artist Joe Staton. Staton is renowned for his efforts on Batman, Plastic Man, Green Lantern, Scooby Doo and many others. The show did so well that it got extended in the fall. From the Hollywood to Berkshire County, comic books are hot.

In September, the Eclipse Mill Gallery brought some levity to the area with "What's So Funny," a show focused on humor. Among the featured artists was Jay Critchley, a man who once covered a Cape Cod motel with sand and is renowned for using his collection of tampon applicators to fashion a gown that he once wore to the Statehouse.

In October, KidSpace at MassMoCA celebrated an expansion with the announcement that the hugely successful interactive gallery would find a new home in 2009 within the complex. The move would give the gallery more exposure and a lot more room. The gallery also opened Adam Chapman's "Illuminations" show, featuring poetic digital representations of the flight of birds and the patterns created by them.

North Adams Open Studios returned for its fourth successful year, expanding in scope with artists displaying work in NoAMA building as well as previous years' venues, and the Williamstown Film Festival turned 10 with a schedule of 40 films.

In November, Barack Obama managed to shove aside any other news by winning the presidential election. While this isn't technically a local arts story, it was one happy and hopeful capper to the year among several for many in the artistic community.

Eric Rudd and Kelly Lee mixed art and commerce with their book "A Portrait of Northern Berkshire," which not only captured the beauty of the area, but also gave the tourists something to bring home with them for a reasonable price.

The Sol LeWitt wing opened at Mass MoCA after much anticipation -- three floors with 105 wall drawings built around a mix of mathematical precision and good old-fashioned modern art abstraction.

In some ways, it's an unlikely sensation, but the LeWittmania hit full throttle. The exhibit won unanimous raves around the country, including one from The New York Times, and was named the No. 1 art exhibit in America by Time Magazine.

The Williams College Museum of Art launched its own show, "The ABCs of Sol LeWitt," in conjunction, and the Mass MoCA exhibit is planned to stay put for the next 25 years.

Mathematical kismet was in the air -- Greylock Arts caught some of the good LeWitt vibrations with its "Algorithims" show, featuring art generated by algorithms -- that is, computational art. Among the included works were Tristan Perich's drawing machine, and many of those featured are linked thematically and aesthetically to LeWitt's output.

In December, Howard Cruse's North County Perp got a second issue, releasing some of that underground spirit into the area with a party at MCLA Gallery 51, which rounded out its year with "All Fired Up" a creative ceramics show curated by Diane Sullivan.

Mass MoCA brought in the work of British artist Simon Starling, which took a particle from a 100-year old photo of Chinese factory workers in North Adams and blew it up into a huge sculpture.

Adding another portion to Greylock Arts' "Networked Realities," David Lachman introduced the "Domain of Mt. Greylock" video portal, an interactive online work. Using an aerial drawing of the Northern Berkshires as a map over which video windows are laid, the site asks for open submissions from any citizen who wants to share within the context of the larger tapestry of the area. The site can be found at

And speaking of networks, on the national level, the year ended with the RIAA ending its policy of suing music downloaders. From now on, a slap on the wrist will suffice. College kids, commence your downloading!


The galleries at Mass MoCA will house 105 Sol Lewitt works in a 27,000-square-foot space in Building 7 through at least 2033. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff)

"Mass MoCA: Lewitt exhibit prompts 50% attendance spike"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Saturday, January 03, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — About six weeks after opening, the Sol Lewitt exhibit at Mass MoCA is having a robust impact on the museum's attendance figures, according to MoCA's marketing director.

November's and December's figures were up approximately 50 percent above years previous, Katherine Myers said. Specific numbers were not available.

"December has been one of our best winter months ever," Myers said. "Our Thanksgiving holiday was our best, and the Christmas holiday has been really strong also."

Lewitt, a pioneer in the conceptual art movement, picked the space and designed the gallery himself before the 78-year-old's death in April 2007. Collaborating on the $10 million installation were Yale University, Mass MoCA and the Williams College Museum of Art. The gallery houses 105 Lewitt works in a 27,000-square-foot space in Building 7; the exhibit will remain at MoCA until at least 2033.

The free gallery opening on Nov. 16 drew more than 1,000 visitors, so the numbers for that month maybe somewhat inflated, Myers noted.

Myers said it is apparent the gallery will continue to have a positive affect on attendance.

"We've had a ton of great press about this," she said.

The Lewitt exhibit was named 2008's best art exhibit in the nation by Time Magazine, and received rave reviews in a number of newspapers, including The New York Times, the Boston Globe, and the Hartford Courant.

Mayor John Barrett III is also pleased with the response so far. He recalled that before the Lewitt exhibit opened, he predicted it would draw 50,000 new visitors to the city every year.

"After seeing the reviews, I doubled my projection— it will probably bring 100,000 new visitors to the city every year," he said. "It means there are going to be more people here and businesses have an excellent opportunity to take advantage of the situation. And it could bring new people who want to live here because of all the cultural activities that are taking place.

"I knew it would be spectacular, I just never dreamed it would be this great," the mayor added.

Myers agreed that the future looks good, but there is still plenty of work to do.

"The challenge for us is to continue to keep it top-of-mind for people who would be coming to the Berkshires," she said. "We're optimistic that it will continue to do well. It's popular, it's resonating with people, and it's generating good word-of-mouth. We just need to keep it on people's radar screen as we go forward."

The three floors of Lewitt works are organized chronologically. Drawings from 1968-1975 are on the ground floor. His work from the late 1970s to early 1990s is on the second floor. His latest works are on the top floor.

Lewitt conceived his work but usually never actually made them. Instead, he made specific instructions detailing how each painting or drawing should be executed. Someone who buys a Lewitt work gets the instructions, and either hires someone to carry them out or does it themselves.

To get his work onto the walls of the gallery, roughly 60 artists, apprentices and interns followed Lewitt's specific instructions.
To reach Scott Stafford:, or (413) 664-4995.

"Hadley Overpass work takes a quick detour"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Monday, January 05, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — During the coming year, work on rebuilding the Hadley Overpass is likely to become intense, even though the project is on hiatus until the weather eases up, said Mayor John Barrett III.

But the break gives construction workers time to figure out additional repairs to the bridge's infrastructure they found were needed during initial phases of work.

"They found some additional work they have to do, but that was expected," Barrett said. "How soon they start again in the spring is going to be determined by the weather, but I would expect by the end of February or March they would start up their efforts again."

Traffic flow plans include two-way traffic throughout the life of the project, Barrett noted.

"It will be an inconvenience, but I don't think it's going to be that bad," he said. "There's going to be two lanes of traffic and usually that bridge is a mess anyway."

If traffic turns out to be a problem, he added, they are prepared to man the project with additional officers and flagmen to keep traffic moving.

Barrett said the city will be working with the contractor, JH Maxymillian Inc., to make sure that entering and exiting the Heritage State Park area will not be hampered.

The mayor, the contractor and the businesses inside Heritage State Park have been working together to make sure that access to parking is maintained so the project doesn't hamper commerce during the three-year, $24.4 million project.

"People should not be afraid to go down there and eat at the Freight Yard Pub because there will be plenty of parking," Barrett said. "Maxymillian has been very cooperative, especially with the restaurant."

He said patrons of Heritage Park businesses will be able to park at the Sons of Italy, at the additional parking recently put in at the base of the bridge, and parking is available on the north side of the park.

"Access to it should be OK, I don't see it as a problem," Barrett said. "One thing the Freight Yard Pub has is a very loyal following — come hell or high water they're usually there."

According to Colleen Taylor, co-owner of the Freight Yard Pub and Taylor's Fine Dining, the level of cooperation between the city, the contractor and the businesses on the parking issue has been helpful.

"I can't tell you how fabulous the state, Maxymillian and the city have been," Taylor said. "I'm still nervous, because it could greatly affect us, but on weekends and nights, they take all their equipment out of there and make sure we have the parking we need."

Taylor said the restaurant's customer base has proven to be resilient and determined to get there in spite of traffic challenges.

"During lunch, sometimes it has become a little difficult," she noted. "But the bridge has to be done."

Considered the largest construction project in the county since the bridge was first built in 1940, the reconstruction of the 940-foot, two-lane overpass is expected to last more than three years. Work started in October.

Barrett has been pushing since the early 1990s for state officials to replace the bridge that has since been wrapped in fabric to keep chunks of crumbling concrete from falling on people or cars beneath the massive structure.

During the project, all the concrete will be replaced, as will much of the steel support structure.
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413) 664-4995.

"Talks break down between nurses, hospital"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, January 06, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — As part of an overall plan to weather the economic downturn, Northern Berkshire Healthcare has asked the local chapter of the Massachusetts Nurses Association to renegotiate aspects of its new contract.

But local nurses notified the hospital Monday that they voted last week against reopening negotiations, seeing it as an attempt to circumvent compromises made in recent contract negotiations, a tactic that would result in pay cuts to nurses.

The parent company of North Adams Regional Hospital, Northern Berkshire Healthcare's overall spending reduction target is $4.5 million.

As part of that cost-savings plan, hospital officials hoped to reduce spending by more than $467,000 by paying for nurses' overtime only after 40 hours worked, while the MNA contract requires overtime both after 8 and 40 hours worked.

Officials also sought approval from the union to use part-time staff first and then, if necessary, per diem staff to replace hours for nurses who are sick or on vacation to reduce overtime pay.

Northern Berkshire Healthcare has cut more than $3 million in spending by implementing a hiring freeze, a voluntary pay freeze for executive management and a reduction of merit pay raises for other managers and non-union employees from 4 percent to 2 percent.

The travel, education and supply budgets have also been reduced.

Hospital officials said that if they can't get some concessions from the nurses, job cuts may result.

Dianne M. Cutillo, vice president of external affairs for NBH, said the number of positions likely to be cut has not yet been calculated.

"We don't want to do that — as a large employer in Northern Berkshire County we want to keep people working, especially in this economy," she said. "But the contract would allow us to do that if we were unable to identify other ways to save the money."

A local spokesperson for the nurses said that if the level of nursing is cut, the hospital will have to either reduce the number of patients admitted or risk their health and safety.

"They have the correct number of nurses to provide safe patient care," said Ruth O'Hearn, chair of the local MNA board and a registered nurse at NARH.

"We all need to make sure there are enough nurses at bedside to take care of the patients. The nurses are the front line and the hospital is aware, as we are, of the national nursing shortage."

According to Cutillo, the planning process began in November. The first meeting with the MNA was in mid-December.

MNA representatives officially declined to open negotiations Monday.

"We feel that the they're asking us to give back what we had just finished negotiating," O'Hearn said. "It took us over a year to settle that contract. We gave up certain things already and now they want more. It would be a pay cut."

The board of trustees of Northern Berkshire Healthcare and the local nurses union approved a three-year contract in November 2007.

Nurses had been working without a contract since April 2007 and had voted to authorize a strike. The deal was reached after 16 hours of negotiation.

Much of the dispute revolved around employee contribution levels to the pension plan.

The contract also gives MNA members an annual 4 percent wage increase, with additional increases based on years of experience, and includes language that will allow the hospital more flexibility to schedule temporary nurses to fill vacant shifts.

"We are willing to help them find ways to make their bottom line come out correct for everybody, but not at the cost of the individual nurses," O'Hearn said. "There are other means the hospital can use to balance their budget besides asking the nurses to take a pay cut."

For many hospitals, the recession has caused reductions in Medicaid payments, a decline in the value of pension investments requiring Northern Berkshire Healthcare to pay an additional $1.2 million to cover promised pension payments, decreasing numbers of admissions as more people delay care, fewer patients seeking elective surgeries, and an increasing number of uninsured patients.

"We are proud of the high-quality staff who work throughout the NBH family," said Rick Palmisano president and CEO of NBH, in a prepared statement. "We will assure that our staff receives competitive wages and benefits. Unfortunately, legacy costs from old contracts cannot be maintained into the future. We remain hopeful that MNA members will reconsider when the full magnitude of the repercussions of their decision not to negotiate are known."

The Service Employees International Union has not yet responded to a request to renegotiate aspects of its current contract.
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413) 664-4995.


"Major cancer innovation in North Adams"
Updated: 01/08/2009, 6:03, By: Ryan Burgess, Capital News 9

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts - "It takes the blood sample and it washes the sample, adds antibodies, it adds staining," said Berkshire Hematology Oncology lab manager Lauren Wick.

At Berkshire Hematology Oncology in North Adams, Wick is using a piece of cancer detecting technology so innovative, no other private practice within six states has it.

"We have obtained a machine that uses a new kind of technology to actually count cancer cells in the blood stream," said Berkshire Hematology Oncology doctor Paul Rosenthal.

It's call CellSearch Circulating Tumor Cell Test, or CTC, and it was named the "Top Medical Innovation of 2009" by the Cleveland Clinic. The diagnostic tool relies on a simple blood test to find prostate, breast or colon cancer cells with unprecedented accuracy.

"We place it into a special container inside this machine, which uses magnetic separation and special markers to find the small number of cancer cells. This is so sensitive that we can find even one cancer cell among maybe two or three billion cells," said Dr. Rosenthal.

"What is more important is that testing allows you to, very quickly, assess whether or not the treatment they're getting, which is usually chemotherapy, is working well," said Berkshire Hematology Oncology doctor Spyros Triantos.

If it's not working well, new treatments can be ordered, based on the results of circulating tumor cells. That's good news for cancer patients, survivors and those whose lives have been affected by the deadly disease.

"I experienced it first hand when my wife, some 19 years ago, past away from breast cancer and if this technology had been around, she'd probably be here today," said North Adams Mayor John Barrett.

Barrett's wife, like many American's, was initially misdiagnosed. It wasn't until their honeymoon they found out she did, in fact, have cancer. But now with new innovations like this, there's more hope than ever that doctors could be one step closer to a cure.

"Major cancer innovation in North Adams, Massachusetts"
Each year, millions of Americans battle many forms of cancer, all hoping for a cure. And now, thanks to one of the most innovative cancer detection tools in the world that just arrived in North Adams, there's new hope for patients everywhere. Our Ryan Burgess reports.

"Four Public Unions Settle with North Adams"
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff, January 13, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — All but three of the town's seven public employee unions have agreed to new contracts with the city.

Mayor John Barrett III on Tuesday night presented the City Council with the final amendment for a two-year contract with Teamsters 404, representing employees in the Department of Public Works, that was reached before Christmas.

The contract includes a 2 percent increase retroactive to last July; 1 percent as of Jan. 1; 2 percent as of this coming July and another 1 percent a year from now.

Barrett said the city had also reached contracts with locals within the school systems representing paraprofessionals, assistants, janitors and other staff.

"I made a last-ditch effort with the Public Works group as I did with all the others, and the remaining that didn't settle, that without a settelement the prospect of retroactivity would be off the table," the mayor told the council. "And even with [the retroactive raise] there's a price to pay for it."

Two positions will not be filled to help pay for the cost of the raises; with more retirements on the horizon, that number could rise if economic factors continue to worsen. "There's absolutely no money to spare," he said.

The unions representing the police, fire and teachers have not settled with city; like the Teamsters, their contracts ran out Dec. 1.

All seven unions had banded together in an effort to push the city into signing onto the state's Group Insurance Commission, which was opened to municipalities and other governing bodies to help them deal with rising insurance premiums.

The union's leadership said joining GIC, which covers more than 200,000 state workers, would save the city $1.5 million; the mayor disputed the amount, saying the unions' study had failed to list a more expensive plan comparable to the current one offered and that GIC was already mulling a rise in rates.

Barrett said the Teamsters, alone of the unions, were smart to sign a two-year contract in light of looming cuts in the city's revenue.

The city could lose $1.5 million to $2 million in state funds, or more if Gov. Deval Patrick is given so-called "9C" powers to slash budgets. Barrett said he planned to join other mayors from around the state in Boston on Thursday for Patrick's State of the State address.

"Needless to say, we're headed for some tough times," he told the council, after stating: "Our workers are not the highest paid in the world but I don't think they should go without, and they are not the greatest increases but they're going to get something."

The council passed the amendment to a second reading with no discussion.

The councilors also:

Postponed again an order on relocating three Verizon poles on Reservoir Road because the wording was not complete and discussion on recommendations for a bylaw relating to motorized chairs at Councilor Ronald Boucher's request.

Approved orders establishing bonding at $250,000 for the city treasurer/tax collector; $62,5000 for assistant treasurer, and $15,000 for the city clerk.

Re-elected Alan Marden as council president for the 2009-10 term and Richard Alcombright as vice president.

The city's unions are the North Adams Teachers Association; the North Adams Paraprofessionals; the North Adams Police Association, Local 382; IAFF, Local 1781 representing North Adams Fire Fighters; Teamsters Local 404 representing employees of the Department of Public Works; the North Adams Teachers Assistants Association; and AFL-CIO 204 State Council 93, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees/City of North Adams.

North Adams, Massachusetts
"Healthcare nets a $1.84 million surplus"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers, Saturday, January 17, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — For the second year in a row, Northern Berkshire Healthcare is celebrating a gain in revenues.

This year's surplus of $1.84 million on revenues of $85.4 million for fiscal 2008 far exceeds the projected deficit of $228,978, according to Richard Palmisano III, the chief executive officer. However, Palmisano is still expecting the coming year to be financially challenging as the national economy continues to spiral downward.

In January 2008, the hospital reported a surplus of $325,000 on revenues of $78.4 million, which was less than a projected surplus of $800,000. The surplus was the first to be reported in eight years. The hospital posted a loss of $4.6 million in 2005.

"Last year was just what we were looking for," Palmisano said in a release. "We made a lot of progress toward our strategic goals, and our volumes at North Adams Regional Hospital were strong. Additionally, we continued to improve quality of care and were recognized by a number of organizations for the care we provide."

Northern Berkshire Healthcare is the parent organization of North Adams Regional Hospital, the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, the REACH Community Health Foundation, Sweet Brook Transitional Care and Living Centers, and Sweetwood Continuing Care Retirement Community.

The unexpected surplus was the result of several factors that came together over the course of the year, according to Dianne Cutillo, vice president of external affairs.

"Several things contributed to it, including a higher hospital volume than budgeted and one-time events such as settlements with a vendor and Medicare that resulted in additional revenue," she said.

Over the last several weeks, the health organization has set out to cut about $4.5 million from its annual budget in anticipation of lower Medicaid and Medicare revenue, a decrease in elective surgeries, and a rise in the number of uninsured patients.

The downturn in the economy has also required the health care organization to use more cash to adequately fund its employee and retiree pension commitments because of a decline in its pension investment.

In addition, a weak real estate market has caused a decline in demand for homes at Sweetwood, which was placed on the market last year.

As part of the cost-savings plan, hospital officials requested that both the Massachusetts Nurses Association and the Service Employees International Union 1199 locals open their contracts to renegotiate merit pay increases and overtime payment structures.

"We are hoping the two unions represented at NARH will see the need for shared sacrifice as we address this emergency," said Palmisano.

"We have asked the members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association to accept concessions that would total about $450,000 or 10 percent of our goal."

The wages and benefits of the 107 nurses belonging to the MNA make up 18 percent of salaries and fringes, he said.

According to hospital officials, a change in overtime payment structures would result in a fiscal savings equivalent to 10 full-time jobs.

Currently, employees are paid overtime for more than 40 hours in a week even if vacation time is used during that week, and for more than eight hours in a day.

SEIU members were asked to accept $188,500 in concessions, about 4 percent of the healthcare organizations goal.

SEIU payroll make up 14 percent of the group's salaries and benefits. Neither group has agreed to reopen their contracts.

NBH employs more than 950 people and paid more than $49 million in salary and benefits in fiscal 2008.

Other measures taken by NBH include a reduction of non-salary expenses totaling $1.7 million and the identification of $345,000 in increased revenue.

Senior executives will forego merit pay increases, and non-union staff and manager salary increases have been reduced from 4 percent to 2 percent.

Non-union and manager salaries make up 22 percent of the group's budget.

The organization has frozen the equivalent of 18.5 full-time open positions, including seven management positions.

However, Palmisano said the organization would continue to recruit physicians.

"Adding more physicians is necessary to meet demands from patients, and results in more patient activity at the hospital and our other entities — all of which makes NBH stronger," he said.


North County Celebrates Martin Luther King Jr. Day
"Pair win Peacemaker Award"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers, Tuesday, January 20, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — Volunteering at a Kenyan orphanage for HIV-positive children has earned Deborah Foss and Donna Denelli-Hess the 2009 Martin Luther King Jr. Peacemaker Award, but both say the real reward is knowing they are making a difference in the world.

"We're very honored to have this award," Denelli-Hess said. "I'm not sure what took us to Kenya in 2004, but I know what brought us back. It was our co-workers at the orphanage and the children. It was also the power of one little boy, Ben, who is now my son."

Foss and Denelli-Hess were honored Monday afternoon during the 15th annual Northern Berkshire Celebration of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King at the MCLA Church Street Center.

"This is award is given for voluntary acts that express in some fashion or other the ideals of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.," said Steve Green, a member of the Martin Luther King Planning Committee, during the presentation. "This year we are proud to make this award to Deb Foss and Donna Denelli-Hess, who for the past four years have been traveling to East Africa, to Kenya, to volunteer at the Nyumbani Children's Home.

"They have worked unselfishly with children who are truly orphans. They have lost their parents to AIDS and the children themselves are HIV-infected. These two women have continuously traveled to Kenya, staying for weeks and months, working at the orphanage and tutoring the children in math and English."

He said the committee chose to honor the pair not only for their volunteer efforts, but also for their dedication to a community of children who need to be loved.
Denelli-Hess, who spent two years in Kenya, fighting for the right to adopt her son, Ben Komu Hess, said the reality of what the children in the orphanage deal with on a daily basis is astounding.

"Deb and I were assigned to the same cottage, and every night we would go in to say prayers with the children and kiss them goodnight," she said. "One night, one of the boys said to me, 'You must really love us.' I said, 'Yes. Why do you ask?' and he replied, 'No one has ever kissed us good-night before.'

"I can't imagine not having that type of love that we take for granted withheld. Remember to kiss your children good-night every night."

For Foss, the award, was a powerful reminder of the power of one.

"Whether you're volunteering in an orphanage across the ocean or here in Berkshire County, you can truly make a difference," she said. "Above the photocopier in the orphanage's main office is the story of a little boy who is walking down a seashore littered with starfish. The boy walks over to a starfish and throws it back into the sea and continues doing this as he walks. A man asks him why he is doing this since he obviously cannot save every starfish. The boy replies that at least he can make a difference by saving just this one. It's a very long seashore that we have in life and so many starfish we can save."

The women, who share a house in Williamstown, received the Nyumbani Medallion of Hope from the Children of God Relief Fund Inc. and the Nyumbani U.S. Board of Directors in 2006 during a benefit for the children's home, held in Washington D.C.

Denelli-Hess began the adoption process for her son, Ben, now 10, in the fall of 2006 when he was 7 years old. Orphaned at the age of 3 when his mother died of AIDS, Ben arrived at the Nyumbani Children's Home eight months later, when his grandmother could no longer care for the ailing child.

Given only a few more years to live when he arrived, Ben's prognosis has changed over the years and his medicine has made it possible for him to live a normal life.

Denelli-Hess, who recently returned after a two-year leave of absence, is a heath educator at Williams College's health center.

Foss is a professor of psychology and coordinator of advising services at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.


"North Adams Regional Hospital receives $1 million grant"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Friday, February 06, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — A $1 million grant from the Massachusetts Essential Community Provider Trust Fund has been awarded to North Adams Regional Hospital.

The grant, announced by the office of Gov. Deval L. Patrick, will be devoted to technological upgrades, such as enhancing the electronic health record system, digital EKG and mammography systems and ultrasound equipment upgrades, hospital officials said. Some of the grant will support increased access to community-based physicians and the expansion of much-needed care for pressure ulcers or bed sores.

The money can not be used to help close the budget gap, hospital officials noted, although it will help restore capital equipment funding cut during the recent $4.5 million spending reduction effort.

Richard T. Palmisano, president and CEO of Northern Berkshire Healthcare, said, "We are extremely grateful that Gov. Patrick recognized the need for the commonwealth to support NARH and improve its ability to serve our community.

"It is gratifying to have public servants like Rep. (Daniel) Bosley and Sen. (Benjamin) Downing who, when we called on them for support, so effectively advocated for our community to receive the resources we need to provide high-quality health care to the vulnerable population we serve."

"It's a great vote of confidence in our leaders and our staff," said Dianne M. Cutillo, spokeswoman for Northern Berkshire Healthcare, parent company of NARH. "One of the reasons we got this grant amid stiff competition is that the state recognizes the great strides we have made to improve our financial health and our quality."

An important aspect of the grant will be the increased ability to alleviate the shortage of primary care physicians, she noted.

"We'll be able to use the funds to recruit and support more physicians to the community," Cutillo said. "As of right now only one primary care practice is accepting new patients, so getting access to care is difficult for residents of our community."

The Patrick administration awarded about $32.6 million to 69 hospitals.

In reviewing grant applications and determining award amounts, the state evaluated the financial needs and role each provider plays in the commonwealth's health delivery system in order to maintain equitable access to key services.
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413)-664-4995.

"City waits on stimulus grants"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, Thursday, February 12, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- As city and town officials brace to see what stimulus "wish list" projects will make it through the state's Municipal Facilities Task Force for funding, Mayor John Barrett III is confident in the few projects he submitted to Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray for consideration in early January.

"We didn't submit as many projects as the other communities because we were told that there would be several rounds of stimulus funding -- if we're going to get something, we want to make sure it is something critical," he said Wednesday. "This round of funding isn't just capital stimulus either -- there will be supplement education programs funded as well for programs such as Title One and funding for increasing technology in the classroom.

"There's also funding to bail out those hit hard by health insurance increases. It goes far beyond the capital projects, which could be a great benefit to the city." While Congress continues to hash out a final version of the some $790 billion economic stimulus bill, Gov. Deval L. Patrick announced on Wednesday the launching a new Web site,, which will detail every project that receives stimulus funding. The task force has been sifting through some 4,000 "shovel-ready" requests -- projects that must be ready to begin construction within 180 days of funding, promote job growth and be completed within two years. Springfield recently submitted $1 billion in project requests, while towns such as Hancock have been focusing on smaller projects like furbishing their elementary school with green technology. The state is expected to update the new site with a list of projects later today.

Barrett said the city's requests included $7 million for the completion of the Mohawk Theater renovation, $1 million for the expansion and reconstruction of the city's transfer station and funding for a green-energy training center at Mass MoCA and the resurfacing of the city's main arteries.

"We put in requests all over the place," the mayor said. "At Mass MoCA, we want to create a green facility training center that not only would create jobs in the green economy sector, but would be the location for building inspectors and other to come learn how these things should properly be installed." The $7 million for the Mohawk Theater project would help complete the restoration of the 1938 art-deco theater, while also creating construction jobs and stimulating business growth in the downtown.

"We know that the arts do generate jobs," Barrett said. "There will be a ripple-effect in the construction field, but also a revival on Eagle Street. It will generate new business in the downtown." He said the $1 million renovation and expansion of the city's transfer station would update a facility that was not built to handle the type of business it now sees on a daily basis.

"None of the other towns handle commercial haulers or commercial recycling anymore," Barrett said. "A project like this will benefit the business in the area by keeping their costs down and help generate more jobs." Another possible project is a new school, which Barrett said the city could qualify for because the state has a "model school" with ready-made architectural designs available for the municipalities.

"Because we're already working with the state School Building Authority, we have a chance at having a 'shovel-ready' school planned," he said. "We'd have to find the land in time, but we're waiting to see if we receive federal funds that we've applied for to cover the costs that the state wouldn't fund. If we receive those funds, we'd essentially have a new school." He said the city held off on submitting projects such as green-energy conversions for several city buildings because state officials indicated funding for additional projects in that category would become available down the line.

"Right now the key is having plans that are ready to go and will stimulate job growth and economic vitality," Barrett said.

"'Classic crack house' raided"
By Glenn Drohan, New England Newspapers (Eagle/TRANSCRIPT), Monday, February 23, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — The Berkshire County Drug Task Force raided an alleged crack house at 246 Houghton St. Friday night, arresting two local people on charges of distributing drugs and two more in a car that reportedly had just made a delivery of crack cocaine and heroin.

Acting on a search warrant, at least 15 police officers and state troopers from throughout the county took part in the 9 o'clock raid, during which two other people were taken into custody at the Houghton Street house and will face future charges.

Public Safety Commissioner E. John Morocco said Sunday that the raid was the result of a two-month investigation that was prompted by complaints from neighbors and good follow-up work by local patrolmen and the task force.

"Some of the neighbors were concerned about the activity going on there," Morocco said. "There were comings and goings at all hours of the day and night. They suspected drug activity, and our investigation proved them right."

He said the Houghton Street home was "a classic crack house and heroin shooting gallery," where users went to buy and use drugs.

At the house, authorities confiscated "a quantity" of cocaine, packaged for sale, and a small amount of heroin, Morocco said. They arrested Rebecca Tatro, 26, of 246 Houghton St. and Shane Rohane, 25, of Eagle Street.

Tatro was charged with one count of distribution of cocaine, one count of possession of heroin, one count of being present where heroin is known to be kept and one count of receiving stolen property under $250. Rohane was charged with one count of distribution of cocaine, one count of conspiracy to violate the Controlled Substances Act and one count of being present where heroin is known to be kept. Tatro was held at the Berkshire House of Correction in lieu of $5,000 bail and Rohane in lieu of $2,500 bail. They are scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Northern Berkshire District Court.

Also taken into custody at the scene were Jessica Cwalinski, 21, of 243 Walker St. and an adult male whose identity could not be determined, pending fingerprint identification by the FBI, according to police. Both will face a charge of being present where heroin is known to be kept, Morocco said.

Just prior to the raid, he said, officers stopped a vehicle on Marshall Street near the intersection of Center Street, after watching it stop at the Houghton Street house, its passengers allegedly making a drug delivery and then leaving.

Police arrested the driver, Chelsea Sigsbury, 23, of Glen Avenue, and the passenger, Gina (Berry) Cellana, 43, of Francis Street. During the search of the vehicle and the passengers, police discovered a small amount of heroin, a crack pipe and prescription medications, Morocco said.

Sigsbury and Cellana both were charged with one count each of distribution of crack cocaine, possession of heroin, being present were heroin is known to be kept and a violation of a drug-free school or park zone (the River Street/Houghton Street playground). Berry was also charged with possession of oxycodone with intent to distribute.

Morocco noted that Sigsbury had been placed on probation just 11 hours previously after admitting to playing a role in the March 2008 shooting of Jeffrey Paris in the parking lot of Herman Alexander's Bar in Pittsfield. Sigsbury also faces a charge of driving with a suspended license. She and Cellana also are scheduled to be arraigned this morning in Northern Berkshire District Court.

Morocco said the investigation was a great example of police working with the community to rid a neighborhood of "disease narcotics."

He said he was very concerned about the increased drug use throughout the region, noting that police in Bethlehem, N.Y., recently found 25 bags of heroin worth an estimated $50,000 to $100,000 in the back seat of a car after making a traffic stop.

"At the Houghton Street house, deliveries were taking place two and three times a night — and this is just at one place," Morocco said. "The heroin is just becoming more and more prevalent — that and the crack cocaine — and it really concerns me."

One bonus of Friday's raid, he said, was that police believe they have solved a rash of break-ins into vehicles in and around the Hospital Avenue area over the past three months.

"We recovered stolen property taken from some of those cars, and one of the persons arrested Friday will be charged," he said.

He said he could not disclose further details because the larcenies are still under investigation.

Along with the North Adams Police Department, Berkshire County Task Force agents from Pittsfield, Adams, Dalton, Lee, Lenox, West Stockbridge, Williamstown and Stockbridge, and state troopers and other personnel assigned to the Berkshire County district attorney's office took part in Friday's raid.

"Barrett: Send Stimulus Money to Communities"
By Tammy Daniels -iBerkshires Staff- February 19, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — Washington should be bypassing the states and giving stimulus money where it's most needed — to the cities and towns, said Mayor John Barrett III.

"Our government in Washington is so out of touch with reality it's a sin ... they don't have a clue," the mayor told members of the Williamstown Chamber of Commerce on Thursday morning at the new Richmond Grille in the Holiday Inn. "They're just throwing money at the problem."

Instead, lawmakers should have been determining how to get the largesse injected into local spending for more immediate return.

"They really should have talking to the mayors throughout the country on how the money should be spent," said the state's longest-serving mayor. "The money shouldn't be sent to the state but directly into the communities who can best determine how it could impact us."

As examples he referred to the city's transfer station, which requires $1 million in upgrades, and Phase II of the Mohawk Theater restoration, which has been put forward for $8 million in stimulus funds, both of which would help local businesses.

The city's transfer station is the only one that accepts commercial waste in Northern Berkshire, said Barrett. If businesses can't get rid of their waste, it will have to be trucked to Pittsfield at likely higher costs: "If we don't make that investment it's going to cost you."

The historic Mohawk, now undergoing a more limited renovation because of spiraling costs, is another of the economic drivers that will bring business and boost existing businesses, he said.

The chamber, which includes members from both Williamstown and North Adams, had invited the mayor to speak about his vision for the region.

Barrett has frequently articulated his opinions on the use of arts and culture community to catalyze economic opportunity for the former manufacturing center.
He spoke extensively on this and the city's struggle to recover over the loss of Sprague Electric Co. in the 1980s and frequent downturns since.

With the loss of manufacturing, more effort had been put into the city's image. It had been about making the "city pretty" through spending on streets, sidewalks, playgrounds and schools, and a reliance on image and cultural attractions to lure startups, artists and housing developers to rejuvenate the downtown.

"We wanted to take our natural beauty around here, turn it into the quintessential New England city," he said.

It was important to remember that the city's future is based on that cultural foundation, a cornerstone of which Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts; the same holds true for the region as whole, he said.

"The future of the area is arts and culture for next several years," said Barrett. "It's going to make the image of our community and our area that brings new business."

The city isn't going to get another big manufacturer like Raytheon or GE, it's going to get startups like Waterfront Media and Boxcar Media (owner of iBerkshires) and young professionals "who want to come here because it's a good place to raise their kids."

That said, the state and region are grappling with a severe recession, the latest bump in the road. Barrett wasn't sure if the stimulus package would work, but he thought the rooms and meals tax proposals now in the Legislature would help mitigate some of the pain.

The state currently charges far less in fees for hotels and restaurants than do other states, said Barrett. "We need that 2 percent [in rooms tax] ... the food tax of 1 cent on the dollar, that's $500,000 for the city. That's better than the property tax, which is the most regressive tax."

Other help, such as changing antiquated civil service laws "that's absolutely strangling us" and the allowing the city to offer insurance options like private businesses without negotiating with the unions for every change, would require changes at the state and federal level.

The mayor also bemoaned the need to spend thousands of dollars — up to $80,000 a year — for legal ads for bidding contracts that have to be published in the newspaper. Why can't the requests for proposals be posted on a central state Web site, he asked.

But while communities can't change those elements without state aid, they can focus their efforts on what they already have and not wait for something else to save them.

"Look within your community not outside," Barrett told the chamber members, adding "when times are tough don't set your standards lower, set your standards higher."



#1 -

Congratulations on the feat of putting lipstick on a pig. The city is now built on smoke and mirrors. I know, how about some more affordable housing to bring in more quality residents to the city. And about raising property taxes, North Adams' very low, I would be glad to pay higher taxes for good schools, a police force to deal with the growing gang problem and a fire department that isn't so exhausted because they are under staffed. Maybe higher taxes will drive out some of the slumlords that are infecting the city.

from: Resident on: 02-22-2009

#2 -

i'm glad the state and not Mayor barrett will be making the decisions on how to spend our money

from: wasted dollars on: 02-22-2009

#3 -

Misinformation about the Mohawk Theatre restoration continues to spread through the community and part of the reason is the failure to keep the public informed with real facts. Typical is the lack of updating to the Mohawk Theatre website which has information that is several years old.

Typical lack of follow through.

from: Larry Murray on: 02-21-2009

#4 -

spending $8,000,000 of our tax dollars on the Mohawk is a waste of our tax dollars. The city already has 9 movie theaters and a wonderful place for events at MOCA. This idea by Mayor Barrett is a terrible use of our hard earned dollars.

Editor: The $8 million is on a list of "shovel ready" projects for federal stimulus funding. The state makes the final determination.

from: Mohawk waste on: 02-21-2009


"North Adams parents gauge losing middle school"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Thursday, February 26, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — Numerous parents voiced concern about the potential reconfiguration of the city's school district, which would return sixth- and seventh-grades to the three elementary schools and eighth-grade to the Drury High School on Wednesday night in the first of two community meetings.

School officials say closing Silvio O. Conte Middle School and redistributing students is the best financial option, as the school system looks to cut $1.2 million from its annual budget without cutting jobs or programs. A restructuring of the schools, in some form, will take place in September.

"Conte is the best building for these students because it can provide two things we can't at the elementary schools: Socialization and responsibility," said Susan Candiloro, a fourth-grade teacher at Greylock School and parent. "My daughter spent her time here at Greylock with the same 40 kids and really didn't have any close friends because their interests were different than hers. Conte Middle School was the best thing that happened to her. We can't offer that social diversity at the elementary school level, even if we treat the upper grades differently."

She suggested the three working elementary schools be split into grades pre-kindergarten to second, third grade to fifth, and sixth grade to eighth.

"Our elementary schools are no longer true neighborhood schools," she said. "I'm very sad to know that we're going do to away with the model that we have. I'm worried that our students won't have the opportunity for socialization outside those same 40 kids until they get to the eighth grade, when they'll have to deal with the transition to high school at the same time."

Superintendent James E. Montepare said numerous models had been examined, including the kindergarten through eighth grade concept, moving the seventh- and eighth-grades to the high school, and housing pre-kindergarten to third in one school and grades four through seven at Brayton Elementary.

"We looked at what works best for the students and what would require the least amount of transition," he said. "We also looked at the cost of transporting student, which could double the cost, and at the prospect of having to make both Sullivan and Greylock schools compliant with the American Disabilities Act. That's about $250,000 to $300,000 that we don't have. Right now, we can send all disabled students that are wheelchair-bound to Brayton."

Mayor John Barrett III said Candiloro had a great idea, but that affordability was also a main factor in the decision-making process.

"We have to cut $2.3 million from the city's budget," he said. "We could do that model, but it would mean cutting about 35 teaching positions. I've never had to cut the school department's budget in the last 25 years. I can't cut anywhere else — I'm not even asking the school department to bear the full amount."

Joseph Rogge, a retired Conte principal and school superintendent, said he supported the consolidation of the schools.

"A middle school is not a building, it's a concept," he said. "What this simply means is that those good things about the middle school concept must travel to the elementary schools with the students. Those students also need to be treated in a special way. It doesn't matter where they are, it's about how those emerging adolescents are being treated.

Candiloro, along with several other parents, said they were concerned about the impact the move would have on the current sixth graders, who would return to the elementary schools for a year.

"I think it will do more damage emotionally and socially than you think," Candiloro, who has a son in the sixth grade, said. "But I also understand that times are tough."

Another mother agreed that her oldest child's experience at the middle school was something she wanted for her other child, who is in fourth grade.

"Fifty percent of what made my daughter's experience so wonderful was meeting new kids," she said. "I'm horrified that my other child will have to spend the next three years with the same 50 kids."

Tom and Lanie Lescarbeau, who have children at Greylock and Conte, said they were worried about the current sixth-graders who would be returning to the elementary schools.

"They've already been exposed to older behavioral issues," Tom Lescarbeau said. "How will that be handled?"

Principals from each of the three elementary schools and Drury assured parents that older and younger students would have limited in-school interaction through the use of separate wings for classrooms.

"We've given a lot of thought to this," said Drury Principal Amy Meehan. "A sense of belonging and engagement is huge at the high school level. We want to offer eighth and ninth graders the opportunity to explore all the programs we have. They'll have their own wing and limited interaction with the older students. If a shared lunch happens, those times are monitored by the dean of students and at least five other staff members."

Montepare said there are many benefits to the consolidation, including the expansion of the laptop initiative into the fifth grade and the entire high school, while eighth graders would have a chance to play team sports, intramurals and participate in advance placement courses at a younger age.

"What we need for this to work is the community to be on board," Barrett said.

A second community meeting will be held at 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 4, at Sullivan Elementary School.
City of North Adams parents speak out

Mayor John Barrett III speaks to concerned parents and teachers during a public meeting at Greylock Elementary School Wednesday night (February 25, 2009) to discuss the closing of Conte Middle School.

"North Adams School Officials Lay Out Plans for Middle School"
By Tammy Daniels - iBerkshires Staff - February 27, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — Parents quizzed school officials for nearly two hours on Wednesday night over the wisdom of closing Conte Middle School and splitting its grades between the elementary and high schools.

A prime concern was that the disruption of the three grades would have a negative effect on the children's social and academic progress.

The plan is to send sixth and seventh grades will go back to the elementary schools and eighth-graders to Drury High School based on space availability. School officials pledged that the students would continue to have opportunities, such as dances and academic activities, which would bring them together.

"Conte Middle School is the best building because it provides what we can't at an elementary school, not programming not academics — social responsibility," said Sue Candiloro, a parent and Greylock Elementary teacher, who added that Conte had provided her daughter with a strong social circle that followed her to high school. "[Greylock] can't offer that social diversity."

She worried that keeping the children in the smaller elementary schools wouldn't nurture their independence; some parents worried that eighth-graders weren't prepared for the high school atmosphere.

Those concerns were echoed by others in the packed cafeteria at Greylock, the first of two sessions planned to gather input from the community.

Financial Woes

The decision to close Conte has been under discussion for nearly two years but fast-tracked last month because of the financial crisis affecting the state and city.

Mayor John Barrett III told parents some $2.3 million in savings had to be found in the city budget — $1.2 million to $1.4 million from the school budget.

The schools hadn't been touched in 25 years while budget cuts has slashed away at other departments, leaving City Hall "like a ghost town." "We have cut everywhere else, this is the only place we can go," he said.

Other communities are having a far tougher time — laying off teachers and charging for school bus rides — but he warned that the city's financial situation could get worse.

The aging Conte, once Drury High School, needs a million or more in roof repairs alone. School officials have said it didn't make sense to pour more money into the building at the same time the population was declining. (The mayor said the building will be sold, not torn down.)

"I'm thankful that we have a building we can close because without that, we would have 35 people we'd have to lose," said Superintendent of Schools James Montepare.

The middle school concept was instituted in 1975 after the new Drury High School was constructed off South Church Street. The city's junior highs were demolished and Grades 6-8 brought to what was then the North Adams Middle School.

Joseph Rogge, a former superintendent who was principal of Conte, said the middle school grew out of studies in the 1960s that focused on the so-called "emerging adolescent."

"It doesn't matter where the building is, the important thing ... is that the kids are first," he said. "The middle school is a concept, not a building."

Montepare assured questioning parents that the programming would remain in place. In fact, the laptop initiative would be extended to Grades 5 through 8.

"The sixth grade is a great class, they'll do well wherever they go," he said, and there will be more opportunities for eighth-graders since they will be able to participate in sports, drama and other activities.

The influx of middle schoolers shouldn't be difficult for the three elementaries and high school to absorb, said school officials. Sullivan and Greylock will have less than 300 pupils; Brayton about 450. Drury will section off a hallway for eigth-graders to largely separate them from the high school students.

Plan A and Plan A

Turning Brayton into the middle school and separating the other schools by grade would disrupt all the grades and add more buses, said Montepare, and force expensive handicapped-accessibility improvements. Only Brayton is fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act and handicapped children are enrolled there.

The cost of that plan would wipe out any immediate savings — $400,000 in Conte's operational costs and another $120,000 or so in busing costs.

The mayor said the city would pursue stimulus funding for adding onto or renovating the schools to better accommodate the middle schoolers. But for now he said, "we have Plan A and Plan A."

Parents raised issues ranging from how the current sixth-graders will respond to returning to their old schools to programming to space.

The schools would be somewhat pressed but with the projected decline in population, their enrollment will be back to current levels within four years, said Montepare. Total enrollment has dropped from 1,900 to 1,6000 and is expected to decline another 300 more.

Barbara Dowling, a Greylock employee whose children had gone through the school system, reminded the group that twice as many children once attended the school.

Montepare said there were still details to work out and that the communities input was important. "This is a work in progress."

"I think the most positive thing tonight is the turnout," said one woman. "I just really encourage you to have meetings as you move forward ... so that you can continue to get feedback."

The next meeting is Wednesday, March 4, (2009), at 7 p.m. at Sullivan School.



North Adams, Massachusetts
"Billings to retire, move"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Friday, February 27, 2009

NORTH ADAMS - For more than three decades, Clark H. Billings has questioned the status quo and challenged the majority opinion both as an elected official and as a political watchdog on his cable access show. But the outspoken city councilor won't seek another term this year: He and his wife, Janice O'Keefe, plan to move to Newport, R.I., by the end of May.

"It's funny, because my slogan has always been 'I'll retire from the college when they can pry the syllabus from my cold, dead hands.' This all started with Janice making me promise that I'd retire in two years when I turned 70. Next thing I know we're closing on a house."

Billings said his wife has wanted to move to Rhode Island "for a while now - that's where she's from. She came to North Adams State College as a non-traditional student in 1974 and has stayed ever since."

Billings announced his plans on his cable access show, "Think About It!," on Wednesday, with a farewell episode. He's ended his weekly broadcasts, but will most likely continue the show through May with monthly episodes. But he has no plans to give up the title "Prince of Darkness" when he leaves the city.

"That title comes from my first piece of rivalry with the Babeu family," Billings said with a slight chuckle. "I was council president at the time, in 1987, and as the president always does each year, I looked over the rules to see if anything needed to be changed. I proposed changing the wording in our rules of order from 'A moment of silent prayer shall be observed' to read 'A moment of silence shall be observed.' "

He said the change would have reflected what all the council presidents before him, including Vincent Melito, had called for before - a moment of silence.

"Ray Babeu, who did the cable access show 'God's Masterpiece,' wrote a letter to the editor of the Transcript demanding that God be restored to the City Council, and he referred to me as the 'Prince of Darkness.' I kind of liked how it sounded."

Billings first ran for a seat on the council in 1975, but came in 10th for the nine member board after he blasted the development of a parking garage in downtown North Adams as being a business proposition for "suckers."

"I was right," Billings said. "It was a bad business deal. The developer wanted the city to pay for the parking garage, while it built an elderly high rise where Nassif's (Pharmacy) is located. I said it was a bad deal and the developer pulled out before anything was done."

Despite his loss, he said the run for council "pushed him into politics" as he later joined Mayor John Barrett III, then a member of the airport commission, in supporting Joseph Bianco's mayoral bid. He would later receive an appointment to the parks and recreation commission and serve as chairman of the health and human services commission before winning a seat on the council in 1979.

In 1982, Billings resigned from the council and took an unpaid leave of absence from North Adams State College to serve as the town administrator of Wilbraham. He returned a year later, running unsuccessfully for mayor in 1983 and state representative in 1984. He also ran unsuccessfully for county commissioner in 1988. He was elected to the council in 1985 and served consecutive two-year terms until 1995, when he was voted off the board. He failed to earn a seat in 1997, coming in 10th.

"I had been doing my show, 'The Devil's Advocate,' at the time and my wife suggested that I change my image," Billings said. "I changed the name, but not necessarily what I was saying. It must have worked."

He returned to the council in 1999, where he has remained.

"I think one of the hardest times on the council was the year of the 'gang of five,' which included Melito, Francis Buckley, Larry Jones, and Paul Babeu," Billings said. "Al Marden was supposed to be elected council president, but Melito got to Babeu. They were very anti-Barrett and stymied the council and the city for a year."

Billings hasn't contained his controversial behavior to city politics — he's had several dust-ups since his arrival as a history professor at the college in 1967.

In early 1990s, Shaun Babeu, brother of former Councilor Paul Babeu, accused Billings of trying to blackmail students who would sit on a new faculty evaluation board at the college by refusing to further sponsor their internships.

In 1996, Billings was chastised for a fight through e-mail with philosophy professor Matthew Silliman about whether students should be required to attend a day of diversity on campus. Billings referred to the event as a "left-wing love-in."

"I still feel that way," he said. "Every day of diversity on any college campus results in a day of white-bashing. I'm not about celebrating our differences. The North and the South celebrated their differences for four years. I think we should recognize our common ground and begin working from there."

Having seen changes in both the city and at the college, Billings said he thinks both have undergone metamorphoses for the better.

However, he said he does have a word of advice for the mayor.

"My message to Mayor Barrett is to put the benches back on Main Street or we don't come back to visit," he said. "I can't walk the length of Main Street anymore. Why not try it? It's a different generation. I also think benches provide a certain welcoming aspect to a community - that it's user-friendly."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

"WinterFest is a success"

The North Adams Transcript, Monday, March 2, 2009
Free horse-drawn carriage rides were offered on Main Street in North Adams Saturday afternoon during the 12th annual North Adams WinterFest.


"Visitors enjoy chowder, wagon rides at Saturday's event"
By Meghan Foley, North Adams Transcript, Monday, March 2, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Hundreds of people crowded into St. Elizabeth of Hungary Parish Center Saturday afternoon for a chowder cook-off, while others rode in a horse-drawn wagon along Main Street or went to the public library to see a llama, as part of the city's 12th annual WinterFest.

Rod Bunt, director of the mayor's office of tourism and cultural development, said Sunday approximately 1,120 people sampled clam and mixed-seafood chowders at the cook-off, and at least 50 children visited the library to see a llama provided by Lars Garrison of West Mountain Farms. He added the activities at the Hoosac Bank, including face painting and the wagon rides, were popular, and there were a lot of teenagers at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink for the Mayor's Free Skating Party.

In addition, the festival included a pancake breakfast hosted by the First Congregational and Methodist churches and bowling at Mount Greylock Bowl.

"Our main theme in all of this is to try to promote events in which the family can do things together and enjoy it," Mayor John Barrett III said at the chowder cook-off. "With the economy as bad as it is, it's a good uplift for everybody."

Jennifer Howland, of North Adams, said her husband and children usually come to WinterFest every year.

"The kids like it, and it's just nice to see people too," she said.

She said in past years they have gone to the chowder cook-off and the horse drawn wagon rides, but with four children and cold temperatures outside, they planned to attend just the chowder cook-off this year.

Of the chowders the Howlands had sampled Saturday afternoon, they each liked a different one.

"I like CJ's (Sports Pub) and the hospital's, but I work there," Howland said.

Her husband, Jason, liked the chowder from the Red Herring in Williamstown, and their daughter, Maya, liked the Freight Yard Pub's chowder.

Of the 15 food establishments that participated in this year's cook-off, CJ's Sports Pub on Pleasant Street in Adams with it's seafood chowder took first place as both the judge's and people's choice. Boston Seafood came in second in both categories of awards and the Freight Yard Pub was third.

"The people were on the same page as the judges, and this has never happened in the four years we have done it," Bunt said.

He said about 300 people voted for their favorite chowder and with each person voting asked to give a donation to the Mohawk Theater Renovation Fund, they raised more than $200.

Several restaurant owners and employees said they like participating in the chowder cook-off because it's a good community event and allows them some publicity.

"It gives us good exposure and gets us out to people," Craig Pekosz, owner of CJ's Sports Pub, said. "Hopefully after today people will know we're in the community."

This was the first chowder cook-off for Eva Holmes, her grandson, Evan Schueckler, 15, both of Stamford, Vt., and Holmes' son, Richard, of Manchester, N.H.

"It's just nice to see how different they (the chowders) can be," Holmes said.

After the chowder cook-off, Holmes said they planned to see what WinterFest activities were taking place on Main Street.

"It's a great way to get the community out on the street and into stores. It's something we need especially in the winter when people are not out that much," she said.

Some store owners did see an increase in business they credited to WinterFest.

Monique Suters, owner of Persnickety Toys on Eagle Street, said Saturday afternoon she had a steady flow of customers all day.

"I'd love to see an event like this every month. It would be great," she said.

Libbie Pike, owner of Shima -- a maternity and children's clothing store on Main Street, also noticed an increase in sales on Saturday.

"I think (WinterFest) brought people downtown and definitely through our door," she said.

Other businesses such as McClelland's Stationery and Office Products on Main Street and Mia's Consignment Shop on Eagle Street didn't see an increase in business on Saturday despite the festival.

"I haven't noticed any increase in sales at all," Maria Carmain, owner of Mia's Consignment Shop, said.

A sales clerk at McClelland's who didn't want to give her name, said the store usually had an increase in customers in the past from WinterFest when there were more activities on the street, but on Saturday there was no increase in sales.

"You have to think with the economy, now everything is bad all over. People are thinking more toward buying food and heat than coming in and buying odds and ends," she said.

Bunt said unlike last year, when many restaurants participating in the chowder cook-off ran out chowder, many of the returning restaurants came prepared this year with extra.

Renee Royal, head cook with Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts Dining Services, said this year they brought six gallons of old fashioned New England clam chowder instead of four.

"We've had a very good crowd," she said. "People are coming back and say we're in a close running with CJ's Pub."

Matthew Tamsin, a cook with Boston Seafood, said people were coming back to sample the restaurant's chowder more than once and asking for bigger helpings.

"Everything is very good. I haven't heard anything negative (about the chowder)," he said.
To reach Meghan Foley, e-mail

"North Adams officer indicted in assault"
By Conor Berry, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Friday, March 06, 2009

PITTSFIELD — A North Adams police officer accused of using excessive force after taking a local man into custody has been indicted by a Berkshire grand jury.

Officer Joshua Mantello, 29, a 7-year veteran of the North Adams Police Department and the founder of a local ghost-hunting company, will be arraigned March 19 (2009) in Berkshire Superior Court on multiple assault charges and other serious offenses.

Mantello is accused of assaulting Matthew D. Trombley, 28, of North Adams, on the night of Nov. 28, 2008, after police arrested the Dover Street man on assault, vandalism and disorderly conduct charges.

According to public defender Jill Sheldon, an attorney with the Committee for Public Counsel Services in Pittsfield, all but one of the charges originally lodged against Trombley have been dismissed by the district attorney's office.

Sheldon said Trombley "has one open charge" — wanton destruction of property — but declined to discuss the details.

Meanwhile, Mantello is charged with two counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, witness intimidation, and filing a false police report.

"There were large of portions of that report that were untrue," said Sheldon, who declined to elaborate.

Mantello, who has been on paid leave since Dec. 10, could be terminated from the force, according to North Adams officials. According to a source close to the investigation, the evidence against Mantello is damning enough that he was offered a chance to resign from the police department, but so far has declined to step down.

Mantello did not return a call seeking comment, but his father, Nick Mantello of North Adams, said his son is still a police officer.

"Everything's still up in the air," the officer's father said Thursday. "It's not official yet."

Full cooperation

North Adams Mayor John M. Barrett III declined to comment on specifics of the police brutality investigation, but emphasized that the city's public safety commissioner, E. John Morocco, fully cooperated with the district attorney's office.

"The commissioner felt he had a responsibility to turn it over to the DA's office," Barrett said.

Trombley's parents said they hope to clear their son's name, noting that information that appeared in published reports about his arrest was untrue. That information was based on Mantello's police report, they said, the integrity of which has since been called into question.

To date, North Adams officials have declined to discuss details of the alleged abuse, but police reports state that Trombley was "forcefully placed up against a wall," then brought to the ground with force. At one point during Trombley's arrest, police used a taser on him.

Boorish behavior

Shortly after 1:30 a.m. on Nov. 28, Mantello and two other North Adams officers responded to a report of a drunken male outside a North Church Street apartment. Trombley was allegedly intoxicated and banging on the apartment's door.

Police confronted Trombley, who was combative and verbally abusive toward the officers, according to Mantello's report. Trombley allegedly continued to engage in boorish behavior as he was being booked at city police headquarters, according to the report, where he was repeatedly warned that a taser would be used on him if he did not behave.

When Trombley did not stop, he was tased in the abdomen, Mantello stated in his report.

Trombley was released on $50 bail later on Nov. 29, but his bail was revoked in December after he was arrested on new charges involving his ex-girlfriend.

Trombley was remanded to the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction in lieu of $5,000 bail after pleading innocent to multiple offenses, including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, at his Dec. 8 (2008) arraignment in Northern Berkshire District Court.

As of Thursday night, Trombley was still being held at the county jail, according to an officer with the Berkshire County Sheriff's Department.

Paranormal research

Mantello's side job, so to speak, is hunting ghosts. He is the founder of the Berkshire Paranormal Group, a North Adams-based ghost-hunting company that conducts paranormal research at allegedly haunted locations throughout the Berkshires and southern Vermont, including "Haunted Houghton Mansion" in North Adams.

Mantello considers the mansion to be one of the state's "most haunted locations," according to the company's Web site, The Web site lists Mantello as the company's "lead investigator," while his father and three other men are listed as "field investigator(s)."

"NARH care is big-city caliber"
The Berkshire Eagle, Letters, Saturday, March 07, 2009

Three months ago, my husband suffered a medical emergency during a flight from California to Albany, N.Y. The Southwest Airlines crew was superb and diverted the plane for a landing in Denver. He was taken to the University of Colorado Hospital, which is one of the best pulmonary facilities in the country.

We felt very fortunate, as his condition was serious and the care we received in Denver was wonderful. He was stabilized and we came back to the Berkshires on a medical plane and were taken directly to North Adams Regional Hospital.

It is important to me that anyone reading this know that the care he received in North Adams was seamless and in every way equal to that he received in Denver. The excellence of the NARH medical staff, facility, professional knowledge and treatment were all on a par with that of the huge and splendid hospital in Colorado.

This is comfort indeed for those of us who use North Adams Regional Hospital. I cannot sing its praises enough and encourage its support in all ways. We are exceedingly fortunate to have such high quality care in our midst.

Williamstown, Massachusetts

Strength in numbers
"Workers forge united front: Union members back Sweet Brook staff efforts"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Tuesday, March 10, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — Workers from the Sweet Brook nursing home in Williamstown were joined by members of the Service Employees International Union who traveled from Boston, Springfield and Albany, N.Y., on Monday afternoon to protest what union officials are calling union-busting tactics by Northern Berkshire Healthcare officials.

The protest took place at Freeman Park amid snow and freezing temperatures, near the entrance to North Adams Regional Hospital, the headquarters of Northern Berkshire Healthcare.

About 100 people in attendance were chanting and listening to speakers railing against the company for spending too much time and money on trying to prevent workers from bringing the union to the nursing home.

"They are wasting patient care and taxpayers' money on an expensive anti-union campaign while threatening the quality of care and jobs at Sweet Brook," said Mike O'Brien, an SEIU chapter chairman and respiratory therapist at North Adams Regional Hospital. "We are calling on them to end their anti-union campaign and reinvest these much-needed resources into improved patient care."

Sweet Brook employees say they have been seeking to unionize so they can have more influence on the quality of care for the nursing home's residents. The employees contend the care has declined since NBH took ownership of the facility several years ago.

Petitions on giant placards were circulated for signatures, and post cards were handed out for people to sign for delivery to Richard Palmisano, president and CEO of NBH.

Nursing home employees, union members and family members listened and cheered, clapping and shivering, while children and a few family dogs frolicked and played in the nearby piles of snow.

In a prepared statement after the rally, company officials said they aren't opposed to the effort to unionize.

"We support the right of our employees to unionize under the law, though we believe that a direct relationship between leadership and caregivers is the best way to ensure that residents receive appropriate high-quality care," NBH spokeswoman Dianne M. Cutillo said in the statement.

An employee election on whether to join the SEIU will be held March 26 by secret ballot.

At issue, Cutillo said, isn't the money spent on the company's "legitimate legal rights." Rather, she wrote, "It is that each party has the right under the law to represent and advocate for what it believes to be true."

NBH has had a rocky relationship with its unions. Last summer, local members of the Massachusetts Nurses Association voted to go on strike after contract negotiations broke down. A strike was averted by intense last-minute negotiations.

The company had asked the unions to relinquish some of the concessions the Massachusetts Nurses Association had won from the hospital during those negotiations to alleviate coming budget reduction efforts, but officials from the nurses association declined.

When employees notified the company that they wanted to schedule an employee election in regard to SEIU affiliation, company officials requested a hearing before the National Labor Relations Board on the eligibility of nurses and nursing assistants to be in a union, contending they were supervisory personnel.

Both sides presented their cases during weeklong hearing in Eastern Massachusetts, for which the company hired expert labor-law attorneys and housed them and company executives in the Onyx hotel in Boston.

The NLRB ruled against NBH, saying the personnel are not supervisory and have the right to vote in a unionization election.

Since the ruling, Palmisano has indicated his intention to appeal the decision to the NLRB in Washington, D.C.

During the drive to unionize, union officials say, Sweet Brook management has engaged in a campaign of intimidation by pulling employees away from their duties to engage in one-on-one meetings about the efforts to unionize.

"Excelsior Printing pins future on new press"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — Excelsior Printing is having its share of hard times — they laid off eight workers last week — but there is a sign of growth for the 107-year-old business.

Excelsior acquired a garden seed packaging subsidiary in 2008 and the demand for these small, bright envelopes is on the upswing, the company said. When times are tough, more people grow their own vegetables, and when that happens, seed producers need more packaging.

To keep up with the increased demand and to give the company more diverse capabilities, Excelsior installed a new, $2.1 million digital press in February.

The Manroland 706 6-color, sheet-fed press replaced two older presses and is housed in the former textile mill on Roberts Drive. According to David Crane, Excelsior president and CEO, the new press reduces the impact on the environment by using less paper and other materials. It also reduces turnaround time while increasing productivity and quality.

"It will speed up our turnaround time and uses a lot less materials and chemistry and so forth," Crane said. "It replaces presses we purchased in the late 80s and the mid 90s. We had them for quite a while. This new one will handle most of printing at this point."

The new press can print simple, one-color pieces to complex, multicolor marketing products. Envelopes, cards, brochures, packaging and books can all be printed on this one press.

"In terms of our capabilities, our positioning is that we offer a menu of both printing and services for pre- and post-printing needs," Crane said. "And it's plugged in now digitally with our whole desktop publishing technology."

Using a low interest, $2.3 million loan awarded by the Massachusetts Development Finance Agency through Legacy Banks, the press was installed in altered space inside the mill building.

"This press was the final piece in bringing all our equipment up to modern technological standards and broadening the services we offer," Crane said. "It allows us growth opportunities and the ability to customize to the needs of our different customers. Now we have kind of a one-stop shopping concept."

Last week's layoffs were due to the general state of the economy, Crane said. Overall business was down in the fourth quarter of 2008. The company now employs roughly 40 full and part time workers.

"Some parts of the business are growing and some parts are shrinking," Crane said. "The bright spots are the horticultural business — our seed packaging. Parts that have suffered more are customers involved with retail — stationery products. And a lot of customers have tightened up on their marketing budgets."

In business since 1892, Excelsior separated from its former parent company, Crane Paper Company, in 2005.
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413) 664-4995.

"Local bars under scrutiny"
The North Adams Transcript, By Jennifer Huberdeau, 3/13/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- The city’s License Commission is sending a message to local bars: Violence and underage alcohol sales will not be tolerated.

Over the last few months, the commission has spoken with the owners of three different bars about brawls at or outside of the establishments and has permanently altered the hours of Ace’s Place on Union Street (Route 2).

"We’ve been addressing violent activity that has been on the rise at local bars -- fights that are largely due to the over-consumption of alcohol," David Lamarre, commission chairman, said Wednesday night.

The commission handed down three two-day license suspensions Wednesday to three city businesses that sold alcohol to minors during a sting in January.

"There’s definitely an effort to curtail the violence," Public Safety E. John Morocco said Thursday. "Anytime we have an issue with a bar, we notify the commission, which always supports us. It makes the establishments more aware of the violence going on inside and around them, and they try to police the situations themselves before things get out of hand."

In February, the commission suspended the license of Ace’s Place for five days and permanently changed its closing time from 1 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sundays through Thursdays. The bar is still allowed to be open until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays.

"Our decision was based on an excessive number of police calls to the bar for a list of things including violent assaults," Lamarre said. "In many cases, it’s a case of over-service -- the over-consumption of alcohol -- that fuels these problems. We’ve had no reports of violence since February."

The commission also has called in representatives from the Pitcher’s Mound Pub on Ashland Street and Key West Bar and Lounge on State Street to talk about curtailing violence. Suggestions from the board have included using no-trespass orders against problem patrons, having earlier last calls and adding extra staff.

Lamarre said Wednesday night that the commission has a responsibility to support both the police department and community groups that present information about violations at city bars, restaurants and stores.

"We take this issue seriously, and we have an obligation to respond when these groups come before us with findings," he said about the recent alcohol sting. "Our position, as it has been for many years, is to be firm."

As reported on Thursday, the commission handed out two-day suspensions to Ed’s Package Store on Union Street, The Alley on Eagle Street and Key West. Employees at each business sold beer to girls, ages 17 and 20, who were participating in a sting led by Officers Francis Maruco and John LeClair on the weekend of Jan. 23 and 24. The checks were run in conjunction with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition’s Communities Moving for Change on Alcohol and the North Adams, Adams and Williamstown police departments.

"I fully support the decision of the License Commission -- whatever penalties they handed out were appropriate," Morocco said. "We work well together, and I think it sends a message to people that certain things won’t be tolerated."

Richard Sheehan Jr., owner of Ed’s Package Store, didn’t challenge the allegations that one of his employees sold a six-pack of Bud Light to a 17-year-old girl. He said the employee made an error in judgment in deciding not to card her, something that hasn’t happened during the 14 years he’s owned the variety store on the corner of Union and East Main streets.

Sheehan’s license will be suspended on March 19 and 20. In addition to losing his alcohol license for two days, at the suggestion of Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, Sheehan and his staff will undergo Training For Intervention Procedures (TIPS) for alcohol servers.

Jack Nogueira, who owns The Alley, with his son, Keith, said he took full responsibility for "accidentally" serving a 17-year-old girl and a 20-year-old woman at the restaurant’s downstairs bar.

He said the sale took place because he thought the pair was with a private party on the second floor of the restaurant. He said everyone attending the party had been carded by a doorman and was required to be over 21. He acknowledged that he failed to check to see if the girls were wearing wrist bands issued at the door. He has since become TIPS-certified.

The Alley’s license will be suspended Thursday, March 26, and Friday, March 27.

Key West also received a two-day suspension set for March 26 and 27, for selling alcohol to a minor, the first in its 23-years of operation. According to reports, bartender Michael Cirrilo sold a Budweiser beer to a 17-year-old girl who entered the bar on a Friday night.

Cirrilo said the minor entered the bar at the same time as a regular customer, whom he thought she was with. The "regular" offered to by the girl’s beer, he said. At the last minute, she refused and paid for her own.

"It was a bad situation and I regret it," he said. "We have a system in place so that this doesn’t happen, and I dropped the ball."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

"N.A. sting operation nets license suspensions"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, 3/12/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Three city businesses will have their alcohol licenses suspended for two days after employees sold alcohol to minors during a sting run by the local police department at the end of January.

"We take a grim view on the sale of alcohol to minors and are relatively stringent in our penalties," said David Lamarre, chairman of the License Commission, during a special meeting Wednesday. "We take this issue seriously and we have an obligation to respond when [police and community groups come before us with findings. Our position, as it has been for many years, is to be firm."

Employees of Ed's Package Store on Union Street, The Alley on Eagle Street and Key West Bar and Lounge on State Street sold beer to female minors participating in the sting led by Officers Francis Maruco and John LeClair on the weekend of Jan. 23 and 24. The girls, ages 17 and 20, were both trained participants of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's Communities Moving for Change on Alcohol (CMCA), according to Police Director Michael Cozzaglio.

"These are youths that are trained by the coalition," Maruco said. "They're not out there trying to trick anyone and they're not dressed up to look flashy or older."

Richard Sheehan Jr., owner of Ed's Package Store, didn't challenge the allegations that one of his employees sold a six-pack of Bud Light to a 17-year-old minor. He said the employee made an error in judgment, something that hasn't happened during the 14 years he's owned the variety store on the corner of Union and East Main streets.

"He's a long-time employee who said he had his doubts when she came in and that he should have carded her," Sheehan said.

Commissioner Jeff Polucci said the store needed to enforce the "we card anyone under 30" motto found on signs within the store.

Sheehan's license will be suspended on March 19 and 20. In addition to losing his alcohol license for two days, Cozzaglio suggested Sheehan and his staff undergo Training For Intervention Procedures (TIPS) for alcohol servers.

Jack Nogueira, who owns The Alley, with his son, Keith, said he took full responsibility for "accidentally" serving a 17-year-old girl and a 20-year-old woman at the restaurant's downstairs bar.

The restaurant will have its license suspended on Thursday, March 26 and Friday, March 27, barring the sale and consumption of alcohol at the establishment.

Nogueira asked if the board could be lenient on which days the eatery would be closed because of planned events.

Commissioner Jeff Kemp said that while the board didn't want to inflict undue hardship on any business, that it must be uniform in its decisions and would not negotiate the days on which the suspensions fell, otherwise "we'd have everyone requesting a Monday and Tuesday with little penalty taking place." The commission did allow the pair to pick from two different Thursday and Friday dates.

According to reports, Key West bartender Michael Cirrilo sold a Budweiser beer to a 17-year-old girl who entered the bar on a Friday night.

"This is an embarrassment for us," said Key West owner Michael C. Bloom. "This is a great concern for my wife, Laurie and I, who have take great to ensure minors don't come in. We have three TIPS certified staff members -- one who is an instructor. We've never had a problem in the 23 years we've been there. We just passed the state's sting in November."

The commission suspended Key West's license for two days on March 26 and 27.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail


"NARH is taking a different approach to giving birth and seeing the results"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, The North Adams Transcript, March 24, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- While more and more women choose to undergo Cesarean section births despite a national push by the federal government to decrease the number, the local rate has declined and is well below the state average.

North Adams Regional Hospital performs significantly fewer C-sections than other hospitals around the state -- an average of 18 percent of all births at the hospital compared to the state average of 34 percent, according to reports released by the state Department of Public Health.

The hospital also has a better prenatal care record, according to the reports: 94 percent of women giving birth have had nine or more prenatal care visits versus the state average of 87 percent having that many visits.

"I think what is being reflected in our numbers is that we are taking a more ‘midwifery’ approach with our practice then before," Robin Rivinus, a certified nurse midwife with Northern Berkshire Obstetrics & Gynecology at the hospital, said last week. "It means that we do fewer unnecessary interventions -- inductions, Cesarean sections, episiotomies. We treat childbirth as the normal, natural thing that it is. We only step in when it’s medically necessary, which is much better for both the mother and the baby."

In 2004, federal health officials, after seeing a 40 percent increase in C-section births between 1996 and 2004, announced a goal of decreasing the total percentage of C-section births in the county from about 30 percent to 15 percent or below by 2010.

"We usually have a rate of about 16 percent, which is a pretty good range to be in," Dr. Douglas O’Neill, an obstetrician/gynecologist with Northern Berkshire Obstetrics & Gynecology, said.

"I think there are several things that conspired to push the number of c-sections up over the years," he said. "There has been a trend away from offering vaginal births after C-section [familiarly known as VBAC] because of several high-profile malpractice suits and a trend to deliver most twins by c-section."

During 2008, the hospital performed 29 first-time C-sections out of 207 births or 10.7 percent, which is well-below the state average of 20 percent. It had 20 repeat c-sections -- 7 percent of the births versus the state average of 13 percent.

"Recently there have been several high-profile studies done that conclude there is overuse of high-tech interventions," Rivinus said. "The conclusions have been that all women should be offered a midwifery model, or a ‘back-to-basics’ approach to childbirth, where spontaneous, natural birth is the focus."

While some may find a planned Cesarean to be more convenient for the practitioner and family, Rivinus said there are several significant high-risk complications that come with C-sections: Infection, uncontrolled bleeding, respiratory distress for the infant and increased risk of the placenta detaching from the uterine wall in future pregnancies.

"Vaginal births are a very natural process," she said. "I think births have become very clinical and sterile, which they shouldn’t be. We strive to have personal relationships with our patients and treat the whole individual, not just the pregnancy."

O’Neill said that while he and Dr. Susan Yates have always offered a ‘patient-centered’ practice, subtle differences have evolved with the addition of two full-time and one part-time certified nurse midwives to the practice.

"To me, the take-home message is that our collaborative practice has made an impact on our overall rates in the end," O’Neill said. "They’ve helped us improve our standards with the progress of labor and help to remind us and the patients that patience is always a virtue."

Northern Berkshire Obstetrics & Gynecology plans to have two additional obstetrician/gynecologists on staff later this year.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

"State ed. secretary praises Berkshire Compact"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, 3/28/2009

NORTH ADAMS - The national recession may have a silver lining for educational institutions throughout the state, as belt-tightening measures force school districts to consider collaborations and shared resources.

"We've spent a lot of time talking about the need for regional collaborations," state Secretary of Education Paul Reville said Friday during a Berkshire Compact for Higher Education meeting at MCLA. "We think that having essentially 391 school districts for less than one million children in the commonwealth is outdated thinking. We can achieve cost savings by consolidating services regionally."

"We're not just talking about closing small schools, we're talking about sharing administrative duties," Reville said. "Instead of having seven superintendents in an area that serves under 2,500 children, we'd create a central office with one superintendent with six department heads who can focus on the individual school needs."

Other areas of collaboration could include group purchasing, professional development offerings and special education services, he said.

Most regions in the state, with the Berkshires being the exception, have an educational collaborative that offers shared service opportunities.

Reville was the Berkshire Compact's guest speaker at its quarterly meeting, where officials outlined accomplishments and future goals of the five-year-old county-wide collaboration, which aims to promote lifelong learning and raise the educational aspirations of area children.

"We're very excited about what you are doing out here, and I appreciate the chance to learn about what progress you have made," he said. "This is exactly what we go around the state talking about, this type of regional collaboration, and we constantly hold up this effort as an example of what we'd like to see in other regions."

During a question-and-answer session, McCann Superintendent James Brosnan asked Reville to explain the state's controversial awarding of $168 million of federal stimulus funds to school districts last week. A few Berkshire districts, including McCann, Pittsfield Public Schools and members of the North Berkshire School Union, were among the 153 schools promised funds.

"One illusion about the stimulus money is that it all comes in the form of a large check with which we can do whatever we please," Reville said. "To the contrary, the money is coming with some very definite rules and stipulations on how it can be used."

He said one requirement is to use an equitable formula to bring all K to 12 districts up to full funding of the foundation level - the state's minimum funding level for each district. He said the governor's budget level-funds Chapter 70 school aid, causing the state to fall short of its required 17 percent foundation funding levels in 153 school districts.

"If we had had enough money, we would have gone over budget by $400 million," Reville said. "The stimulus money is coming in several ways, so schools that didn't get funding will be receiving it in other forms."

Districts such as North Adams and Williamstown, which received no funding from the first round of stimulus money, will receive special education and Title 1 funds, Reville said.

"However, we are warning that this money shouldn't be used to [replace] funding that needed to be cut," he said. "What we do know is that, in 27 months, this funding won't be there. It shouldn't be seen as a panacea but should be used creatively. This money isn't a fix-all - it's not going to eliminate hard decisions- but it will let us creatively consider alternatives that we tend to shy away from during flush times."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

"Berkshire Compact cites accomplishments, work to come"
By Jenn Smith, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, 3/28/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- "Partnerships, programs and progress," was the theme as the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education convened to release a three-year overview of its milestones.

The compact is a county-wide initiative focused on promoting learning in the Berkshires, urging residents to pursue 16 years of education to better meet the rigors of the evolving economy.

State Secretary of Education Paul Reville was present for the meeting held on the campus of the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts on Friday as the 16-page document was released. The update provides a three-year overview of the initiative since the release of its original prospectus in 2006.

"We come together today to celebrate the hard work we did to get to this point but also acknowledge that we need to roll up our sleeves and recommit to doing all the hard -- but vitally important -- work it will take to move forward," said Andrew H. Mick, chairman of the Berkshire Compact and also publisher of The Berkshire Eagle and president of its parent company, New England Newspapers.

The compact's primary purpose is to encourage high school students to pursue a college education while urging all residents to view a minimum of 16 years of education or additional career training as a social norm.

Its goals include encouraging students and families to value and invest in education, raising high school and college graduation rates, and narrowing the gap between people and opportunities.

Since its foundation, the compact and its affiliates have launched more than a dozen programs and efforts, from the opening of the Intermodal Education Center in Pittsfield, to taking student opinion surveys, to the upcoming "Berkshire County Goes to College Day," which will bring hundreds of sixth-grade students onto all four of the county's college campuses.

Compact leader and MCLA President Mary Grant said it will take more time and resources to collect data and determine whether the efforts are making a difference in students' lives.

Still, she said, there are already signs of success. According to compact data, more than 18,000 individuals have been served by its programs to date.

Doug McNally, principal of Taconic High School in Pittsfield, said "applications [to college] are up significantly. Students who were not applying to college before are applying" now.

Berkshire Community College President Paul Raverta said that, since the opening of the Intermodal Center in Pittsfield last year, more than 600 people have participated in educational and work force development courses there.

Michael Supranowicz, a compact member and president and chief executive officer of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, said that the chamber has secured $50,000 to launch a new project called the Berkshire Youth Leadership Program, which will involve 30 high school juniors. The program is set to launch in the summer of 2010.

In addition, since its launch in February 2005, the Compact has grown from 40 to 70 member-leaders drawn from the Berkshires' education, business, legislative, cultural, municipal, health and human services sectors, and is still growing.

The breadth of interest in the initiative is partly driven by economics: Berkshire County employers want educated, well-trained workers.

Secretary of Education Paul Reville acknowledged that the compact's activities are well-aligned with the state's goals for 21st century learning and the governor's Readiness Project Action Agenda for state standards of education.

Said MCLA's President Grant to Reville, "You have a crew right here in the Berkshires that's ready, willing and able to move forward."


"A strong Compact"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Sunday, March 29, 2009

As he seeks to fully implement Governor Patrick's Readiness Project to build educational standards in Massachusetts, state Secretary of Education Paul Reveille can look to the Berkshire Compact for Higher Education as a model. With Mr. Reveille in attendance Friday, the compact marked its third year with a meeting at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams to review what the compact has accomplished and to discuss what the plans and goals are for the years ahead.

At its essence the county-wide initiative promotes education in the Berkshires by encouraging residents to pursue 16 years of school and then helping them reach that goal. This applies not only to students currently in school but workers whose successful pursuit of college degrees can help them adjust to current economic realities while also benefiting Berkshire businesses seeking an educated work force.

In its three years, the Compact, which is chaired by Eagle publisher Andrew H. Mick, and its affiliates have begun more than a dozen programs and campaigns, prominent among them the Intermodal Education Center in Pittsfield. The compact is poised to kick off its "Berkshire County Goes to College Day," which will bring hundreds of sixth-grade students to county colleges. Ideally, says MCLA President and compact leader Mary Grant, this will encourage young students and their parents to begin thinking in terms of college.

The compact membership consists of educators, elected officials, business leaders and community advocates, extending literally from A (Jane Allen of the MCLA Board of Trustees) to Z (Sandra Zink, the retired director of Human Resources at Interprint). In a meeting at The Eagle last week, Ms. Grant praised the Berkshires' legislative delegation, all five of whom are compact members, and the county's two mayors, James Ruberto and John Barrett III, for their active role in boosting education.

This kind of cooperation is essential in addressing the complex education problems confronting the county. It helps considerably that in Ms. Grant and Berkshire Community College President Paul Raverta the county benefits from college leaders who are more involved in the Berkshires and our schools than is often the case. The Fast-Track program at MCLA and BCC's associate's degree program in applied manufacturing technology are among the notable Berkshire Compact initiatives at those schools.

Discussion of education often centers around government funding, and while money is of critical importance, much can be accomplished through cooperation, ambition and a willingness to try new approaches. The Berkshire Compact for Higher Education has done this over the past three years and it clearly plans to continue on this path. State education officials have undoubtedly taken note.


"Double whammy"
The North Adams Transcript, Editorial, 3/30/2009

Officials with Northern Berkshire United Way should be commended for letting their member agencies - and the public - know well ahead of time just how tough things are going to be in the year ahead (Transcript story, Page 1, March 26, 2009).

The non-profit agency can't be blamed for these troubled economic times, when many among us won't be able to make our usual donations due to the loss of jobs, huge blows to our retirement accounts and other factors. Many payroll deductions will understandably be lost.

While some may quibble about the agency spending above its means for many years - basing its allocations to local social service organizations on the pledges made by donors rather than the actual donations received - we believe the mistake was one of over-exuberance rather than mismanagement.

Anyone who has ever seen the many volunteers of the Northern Berkshire United Way in action knows they are a tight-knit group who will do anything possible to help their community. Trying to give as much as one can to help neighbors and worthy causes is certainly no crime. The agency was able to fund all the allocations for so long because it relied on money coming in from the following year's donations. And it moved immediately to fix its accounting problem once it was discovered.

We admire the way the organizations affected by all this - a loss of roughly 40 percent of the money they had been receiving - have handled the situation: with understanding and resolve to continue onward with the funds they will have available. This is even more admirable given that many of these organizations have already lost considerable state funding.

As Alan Bashevkin of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition put it, if ever there was a time for the fortunate among us to dig a little deeper, this is it. Federal stimulus money may be on its way, but it's not here yet to bail anyone out. In this tough year ahead, let's all give what we can - not only to the United Way but directly to those who need it most.



"Galleries on the rise"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, The North Adams Transcript, 4/3/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- A planned 5,000-square-foot art gallery is just a "natural progression" for the 265,000-square-foot NoAMA building on Union Street, according to owner Ariel Sutain.

"We used the space during North Adams Open Studios to display [French artist] Jean-Noelle Chazelle’s work, which every one likes," Sutain said Thursday. "We’ve even sold a few of his pieces. Since then, I’ve had inquiries from several artists at the Eclipse Mill and others in Northampton, who want to show and sell their work here."

The gallery space, which was once filled by batting cages and was also the space approved for a planned brewery at the former Delftree building, is one of four applications going before the city’s Planning Board at 6 p.m. April 13.

Also up for approval is an antique gallery and artist studio for 85 Union St., a motocross store for Eagle Street and storage space with a gallery window on Holden Street.

Sutain has other tentative plans for the 110-year-old building as well.

"We’ve opened up the first floor," he said. "We’ve removed the walls and opened up the 110,000 square feet on the first floor. We hope to use it for an indoor sculpture garden this summer and hold "once-in-a-while" events, such as craft fairs or even Spark events for Berkshire Creative. There are also plans to use the building again for Open Studios."

Once the plans for the art gallery are approved, Sutain said he plans to refinish the space’s floor and possibly replace several windows that were walled up by previous owners.

"As a gallery, this would be just great," he said. "It’s my favorite part of the building."

Art space is also being sought by Christopher D. Kurber of Gallup Street, who has applied to open a gallery and antique store at the former Berkshires Best at 85 Union St. The combined retail store and art space would be called "Rust," which Kurber explained in his application as being "derived from the work I do."

"I transform recycled metal and materials into small tables and chairs," he wrote. "I will offer recycled objects, reinterpreted as art, tables, plant stands and sculpture." Other items offered for sale will include antiques and vintage jewelry, art, paintings, ceramics, blown glass and sculpture.

David Carver, managing partner of Scarafoni Associates, is also looking to add gallery window space to the downtown as part of his application for 4 Holden St., which he wants to turn into storage space for the 10 condominium units in the upper portion of the building.

The space, which is currently being used for construction staging and storage, was previously used as storage space by the former Appalachian Bean Café for about 10 years.

"We are also proposing to create a window display on the Holden Street side of the building, which would be maintained and used by the [condominium] owners, some of who are artists," Carver wrote in his application.

While not art related, Thomas Czupryna of Hermon Avenue is requesting approval of Extreme Setup, a motocross store, set to take up residence at 40 Eagle St. in the Historic Flatiron block owned by Eric Rudd.

In his application, Czupryna states the store would carry items such as "motocross gear, including riding pants, jerseys, gloves, goggles and boots" as well as parts and accessories for the bikes -- sprockets, carburetors, exhaust systems, handle bars and grips.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail


"From Sprague Electric to solar"
By Glenn Drohan, North Adams Transcript, 4/2/2009

Editor's note: The story below originally stated that the proposed solar array on the rooftops of Mass MoCa would total 500 megawatts. The correct total is a considerably smaller 500 kilowatts - which would still make it the second largest rooftop installation in New England, just behind the 550-kilowatt installation at United Natural Food Inc's headquarters in Dayville, Conn. We apologize for the error. The story has been amended to fix it.

NORTH ADAMS - The country's largest museum of contemporary art wants to build one of the largest solar-power installations in New England as part of a solar energy center that would become a national training ground for those connected with the field.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is vying for $3.3 million in federal stimulus money to help fund a 500-kilowatt array of solar panels on the 28 rooftops in its sprawling 16-acre campus and to launch the center, which officials hope would become a hub and catalyst for emerging solar technology.

MoCA Director Joseph C. Thompson, who submitted the proposal to the state last fall as a "shovel ready" project, believes it has a great chance for funding because it is in keeping with President Obama's call for alternative energy solutions and the state's commitment to green technology.

Beyond that, Thompson said, it would also supply up to 60 percent of Mass MoCA's power needs, bring in up to 300 people per year for training courses and would reflect the history of the former Arnold Print Works and Sprague Electric Co.complex as a place where research and development were integral to manufacturing operations.

"Electronic capacitors were the heart and soul of Sprague," Thompson said Tuesday. "Arnold Print Works was known for its design work with textiles. This project is about solar technology and looking forward. It's very much part and parcel of the R&D DNA of this facility."

The solar array would be built in phases, with 300 kilowatts installed beginning in May this year and the additional 200 kilowatts in spring 2010, with 80 kilowatts reserved for emerging photovoltaic technologies.

The project has the strong support of Mayor John Barrett III, who sees it not only helping Mass MoCA deal with its energy costs but also putting North Adams on the map as a destination for those wanting to learn about solar power.

"The part I'm most excited about is the training center," Barrett said Wednesday. "This would be an income generator. They would be bringing people in from all over the country to train them about installing and inspecting solar panels. I believe alternative energy sources are the future. It's what the Obama and Patrick administrations want to see. It's green, and why not be a part of it? It's the wave of the future, and the future is now."

In its proposal, Mass MoCA officials pointed out the museum has already installed a 52-kilowatt "prototype" for the solar installations on the rooftop of Building 5, where the main galleries are housed. That project was funded by a $700,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.

The new project would resurrect much of the 2004 proposal by Eric Kerns, MoCA manager of foundation and corporate grants, for a 1 million-kilowatt solar facility at the museum. That project died for lack of funding, but the dream lingered, and the prospect of federal stimulus funds, combined with a proposed $1.5 million from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, has moved it closer to reality.

In addition to the huge array of rooftop solar panels and the training center, which would offer courses for solar panel installers, building inspectors and municipal officials considering solar projects, the museum has proposed setting up a space at MoCA to showcase the history of solar power in Massachusetts, which includes the first solar house, the first solar neighborhood and several manufacturers of solar equipment.

Christopher Derby Kilfoyle, president of the Adams-based Berkshire Photovoltaic Systems, who designed the 52-kilowatt solar array on Building 5 and the new proposal for all 28 MoCA rooftops, calls the entire project " a no-brainer."

"We have large connections right next to the Mass. Electric distribution yard on Brown Street," Kilfoyle said. "We could do some interesting research on connections to the grid because of the proximity of that yard."

In addition, he said, as spelled out in the Mass MoCA proposal, the center would help support thousands of jobs in Massachusetts that are directly tied to the manufacturing of solar modules and related photovoltaic electronics, including those at Spire Corp. of Bedford, RWE-Schott of Billerica, Evergreen Solar of Marlboro and Solectria Renewables of Lawrence.

Kilfoyle said the MoCA training center would not only attract students from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, Berkshire Community College and Williams College but also would provide workshops for policy makers, facility managers and municipal leaders from throughout the country. He predicted the training center could have 10 to 20 full-time employees as instructors.

"There's a lot of work out there, and firms like mine are under the gun," he said. "We're stressed right now to build infrastructure. We can't teach -- we've got to keep doing our jobs. The demand out there for education is amazing."

In addition, Kilfoyle said, there would be a kind of poetic justice in establishing a solar center at Mass MoCA, which has promoted alternative energy in its art installations from its very beginning.

The very first artwork at MoCA -- three years before it opened -- was famed Berlin artist Christina Kubisch's "Clock Tower" a "sound installation" piece. A band of solar panels in the museum's signature building powers the chimes that ring every 15 minutes.

The chimes, a collection of various sounds recorded by Kubisch using the Sprague Clock Tower bell, are a throwback to the factory days, when the bell rang every work day at 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. to signal the beginning and the end of work (the chimes these days sound loudest and longest at those times).

"It's just another reason among many why Mass MoCA should have this center," Kilfoyle said. They have produced a constant effort over the years to challenge our environmental thinking with exhibits. Christina Kubisch's Clock Tower is well known around the world. People see it and hear the chimes, but they probably don't realize it's powered by the sun.

"Mass MoCA has an international reputation already. The solar center would just enhance the piece of art that Mass MoCA is."


"Richard Alcombright Plans Run for Mayor of North Adams"
By Tammy Daniels - iBerkshires Staff - April 06, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — City Councilor Richard J. Alcombright is mounting a run for the city's top spot against Mayor John Barrett III, the state's longest serving mayor.

Alcombright, a senior vice president at Hoosac bank and Williamstown Savings banks, was appointed to the City Council in 2000 to serve out his late father's unexpired term and has been returned to the seat three times. He announced his intention to run in a brief e-mail to local media. He will formally announce at a press conference at his home on Tuesday morning.

Barrett is in his 13th two-year term. On Monday, he confirmed that he would stand for re-election even though he hasn't officially announced. "I've already had one fundraiser and I'll be doing other stuff."

Barrett said he would wait until after Alcombright's announcement Tuesday before commenting.

Alcombright, son of longtime City Councilor Daniel F. Alcombright Jr., was first elected in 2001. Three times he has outpolled his fellow candidates to be the voters' top choice. In 2007, he garnered 1,185 votes in a lackluster City Council race; Barrett, running unopposed, polled 1,096 votes.

Alcombright has also served on the McCann School Committee since 1991. In early 2008, he was expected — but never officially announced — a try for the 1st Berkshire seat that was to be vacated when by Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, took a job in the Patrick administration. Bosley, however, ended up turning down the position, crushing more than a few State House dreamers.

This will be the first race for mayor since Wal-Mart worker Walter Smith ran against Barrett in 2005, and potentially the first serious challenger since former City Councilor Paul Babeu ran against him for a second time in 2001.

Alcombright's move could mean at least two new faces on the City Council as veteran Councilor Clark Billings is not planning another run.

Former Councilor Christopher Tremblay has announced his intention to recapture the seat he lost last year and Brian Flagg, manager of Gala Restaurant at the Orchards and occasional iBerkshires sports writer, has returned nomination papers.


"Alcombright to run for mayor"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, 4/7/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- After months of speculation, City Councilor Richard J. Alcombright has confirmed that he will seek to unseat longtime incumbent John Barrett III in November’s mayoral election.

Alcombright, vice president of retail banking at Hoosac Bank and a city native, will officially kick off his bid for the city’s corner office with an announcement today at 10 a.m. at his home.

He declined to answer questions about his candidacy on Monday, saying he would comment fully on the decision during today’s announcement.

"What I will say is, that I’ve been considering running for several years now, and I am looking forward to the next big step," he said Monday.

Alcombright is serving his fourth full term as a city councilor. He was appointed by the council in 2000 to fill the unexpired term of his late father, Councilor Daniel F. Alcombright Jr. Following in his father’s footsteps, Alcombright was the top vote-getter in the 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007 elections.

He has been a member of the McCann School Committee since 1991. He contemplated running for state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley’s seat in 2007 but never officially declared his candidacy before Bosley announced he would not be joining Gov. Deval Patrick’s cabinet as a special adviser.

A perennial top vote-getter, Daniel Alcombright served on the council for 30 years, after accepting an appointment to fill the unexpired term of Lawrence Moreau in 1967.

Barrett, the longest serving mayor in Massachusetts, is in his 13th term. He will face his first substantial opposition since he defeated Paul Babeu, a former city councilor and county commissioner, in 2001, for a second time.

Although Barrett has not yet formally announced his intentions to seek a 14th term, he said Monday that he had no plans to leave the office with the city in the midst of a financial crisis. He declined to comment on Alcombright’s decision until after today’s announcement.

"I will wait to respond once he’s made his official announcement," Barrett said. "Obviously, I’ve been planning on running for several months now. We did a fundraiser in late November, and I have another one in the planning stages. My motto has always been that I don’t run against anybody; I run for the office of mayor. I’ve been so immersed in economic problems, but it’s safe to assume I’m a candidate."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

"Conte school to close: Move could eliminate up to 12 staff positions"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle, & The North Adams Transcript, Thursday, April 9, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — The city's three elementary schools will have a few more faces in the halls this fall, as the sixth- and seventh-grade classes are returned to the neighborhood schools in September.

The North Adams School Committee voted Tuesday to close Silvio O. Conte Middle School the school district. Elementary schools will serve children in Kindergarten through seventh grades, with eighth-graders joining the high school.

While school officials are still calculating how much money the closure will save the district, Superintendent James E. Montepare said during Tuesday's meeting that the district will see between 10 to 12 positions cut — including teachers, teaching assistants, specialists and janitors — as it tries to cut $1.2 million from its budget. The city faces a $2.5 million funding gap and most of the city's other departments are operating with skeleton crews and bare bones budgets, said Mayor John Barrett III, who also serves as School Committee chairman.

"We were really hoping to hold off doing this until next year," he said. "We were looking at a new plan for the district because of aging buildings and declining enrollment. We originally were hoping for stimulus funding to build a new school for K to 8, but the rules were changed.

"President Obama wants the money used for additions and upgrades, so we're waiting for funds for Sullivan and Greylock," the mayor said. "We'll be adding wings, not necessarily for classrooms, but for library expansions and labs."

He said seventh-grade students cannot be sent to Drury because the high school cannot handle the additional 120 students.

"The superintendent and I have received numerous letters from students and they seem to be excited," Barrett said. "The majority of those letters have been from students (who will be in sixth and seventh grade in the fall) asking for a special menu or requesting that they don't have to line up for classes. Their biggest concern is that they want to feel special."

He said other requests have included keeping the graduation from fifth grade and making sure middle school programs such as music and band don't disappear.

Drury Principal Amy Meehan the majority of questions she has fielded about the arrival of the eighth-grade students in the fall is about safety.

"The thing that has resonated has been parents asking about their eighth-grader being in a high school setting with older kids," she said. "They are concerned about eighth-graders having classes with juniors and seniors or about eighth-graders having lunch with upperclassmen."

She said her faculty and staff have worked diligently with central administration staff to craft a plan to minimize the exposure of the younger students to the upperclassmen, while also offering new programming throughout the high school.

"We're looking to do an eighth-grade hallway, where they would take the majority of their core classes, migrating out only for electives such as cooking, chorus, art or band," she said. "We'd also like all the eighth-graders to eat lunch together. The only students who might not fit that schedule are the ones who place in an advanced class like math. Having the ability to take an advanced class — having access to the pace and rigor that is academically appropriate — is a great advantage."

She said eighth-graders also will have the advantage of taking Virtual High School's online classes, as well as new foreign language courses in French and Spanish.

"The move has also allowed us to evaluate our curriculum," Meehan said. "We're looking at our eighth, ninth and 10th grades as growing learners, with our 11th- and 12th-grade students as preparing for life after high school."

She added, "We'll be able to expose them to more course work that prepares them for college and new electives such as astronomy and meteorology. A student interested in joining the military, with an interest in aviation, will benefit from a class like meteorology — knowing about weather patterns. We'll be able to strengthen our programs for all of our students."

The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District made a similar decision several weeks ago, voting to close Adams Memorial Middle School and return to a K-6 and 7-12 system. Middle school students will remain separate from the high school in an isolated wing.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, email

"North Berkshire service groups under strain"
By Meghan Foley, North Adams Transcript, 4/10/2009

WILLIAMSTOWN -- Layoffs, decreasing donations, funding cuts and an increase in people needing help have left several local community service organizations scrambling for resources and looking at collaboration in these tough economic times.

Collaboration was a reoccurring theme at a panel discussion for Williams College students interested in volunteering held Wednesday night at Griffin Hall on the college's campus.

Members of the panel, which included representatives from the Northern Berkshire United Way, Berkshire Community Action North, Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Target Hunger and REACH Community Health, said their agencies are faced with a "perfect storm" of factors that are straining there resources more than ever before.

Marie Harpin, director of Berkshire Community Action North, said there are more people in need of help from local non-profit organizations and in turn they need more money to support their programs.

"It takes everybody working together to provide the best services needed," she said.

Jim Canavan, executive director of the Northern Berkshire United Way, said when Gov. Deval Patrick did the first round of 9C cuts in October 2008, the Community Coalition took an $80,000 hit to its funding.

According to a March 26 Transcript article, the Northern Berkshire United Way will have to cut 40 percent of allocations to it's 23 member agencies in fiscal 2010 mostly because of a dramatic drop in donations.

Canavan said one of the concerns of lost funding is from payroll donations. He said 60 employees with Crane & Company were doing such donations, and with the company laying off 90 employees since December, the Northern Berkshire United Way is assuming probably most 60 donors were among the employees who lost their jobs.

"We don't know who gets laid off, but we do know at end of year we didn't collect what was pledged," Canavan said Thursday afternoon.

He said one upside to the whole economic mess is it's forcing people with community service organizations to consider consolidating their administration and financial offices with other agencies, and possibly buying insurance together.

He said the Northern Berkshire United Way's business model was not sustainable anymore, and its investigating different models including working closer with Berkshire United Way.

Jennifer Munoz of REACH Community Health said, "If there is a silver lining to all of this, it's forcing us to do more collaboration and look outside the box."

Besides the financial effects of layoffs on donations to local organizations, Kate Merrigan of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition said she is seeing children she works with beginning to be affected by their parents losing their jobs.

"I work with teenagers a lot, and what I've noticed with them is a ripple effect with what is happening with adults," she said.

She said this is the first year since beginning to work for the Community Coalition that she has come in contact with multiple teenagers contemplating suicide and wanting mental health support.

Munoz said there are a lot of "fragile families" in Northern Berkshire, and with the fallout from the economic recession, those families are hitting dire straights.

She also said her organization is finding many middle-class families who were able to make it financially before no longer can.

"We're seeing a whole other segment of the community in dire straights," she said.
To reach Meghan Foley, e-mail

"North Adams Cuts $200K; Mayor Warns More Reductions Ahead"
By Tammy Daniels - iBerkshires Staff - April 14, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — The City Council approved more than $200,000 in cuts from this year's $35 million budget on Tuesday night, bringing the total sliced from the city's spending plan to more than a half-million since June.

"We will end the year on the positive side after these cuts are made," said Mayor John Barrett III. "But we're probably going to have to use about $200,000 of our free cash, which has about $700,000 left," for snow and ice and veterans accounts.

The mayor said most of the reductions this time around came from salaries for positions that would become vacant through attrition. For example, longtime Highway Superintendent Leo Senecal and another highway worker will be retiring on May 1.

In October, the mayor had asked for $310,000 in cuts after Gov. Deval Patrick's slashed a billion from the state budget; another round of cuts in January cost $538,000 in local aid to North Adams.

"The economic picture has become much bleaker than it was in October," said the mayor. "If we don't make the cuts now, it will make it doubly difficult for the budget to be prepared for next year."

The fiscal 2010 budget will be approximately $2 million less than this year's budget, he said, or four times the amount of new revenue the city raised this year. Receipts are down $250,000 mainly because of the decrease in the excise taxes because of the slowdown car sales.

Worse, "I have to come back here at some point in time and find another $338,00 on top of this," he said. "We have some innovative things we're working on that I hope will come up with between now and the middle of June.

School department is not being touched, but it has been charged with finding $1.2 million in savings for next year, which should make up the majority of the anticipated cuts for fiscal 2010. School officials believe most of that can be done with the closing of Conte Middle School.

How the city fares financially may depend on the House's version of the state budget expected to be released Wednesday. Barrett said he had been informed it would be $1 billion less than Patrick's budget; House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo has warned of "billions" in cuts for next year. The governor unveiled $156 million in reductions on Tuesday to plug a budget gap this year that could balloon to $400 million by June.

Lawmakers have so far rejected hikes in taxes on gasoline, hotel/motels, meals, candy, soda and other revenue streams built into Patrick's budget, some of which was targeted for local aid. There's a likelihood lawmakers will approve a local meals and motel tax.

"This Legislature has to make some tough decisions. They say there's no appetite down there for taxes, well there's no appetite back here in North Adams or anyplace for new taxes," said Barrett. "What they like to do is pass it back us and and say, 'here, we'll let you raise all the taxes you want,' and then they'll be the good guys."

While the Berkshire delegation has said they'd support whatever was needed at the local level, the mayor told the council, the leadership had to step up, too.

"They're not being courageous in what they've been elected to do."

Mohawk Money

The council also unanimously passed to a second reading a bridge loan for first-phase work on the historic Mohawk Theater. Barrett said the loan would be paid off by the sale of $2.1 million in state and federal historical tax credits. "We hope to sell them all at once," said the mayor, but there are certain other elements that have to be completed first. The sale could bring in 90 cents on the dollar, at worst 80, to bring in about $1.6 million.

"Everything will be paid for in it's entirety. There will be no debt associated with it," he said.

The 900-seat theater will be able to host functions such as weddings, and productions and movies. It will be tied to Massachusetts College of Liberal Art's arts programs and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.

The current phase focuses on gutting the interior and restoring the facade and roof. Electrical and heat will be installed in the next phase. Barrett said U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., had secured another $190,000 for the project last week; stimulus money and fundraising efforts will hopefully help complete next phase, estimated at $3 million to $4 million. Barrett said a donation "in the six figures" from a contributor will be announced in the coming months.

Reader's Comment:

"So we cut $200,000 from the budget then borrow $600,000 to fund a project. He said that the loan would be paid for by selling tax credits yet he also said that no one is buying tax credits right now. Makes no sense to me."
from: "What" - on: 4-15-2009


"'Bridge loan' eyed to aid Mohawk restoration"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, The North Adams Transcript, 4/16/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- A newly restored facade and front entrance to the Mohawk Theater is slowly being revealed as construction coverings are peeled away, but work on the 71-year-old Art Deco theater is far from over.

The city is preparing to enter a second phase of construction inside the building, which includes electrical and heating system installations, along with reconstruction and restoration work.

"One reason we began on the outside is because of all of the historical preservation work that had to be done to the facade and outside of the building," Mayor John Barrett III told the City Council on Tuesday. "We now have to move inside and begin some of the historical preservation work before we can sell the state and federal tax credits we've received."

The council passed a request for a $600,000 "bridge loan" for the project to a second reading Tuesday night. Barrett said the loan would allow the city to continue work on the theater and meet conditions for the historical tax credits. He said the loan and its interest would be paid in full with revenues from the sale of the tax credits.

"We've received $2.1 million in historical tax credits," he said. "We hope to sell them all at once. The theory is one credit equals $1, but in today's economic climate, they are selling for about 90 cents per credit. We'll get about $1.8 million at that price. At the worst, we'll sell at 80 cents a credit and be assured $1.6 million at the least."

He said the tax credits must be sold before the city can advertise for bids for the second phase of construction, which will cost $3 million to $4 million.

"People ask me when it will be done, and I don't know," Barrett said. "People ask why it's taken so long, and I say because I haven't wanted this to be an albatross around the taxpayers' neck. We started this in 1992, and when it's complete, everything will be paid for. We're even hoping to have a small endowment of $250,000 in place to help with the upkeep."

U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy recently secured an additional $190,000 in federal funding for the theater, Barrett said.

"I also have a six-figure pledge [a private donation] that we hope to be announcing in the next few months," he said. "We continue to move forward, and we haven't even gotten into the fundraising aspects yet."

The first phase of construction included gutting the interior of the 900-seat theater, repairing and replacing portions of the roof, replacing the cement slab that leads up to the front doors, installing steel framework, removing an old boiler, repairing the facade on the front of the building and removing several staircases.

"All said and done, it costs $2.3 million," Barrett said. "All of that has been paid for. Have there been some blips in the road? Yes -- they found three facades when working on the front of the Spectacle Shoppe [a store that is part of the Mohawk Theater building] and a hole that went straight down into the cellar. Things are coming along, and now the roof is watertight."

Unlike Pittsfield's Colonial theater, the Mohawk will not have to be open year-round, Barrett said.

"It's going to be able to have theater performances, movies and digital-feed available," he said. "It can also host weddings and other rentals. We're in the process of working with the MCLA arts management program and Mass MoCA about the running of the theater. It's not going to be staffed by the city but run by another entity in the same way Mass MoCA works -- we own the buildings, but a foundation runs the facility."

Renovation plans for the theater have been dramatically scaled back because the estimated cost for the original plans for a performing arts center, which were unveiled in March 2007 by architects Finegold Alexander of Boston, had climbed from $7.5 million to more than $10.5 million.

As part of the historic preservation inside the building, the majority of the theater's doors will be removed and refitted with "panic" hardware, bringing them up to code for fire exit doors.

The theater's art-deco light fixtures, along with the original interior friezes and panels with Native Americans and stags, will be renovated and re-used. Wood fixtures and trims will be salvaged and reused or repaired with similar paint, fabric and material.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

North Adams, Massachusetts
"David Plouffe, Paul Rusesabagina to give 'Public Policy' lectures: Obama's campaign manager and 'Hotel Rwanda' hero to speak at MCLA"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Saturday, April 18, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — A newly established Public Policy Lecture Series will bring President Obama's campaign manager and the real-life hero who inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda" to the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

David Plouffe, campaign manager of "Obama for America," will give a talk titled "Building a Grassroots Movement in the 21st Century" at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 29. Paul Rusesabagina, the man who saved 1,200 lives in Rwanda, will speak at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 5. Free and open to the public, the lectures will be held in the MCLA Church Street Center.

Rusesabagina's actions during the Rwandan genocide inspired the film, "Hotel Rwanda." In 1999, the hotel manager in Rwanda made a promise to protect his family and ended up saving the lives of 1,200 people. Over the course of 100 days, almost 1 million people were killed in Rwanda. "Hotel Rwanda" delves into Rusesabagina's personal journey while explaining the history behind Rwanda's Hutu and Tutsi tribes within the historical context of the conflict.

The new Public Policy Lecture Series, funded by the Ruth Proud Charitable Trust, were heralded at MCLA.

Robert Bence, a political science professor, said the lecture series will help establish the college a venue for high-quality well-known speakers, while serving both the needs of the college's students and those of the greater community.

"It's not only important for our students to be able to see the people who they are reading and learning about in person, but also to have the opportunity to interact with and ask questions of them," he said. "It helps to spark the thought about what public service is and what the individual students relationship to others is in the greater society we are all part of."

President Mary K. Grant said the lecture series was an outstanding learning tool and important addition to the college's offerings.

"As our students become global citizens, it is essential that they have opportunities to speak with and hear from those who make, and influence pivotal public policy decisions that shape their future," she said.

"This lecture series will provide students with opportunities to connect with ideas and with people who have and are making a difference in the world," said John DeRosa, administrator of the Ruth Proud Charitable Trust. "These speakers will help students to understand how policy-makers change societies and to inspire them to contribute to that change."

Lecture reservations are not required. Seating will be available on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information, go to

"State drops in for visit at MCLA"
By Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle Staff, April 22, 2009

NORTH ADAMS — The Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts is keeping itself fresh in the minds of state higher education officials.

On Tuesday, less than a month after the state Secretary of Education Paul Reville visited the North County campus, Richard Freeland, the newly appointed state commissioner of higher education, spent the day at MCLA. He was joined by Assistant Commissioner Nate MacKinnon.

The two officials toured the campus with MCLA President Mary Grant, met with campus officials and faculty, and lunched with a select group of students.

"For someone to take the time to learn about each one of us is so important," Grant said. "The state college presidents are delighted to have a colleague in this commissioner."

In an effort to reach out to his constituents, Freeland said he plans to visit the state's 15 community colleges — including Berkshire Community College, nine state colleges and the five campuses of the University of Massachusetts by the fall.

The commissioner emphasized the need for all the state's higher education institutions to strengthen ties with each other and their respective communities.

"The life of higher education in Massachusetts is this system. They need to be aware in Boston that the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts has a role to play," the commissioner said.

Freeland commented on the importance of linking public schools to the community, the sciences and the creative economy. He said he's had several discussions with state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, about these topics, specifically the plans to build a new, state-of-the-art life sciences center on the MCLA campus.

But Freeland said his "single most important responsibility" is to ensure that schools have the resources they need to sustain themselves during these times of budget cuts, economic strain, a rising pool of prospective students and the demands for a quality education.

In review of the half-dozen campuses he's visited, he said rising fees are the biggest concern he's heard from students.

"I've been here four years, and they've increased for four years while the quality of (education and campus life) stays about the same," said MCLA senior Anthony Russo, who came to the school from Utica, N.Y.

Russo and his friend Marcella Saunders, a junior from nearby Albany, N.Y., said that the lower cost of the college drew them to MCLA. But the commissioner fears that rising fees could "price out the students for which we exist."

Between 2001 and 2007, the percentage of operational costs for colleges paid by families rose from less than 30 percent to more than 40 percent.

Freeland said he's working to coordinate two task forces within the higher education system to focus on reducing costs through collective purchasing and re-energizing the importance of state campuses and students through "sophisticated communications."

During a March 23 hearing before the state's Joint Committee on Higher Education, the commissioner outlined the need to improve college readiness at the earlier levels of education, increase affordability of higher education, and improve alignment of college programs with the state's work force needs.

April 22, 2009

Re: Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley for pork & hot dogs!

"Richard Freeland, the newly appointed state commissioner of higher education, said he's had several discussions with state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, about these topics, specifically the plans to build a new, state-of-the-art life sciences center on the MCLA campus. But he said his "single most important responsibility" is to ensure that schools have the resources they need to sustain themselves during these times of budget cuts, economic strain, a rising pool of prospective students and the demands for a quality education."

I find it interesting the Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley wants to fund a pork barrel project for North Adams and MCLA, while he also supports creating offshore corporate tax loopholes that would cost the state government hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenues! Daniel "Bureaucrat" Bosley is a HYPOCRITE of the highest order!

The new, state-of-the-art life sciences center on the MCLA campus that Daniel E. "Bureaucrat" Bosley wants built also smacks against the harsh financial and economic realities the state and local governments are facing this year. I wonder if the real reason why Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley wants this building erected is so he can have it named in his honor. I have a better idea, instead name the local "hot dog" shack after the bureaucrat impostering as a Legislator!

- Jonathan Melle


"He shook the hand of Calvin Coolidge"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Saturday, April 25, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts

It's not everyday the Drury High School band turns out to play "Happy Birthday," but the group made a special exception to celebrate the 100th birthday of Fred Crosier.

"All I have to say is 'Wow,'" Crosier said after being feted by the band and presented with a proclamation from the city.

Crosier, who lives at North Adams Commons on Franklin Street, is the last surviving member of the original high school band, which was formed in 1923. In 1925, it was the largest high school band in the country and was invited to perform for President Calvin Coolidge at the White House.

"I can still remember marching down the streets of Washington D.C.," he said. "I remember turning the corner and there was the president. I shook his hand. I remember he wasn't a very tall man."

A life-long resident of the city who grew up on his grandparents' farm, Crosier said he began playing the clarinet because of a friend.

"My friend Paul began playing the clarinet, and he said I might like it and encouraged me to try it," he said. "I was lucky that my grandparents had a little money. They bought me a clarinet, which I still have today. I'm currently rebuilding it. I just have to polish up the wood."

Mayor John Barrett III, who was on hand for the festivities, said Crosier represents the best the city has to offer.

"I've known Fred for a few years now — not his entire life but a portion of it — and he epitomizes everything that is great about the people of North Adams," Barrett said. "Fred represents the type of people that make up this city, who have the strong will to survive the tough times and enjoy the good times. He's a survivor and his strong will is the reason he's been around so long."

Although an avid music enthusiast, Crosier spent the majority of his life working for Sprague Electric Co.

"I had been helping a friend fix radios and other gadgets, and he told me that Sprague was coming to town and I should apply there," he said. "I did and took a job in the lab. I worked at Sprague's for over 45 years and by the time I was done, I was R.C. Sprague's number one man."

Although he had an illustrious career in the laboratory at Sprague, he's not one to forget his roots.

"I was very good friends with George Flood and James Hardman growing up," he said. "Every Saturday we would spend the afternoon making pocket money mowing lawns. George had a power mower, so it wasn't as tough as you think."

He added, "I think being born on a farm has something to do with my long life. I had a good young life, a wonderful life and some very intimate friendships that were formed over the years. The thing is I've never stopped living my life. I've lived a good life, and I have no reason to stop any time soon. There's so much to do and learn."

Gus Jammalo, a painter and local barber, remarked that Crosier wasn't afraid to learn new things.

"I took him to a computer class when he was 90 and he took to the computer like nothing," Jammalo said. "He even does e-mail."

Crosier said he's enjoyed watching Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts grow over the years, changing names and size.

"I've taken quite a few classes there — I really enjoyed my watercolor class," he said. "I've seen a lot change over the last 100 years, but I think the biggest change has been the change over from industrial manufacturing. That's what people were — mill workers. They worked in the (Arnold) print works, dying cloth and material, or in the cotton mills making the cloth.

"When that failed, they went to work at Sprague and the other mills. It was all we knew and that isn't good. I'm glad to see MCLA growing down the hill. I'm glad to see the change. We lost a lot of things, but things always disappear when they're no longer needed."

Crosier isn't planning on stopping any time soon; he was busy making appointments to meet with friends and even appear at the next Drury Band Alumni concert a few years from now.


North Adams, Massachusetts

"Resources Council acquires 750 acres"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, 5/21/2009

NORTH ADAMS — The city is poised to become a destination for hikers, as the Berkshire Natural Resources Council has recently completed its acquisition of 750 acres of ridge line along the Hoosac Range, spanning from the Wigwam Western Summit to the Savoy Mountain State Forest.

"We now have over over 10,000 linear feet of ridge line, offering multiple views along the Hoosac Range, which offers spectacular views and hiking oppertunities," Narain Schroeder, acting president of Berkshire Natural Resources Council, said Wednesday. "While there currently are no improved trails on property, we hope to work with the state Department of Conservation and Recreation to develop a first rate hiking trail, with the trailhead located near the Wigwam Western Summit."

On Monday, the group finalized a purchase of 97 acres from Mary Claire Walden for $97,000. The Walden property was the last piece of the puzzle for the council, which purchased the Wigwam Western Summit gift shop, cabins and about 37 acres of land from Stephen and Karen Andrews at the end of April for $470,000.

"This all started in 2007 with the purchase of two parcels of land through bankruptcy from the Adelphia Cable Corp., which featured terrific mountainsdide land with beaver ponds and great ponds," Schroeder said. "We planned on owning these two parcels as stand alone conservation parcels, but then we looked to the south and the north of us and realized there was only one piece of land between our holdings and Spruce Hill in the Savoy Mountain State Forest."

After purchasing 147 acres from the J.W. Kelly Corp. in December 2007, the group then set its sites northward, purchasing land from Timothy Caffrey of San Antonio, Texas, along with Michael Deep and West Shaft Realty Trust in the last year.

"We thought how great it would be to get out to Route 2 and throught that it could be a long range vision, that maybe somed ay that we'd get there," he said. "We started approaching the land owners along the ridge and to our great encouragement, they were interested. The project began to take shape and we began to feel our dream was not so wild and possible."

Schroeder added, "This conservation project could have fallen apart at any moment though. With so many multiple owners to work with, it could have fallen apart at any time and stopped us from connecting all of the parcels. On Monday our dream became a reality."

Mayor John Barrett III said he believes the council's plans will not only preserve spectacular views and create a destination for hikers, but also lend itself to a nice partnership between the private and public sectors.


"Mass MoCA's happy 10th"
The Berkshire Eagle, Editorial, Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in North Adams is a museum and more. It is also a successful commercial development, of course, but more significantly, it is a symbol of a revived city that came to grips with its lost glory days and successfully embraced a newly defined future.

Mass MoCA is celebrating its 10th anniversary this weekend, and while it took more than 10 difficult years to make the museum a reality, this once bold experiment is now a North Adams fixture. The museum rose fitfully from the ashes of the Sprague Electric complex, mocked by skeptics who, like those in Pittsfield who couldn't accept the reality of General Electric's slow, painful departure, expected another manufacturer to drop from the sky. It has succeeded, however, and North Adams has changed because of it.

As an art museum, Mass MoCA is known around the globe for innovative, imaginative art exhibits that in some cases could be exhibited nowhere else other than the building's massive display areas. Its arrival led to the renovated Porches Inn nearby, the growth of an arts community in the city and the re-use of other city mill buildings. The complex hosts 14 commercial tenants, including a publishing company, law firms and restaurants, which serves to assure its economic viability.

Director Joseph Thompson has been a steady hand for Mass MoCA, helping it weather tough times by exploring new ways of drawing revenue, and Mayor John Barrett III has been an aggressive advocate of the revived complex. The city has in a sense taken its lead from the complex, daring to be adventurous in pursuing new ways to succeed in a world that has changed dramatically from the heyday of Sprague manufacturing.

This is not to say that North Adams is not without the stubborn problems that plague so many New England communities in these brutal economic times. North Adams, however, is far better off than it would be if Mass MoCA didn't exist, and as Mass MoCA moves forward optimistically into the future, North Adams will do so right along with it.

Photo Gallery of Mass MoCA

Joseph C. Thompson, the only director Mass MoCA has had, hopes to renovate more buildings and to create an outdoor space for a music festival. (Stephen Rose for The Boston Globe)

"Making it big: As it turns 10, has Mass MoCA finally put its expansive vision on solid financial ground?"
By Geoff Edgers, Boston Globe Staff, May 31, 2009

NORTH ADAMS - For years, there's been a big secret in this run-down former factory town. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, praised for bringing life to the region, was barely surviving.

Mass MoCA organizers found themselves scrambling every year for more than $1 million just to keep the lights on.

"We had no cash," says director Joseph C. Thompson, sitting in a museum conference room on a recent afternoon. "We nearly went out of business 100 times."

Thompson can talk about the crunch now. For the first time in its history, Mass MoCA is close to breaking even without a desperate round of fund-raising. This month, the museum celebrated an important milestone. It has been 10 years since the largest contemporary art museum in the world opened on the shuttered campus of the former Sprague Electric Co.

In that time, more than a million people have passed through the brick-walled galleries to gaze at exhibits that, in many cases, could not have been seen anyplace else - from Chinese artist Cai Guo Qiang's series of nine cars suspended from the ceiling, rods of pulsating light exploding from them, to Sol LeWitt's colorful, detailed wall drawings, spread over three floors in an unprecedented 25-year exhib it. What's more, Thompson, the only leader in Mass MoCA's history, has plans to renovate more of the factory buildings on the museum's site and to create an outdoor concert space for a summertime music festival.

It's a stunning turnaround for a museum that, at one point, seemed unlikely even to be built.

An inspired start
The idea for Mass MoCA emerged almost a quarter-century ago. Thomas Krens, then a professor and director of the Williams College Museum of Art and later responsible for the Guggenheim Foundation's massive museum growth worldwide, remembers exactly when the idea came to him: Nov. 15, 1985.

He had gone to see an exhibition space in Cologne, Germany. A couple of enterprising dealers staged a show by Austrian artist Marcus Lupertz in an old factory building. They didn't bother cleaning up the space or changing a thing before installing the art. They just put up lights.

Krens thought of North Adams, just up the road from his museum in Williamstown. Unemployment was running high in North Adams, particularly with the Sprague plant closing. At one time more than 4,000 people had worked there. Krens pitched the idea for a contemporary-art museum to city leaders and brought two proteges in to work with him on the project: a former student, Joe Thompson, and a current student, Michael Govan.

The locals liked the concept, and Governor Michael Dukakis supported the plan. In 1988, the Legislature agreed to provide $35 million to renovate the site - providing Mass MoCA raised $15 million on its own. That same year, Krens left for the top job at the Guggenheim Foundation. He offered Thompson the deputy director job at the Guggenheim. Thompson declined, telling Krens he wanted to stay in North Adams. (Govan got the Guggenheim job.)

"If Joe hadn't stayed," Krens said in a recent interview, "Mass MoCA wouldn't have happened."

But Mass MoCA almost didn't happen. When the "Massachusetts Miracle" of the 1980s turned into a recession, support for the project wavered. The state museum money was frozen. It took $8 million of private money and seven years until Governor William Weld released a portion of the original allocation: almost $19 million. When Mass MoCA finally opened in 1999, it was hailed by politicians, arts leaders, and local residents for bringing life - and tourists - to a long-crippled corner of the state.

In its first year, 115,000 people visited Mass MoCA.

Meanwhile, in the galleries, the museum quickly developed a reputation for exhibiting daring works that, by virtue of its ample space, could not be shown anywhere else. Mass MoCA's signature structure, the football field-size Building 5, housed Robert Rauschenberg's massive 1999-2000 installation "The 1/4 Mile or 2 Furlong Piece," featuring colorful quilts and tablecloths, a bench made from oil barrels, and close to 200 other objects. Later shows would include Tim Hawkinson's 300-foot-long "Überorgan," a giant musical instrument made up of tubes and 13 bus-size inflated bags; Ann Hamilton's "Corpus," which involved millions of sheets of white paper dropped, lifted, and then dropped again in a gallery lighted by magenta-tinted windows; Robert Wilson's "14 Stations," which explored Jesus' journey through a series of sculptures, paintings, and clapboard huts; and Jenny Holzer's recent "Projections," in which texts flowed hypnotically across beanbags strewn through the space.

There was, of course, the disastrous dispute with Austrian installation artist Christoph Büchel, who walked out on Mass MoCA because he said it wasn't capable of pulling off his apocalyptic installation planned for Building 5, "Training Ground for Democracy." That conflict ended in name-calling, mutual recriminations, and a 2007 lawsuit filed by Mass MoCA so it could get clearance to show the public the unfinished exhibit, which included everything from a smashed police car to deactivated bombshells, a two-story house that had been sliced apart and put back together, and an entirely rebuilt movie theater. Mass MoCA won in court, but ultimately decided to dismantle the installation.

Even in that debacle, the museum's ambition was evident.

"They added something very unique to the ecology of the museum scene in Massachusetts and the US, period," said Nicholas Baume, chief curator at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art. "Nobody else has that wonderful, character-filled, 19th-century architecture. And they've been smart in the way they've used it, inviting artists who can take advantage of that scale."

With virtually unlimited space, Mass MoCA also found a way to support local artists. Gregory Crewdson, known for his enormous cinematic photographs, needed space to work for his elaborate stagings. Thompson worked out a deal, shortly after the museum opened, to let him use Mass MoCA as his center of operations. In those days, Crewdson traded works for the space, allowing the museum to auction off his photographs to raise money. Later, Crewdson simply paid rent. His work has been shown by the museum, and he was eventually appointed to Mass MoCA's board.

"It's funny," said Crewdson, speaking by phone from Rome, where he was working. "I'm calling you from an enormous back lot of Cinecittà Studios, which is one of the most renowned movie studios in the world. And there's not a doubt in my mind I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for that support of Mass MoCA."

Building the endowment
Despite all of his deal-making, Thompson still had a problem.

With no endowment and only limited revenue, the museum opened with an immediate structural deficit. The first year, the deficit was $2 million. Thompson found himself working the phones and his board to raise cash. In 2001, Hans Morris, president of Visa, attended his first board meeting.

He was stunned at what he heard.

"I just remember telling myself, this is so bleak," Morris remembered. "I had no idea how bad it was."

Walking out of that first meeting, Morris pulled out his checkbook and wrote Thompson a check for $10,000.

"You guys need the money," he said.

The gap between revenue and expenses did narrow over time, but not enough. By 2006, the crisis was such that Thompson was unable to pay the museum's bills. Mass MoCA owed close to 100 businesses about $850,000.

He sent a letter asking the vendors to settle for a portion of the debt.

"We want not only to be able to stay in business so that we may remain a customer," the letter read, "but also to thrive, so that we can become a good customer."

The hook, in the letter, was that Mass MoCA, after years of budget problems, had a plan. Instead of spending each year looking for "Hail Mary money," as Thompson called it, they would create an endowment. (They couldn't do so before, Thompson said, because all of the staff's energy had been devoted to continuing to raise the $15 million it needed to receive all the matching state money. The private fund-raising wasn't complete until 2003.) By now, Jock Reynolds, director of the Yale University Art Gallery, had come to Thompson looking to create a long-term exhibit for LeWitt. That opened the door for raising millions for the project. In addition, in late 2006, a Mass MoCA board member made a dramatic offer to Thompson.

For every month from March through September 2007 that Thompson could raise $1 million in endowment, the board member would provide $100,000 for general operating expenses. If Thompson met his total quota, the trustee would throw in an additional $1 million to the endowment, plus $250,000 for operations each year for four years, to assure other donors the museum's financial footing would be secure.

The plan by the board member, who Thompson says wishes to remain anonymous, worked.

Today, Mass MoCA's endowment has grown to $14.7 million. That, along with revenue from properties the museum renovated and rented, has put it in a different position. The once $2 million gap has become just $150,000.

Now Thompson can think about more than raising stopgap money. He can think about the future.

Spatial thinking
Walking around the campus, Thompson, sandy-haired and wearing jeans, shows off all of the undeveloped spaces. When Mass MoCA opened in 1999, it was using 208,000 square feet of the available 28-building, 13-acre Sprague site.

Renovations over the last decade have taken that number to 418,000 square feet. The museum uses some 310,000 square feet itself for galleries, stages, lobby space, and other operations. Additional space is rented to a range of tenants.

Other acquisitions have expanded the campus footprint to 18 acres, or about one-third of the downtown business district.

That space is what's on Thompson's mind as he walks across a short metal bridge connecting the museum to a pair of undeveloped buildings.

Building 8, with 2,000 square feet and large windows on either side, would make an ideal space for sculptures, he says. Over the next bridge, and he's into Building 6, the largest on the campus with 40,000 square feet on each of three floors.

"The Whitney, I think, has 25,000 square feet of exhibition space," he says, looking around at Building 6's vast raw space. "We've got 1.5 Whitneys per floor."

Right now, these old buildings are used to test installations and store old works. In one corner, there are 12 bombshells left from the Büchel exhibit. One day, Thompson hopes to create other single-artist installations in the spirit of the giant LeWitt show. That project has boosted attendance, which had fluctuated between 115,000 and 125,000 visitors over the years. Mass MoCA projects attendance will be around 145,000 when this year ends.

And out back, Thompson has his eye on a grassy field just past a parking lot. It's a rough spot right now, bordered by an old conveyer belt that looms overhead, a pile of leftover wooden beams, and a rusty fence.

"You could put tents and porta-potties there and a stage there," Thompson said, motioning with his arms.

He envisions a multistage summer music festival, three or four bands playing during the day. There would be gardens where there are now modular trailers, scrub, and brick. There could be lights on the conveyor belt.

What's holding him back from all these projects?

"It's just money," he says.

A measure of how much more secure Thompson feels about Mass MoCA is how he responds when asked about his own career plans. He's been in charge of this project for two decades. Now 50, Thompson said he's turned down museum director jobs over the years.

"Mass MoCA was too fragile," he said. "Would you want to spend 10 or 15 years of your life on a project and leave and see it shut its doors in six months? I was committed to getting this built and started and building the institution with the reasonable prospect of it being here a very long time."

And does he feel he has?

"We're getting close."
Geoff Edgers can be reached at

"Alcombright for mayor"
The North Adams Transcript, Letters, June 4, 2009

To the Editor:

The official tally is in: The Alcombright for Mayor campaign kick-off spaghetti supper was a huge success.

The overflow crowd of about 1,000 contained a cross section of North Adams’ voters, from liberals to conservatives, young and old to North Adams natives and brand new residents.

Most notably the room was festive, the people happy and optimistic, and all spoke of the need and hope for change. The consensus: 26 years is enough. It is time for Mayor Barrett to move on.

The hope and optimism focused on Dick Alcombright, recognized for his long-time commitment to the community in so many ways, including as a city councilor, as vice chairman of the McCann Technical School Committee, as a member of the board of directors of Northern Berkshire YMCA, as campaign chairman for the Northern Berkshire United Way and much more.

Combined with his 36 years of business experience and his current role as senior vice president of retail banking for Hoosac Bank and Williamstown Savings Bank, he is clearly more than qualified and ready to hit the ground running once elected mayor.

The successful campaign kick-off proved several things: That North Adams is eager for a change of leadership to change the culture and tone of the city, to tap in to its greatest resource, its people, so that we can move forward and realize our full potential.

As an unchallenged candidate, Mayor Barrett has won prior elections with only a small margin of votes. The turnout for the Alcombright for Mayor campaign dinner established Dick Alcombright not only as a serious contender, but also quite possibly, the front-runner.

Peter D. May
North Adams, Massachusetts
June 2, 2009

"Keep the mayor the mayor"
The North Adams Transcript, Letters to the Editor, 6/22/2009

Mayor Barrett has for many years held our taxes in check, keeping taxes at the lowest level in the area even with the state's continuing revenue cuts to the city.

Mayor Barrett has pushed for the enhancement of the downtown areas of this city. He has been at the forefront of removing blighted, unsafe buildings and made the outlying area more of a pleasant area in which to live and raise children. He is still at the forefront of the renovation of the theater on Main Street. He has pushed to develop the old Clark Biscuit Co. into a new housing development, making for a better looking Ashland Street area.

Mayor Barrett has led the way for the Mass MoCA development and helped to bring in new stores like Staples, Peebles and others in a time when most chains are cutting back their outlets and closing stores.

Mayor Barrett is recognized as one of the first political leaders to realize the importance of arts as an economic stimulus. He has rebuilt the North Adams economy in a time of chaos and will continue to do so in the future.

A vote to keep the mayor the mayor is a vote for an economic recovery for the city and the surrounding area.

Philip Carbin
North Adams, Massachusetts
June 19, 2009


"Alcombright outlines ideas for economic development"
The North Adams Transcript, 6/11/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Mayoral Candidate Richard Alcombright released his initial thoughts and ideas for economic development in the city of North Adams on Monday.

"I intend to position North Adams for growth by reviewing the existing infrastructure to identify places, processes and resources needed to enhance growth and economic development," Alcombright said in a news release.

"The most effective and timely conversations we can have as a community are those that involve planning for our future," he said. "We must ask: What should be built, where should we build it, how should we build it and what infrastructure is required to support it? The city must identify growth areas, work with property owners and simplify planning and zoning processes to encourage development which over time will provide good jobs."

Alcombright said he would keep the future in mind while leading the city.

"I will create a city government that will be a resource for private-sector development, rather than competing with it. For example, the city-owned Windsor Mill, developed as an incubator for new business, currently competes with private sector space on terms which appear unclear and perhaps inconsistent. Once elected, I intend to review and, if necessary, revise the city's objectives and goals for the Windsor Mill."

He said another idea for enhancing economic development would be to create a "business center" within City Hall that would be a resource for potential investors in the city -- a one-stop shopping experience for locating businesses in North Adams.

"Local business leaders should also have a voice in the future of economic development in North Adams," Alcombright said in his release. "I intend to take advantage of our human potential and couple it with regional economic development ideas and entities for far-reaching results."

He said he would work to revise "Gateway City" legislation that has already been proposed in the Legislature to help restore and reuse historic buildings, provide for job creation, create housing credits and expands the Economic Opportunity Area tax credit.

"But, to qualify, a Gateway City has to have a population exceeding 35,000," Alcombright said. "Because the legislation targets historic mill communities that have struggled with a decline in manufacturing resulting in poorer households, North Adams qualifies in all other respects except population.

He said he has asked state Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, D-Pittsfield to look into ways to modify the legislation to include North Adams.

"Finally, although I will not minimize the financial constraints on our economy, I maintain that this is an incredible time to think about and to plan for our future," Alcombright said. "I want North Adams to be riding the first wave out of this recession. By softening our processes, leveling the playing field and working together cooperatively, we will all share in North Adams' success."

For more information, e-mail Alcombright at or visit


North Adams, Massachusetts
"Barrett eyes 14th term"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, July 1, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Mayor John Barrett III isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet. The state's longest-serving mayor made if official Tuesday afternoon when he took out nomination papers from City Hall. If successful, Barrett will serve a 14th two-year term.

"I said I wouldn't take [the papers] out until after we were done with the budget," said Barrett on Tuesday afternoon during an interview at his office. "The budget was a very long and arduous task. With that done, I will be able to focus a little bit of my time on the election."

City Councilor Richard J. Alcombright declared his intention to run for mayor in March and has returned the required 50 signatures to appear on the November ballot.

It's assumed that Alcombright will be the first serious challenger to Barrett's City Hall desk since two-time mayoral hopeful Paul Babeu fell to Barrett for a second time in 2001. Barrett easily defeated Walter Smith in 2005. Candidates still have until August 4 (2009) to take out nomination papers, and a third candidate would require the city to schedule a preliminary election in September.

"There are basically four reasons why I am running again," Barrett said. "First, I still have the passion this job needs. The passion I have now is greater than when I announced my intention to run for the first time 25 years ago.

"The second reason is that I am concerned about the financial stability of the city."

Barrett added that although the city weathered a difficult financial situation in the upcoming fiscal year with a $34.5 million budget and over $2 million in state funding cuts, the worst hasn't been seen.

"The next two years are going to be a difficult period of time," Barrett said. "In my mind the city needs a strong leader with experience. I remember the days of Proposition 2-1/2, which devastated schools in North Adams. When I took office in 1984, the city had been operating with a cash deficit for three years. It took us almost 15 years to recover from that. We can't go into that tread-water mode."

Barrett said the third reason for running is the need for the city to continue to have strong ties to Boston and Washington, D.C.

"The relationships I've built are critical during a time of fiscal chaos," he added.

Barrett said he would open a campaign headquarters and announce related information to the campaign in the coming months.

"I'm looking forward to the debates," Barrett said. "I'd like to see three -- no less than two -- so we can get to the issues and let the people hear our positions. I'm ready to go and do them any place and any time."

"Electric rates under watch: National Grid's proposal to raise customer's bills by 5.5 percent next year has prompted a public hearing set for July 15 in North Adams."
By Tony Dobrowolski, The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Friday, July 3, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- A proposal by National Grid to increase the average residential customer's utility bill by 5.5 percent next year has come under scrutiny by the state Attorney General's office.

As part of the investigation process, the state Department of Public Utilities has scheduled a public hearing for Friday, July 15, at North Adams City Hall to allow legislators, public officials and the public to express their concerns. The hearing begins at 7 p.m.

It is one of four public hearings on the proposed rate hike that the DPU will conduct across the state beginning on July 7. The other hearings are scheduled for Nantucket on July 7, Worcester on July 8, Andover on July 9, and Quincy on July 14.

North Adams is one of 14 Berkshire County communities that is serviced by National Grid, formerly the Massachusetts Electric Co. The others include Adams, Great Barrington, Lenox, Stockbridge, West Stockbridge, and Williamstown.

National Grid on May 15 filed a petition with the DPU requesting an approximately $111 million rate increase that would go into effect on Jan. 1, 2010, according to the Attorney General's office. The proposal would require an 18 percent increase in distribution rates for residential customers, or a 5.5 percent increase in a consumer's total bill.

North Adams Mayor John Barrett III said the increase for commercial and industrial users could be as high as 18 percent. On Friday, Barrett called National Grid's proposal "absurd" and urged the utility company's customers to attend the public hearing.

"This is at a time when the economy isn't going well," Barrett said. "It would be wrong in a good economy, but do it in this economy is absolutely absurd.

"Hopefully, we'll be able to pack the room," he continued, referring to the attendance at the public hearing. "If people can't attend, I'm encouraging them to write letters or to submit comments.

"This is a big deal. It's really going to hurt, and there's no need for it."

The state Attorney General's office is examining National Grid's filing through its role as the state's ratepayer advocate. In that capacity, it represents consumers in matters involving the price and delivery of natural gas, electricity and telecommunications services before federal and state regulators, including the DPU. Representatives of the Attorney General's Energy and Telecommunications Division will attend the public hearing.

In a written statement, state Attorney General Martha Coakley said her office has "several major concerns" with National Grid's request.

One her office's concerns is that National Grid wants to recover the $30 million that it spent restoring service after last December's ice storm from ratepayers in the span of one year instead of spreading the cost out over several years.

"They're basically saying that they want to recoup the investment they made in one year on the backs of the ratepayers," Barrett said.

"Massachusetts already has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation," Coakley said. "It is unfortunate that National Grid has chosen to propose such a significant electric rate increase that will further harm taxpayers during their tough economic times."

The Attorney General's office will hold evidentiary hearings regarding National Grid's filing from Aug. 3 through Sept. 4. The DPU is expected to render a decision on Dec. 1.

Written comments cane be submitted by mail to 1 South Station, Boston, MA 02108; or via e-mail to; or to
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:, or (413) 496-6224.

Jodi Joseph, retail manager for MASS MoCA, says she never would have stayed in her home town of North Adams if it weren't for the contemporary art museum. (Andrea Shea/WBUR)

"Big Museum, Big Promises: MASS MoCA’s Economic Impact"
By ANDREA SHEA - - July 6, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — There are few museums in the world with enough space to exhibit a giant musical instrument made of 13 inflatable bags, each the size of a school bus. The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is one of them, and it is enormous: 400,000 square feet total, with 150,000 square feet of gallery space.

MASS MoCA, as its known, is located in an old electric factory compound. Its doors opened 10 year ago this summer in North Adams, a working-class town in the Berkshires.

Standing in MASS MoCA’s exposed brick lobby, you can sense the ghost of North Adams’ industrial past. The pretty, but gritty former mill town is off-the-beaten-path, in the northwestern corner of the state, hours from any major metropolitan area.

Museum Director Joseph Thompson says the location raised eyebrows from the beginning. “It was an absurd idea to build a very large institution devoted to contemporary art in North Adams,” he says. “It was not the most likely of places for this.”

It was unlikely because the town was reeling after the Sprague Electric Company closed in 1985. Thousands of jobs disappeared, devastating the town. The contemporary art museum offered a promise to revitalize North Adams.

State Rep. Daniel Bosley, of North Adams, got behind it by shepherding unprecedented legislation that would direct $35 million toward the project. “Take out the word museum, and just run the numbers on the number of visitors and the amount of money it generated,” Bosley says. “It worked.”

One study measuring MASS MoCA’s economic impact found an increase in the number of jobs since it opened, along with higher property values and tax revenue. It’s pumping $14 million a year into area hotels, restaurants and shops. After a decade of operating in the red, Director Joe Thompson says MASS MoCA is seeing more than 110,000 visitors annually, and the museum is finally making money.

On a rainy Thursday, Susan Weisend drove four and a half hours to MASS MoCA from Ithaca, N.Y. She says she likes the idea that it is in an old factory. “It’s very easy to see art here,” she says. “I love to go to Manhattan to see art also, but it’s a little more challenging with a place to stay, parking, all that sort of thing.” Weisend visits several times a year and stays and eats locally when she makes the trip.

Michael Supranowitcz, President and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce, says visitors like Weisend have helped transform downtown North Adams. “It was very, very bad up here before MoCA moved in. Now, he admits, “Yes, everything is not successful,” but, “what’s great is, when one restaurant fails, someone else is in their spot within a year.”

Supranowitcz says MASS MoCA is living up to his expectations, but small business owner Vinny Patel doesn’t agree. “I’m expecting more, put it that way,” he says as a customer leaves his Corner Market convenience store, which is walking distance from the museum.

Patel questions MASS MoCA’s impact, saying, “It’s just same routine life, I still see my regular customers here. It has to grow, it’s just not enough for the town.”

Patel is not alone in his thinking. In fact, what has been called the “MASS MoCA effect” has fueled a political debate between the current mayor of North Adams and his opponent. The mayor holds it up as a success story while his adversary warns the town should not put all its eggs in the MASS MoCA basket.

Some of state Rep. Daniel Bosley’s constituents question whether an art museum was the best choice for North Adams. He says they ask, “why we aren’t putting manufacturing in those buildings, why are we putting art in those buildings?” But Bosley points to the job base, the traffic that has generated and the overall buzz for North Adams.

MASS MoCA’s edgy exhibitions are written about and reviewed in publications all over the world. Many people say it’s hard to quantify the true value of MASS MoCA’s reputation. For 33-year-old Jodi Joseph, retail manager at the museum, it manifests as pride and a job in her home town, which she never thought she would have.

Joseph admits she spent a lot of her life apologizing for coming from North Adams, but now has “tons of North Adams pride,” she says. “I’m sort of embarrassed about my prior embarrassment. But the city took a long time to escape its lesser reputation and sort of begin to flap it’s wings again, so I’m very happy to be here and to be a part of that.”

And Joseph says if MASS MoCA wasn’t here, she would have left town a long time ago.

The small town of North Adams is an unlikely home to one of the world's largest contemporary art museums. Click to enlarge photo. (Courtesy of MASS MoCA)

"World-Class Art In Working-Class Mass.: MASS MoCA’s Cultural Impact"
By ANDREA SHEA - - July 7, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — At MASS MoCA, size doesn’t matter. Hulking sculptures and ceiling-high video installations honor the museum’s 150,000 square feet of gallery space. Joseph Thompson, MASS MoCA’s director, said they also honor the museum’s mission. “It’s not like going to a show and standing in the middle of a gallery and seeing 20 things on the wall,” he said. “It’s often a one-to-one experience — you walk up into a gallery and you’re in a work of art.”

MASS MoCA has been called the largest contemporary art museum in the world. It opened in North Adams 10 years ago this summer, promising to exhibit edgy, large-scale spectacles that would attract the attention of artists, critics and audiences the world over. MASS MoCA’s presence would also transform the working-class Berkshire town into an arts mecca.

Many of the displayed works are by high-profile artists who’ve shown at the world’s top museums. Right now, a retrospective of 100 wall-drawings by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt fills 25,000 square feet at MoCA. Time Magazine rated it “the top museum exhibition of 2008,” ahead of shows at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. It will be up and open to the public for 25 years years.

Having an institution like MASS MoCA boosts Massachusetts’ cultural landscape, according to Nick Capasso, senior curator at the DeCordova Museum, just outside Boston. “What they really add to the national cultural community is the ability to show extremely large, extremely extensive, extremely involved works of contemporary art that really cannot be realized or adequately presented anywhere else,” he said.

Take, for instance, an industrial-sized piece called “The Knitting Machine” by Providence-based sculptor Dave Cole. He took two excavators, or giant digging machines, then removed the shovels and replaced them with telephone poles. He used the machine to knit a giant American flag. Cole said it’s not the kind of thing an artist can pull-off at any museum. “MASS MoCA is the kind of place that will not only allow something big and crazy to happen, but will actually encourage it,” he said.

Cole sees MASS MoCA as a “Shangri-La” of contemporary art in the Berkshires, but it hasn’t always been pure artistic bliss at the museum. Two years ago, MASS MoCA went to federal court over a legal dispute with Swiss artist Christoph Buchel. Buchel abandoned his nearly-finished installation, “Training Ground for Democracy,” after months of planning and prep work.

It was the size of a football field, and featured an actual movie theater, cargo containers and an entire house. The artist and the museum fought over the show’s destiny. Against Buchel’s wishes MASS MoCA won the right to show the incomplete installation to the public, but ultimately dismantled it instead. Director Joseph Thompson regrets what he calls a very expensive snafu. “Yeah, that nearly put us out of business,” he said. But it also put MASS MoCA into the international press, because the conflict was unprecedented in the museum world.

You can see MASS MoCA’s impact on artists in North Adams, too.

Rich Remsberg, an experimental filmmaker and archivist, lives and works at the Eclipse Mill, a former textile building that was converted into 40 artist lofts five years ago. He and his wife moved to North Adams from Indiana after hearing the town was experiencing an cultural renaissance following MASS MoCA’s opening.

But Remsberg said it’s moving a bit slower than he was led to believe.” “No one’s lying,” he said, “but you can get an impression that there’s more happening than there is.”

That said, Remsberg is very satisfied with what is happening in North Adams. He credits MASS MoCA for being an artistic anchor, and said if the museum wasn’t here he and his wife would’ve moved to Brooklyn.

A tight-knit community of working artists drives the creative scene here, according to John Mitchell, the arts and entertainment editor at the local paper, The North Adams Transcript. Mitchell moved here from Somerville 12 years ago. At the time, the big joke was you could get a house in North Adams for the price of a car.

But now, he said, the town is transformed, with more young people, more restaurants, more live music and more than 20 art galleries. “You know it’s totally different,” Mitchell said. “The downtown still has a ways to go, but it’s not as dead as it was when we first came here. You look around and you feel a lot more hopeful.”

MASS MoCA also hopes to nurture future generations of museum-goers. On a recent weekday, students from Reed Middle School in nearby Pittsfield piled into a gallery for a tour.

Seventh-grader Jacob Novic stared at a wall-like sculpture made of crumbled concrete and twisted metal. And he had questions. “When I first saw it, I was thinking, ‘What is that, why is it there, is it trash?’ ” he said. But after the museum’s education director described the piece and the artist, “I really started thinking about it and it’s very interesting, people’s perspective on life,” Novic said.

Novic admitted he hadn’t been to many art museums, and said he can’t wait to tell his parents about the odd and amazing things he saw on his trip to MASS MoCA. For the past 10 years, this eye-popping effect is exactly what MASS MoCA has strived to achieve, both here in North Adams, and beyond.



"Officials to hold meeting on Hadley project"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, The North Adams Transcript, July 7, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- As crews continue to ready the Hadley Overpass for a $24.4 million reconstruction project -- which will commence on Monday, July 13 -- project officials will hold an informational meeting at 10 a.m. today in City Hall.

"The informational meeting is open to anyone, but specifically targets businesses and abutters," Colin Durrant, a spokesman for the Executive Office of Transportation, said Monday.

The meeting, which will detail construction activity and its effects on nearby businesses and residents, will be led by MassHighway’s Resident Engineer John Pierce and Gary Palumbo, project superintendent for the lead contractor, J.H. Maxymillian Construction Co.

For the last few weeks, workers from Tri-State Painting Inc., of Tilton, N.H., have been cleaning and priming the bridge’s metal support trusses. Repairs to the concrete piers on the span’s north and south ends have also been in the works as crews prepare for the start of construction.

Durrant said commuters using the bridge will experience slight delays beginning on Monday, as crews move in to start the long-anticipated repairs to its deck.

"On July 13, barriers will be placed on the bridge deck to begin stage 1 activities," he said. "Barriers will be placed on the south end of the bridge, blocking the center section. Two lanes of traffic will remain. There will be occasional delays while setting up the work zone. There also may be delays at later times when construction equipment is moving in and out of the work zone, in addition to when there is beam removal, beam setting, or concrete placement."

The first stage of construction is the removal and replacement of a 9-foot section down the center of the existing bridge. Traffic will flow on either side of the center section while it is reconstructed. Current plans call for at least one lane of traffic on the bridge to be open during all phases of construction.

Work on the bridge’s deck was slated to begin at the end of May, but was stalled after crews found additional repairs needed to be made to its concrete piers.

In order to gain back some of the lost time, Maxymillian has also designed a special support system for the southern end of the bridge, which would allow phase one construction on the deck to take place at the same time.

Construction is expected to be completed by June 15, 2012. Plans for the reconstruction of the 940-foot bridge over Heritage State Park, the north branch of the Hoosic River and the historic city rail yard -- the longest span in Berkshire County -- include replacing trusses, bridge subsections, beams, deck and deck railings.

Plans to reconstruct the bridge first surfaced in 1988, but delays were numerous, and the project underwent several redesigns. In May 2001, former Massachusetts Highway Commissioner Matthew Amorello stood before the City Council pledging to move up the planned construction for the overpass -- making it a priority and setting construction work to begin in fall 2002.

In a May 2005 interview, Ross B. Dindio, then MassHighway District 1 director, said the bridge would take nine to 12 months to fix -- at less than half the cost of the original $17 million budget to replace it.

In 2006, officials with the state Executive Office of Transportation said they were shooting for a 2009 start date to refurbish the bridge, after tossing out plans to rebuild it. In December 2007, the project was estimated to cost $20.6 million -- nearly double what had been projected 10 months earlier, when state Highway Commissioner Luisa M. Paiewonsky said the bridge would undergo a "25-percent rehabilitation."

"'Taste of the Berkshires' to be fall parade's theme"
The North Adams Transcript, 7/8/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- The Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and the city of North Adams have announced the 54th Fall Foliage Festival Parade will be held on Sunday, Oct. 4.

The Fall Foliage Festival Parade Committee has selected "Taste of the Berkshires" as the theme for the 2009 parade. This theme is an opportunity to celebrate the unique and diverse flavors found within Northern Berkshire County.

"The parade theme, ‘Taste of the Berkshires,' suggested by one of our committee members, is just perfect," Rod Bunt, Fall Foliage Festival Parade Committee director, said in a news release. Z"It works on lots of levels. In one regard, it gives us a chance to salute the independently-owned restaurants that are attracting tourists and local folks here in Northern Berkshire. As an added bonus, the food theme should creatively inspire float builders and other groups entering the parade this year."

The 54th Fall Foliage Festival Parade is coordinated by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce.

"The Berkshire Chamber is thrilled to once again help support the Fall Foliage Parade," Michael Supranowicz, president and CEO of the Berkshire Chamber, said in the release. "The parade is a time-honored tradition in North Berkshire and we understand that, now perhaps more than ever, it is important to businesses and residents to preserve this very special community event."

The parade will step off on Sunday, Oct. 4, at 1 p.m., from the Wal-Mart parking lot and continue down Curran Highway before winding through downtown North Adams.

Although the parade is still months away, the organizational effort is already strong. Over the next few months, parade committee members will coordinate an array of marching bands, floats, banners and other marching units in preparation for this monumental event.

With so many tasks ahead, the committee welcomes volunteers to help with the parade effort. For more information on the parade or to volunteer, call Christine Hoyt at (413) 499-4000, ext. 26 or Bunt at (413) 664-6180 or visit


"State to fund millions in repairs, improvements"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Friday, July 10, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- The Hadley Overpass won't be the only gateway into the city receiving a facelift in the coming months.

North Adams is receiving $3.4 million in federal stimulus funds aimed at resurfacing Ashland, Church, West Main, River, Beaver, and Union streets, and Massachusetts Avenue.

"All of the main arteries into the city will be receiving an upgrade," state Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi said during a visit to the city on Thursday. "We're going to make these roads safer and better. This is what the stimulus money is supposed to do.

"We're reaching out to every part of the state," Aloisi continued. "One of the things Gov. Patrick has instilled in his cabinet is that there is a world beyond Route 128."

Mayor John Barrett III said many people doubted the city could pull together a "shovel-ready" plan to receive federal stimulus money, complete with engineering schematics by Tighe and Bond, in the 90-day window allotted by the state earlier this year.

"We wouldn't have been able to do it without the help of MassHighway," he said. "I thank you for paying attention to us, but also for responding to our needs. We're not the biggest voting bloc in the state."

Barrett said while other communities were busy offering up hundreds of projects to the state for consideration for the stimulus funds, the city was carefully focusing on a few particular projects that would have a major impact on the city.

"In this case, we saw the opportunity to go after the stimulus funds and went after it aggressively," Barrett said. "Everyone thought we were nuts and that we wouldn't have the project ready. The key was that the projects needed to be ‘shovel-ready.' Everybody in the world was putting in projects, but not all of them were ready to go."

The mayor said he believes the construction, which is scheduled to start this fall, will make a difference to the local economy.

"It's all about image and perception," he said. "Residents will see people out there working, and it's going to have a ripple effect. There's going to be a vibrancy that comes from this. There will also be jobs that are created and those workers will be out there spending money at local stores and restaurants."

Aloisi said he anticipates several hundred jobs will be created by the stimulus funding.

"We're moving full speed ahead with this project," Aloisi said. The project will be submitted to the Metropolitan Planning Organization at its next meeting, and it will go out to bid in August, he added.

MassHighway District 1 Director Peter Niles said plans call for the complete resurfacing of the roads, which includes the raising of structures such as manholes and catch basins. Sidewalks along the selected streets will also be redone to meet American Disabilities Act requirements.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley said he considers the plans to be an innovative way to use stimulus funds to create jobs and repair aging infrastructure.

"There's not enough money in the United States to solve the economic problems in this country," he said. "It takes innovation and some passion to solve these problems. We can no longer do things the way we used to. In this case, this isn't just a win-win situation. It's a situation in which the sum is more than the whole."


"North Adams registry earns reprieve"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, 7/10/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- When the state's Registry of Motor Vehicles last week revealed its plan to close 11 of its 34 branches to save $1.7 million, North Adams was not on the "chopping block."

However, the North Adams branch, which opened its new office last November at 33 Main St. after moving from the Curran Highway, was originally one of the locations to be shut.

But state Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi said on Thursday the North Adams branch was spared after he and Gov. Deval Patrick were lobbied by Mayor John Barrett III, state Rep. Daniel Bosley and Lt. Gov. Timothy Murray.

"We are facing tough times regionally and the state budget is slim, but we are not closing this branch," Aloisi said Thursday during a stop at City Hall where he also announced $3.4 million in federal stimulus funds for North Adams. "This branch was one of the 12 on the chopping block. But because of a huge initiative led by Mayor Barrett and Representative Bosley, we have been challenged to think creatively and keep this branch open."

Instead, the North Adams branch will stay open by getting an infusion of funds to share the rent from MassHighway, which will open a satellite office at the branch.

"We're going to get our bang for our buck and show the city of North Adams, along with Northern Berkshire, the respect it deserves," Aloisi said.

Bosley said he was pleased to see that the governor continued to pay attention to rural areas such as North Adams.

"When I met with him last week, I said to him that we may be small, but we have the same right as everyone else to these services," Bosley said. "I told him that people in Northern Berkshire don't have a lot of contact with state government, and for a lot of people out here, the RMV is the face of state government. We also talked about the foot traffic the RMV brings for local businesses in the downtown."

Barrett said the announcement proved that every area of the state was being valued equally.

"I think it's the hallmark of the Patrick administration -- his administration understands the importance of paying attention to rural areas like ours where public transportation is not readily available as it is in others," he said. "When the registry announced its plans to close 12 branches, it was natural for them to look at ours because of its small size. With the help of Representative Bosley, Lieutenant Governor Murray and Secretary Aloisi, we were able to come up with a innovative plan to keep this one open."

Aloisi confirmed the local branch was originally targeted because of its size and small numbers, compared to larger offices around the state.

"I've been to the Pittsfield and Greenfield offices, and it seemed to me that this wasn't the right choice," he said. "There will be registry offices closing, but not here. I think one of the things that made this branch stand out was the leadership of this area that refused to let it close. I think there's a reason that John Barrett has been mayor for so long. Representative Bosley is a solid voice. I hope that we've proven that the government can think outside the box."

Registry closings will begin next month in Lowell and continue through December. Other locations that will be closed include those in Boston, Lowell, Springfield, North Attleboro, Cambridge, Falmouth, Framingham, Southbridge, Eastham and Beverly.

In addition to the closings, five branches will open at Massachusetts Turnpike offices, toll plazas and visitor centers, where the Registry won't have to pay rent. New plazas in Boston and Charlton will be full-service ones. Branches in Natick, Bourne and Peabody will be "express" branches, meaning they'll offer only core licensing and registration services.

The Registry also is encouraging patrons to utilize its online forms as a way to curtail long wait lines at offices.


From left, Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi, Mayor John Barrett III and Representative Dan Bosley speak during a press conference in Council Chambers at City Hall on Thursday, 7/9/2009. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

"Stimulus funds on tap for streets"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, The North Adams Transcript, July 10, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- The Hadley Overpass won’t be the only gateway into the city receiving a facelift in the coming months.

North Adams is receiving $3.4 million in federal stimulus funds aimed at resurfacing Ashland, Church, West Main, River, Beaver, and Union streets, and Massachusetts Avenue.

"All of the main arteries into the city will be receiving an upgrade," state Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi said during a visit to the city on Thursday. "We’re going to make these roads safer and better. This is what the stimulus money is supposed to do.

"We’re reaching out to every part of the state," Aloisi continued. "One of the things Governor Patrick has instilled in his cabinet is that there is a world beyond Route 128."

Mayor John Barrett III said many people doubted the city could pull together a "shovel-ready" plan to receive federal stimulus money, complete with engineering schematics by Tighe and Bond, in the 90-day window allotted by the state earlier this year.

"We wouldn’t have been able to do it without the help of MassHighway," he said. "I thank you for paying attention to us, but also for responding to our needs. We’re not the biggest voting block in the state."

Barrett said while other communities were busy offering up hundreds of projects to the state for consideration for the stimulus funds, the city was carefully focusing on a few particular projects that would have a major impact on the city.

"In this case, we saw the opportunity to go after the stimulus funds and went after it aggressively," Barrett said. "Everyone thought we were nuts and that we wouldn’t have the project ready. The key was that the projects needed to be ‘shovel-ready.’ Everybody in the world was putting in projects, but not all of them were ready to go."

The mayor said he believes the construction, which is scheduled to start this fall, will make a difference to the local economy.

"It’s all about image and perception," he said. "Residents will see people out there working, and it’s going to have a ripple effect. There’s going to be a vibrancy that comes from this. There will also be jobs that are created and those workers will be out there spending money at local stores and restaurants."

Aloisi said he anticipates several hundred jobs will be created by the stimulus funding.

"We’re moving full speed ahead with this project," Aloisi said. The project will be submitted to the Metropolitan Planning Organization at its next meeting, and it will go out to bid in August, he added.

MassHighway District 1 Director Peter Niles said plans call for the complete resurfacing of the roads, which includes the raising of structures such as manholes and catch basins. Sidewalks along the selected streets will also be redone to meet American Disabilities Act requirements.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley said he considers the plans to be an innovative way to use stimulus funds to create jobs and repair aging infrastructure.

"There’s not enough money in the United States to solve the economic problems in this country," he said. "It takes innovation and some passion to solve these problems. We can no longer do things the way we used to. In this case, this isn’t just a win-win situation. It’s a situation in which the sum is more than the whole."
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

Mayor John Barrett speaks to the DPU at Wednesday’s National Grid meeting at City Hall in North Adams. (Caroline Bonnivier/New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript)

"Citizens lash out at rate hike"
By Dick Lindsay, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, 7/16/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Berkshire County customers of National Grid last night lashed out at the utility’s rate hike request, claiming it’s out of line in the current economy.

Nearly 40 people, mostly users of the former Massachusetts Electric Co., which serves 14 local communities, showed up at City Hall for a public hearing to protest the company’s claim it needs to increase its revenue by $111.3 million.

The increase would mean the typical residential customer who uses 500 kilowatts of electricity would pay $4.25 more each month, company officials said.

If approved by the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU), the rate hike would take effect January 1, 2010.

But with people losing their jobs and living expenses on the rise, opponents said National Grid’s timing couldn’t have been worse.

"Any type of rate increase should be rejected at this time and be taken up next year," North Adams Mayor John Barrett III told DPU officials who conducted the hearing.

Florence Grover, of Williamstown, added, "This will be another attack on working people."

Sheffield Selectman Rene Wood read a letter from her board calling the rate hike "unacceptable and unjustified" for not only homeowners but commercial customers as well.

"The increase will decrease the town of Sheffield’s ability to attract new businesses and retain existing businesses," Wood added.

Depending on usage, National Grid officials said the monthly commercial bill could also rise as much as 5.5 percent.

The utility claims the added revenue of $111.3 million is necessary to further upgrade its distribution system and recover $30 million of the $62 million cost related to last December’s devastating ice storm. Company officials said the storm depleted National Grid’s reserves, which are used for emergency situations.

That reasoning didn’t sit well with Barrett.

"What really galls me is they want to build up their reserves," Barrett said. "This is nothing more than a tax."

Robert Cardimino argued had National Grid properly maintained the trees around its power lines, the storm might not have been so costly to them.

"They got caught with their pants down," he said.

The ice storm downed thousands of trees, bringing down power lines with them, leaving tens of thousands of National Grid customers without power -- some for several days -- from the Berkshires to just outside Boston.

Wednesday’s hearing was the last of five the DPU held this month statewide. The agency will now hold evidentiary proceedings in August, during which the utility will defend its proposal and the state attorney general’s office will likely argue against it on behalf of the ratepayers. The DPU will review the information before rendering a decision.

This is National Grid’s first fully comprehensive rate review by the state since 1995.

Hundreds took advantage of sunny weather and played in the sand at the 11th annual Eagle Street Beach Party Wednesday in North Adams. (Gillian Jones/North Adams Transcript)

"After 11 years, beach party still going strong"
By Meghan Foley, North Adams Transcript, 7/16/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Eric, Laurie and Katie Booth, of Clarksburg, have been coming to the Eagle Street Beach Party for the past five years.

Each year they come not knowing what they’re going to create from the stretch of sand covering the street, but this year they planned ahead.

"Every year we come down and scratch out heads. This year we came prepared," Laurie Booth said.

Booth and her six-year-old daughter, Katie, went to work after 4 p.m. creating a four-layered cake complete with blue, purple and pink colored frosting. The frosting was made with a mixture of food coloring and water, which was sprayed onto the sand.

"It’s fun bringing everybody down to gather around and have a good time," Booth said.

Her husband, Eric, said he enjoyed the time with his family, which included his wife, daughter and parents.

"We do a lot together. It’s important," he said.

He said the beach party also gives him an opportunity to relive his childhood.

"You relive your youth through your kids," he said.

The Booths were among hundreds of families descending on Eagle Street late Wednesday afternoon for an 11-year-old tradition created by local artist, Eric Rudd, as a block-long community sculpture.

The city of North Adams delivered more than 250,000 pounds of sand donated by Specialty Minerals Inc., of Adams, to the section of Eagle Street between the intersection Route 2 and the intersection of Main and Ashland Streets.

"It’s really nice. Not many towns do this," Tammy Boucher said, as she watched her 2-year-old son, Spencer, play in the sand.

She said her son loves being out in the sand and breaking anything she tries the sculpt in it.

"It’s great seeing everybody get together with their kids and spend time with them. They grow up so fast," she said.

Brothers Hunter and Chandler Duncan, of North Adams, were using the sand to create a tyrannosaurus rex and a volcano, while their sister, Alyssa, was making a sand sculpture of herself.

Alyssa, 6, then made a volcano similar to the one her brothers created.

"I like the sand. We can make stuff in it," she said.

While Hunter, 9, missed not having the ocean nearby to swim in, Chandler, 7, was happy he didn’t have to worry about sharks and jellyfish.

"I don’t like jellyfish and sharks," he said.

Hunter, Chandler and Alyssa’s mother, Kristin Rondeau, said the family plans to go to a beach on the ocean next week, but for families that can’t get there, the Eagle Street Beach Party is a great alternative.

"It’s wonderful they bring the beach here when everybody is not able to go to the beach and feel the sand between their toes," she said.

While Eagle Street businesses donated items for prizes given to the most creative sand castles and sculptures, Mildred Elley’s Pittsfield campus donated 250 sand pails and shovels for people to use and keep, and the Adams Co-operative Bank and Smith Watson & Co., CPA’s, provided additional sand toys.

In addition, the Alcombright for Mayor campaign handed out beach balls, balloons and popcorn to beachgoers.

With help from her father, Keith Bona, 10-year-old Elizabeth Bona sculpted a giant yellow duck surrounded by 100 rubber ducks.

"I like that you can just sculpt wherever you want. Not like the beach where people yell at you," she said.

Bona said he tries to come up with concepts that are simple and easy to sculpt in the sand.

"It’s sort of ‘hail to the king duck,’ " he said.
To reach Meghan Foley, e-mail

"Unclear fate for downtown shops"
By Susan Bush, North Adams Transcript Correspondent, 7/18/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- The closing of Moulton’s General Store in August will be a blow to the downtown but many downtown merchants expressed confidence Friday that their businesses will continue to do well, while others were less optimistic.

General store owner Mark Moulton cited the inability to negotiate a satisfactory rent agreement with property owner David Carver of Scarafoni Realty and lack of foot traffic downtown as main reasons for the store closing. He charged Thursday that the city is not "business friendly."

Suzy Helme, owner of the Shima shop on Main Street and Janice Esoldi, owner of nearby i got goodies, who both lease from Carver, said they believe he is charging a fair rent.

"But I also think that, with so many empty storefronts, it would be nice to have some lower rents," Helme acknowledged

Her store is doing well, she said, but noted that it is a "destination store" that sells unique baby and children’s products and has loyal customers from the entire Berkshire region and Southern Vermont.

"One reason people come here is because we have things they want that they can’t get at other places right around here," she said.

Esoldi operates her confectionary venue from a Carver-owned space inside the New Kimbell building at 85 Main St. She originally sold her candies from Moulton’s store but earlier this year opened her own shop. Her business is also a niche store, meaning specific products catering to specific clientele. She often creates new products so that her inventory remains fresh and appealing, she said.

But rents that rise steadily pose a big challenge for independent retailers, other business owners said, and rent has a direct influence on budgets for inventory, business improvements, advertising and other factors.

"We know that owning is an advantage, and we are a destination store" said Manna Mason, owner of Party Place at 27 Eagle St., which sells virtually anything needed for any party or celebration.

Mason and her husband have invested significantly in their property, she said. A complete renovation of an upstairs apartment is nearly complete, and a tenant is slated to move in soon, she said.

"We are optimistic about the downtown, and we are making the investment in our business and our property," Mason said, adding that she believes there has been a slight increase in downtown foot traffic this season.

Persnickety toy store owner Monique Suters and her husband, Whitney, own the 13 Eagle St. building that houses their store and the adjacent Bark n’ Cat pet center. Both businesses enjoy loyal customer bases, Suters said.

"I created it as a destination store," she said. "And we own the building and it’s paid for. We are very committed to investing in our property."

All business owners interviewed expressed sadness at the general store closing.

"Just seeing the going out of business sign made my heart sink," Helme said.

But Mayor John Barrett III said the city will survive the loss of Moulton’s and has seen many success stories. The city is not unfriendly to business, Barrett said.

"We can’t do anything about the rents," he said. "And business closings are not a commercial tax issue. The commercial taxes have gone down. The public sector can only do so much, and then it is up to the private sector."

There is positive momentum in the city, Barrett said, noting that a Burlington, Vt. couple recently bought the Holiday Inn for $2.9 million and plans to invest another $2.5 million in renovations. The city hosts an eight-screen theater complex with stadium seating and adjacent stores in Steeple City Plaza (formerly Kmart), and they are doing well, he said. This fall, the city will start a $2.5 million to $3 million renovation plan that includes city sidewalk repair, streetlamp upgrades and handicapped-access improvements.

"And this is all happening in a terrible economy," Barrett said.

Boxcar Media on Main Street and Waterfront Media at the former Roberts Co. building at the corner of Marshall and Main streets, are prime examples of downtown growth, he said. Boxcar Media was launched by Osmin Alvarez at the Windsor Mill and has grown in business diversity and employment opportunities. Waterfront moved from the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art complex with three employees and now employs 60, the mayor said.

"Even the Steeple City Plaza has shown great investment," he said. "Five years ago, there was 98,000 square feet of empty space. Now about 80,000 square feet is filled. You look at that, and look at the Holiday Inn, look at MoCA, and you see the investment.

"Eagle Street is the diamond in the rough," he added. "It needs an inn or apartments. The downtown will grow and succeed with a housing component. And why do people want to live in downtowns? Because of cultural attractions. But the city doesn’t control who owns the buildings or what they do with them."

Mason, the Party Place owner, said that as a business owner, she does have one complaint: She objects to paying for parking in the city-owned lot behind her store.

"Because we made the renovations to the apartment, our taxes are going to go up significantly," she said. "My only real complaint is having to pay $340 to $360 a year to park."

The parking fee in the downtown lot is a "sign of the times," Barrett said, noting that the free parking-lot spaces set aside for downtown shoppers were designed at business owners’ request.

"It works out to about a $1 a day," he said of the paid permitted parking for business owners. "The city spent about $250,000 to renovate the lot. The city plows it. The city lights it. We are having to re-stripe it this year."

The city also pays for downtown holiday lights, flowers in the median strip and sidewalk sweeping, he said.

"The downtown community doesn’t contribute to that," he said. "We believe the government should be doing these things. And we are."

"Billings to step down August 29, 2009"
North Adams Transcript, By Jennifer Huberdeau, 7/29/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Although City Councilor Clark H. Billings moved to Rhode Island in May, he has yet to step down from the council -- a move that until late Tuesday night he didn’t plan to make until Nov. 1.

Council President Alan L. Marden said that Billings will resign from the council on Aug. 29 when his retirement from the history department goes into effect at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

"I have already had a discussion with the mayor and with Councilor Billings that my recommendation at that time will be that we do not fill is seat until after the election," Marden said. "It will be my recommendation that following the election we fill his seat with the top vote-getter [of the non-incumbent councilors]."

Prior to Tuesday night’s meeting, Billings had told the Transcript in an email that he was planning on holding onto his council seat until Nov. 1, but would consider resigning in August if the council would suspend the rules for filling a vacancy and go with the results of the November election.

"My intention in not resigning in May was to keep any type of mayoral political maneuvering off the council floor, which has been the case with the exception of the finance committee insurance flap that recently happened," he said in an e-mail on Tuesday.

He said his original decision to hold the position until the end of October or on Nov. 1 would allow the council to "replace [him] with the non-incumbent who has the greatest number of votes in the election.

"I don’t want to give any candidate a theoretical leg up for November -- let the people decide this late into an election year," he wrote.

When Billings resigns in August, the council, under its rules, would have to replace him.

"I don’t think that this close to the election the council should be giving any candidate a leg up, as they say," he said. "Even worse, they could select someone who loses in November."

Billings said continuing to hold the position until November wouldn’t have any real fiscal benefits for him, although councilors do receive a stipend of $250 per month, plus $40 for expenses.

"When I retire from MCLA, my city pension will be merged [with the college pension], and I can no longer draw a council stipend from the city," he said.

One of Billing’s main concerns about resigning in August, besides giving an advantage to a candidate, was the length of time it would take the council to select areplacement for his vacant seat.

"Would the council spend the better half of September electing a replacement?" he asked. "What if that person didn’t win in November? I could serve out my term at no expense to the city -- a replacement would cost the city a stipend for October, November and December."

With the deadline for nomination papers less than a week away, City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau said several candidates for the council had already returned their papers. Nomination forms are due on Tuesday, Aug. 4.

"We have quite a few candidates, but we’re not at the number we need to have a preliminary election," she said.

A total of 19 candidates must return the required 50 signatures, which are verified by the clerk’s office as registered city voters, in order for a preliminary election to be required. There are nine council seats -- all elected as at-large candidates -- and under the city charter having more than two candidates for each seat would require the preliminary election to be held in September.

As of Monday, all seven incumbent council members -- Lisa Blackmer, Michael Bloom, Ronald Boucher, Gailanne Cariddi, Marie Harpin, Robert Moulton Jr. and Alan Marden -- had taken out nomination papers.

Councilor Richard J. Alcombright, who is running for mayor, is giving up both his council and McCann School Committee seats. Alcombright will face Mayor John Barrett III, the state’s longest-sitting mayor, who has served 13 consecutive two-year terms, in November’s election.

In addition to the incumbents, 10 other candidates have emerged. Brian Flagg, Michael Boland, David Bond and former councilor Keith Bona have all returned their forms to the clerk’s office. Eric Buddington, Dennis Whitney, Maryann Benoit-Albee, David Lamarre, Greg Roach and Ronald Sheldon have yet to return their nomination forms. Former City Councilor Christopher Tremblay and David Costa, who took out papers earlier this year, have notified the clerk’s office they do not intend to run for office this fall.

There are also two School Committee races this fall. Incumbent Paul Gigliotti and former McCann Principal Gary Rivers have returned their papers for the two available positions on the McCann board.

Incumbents Heather Boulger and John Hockridge have taken out papers for the two available positions on the North Adams School Committee.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

"Gov. cancels visit to Adams: Will attend Kennedy Shriver services"
By Ryan Hutton, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2009

ADAMS -- Gov. Deval L. Patrick unexpectedly canceled his visit to Adams just before 7 p.m. last night with tentative plans to reschedule the visit for the fall.

"I was sitting and eating dinner when I got a call from the governor's office," said Town Administrator Jonathan Butler. "They told me he will not be making it for the town hall meeting that was scheduled for [Thursday]. I guess he had a wake to get to in the afternoon and had to postpone his trip our way. They did commit him for sometime in the fall, but my priority now is not having 350 people show up on the Visitors Center lawn only to get disappointed."

Patrick rescheduled the visit to attend the Centerville wake of Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who died on Tuesday. Patrick had announced that he was coming to Adams for a town-hall style question-and-answer session back in May when he presided over the re-opening of the roads leading to the peak of Mount Greylock. Town officials originally planned on having Patrick's visit at the Greylock Glen but changed it to the lawn of the Discover the Berkshires Visitors Center after construction at the Glen made the site unavailable.

Butler said that he was given no details on when exactly the governor would be coming to Adams in the fall, but said that if he came in September or early October, that could re-open the possibility of the visit being held at the Greylock Glen.

"We were very pleased with the visitor's center site," Butler said. "We did a lot of planning to make sure that location would work. But once we find out the exact date of the rescheduled visit, we'll reassess the situation and, again, find the best place for the town hall forum."

Patrick's itinerary originally called for him to visit North Adams in the morning before heading south to Adams at 6:30 p.m. As of press time, the North Adams leg of Patrick's journey west is still on. He will be meeting with North Adams Mayor John Barrett III for coffee at Brewhaha at 9:30 a.m. before touring Main Street businesses. He will then make an economic recovery announcement at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink at 10:30 a.m. Finally, at noon, Patrick will participate in a roundtable discussion on the creative economy at Mass MoCA before departing.

Butler said it was unfortunate the visit was canceled at the last minute, but he understood the need for Patrick to attend the wake of such a prominent member of the Kennedy clan.

"I'm disappointed, sure," Butler said. "This was a big opportunity for Adams. A lot has happened since the last governor visited. I really wanted him to see the town and what we've accomplished. But as chief political figure of the state, this is an important obligation he needs to fill."


North Adams, Massachusetts
"Oil taints Hoosic River's bank"
By Ryan Hutton, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, Wednesday, August 12, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- In an attempt to fix a decades-old flaw in the Hoosic River flood chutes, the Army Corps of Engineers has discovered oil contamination in the river's bank on River Street.

Since July, the Corps has been repairing a 50-foot section of the flood chutes bordering River Street next to the Best-Way Car Wash, but recently discovered oil seeping into the ground water on the site. Dan Falt, the project's manager, said the contamination was only evident after excavation began.

"The ground water in that area is very high and when the contractor pulled back some of the back-fill to get to the wall section, they noticed an oily film on some of the ground water," he said. "They sampled it and found out that it is No. 4 fuel oil, which is used in some sort of heavy machinery."

Falt said they believe the oil is percolating from somewhere off site, but they are not sure where the source is yet. He said the project's contractor, the Cutting Edge Group of Lake George, N.Y., had hired an environmental specialist to advise them on the best way to continue the work without disturbing the contaminants.

"Our construction schedule has slipped a few weeks already," he said. "We're hoping to have a solution and get our crew back out there as soon as possible. We're looking at a number of options. You could contain it on site, you could filter it out of the ground water as you pump it. There's a range of engineering solutions that we're considering."

The project was originally scheduled to be finished in early September, but Falt said this unexpected find will push the end date back to some time in October. While Falt said that the source of the contamination is still unknown, he said No. 4 fuel oil was an odd contaminant for the area. However, Flamingo Motors garage used to be where the car wash is now and just down the street used to stand S&S Transmission where ground contaminants were found but cleaned up years ago.

A spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection said that neither the Army Corps of Engineers nor the contractor will be responsible for fully cleaning the site, just keeping it contained until the reconstruction is done.

"They're now conducting what we call a utility-related abatement measure which is basically a limited cleanup while they finish the flood wall," said spokesman Joe Ferson. "When they are done with that work, there will be some additional assessment work that the DEP will do to determine the source. We'll go forward from there to find the extent of the contamination, the responsible party and what needs to be done to initiate additional clean up measures."

Falt said the work being done was in response to a collapse of the wall in 2001. He said the Army Corps of Engineers -- which originally built the flood chutes in the 1950s -- had temporarily repaired the wall when it collapsed but had just found the funding to full repair it.

"We determined that when it was built in the 1950s there was a construction deficiency," he said. "They didn't put the dowel rods in to keep that section of the structurally sound. So we're putting the wall back in place properly and the federal government is covering 100 percent of the cost."

Falt said the final cost of the project is estimated at $450,000.



"'Creative Districts' Suggested to Support Cultural Endeavors"
By Tammy Daniels - iBerkshires Staff - Friday, August 14, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — The region's cultural and creative economy leaders gathered at Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art on Thursday afternoon called for better ways to support not only its well-known venues but its work force, including establishing zones that encourage collaboration between nonprofits and businesses.

"This is the creme de la creme of the people who are making it happen," said Mayor John Barrett III in introducing Gov. Deval Patrick to the 70-odd entrepreneurs, museum and theater directors and other nonprofit boosters of the county. "But I also believe they are going to lead us into the future."

Representatives from some 120 organizations were invited to participate in the roundtable discussion with Gov. Deval Patrick, who toured two galleries and a local dot-com, Waterfront Media, in the morning.

"I'm increasingly struck by the opportunity presented by a strong cultural element," said governor. "How do we build on that even at a time of scarce resources?"

The conversation ranged from how the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism was marketing the region to how filmmakers could be persuaded make the Berkshires a backdrop to how the area itself could provide housing and jobs for the creative individuals needed to ensure a strong cultural base.

"I can look around the table and tell you who's in trouble. Some of these jewels are hanging by a thread right now," said Kevin Sprague of Berkshire Creative. "People have lost hundreds of jobs in the creative sector this year and there hasn't been a whisper."

One obstable he and others saw was the ability for cultural enterpreneurs and developers to get the capital backing for new ventures, such as theaters or housing.

Artist and real estate developer Eric Rudd said projects like his Eclipse Mill are difficult to do because of the limited profitability. The studio/living condominiums in his mill sold out before they were completed, showing there was a market for medium-priced artists' housing. But break-even ventures don't attract a lot of capital.

"That kind of project would be successful today except there would be no profit," he said, and so no developer willing to invest in it. Instead, there's capital backing for high-end housing on one side and low-income housing on the other. "But in the middle of the road, the numbers don't work."

His neighbor across the street, Ariel Sutain in the former Hoosac Mill, didn't completely agree, but noted that the types of development he was pursuing didn't fit neatly in the categories outlined by MassDevelopment. "We didn't fit into the development mold."

"Conventional finance won't work," said state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley. Banks have to get involved, he said, but are limited because of regulatory issues.

On top of suitable housing, artists coming into the area required jobs that fit their talents, said Brian Handspicker, president of the Berkshire Artists Colony.

"We really are talking about struggling and starving artists," he said.

Williams College economics professor Stephen Sheppard suggested greater collaboration between nonprofits, municipalities and businesses through the creation of creative investment or improvement districts, not unlike economic development zones.

Sheppard is the director of the Center for Creative Community Development (C3D) at Mass MoCA, which is currently doing research on 25 cities across the country, including North Adams, to quantify the impact of nonprofits on local economies. The center completed a report on the effects of Mass MoCA several years ago.

"The public funds invested in Mass MoCA for example, generated an increase in local commercial and resident housing values that way exceeds the public investment in it," he said. A creative district "will allow communities and local businesses to work to support nonprofits that are absolutely essential to the Berkshire economy."
Gov. Deval Patrick speaks with Kevin Sprague at Thursday's creative economy roundtable.

Brian Butterworth, left, of the Red Lion Inn and Williams professor Stephen Sheppard.

Eric Rudd speaks at the governor’s roundtable discussion on the creative economy of Berkshire County. (Ryan Hutton/North Adams Transcript)

"The Creative Economy Artistic minds weigh options"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, 8/14/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Capitalizing on the Berkshire’s unique offerings of culture, recreation, history and natural beauty was the main focus of a creative economy roundtable that tapped the minds of some of the area’s creative leaders at Mass MoCA on Thursday.

"The idea of this meeting is to listen to your ideas on how to take the extreme strength of this area and build upon it," Gov. Deval L. Patrick said to the crowd of about 70 guests. "We have a sensibility about the visual and performing arts here in Berkshire County that you won’t find anywhere else in the world. We should not take that for granted."

Patrick, who was joined by Betsy Wall, executive director of the state Office of Tourism and Travel, and Jason Schupbach, the state’s creative economy director, said that in a time of scarce resources, it’s a time for collaboration.

"I know that you all have come with your own laundry lists of non-negotiable demands, but this is a time for joint problem solving," Patrick joked.

Wall emphasized that while the state has increased its marketing presence both nationally and internationally, that her office needs to hear from industry members.

"We need to know what you are doing and what you need," she said. "We don’t care about size -- we want to know what the little bed and breakfast or the local galleries are doing."

Jason Lyon of Tanglewood, said he finds that collaboration between local venues and constant contact with the Berkshire Visitors Bureau is one of the most important things that can be done.

"We recently hosted a Discover the Berkshires trade show, which is widely successful," he said.

However, Jeffrey Folmer, executive director of Ventfort Hall, questioned how the state is attracting visitors from New York and Boston to the area.

"Those are two huge untapped pools of tourism," he said. "I hear a lot that people think we’re too far away or too expensive. How do we fix that? I don’t have the answers, but this is something we have to figure out."

Wall said that a new campaign on New York City radio stations was showing results and a focused marketing campaign had been launched.

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said that while the region often is forgotten in many aspects of state government, that it is traditionally marketed more heavily by the tourism office.

"We hear the three B’s in Boston -- ‘Boston, Beaches and the Berkshires’," he said. "I think that we’ve branded this region more so than in other years, but that we need to remember to focus on more than just the cultural attractions. This is an innovative area, one rich in history as well as recreation."

Patrick suggested the region begin focusing on a cultural venue to become a destination, similar to the Edinburgh [Scotland] International Festival -- a festival combining classical music, opera, theater and dance.

Artist Eric Rudd said he’d like to see more state support of buildings like the Eclipse Mill on Union Street, which turned a former mill into studio/workspace condominiums.

"When I completed the mill in 2005, the economy was already becoming soft and construction costs had risen," he said. "It’s not profitable to do another mill like that at this point. We could do six or seven more in this area, but it’s not doable right now. And these mills are going to continue to deteriorate."

He suggested the state set up a venture capital fund to help developers.

Ariel Sutain, a principal in Wave Realty which owns the NoAMA building across the street from the Eclipse Mill, said he’s also run into problems trying to find funding sources to help convert the former cotton mill into artist lofts and studio and retail space.

"What I want to do doesn’t fit the current mold for programs through the state or Mass Development," he said.

Similar roundtables have been held in Provincetown and Fitchburg.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

Gov. Deval L. Patrick announces $1.6 million in state grants for northern Berkshire County at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink. Behind him, from the left, are Tina Brooks, undersecretary of housing and community development, state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, and North Adams Mayor John Barrett III. (Ryan Hutton/North Adams Transcript)

"$1.6M in funds on the way"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript - 8/14/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Some $1.6 million in Community Development Block Grant funding from the state will help with repairs to the North Adams Armory and Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink, while also improving storefronts, drainage and sidewalks on Summer Street in Adams.

North Adams will receive $750,000 for a variety of projects, including work at the skating rink and armory, along with $50,409 for exterior building rehabilitation and window replacements at properties belonging to the North Adams Housing Authority. Adams received $884,801 for storefront improvements and improvements to the sidewalks and drainage along Summer Street.

Governor Deval L. Patrick announced $40.4 million in statewide block grant funding from the skating rink on Thursday as part of his tour of the city.

"The funds will help bolster this project and others like it in 75 communities around the state," Patrick said, referring to the skating rink. "Supporting these projects means an improvement in the quality of life for the residents all across the Commonwealth. I think it’s very important for morale right now that we show people the economy is improving and how we are investing in infrastructure. There is a lot of hardship out there right now and those who haven’t been hit are anxious. At the same time we’ve had the largest job gain in the country and our home purchases have risen sharply."

He added, "We need to let people hear about the improvements and show them the investment in projects, such as the Hadley Overpass, which cried out for rehabilitation for more than 20 years. These investments will bring jobs, but they are also helping us build for tomorrow."

Of the $40.4 million, more than $31 million consists of federal block grant program funds, while the remaining $9 million is made up of federal economic stimulus funds. In addition to the funding for North Adams and Adams, Sheffield received $799,700 to construct a senior center and Lee received $231,506 to go towards infrastructure repairs and upgrades at an elderly housing property.

"We are very delighted that many good projects, ones like this that invest in the community, are able to be funded," Tina Brooks, state Undersecretary of Housing and Urban Development said, during the announcement.

Mayor John Barrett III said the funds would allow the city to continue upgrades at to the climate control system and ice making capabilities at the rink and repair an electrical system at the armory, while also allowing for sidewalk repairs and demolition of blighted properties around the city.

"We couldn’t have made the $2.1 million in repairs that we’ve made to the skating rink without the support of the Patrick administration," Barrett said. "This building is important not only to the city, but also to the whole of Northern Berkshire. By keeping this facility open, we’ve created eight to 10 full and part-time positions. It’s also allowed us to keep the Bay State Games here, which ripples on down to restaurants and hotel/motel taxes. A current buzz word is after-school programming; well look right here at the youth hockey and skating programs."

Children from the Christmas Brook Skating Club, the Northern Berkshire Youth Hockey League and the Berkshire Bruins were on hand to welcome the governor.
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Gov. Deval L. Patrick and artist Debi Pendell discuss some of her work in MCLA’s Galley 51 during the governor’s tour of downtown North Adams. (Ryan Hutton/North Adams Transcript)

"Governor tours city’s downtown"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, 8/14/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Despite having to cancel his town hall meeting in Adams Thursday night, Gov. Deval L. Patrick took to the city’s streets earlier in the day to meet with local business and gallery owners.

Flanked my Mayor John Barrett III and state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, the governor began a walking tour of Marshall and Main streets, dropping by Brewhaha, the Registry of Motor Vehicles and Waterfront Media, an Internet publishing company responsible for popular Web sites such as Every, JillianMichaels
.com and

"How can we help you expand even further? Is there anything that would benefit you?," Patrick asked as he toured Waterfront, talking to customer service representatives, nutritionists, and quality assurance engineers at the company, which occupies the upper floor of the former Robert’s Co. building.

"We’re doing pretty good," Patrick Brannan, vice president of customer service, said. "We began as a company of six employees and now have 56 in the North Adams office. We were over at Mass MoCA, but we outgrew the space." With its home office located in Brooklyn, N.Y., Waterfront has a national and international presence that the average passerby isn’t aware of, he said.

"We fly under the radar around here," Brannan said. "But we’ve been able to add a lot of human capital while we’ve been here."

While finding qualified call-bank and computer savvy individuals to fill the ranks can be a problem, human resources manager Anne Blocker said the company has an excellent training program.

"There’s also not a lot of call centers in Mass," she said.

"Twenty years ago, we were a mill town," Mayor John Barrett III said. "We had to retrain our workers -- teach them how to use computers. It’s was challenging at first, but we’ve come a long way."

Customer Service Representative Daniel Weissbrodt, who also works as a freelance puppeteer for companies like Walt Disney, told Patrick that he returned to the city after 14 years "because of the quality of life."

Down the street at MCLA Gallery 51, artist Debi Pendall, who moved to the city from Connecticut to live in the Eclipse Mill, explained her exhibit at the gallery while Patrick chatted about DownStreet Art with Jonathan Secor, director of special programs at MCLA.

"What makes this work is that we’re working with the business community as well as the city," Secor said, when Patrick asked him what made DownStreet Art work.

At The Hub restaurant, co-owner Barbara Doan showed off classic street photos while commenting on how the economic recession was affecting business.

"What recession?," she said. "This past winter we never had a day with under 150 customers. Last night we did 198."

But not everyone who caught the governor’s ear was optimistic and lighthearted. Sarah Kline, who works with the Big Brothers/Big Sister program, spoke about the lack of funding to local schools.

"I’m really concerned about the layoffs that happened with the Adams-Cheshire school district," Kline, who has a child in C. T. Plunkett and another entering eighth grade, said. "I told him how we had to cut teachers, which increased the number of kids in each classroom. The numbers are not good."

Patrick also stopped at the North Adams Artists Co-Op Gallery and the Berkshire Juvenile Court.
To reach Jennifer Huberdeau, e-mail

"Mayoral candidates will debate twice"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, 9/4/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- As blue-and-green election signs supporting mayoral candidates begin to pepper lawns around the city, Mayor John Barrett III and challenger Richard J. Alcombright are busy preparing for two upcoming debates.

The first, sponsored by the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, will take place at the MCLA Church Street Center on Wednesday, Sept. 30 from 7 to 8:15 p.m.

The Transcript will sponsor the second debate between Barrett and Alcombright on Wednesday, Oct. 14, at 7 p.m. at the North Adams American Legion. Both candidates have accepted invitations to take part.

Adams Town Clerk Paul Hutchinson will moderate, and representatives of the North Berkshire media have been invited as panelists. The format is still being discussed for the 90-minute debate, but it will include opening and closing statements by the candidates and questions from the panelists and audience, according to Glenn Drohan, Transcript editor.

"Obviously, I'm looking forward to these debates," Barrett said. " it's important for the people to know where we stand on the issues. As I have said in the past, I am running for the position of mayor, not against a person. I stand on my record. Debates allow the voters to ask questions and really understand both candidates."

He said the debates will allow for him and Alcombright, a member of the City Council, the opportunity to "discuss the issues as candidates for mayor.""I'm looking forward to a lively discussion. It's been several years since the community has been so engaged in an election," Alcombright said. "I think the topics for discussion are going to be pretty wide, but I'm hoping that the questions asked will touch on what we think are the big three -- economic development, schools and housing. I'm sure we'll also be asked about taxes and the possibility of sewer fees."

Over the last few weeks, both campaigns have become more visible -- Alcombright has opened a headquarters in the historic Flatiron Block on Eagle Street, while Barrett recently opened his on Ashland Street near DiLego's jewelry store.

The Transcript will also sponsor a candidates forum for the 15 people running for North Adams City Council. All candidates have been mailed letters inviting them to the forum, to be held on Wednesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m. at the North Adams American Legion. A moderator is being sought, and the format is still being developed, but the forum will be no more than two hours long, Drohan said.

The format on the first mayoral debate, sponsored in part by the Chamber of Commerce is expected to follow a similar format to the Transcript's, with the two candidates fielding a series of questions generated by Chamber members, MCLA members and audience members. Tim Farkas, executive editor of the Berkshire Eagle, will serve as the moderator.

"We felt that Tim was a great choice because he will be very neutral seeing that most of his readership is from central and southern county," Christine Hoyt, director of programs and events, said. "While we're sure that many topics will be discussed during the debate, we believe most of the questions will focus around issues faced by the business and education communities."


"Election 2009: Alcombright Attacks 'Whisper Campaign'" - Tuesday, September 08, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — Mayoral candidate Dick Alcombright said he is setting facts straight regarding issues that have surfaced during the campaign:

I have recently learned, during my first seriously contested election, that there are certain techniques that are political legends. So-called "whisper campaigns" are one of those techniques. Wikipedia defines a 'whisper campaign' as follows:

A whisper campaign is a method of persuasion in which damaging rumors or innuendo are spread about the target, while the source of the rumors seeks to avoid being detected while spreading them (for example, a political campaign might distribute anonymous fliers attacking the other candidate). (See

I am aware that there are whisper campaigns about my candidacy taking place in North Adams. I talk to people and they talk to me. Many of the "whispers" are flat-out laughable.

For example: "Dick Alcombright intends to eliminate the Fire Department and go to a volunteer force." In case I haven't talked to you personally about this, I believe the geography and terrain of North Adams, in addition to its aging housing stock, college, museum, hospital, high-rise housing and nursing home, just make that rumor silly.

Another one I heard was that I would completely eliminate the teachers' health insurance. How could this possibly be true when I am the only mayoral candidate advocating for a review of the health insurance costs for all city employees and retirees? I would never consider eliminating health insurance coverage and, in fact, for an employer of the city's size, it would be prohibited by law.

Of more concern to me are two "whispers" that I am hearing more and more frequently as time goes by. First, apparently I am too nice of a guy to be mayor. It is rumored that I am not tough enough to do the difficult things and make the difficult decisions required of a mayor. The other "whisper" is that if I am elected, I will raise taxes.

Please remember that I am a homeowner and taxpayer in this city and have been for over 30 years. If you have heard these whispers and have concerns, I urge you to contact me directly. I would like to address these whispers publically and will be issuing press releases on each of these rumors shortly.

I do not believe that the majority of the voters of North Adams are likely to fall for the whisper campaign that seems to be so active. I think North Adams voters can see right through this. I really do. I think the voters in North Adams want a respectful, thoughtful and professional government and if I'm wrong, you will let me know on Nov. 3. But, please, do it based on conversations with me and not on whispers or rumors.

If you have questions about my candidacy please call and ask me directly. That's why I'm doing this. I want to hear from you and I want you to hear from me. I won't be whispering to you. I will respond to you directly.

My responses are on my Web site if you would care to see them now. Thank you.

Together We Will Succeed

E-mail Alcombright at or call him at 413-663-5057. Also visit

Submitted by the Committee to Elect Richard Alcombright


"New management needed"
The North Adams Transcript, Letters, 9/26/2009

To the Editor:

I wear lots of hats in North Adams, and I’m a believer in new ideas and energy. Often in the past, we have not had a bona-fide challenger, so we went along as best as we could. Now, Dick Alcombright offers us a chance for new options.

Dick is very competent and fiscally careful (a banker -- especially needed in this economic time), and he has many positive ideas that he would like to bring to the table.

The biggest attraction of Dick as our next mayor is that he shares my strong belief that we are a very talented, energetic and devoted community whose talents have not been used effectively. Dick wants to tap into this talent and allow new committees to solve problems that have gone too many years without proper attention.

My bet is that in one year, all kinds of new activities will be happening to address social issues and dealing with our empty downtown.

I’ve read the mayor’s support letters -- basically versions of his usual stomp speech. Unfortunately, despite the rhetoric, we’ve made little progress in the past two decades. Once the temporary art galleries close in mid-October, it will be evident that we have about as many store vacancies now as we had in 1992. I know because the Community Artists Center (which I directed for 10 years) used to install art in 30 empty storefronts each summer, just as Downstreet Art filled empty stores this summer.

And that’s not mentioning increasing issues with schools, drugs, crime, jobs and housing.

There are solutions, but it will take a coordinated effort by lots of people under new management. Dick is up to that task.

And Dick is civil to friends and foes. Many people have been afraid of getting on the wrong side of the mayor -- it should not be that way in a Democratic society. Nevertheless, for most residents, support for Dick is not an "anti" vote for John but a positive vote for change. I’ve talked to many folks who have supported John Barrett in the past who are now supporting Dick Alcombright.

After 26 years, we need new vision and new management. If we don’t get Dick in, when will we allow for new ideas and efforts? This is our best chance of putting into office someone who can manage progress without adding risk.

Eric Rudd
North Adams, Massachusetts
September 24, 2009

"North Adams Democrats Slate Local Candidate Rally" - Friday, September 25, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — A political rally for Democratic candidates running for office in North Adams will be held on Friday, Oct. 2, 2009, at 7 p.m. at the American Legion. The event is sponsored by the North Adams Democratic City Committee and the public is invited. Light refreshments will be served.

Joyce Wrend, chairman of the City Committee, said this will be an opportunity for voters to meet with the many newcomers running for City Council and for the incumbents to interact with their constitutents. However, she emphasized that this is not a formal debate, forum or structured affair. This is simply allowing the public to meet the candidates in an informal atmosphere so they can make an informed decision in November.

Each candidate will be introduced and a brief statement will follow. Even though local elections are nonpartisan, it is the mission of the Democratic City Committee to advance the ideals and candidates of the Democratic Party.

Candidates who have responded include: mayoral candidates John Barrett III, the incumbent, and Richard Alcombright; and council candidates Ronald Boucher, Gailanne Cariddi, Marie Harpin, Michael Boland, David Bond, Lisa Blackmer, Gregory Roach and Alan Marden, and School Committee candidate Paul Gigliotti.


"Barrett, Alcombright Spar in First Debate"
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff, September 30, 2009

NORTH ADAMS, Massachusetts — The city's two mayoral candidates traded jabs but no knockout blows on Tuesday night, as they debated the city's ability to attract business, the Mohawk Theater and the lingering controversy over GIC.

A push by the city's unionized employees to join the state's Group Insurance Commission last year had set the incumbent, John Barrett III, and challenger Richard Alcombright, a city councilor, at odds.

Barrett, running for a record 14th term, had rejected the unions' efforts to negotiate entry in the state system, saying it wouldn't result in savings. The unions have since claimed the city's been underpaying its portion of the self-insurance premiums and overcharging workers.

"These city employees have come to you ... they put together a plan and you're ignoring them," said Alcombright, who was troubled by Barrett's "vehemently" objecting to the City Council's Finance Committee looking at the numbers in the self-insurance trust and his statement at a meeting that "I don't have to prove it. I don't have to prove anything."

Barrett countered that he was beholden to the taxpayers and had made his decisions based on the experts, noting GIC had increased its premiums twice this year. Yet the unions are angry, he said, that their premiums have gone up 1.5 percent.

"They have come out with an outlandish figure that $2 million is missing [from the trust], it's in Aruba someplace but it's absurd," he said, adding that he had kept the city's finances in shape over the years and its services going. Sticking to self-insurance over GIC had saved jobs, Barrett said. "I'm not going to apologize for that."

The candidates' supporters filled the Massachusetts College of Liberal Art's Church Street Center with enthusiastic applause — and some laughter — during the 90-minute debate. The 18 questions were submitted by debate sponsor Berkshire Chamber of Commerce and the MCLA public policy students, most relating to taxes and commercial growth, with some forays into education. Moderator Tim Farkus, executive editor of The Berkshire Eagle, was the moderator.

The two men agreed on few items; they split on sewer fees and the use of the local options tax, relations with the charter school, and how active the city should be in aiding small business and marketing itself. Alcombright accused Barrett of holding tight control over everything; Barrett that Alcombright had failed to ask questions.

Economic Development

"We didn't set our standards lower when we were at our lowest points, we raised our standards," said Barrett, pointing to progress made over his 26 years in office. "The unemployment rate in this city is half of what it was the first day I took office. ... When I look around the city I think about all the small businesses that we have worked with on almost a daily basis."

Barrett said the city's positive image is attracting commercial growth and touted the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art and its annual attendance of upwards of 150,000 as a catalyst for growth.

"It isn't economic development that brings a company to the community, it's the community that brings the business," he said.

Alcombright, however, said the city isn't helpful enough to small businesses and the museum, while attracting crowds, wasn't enough. "They come and they go, they come and they go," he said of Mass MoCA's thousands. "We need to market North Adams as a destination.

"What gets in the way, particularly with small businesses, is our planning process. The planning process becomes complex, it becomes very complicated for those people who are trying to involve themselves in opening a new business," he said. "I think it's a detriment. We really need to find ways to close some of those holes and make things more expedient."

Barrett strongly opposed instituting a sewer user fee, an item that the City Council will take up, and defended the adopting the 2 percent local rooms tax option.

Alcombright said the community and especially the city's innkeepers should have had a chance to speak on how the tax might hurt their business.

"I thought we should get $53,000 in tax relief for propery owners," said Barrett.

His opponent responded that a "public process" should be followed, such as for the sewer user fee. "It's irresponsible not to look at other sources of revenue."

Barrett vowed to veto any sewer fee and claimed Alcombright would move the tax burden from business onto the homeowners. Alcombright said he "would never do that" but added that the city's commercial rate was among the highest in the state and something had to be done about it.


Alcombright pledged to create a housing commission to develop a plan for the city's aging housing stock and promote home ownership. Barrett replied the city was already doing that with a number of programs and that it had demolished 125 blighted houses in the past decade. Alcombright responded, that "the more we take down the fewer people we have here."

"Some of the houses we took down, we don't want those people in our city," said Barrett, calling them crack houses.

"How did they get to be crack houses?" shot back Alcombright, adding that the city's poverty level was the cause and it had to grow jobs to produce homeowners.

They also went back and forth over the Mohawk Theater, which has had recent work done to the exterior and shoring up in its interior. Alcombright said he would work with MCLA for re-use of the theater, adding that making it a "glorified movie theater" wouldn't create a catalyst for the downtown.

A business model for the theater developed a dozen years ago — before openings of the Colonial, Mahaiwe, '62 Center, and Topia Arts Center — won't hold up now, he said. "We have one shot to do it right and one shot to do it wrong."

Barrett countered "that before you go selling the Mohawk to MCLA, we've been talking to them for two years."

"I'm glad you have a plan for the Mohawk Theater," responded Alcombright, "because no one else knows about it but you."

Alcombright could have asked as chairman of the council's community development committee, said Barrett. "It's going to be a community spot ... [I] always connect every project we've done with the kids in the community."

In their closing statements:

If elected, said Alcombright, "as we move into this new decade, know this, that we are partners in this, my mind will never be closed, my door will always be open, this is our city and I will never forget that."

"We have met success as well as failure but we never have wavered in our pursuit to make North Adams the best city it can be," said Barrett. "Each day as mayor, I look forward to taking on new challenges and I'm motivated by the fact that with these challenges come new opportunities."



"Road projects get green light"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, 10/10/2009

NORTH ADAMS -- By next summer, the drive into the city will be a much smoother one.

State Secretary of Transportation James Aloisi Jr. stopped by the city briefly Friday morning to announce that a promised $3.5 million road project -- aimed at resurfacing Ashland, Church, West Main, River, Beaver, and Union streets, West Shaft Road and Massachusetts Avenue -- will begin in late March.

"We had hoped to start the resurfacing this fall, but the season has eluded us," he said during a press conference at City Hall. "With winter approaching, I’m told that is best we hold off until the spring. What I am doing today is making it clear that the state has committed these funds to the project."

Transportation boss visits

Aloisi had announced the commitment of $3.5 million in stimulus funds during a city visit in July. He also updated the status of two ongoing stimulus funded road projects in area, including the $2.1 million resurfacing of a section of Route 116 in Adams and the $3.6 million resurfacing of Route 7A in Lenox.

"Folks have questioned the state’s appropriation of stimulus funds," he said. "We have focused on fairly distributing the funds by region and in each region funding projects that will benefit the future as well as the present. While these road resurfacing projects create short-term construction jobs, they also provide a platform for increased tourism, industry and job growth."

Mayor John Barrett III said the road work will not only help improve the look of the city’s main entrances from every direction, but will also provide a boost to the local economy as the city moves into the future.

"The city has also committed $1 million, over the next five years, in improvements to existing sidewalks that are adjacent to these roads," he said. "The sidewalks will be handicapped accessible and compliant with the American Disabilities Act."

Properly using the funds

State Rep. Daniel E. Bosley, D-North Adams, said the state has tried to come up with a plan that wisely uses the stimulus funds.

"Everything has been done in a thoughtful manner," he said. "In redeveloping these entry corridors, the benefits to the city will continue well past the time when construction is complete."

He said many of the state’s road projects were geared toward helping attract businesses and families to the area, supporting both economic development and the growing creative economy.

Aloisi, who will resign his post on Oct. 31 after nine months, applauded the strong leadership of Bosley and Barrett.

"It is leadership like theirs that has made those of us in Boston pay attention to the communities out here," Aloisi said. "The Hadley Overpass is a story that shows their persistence and influence in Boston. I am glad to see that construction is under way."

The secretary also stopped in Pittsfield briefly to outline progress on $25 million in current and future stimulus projects.

John Barrett III (above right), who is running for reelection as mayor of North Adams, talked to Tony Pedercini. (Stephen Rose for The Boston Globe)

"North Adams mayor battles for 14th term"
By Mark Arsenault, Boston Globe Correspondent, October 11, 2009

NORTH ADAMS - Mayor John Barrett III doesn’t pretend to understand the exhibits in the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, but he knows they represent his political legacy, which he risked more than 20 years ago on a plan to retool his city’s economy around the creative arts.

Full of works that are fascinating, odd, and sometimes perplexing, the museum, known as MASS MoCA, was not Barrett’s idea. “But I was smart enough to realize we had to change,’’ he said. The museum - and its 150,000 annual tourists, plus spin-off restaurants, galleries, artists lofts, and inns - is a centerpiece of Barrett’s campaign this fall for a 14th two-year term, in what may be his toughest race.

After facing little or no opposition the last three elections, the state’s longest-serving mayor is admittedly in a battle to keep his job. Barrett said he understands why he makes a new enemy every time he says “no.’’

“Twenty-six years, three new enemies a week, add it up.’’

His challenger is Dick Alcombright, a city councilor, school board member, and community banker with a well-known name in North Adams politics. His late father, Danny, was a longtime councilor. But even a well-established political figure can represent change when the current ad ministration dates to 1984.

Barrett’s strong personality, which has made him a legendary figure among the state’s political junkies and in his own city, has become an issue. At least, Alcombright has tried to make it one. “When the mayor tells you ‘no,’ he does so in a way that makes you never want to go back to him with another idea,’’ he said.

The challenger is campaigning on themes of cooperation and transparency. “We are inclusive. We will listen. We will work collaboratively,’’ he said.

Alcombright acknowledges the difficulties in running against a “walking encyclopedia’’ on North Adams municipal government, but said that’s also part of the problem. “Under the mayor’s leadership the city has become a sole ownership,’’ he said.

The 55-year-old councilor is Barrett’s most credible challenger in many years, said Robert Bence, a political science professor at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams. Their battle has riveted this working-class former mill city of 14,000 people in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, where the per capita income was more than 30 percent below the state average in 2000 Census figures. Voters will decide the race on Nov. 3.

Alcombright appears to be drawing support from labor unions and newer residents, said Bence. He sees Barrett’s base of support drawing more heavily from longtime residents and senior citizens.

“I think in terms of substantive policy issues, the candidates are close,’’ said Bence. The mayoral race is nonpartisan; both candidates are Democrats. “Every election is a referendum on the mayor. It may come down to a choice of leadership style and how people judge the mayor after 26 years in office.’’

“I didn’t think I’d have to fight this hard in my last term to stay,’’ said Barrett, 62, who has been North Adams’ mayor since President Reagan’s first term. He immediately qualifies: “I’d never say for certain it’s my last term, but I’d like it to be. I’d like to grow up and make some money some day.’’

Barrett has heard the style critics who say he’s gruff and quick-tempered. “I would call it passion,’’ he said with a smile. He maintains that “95 percent of the good ideas I’ve had came from somebody else,’’ including rebuilding downtown around the creative arts, an idea he said he swiped from Providence. “My opponent says he’s going to involve everybody in the decisions. That’s not the way it’s done. Somebody has to drive.’’

If not for the national recession, Barrett might have retired. But the poor economy threatens 20 years of progress in North Adams, the mayor said, and the city needs an experienced hand on the wheel.

The dean of Massachusetts mayors works in a drab-paneled City Hall office cluttered with knickknacks like the $1 table at a church flea market. He was a schoolteacher before he won election, having grown up working in his father’s diner in North Adams. The restaurant served breakfast to the early-shift workers at the Sprague Electric manufacturing company. More than 4,000 people worked at Sprague in the mid-1960s.

In a story repeated in manufacturing towns around the state, North Adams struggled when the main employer closed down. Sprague shut its red-brick mill complex in 1985. The next year, Thomas Krens, then the director of the Williams College Museum of Art, approached Barrett with a far-fetched idea to develop a contemporary art museum.

Barrett suggested the former Sprague site. “The way I sold it to the community was that we’re going to save the buildings where your grandparents and your parents worked,’’ said Barrett. MASS MoCA opened in 1999. “This museum is going to continue to drive our economy,’’ he said.

The mayor is a widower. He married his wife, Eileen, in 1986; she died of breast cancer in 1990. “I couldn’t even talk about it for years - on our honeymoon she says, ‘I think I have a lump.’ ’’ He probably wouldn’t have stayed so long as mayor had he not lost his wife. In his grief, he was glad to have the job to pour himself into. Barrett said he still works 75 hours a week, making $84,000 a year.

The mayor expects to spend about $60,000 on the campaign.

Alcombright said he’s approaching his campaign budget goal of $40,000.

Alcombright, who is married with four children, is vice president of retail banking at Hoosac Bank and Williamstown Savings. He has worked in banking 36 years, beginning his career as a teller. He has served 17 years on the McCann Technical School Committee and seven years on the North Adams City Council.

He supports the “creative economy’’ built around the museum, but said Barrett has neglected other possible areas for growth, such as green energy, hospitality, light manufacturing, and retail. Take away the museum-related development, “and there’s really been nothing else,’’ said Alcombright.

The city faces a possible trap, he said, if it again becomes a one-industry community. “The only way out of our problems is to grow our economy.

“It’s in many ways tough going against a 26-year incumbent. I’ll say this about the mayor, the buck does stop at his desk. But what I think we’re missing in this city is we don’t engage everyone. We don’t engage well with our neighboring communities.’’


"North Adams Mayoral Race: Campaign spending tops $94K"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The Berkshire Eagle & The North Adams Transcript, October 29, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- This year's race for mayor will go down in the history books as the most expensive on record: The candidates have spent more than $94,000.

According to finance reports filed with the city clerk's office this week, challenger Richard J. Alcombright has raised $54,587.26 and spent $44,701.78. Mayor John Barrett III, who began the campaign season with $22,494.24 in his election fund, raised $41,415.07 and spent $49,587.98.

The reports for all candidates appearing on the Nov. 3 ballot cover fundraising and expenditure activities between Jan. 1 and Oct. 16. The reports were due by 4:30 p.m. on Monday. Alcombright filed on Monday at 4:20 p.m., and Barrett filed his report Tuesday at 4:30 p.m.

Candidates must itemize donations over $50 and cannot accept more than $500 from an individual.

City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau and assistant clerk Nancy Canales said the money being spent on this year's campaign is the largest amount they've seen.

"I've been here 11 years, and I've never seen spending like this," Canales said. "I think we're probably having the same thing happen with the City Council race."

Alcombright's campaign spending, which includes funds raised from private donors and from various dinners and events, has outpaced those of former mayoral hopeful and former City Councilor Paul Babeu, who spent $37,175 for his 1997 campaign and $31,500 for his 2001 bid.

Barrett spent $32,010 in his 1997 campaign against Babeu and about $38,000 in his 2001 bid, which included $10,000 in legal fees from a lawsuit against the former Internet Web site,

According to his finance report, Alcombright raised $32,648 in donations ranging from $50 to $500 from 135 individuals. Of those 135 donations, 80 were from people outside of North Adams and included venture capitalist Bo Peabody; attorney Sherwood Guernsey; Julia Bowen, executive director of Berkshire Arts and Technology Public Charter School; Charles Toomajian and his wife, Elizabeth, who helped found the charter school; and several Williams College professors.

He also reported a $350 in-kind service of disc jockey service from David Simonds for a party at the Bounti-Fare in Adams.

An additional $21,939 was reported, but not itemized.

Alcombright's expenditures of $44,701.78 include $800 in rent to Cire Corp for his Eagle Street campaign headquarters, $500 in rent to Scarafoni Associates for an office at 37 Main St., $200 for tickets to the 10th anniversary ball at Mass MoCA, $5,577 to Bona Marketing for campaign items such as shirts, signs, pens and bumper stickers; $4,663.31 for expenses for spaghetti dinner fundraisers; $2,836.25 for the Bounti-Fare, $525 for an event at the Cup and Saucer on Main Street, and $3,622 to Mezze Catering for an event at Le Jardin in Williamstown.

An additional $750 were paid to Joe Engwer Consulting, while additional monies were spent on advertising expenses with New England Newspapers Inc., which operates the North Adams Transcript and The Berkshire Eagle, Vox Communications, which owns several radio stations, and BoxCar Media, which runs

According to Barrett's finance report, the state's longest-serving mayor raised $29,200 in itemized donations and $12,203 in individual donations under $50. Of the 143 itemized donations, 112 individuals were from outside the city and included real estate developers Louis Ceruzzi and Arthur Hooper of Starwood Ceruzzi, which owns the former North Adams Plaza on Curran Highway; David Crane, owner of Excelsior Printing; Guggenheim Museum Director Thomas Krens, who spearheaded Mass MoCA; and Mass MoCA Director Joseph Thompson and his wife, Jennifer.

"About $14,000 was raised at a fundraiser in Somerville, which was hosted by six other mayors from the eastern end of the state," Barrett said in explaining numerous donations from towns outside of Boston. "The rest is from the little people."

Of the $49,587.98 in expenditures, Barrett has spent $12,018.51 for campaign materials including pins, brochures, signs, lawn signs, printing, engraving, production costs from various vendors; $10,354.50 on political consultants from JEF Associates in West Springfield and Matt O'Neil in Boston; $6,496 on advertisements with New England Newspapers, Time Warner and Vox Communications; $2,500 in rent for his Ashland Street headquarters; $2,200 for Web site design by Gargan Communications of Dalton; and $1,710 for a spaghetti dinner, with additional monies being spent on postage, office supplies, furniture-rental fees and conferences.

Barrett's campaign also returned a $100 corporate donation to Nancy Fitzpatrick, owner of the Red Lion Inn, who had already met the maximum $500 limit.

Among the council candidates, the big campaign spenders so far have been challengers Gregory Roach with $1,394.15, Michael Boland with $1,657.64, Keith Bona with $949, and Councilor Lisa Blackmer at $955.

Challenger David Lamarre follows with $889.60; Councilor Alan Marden has spent $643; Councilor Gailanne Cariddi with $618.93; challenger Dennis Whitney with $533; and challenger David Bond with $137.06.

Councilors reporting no fundraising or expenditures include Marie Harpin, Ronald Boucher, Robert Moulton Jr. and Michael Bloom.

Challengers Eric Buddington and Brian Flagg also had no expenditures or fundraising activity.

McCann School Committee candidates, newcomer Gary F. Rivers and incumbent Paul Giglotti, both who run unopposed for two available seats also reported zero on their financial reports.

Reports for North Adams School Committee candidates Heather Boulger, Mark Moulton and John Hockridge, all incumbents running unopposed, were not available on Tuesday.

"Small city turns big page: Colleagues laud Barrett tenure"
By Scott Stafford, Berkshire Eagle Staff, November 5, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Former colleagues from across the region and the state hailed Mayor John Barrett III as a "regional treasure," a "legendary" advocate for his community who displayed "grit" and "passion" in steering his city through its darkest times and preparing it for a bright future.

"John is a regional treasure," said U.S. Sen. John Kerry via e-mail from Washington D.C. "His visions undoubtedly transformed North Adams and we all should wish him well in this next chapter of his life. Everyone should be grateful for his decades of service."

Barrett, the longest serving mayor in Massachusetts, was defeated while seeking his 14th two-year term as mayor, ending his 26-year reign. He was defeated by seven-year member of the city council and bank vice president Richard Alcombright. Alcombright attracted 3,046 votes to Barrett's 2,166.

He was first elected to office in 1983, and one of his first duties was to inform his city that Sprague Electric, the city's lifeblood and primary employer, was closing its plant and moving away.

Many people have forgotten the things Barrett did for the city during those early years. Rep. Dan Bosley, who was elected to the state House of Representatives three years after Barrett was first elected mayor, recalls how the mayor had to essentially rebuild the water system, roads and sidewalks.

"You'd wash your clothes in North Adams and they'd come out dirtier than they went in because most of those pipes had been installed in the 1860s," Bosley said. "He had to essentially rebuild the city."

Other feathers in Barrett's cap, Bosley noted, are Mass MoCA, the North Adams Armory, the city's first new elementary school in 60 years, the skating rink, the ongoing renovation of the Mohawk Theater, the rebuilding of Hadley Overpass and a revitalized downtown.

"He kept taxes low and at the same time made the city look and work better," Bosley said. "He was a good guy to work with because he was always focused and not afraid to step on people's toes to get something done. He's been a very good mayor for North Adams and I think he's got a tremendous legacy. He's got a lot to be proud of."

Mary Grant, president of MCLA, lauded Barrett's tireless support of the college, which is also his alma mater.

"John has been a great professional colleague and a good personal friend, something that I value even more than the brick and mortar aspect of our collaborations" she said. "And I'm looking forward to seeing how we can continue to work with him as he moves into this new phase in his life."

Barrett's combative spirit was well-known in political circles. It seems that when it came to advocating what he thought was best for his city, the bigger they came, the harder they'd fall.

"I will always have the best memories of the battles we waged together," Kerry said. "I'll also remember the fact that he was always blunt, honest, and direct with me when he disagreed with me. He taught me a lot. He made me a better senator. He was a fierce advocate and I can tell you first hand that he's the guy you want on your side in a fight."

Kerry also listed some of the many victories for the North Adams Barrett leaves behind, such as the Mohawk Theater, Mass MoCA, laptops provided to middle school students and improvements at MCLA.

"John Barrett served the people of North Adams with everything he had -- integrity, passion and distinction," Kerry said.

Congressman John Olver also praised Barrett's years of service.

"Mayor Barrett is legendary and leaves behind a two-and-a-half decade legacy, with Mass MoCA being the gem of North Adams' achievements," Olver said.

Joseph Thompson, director of Mass MoCA, was there in the beginning when Barrett and he and a few other supporters were fighting an uphill battle to turn the old Sprague campus into a world class museum for contemporary art.

"In 1991 when Mass MoCA was far more dead than alive, John Barrett and I were talking, trying to come up with yet another plan," Thompson recalled. "He looked at me and said, ‘You know, we might still salvage this. But if we do, it will set in motion a series of changes that will eventually cost me this office.' And it took a long time for that premonition to play out. But at the time I thought it was a sign of grit and leadership that he fought for something that was good for his community and yet could end up separating him from his job."

Friend and recently re-elected mayor of Pittsfield James M. Ruberto said he considers Barrett a "true friend, a guy that has a heart of gold."

"John Barrett redefined North Adams, and took that city through the darkest period in its history and delivered rock-solid results," Ruberto said. "And the size of his voice has been disproportionate to the size of his city."

Ruberto noted that Barrett was considered a leader by other mayors in the state, and many across the country.

"I can assure you that there are dozens of mayors today who are truly in shock, asking what are they going to do now without John Barrett," Ruberto said. "He belongs in the Massachusetts mayors hall of fame because he's hit the ball out of the park for that community over and over and over again."

There are many residents of North Adams who feel the same.

"He is the dean of mayors in Massachusetts," said Debra Coody, 56, of North Adams, as she headed into the Big Y. "To me, he'll always be the mayor of North Adams."
To reach Scott Stafford: or (413) 496-6241.

Richard Alcombright took some time on Wednesay to celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary before diving into the busy life of being the mayor of North Adams. (Gillian Jones / New England Newspapers)

Changes in North Adams
"Question: What now?: Alcombright ready to put his personal stamp on job"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The North Adams Transcript & The Berkshire Eagle, November 5, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Fresh off the euphoria of Tuesday night's election win, Mayor-elect Richard J. Alcombright was taking a moment to reflect on the upset, while preparing for a more private celebration on Wednesday -- his 20th wedding anniversary with his wife, Michelle.

"We're taking a moment to relax and adjust before things really start to get going," he said during an interview at his home. "We'll start putting together our strategy in the next week and I'll also be contacting the mayor about a transition plan. The first piece we'll be focusing on is a real solid economic development plan."

Switching jobs

He added, "I'll also be returning to work for about three weeks and then using the rest of my cumulative time."

Alcombright, senior vice president of retail banking for Hoosac Bank and Williamstown Savings Bank, swept all of the city's five wards on election night, winning by 880 votes. Alcombright received 3,046 votes to Barrett's 2,166, according to unofficial numbers provided by the city clerk's office.

While criticized by some throughout the duration of his campaign for focusing on inclusiveness through the formation of various committees, Alcombright said he'll personally be leading the charge to develop and implement a solid economic development plan that will place the city in a good position as the economy begins to recover.

"I've had a lot of conversations with business leaders and others involved with regional and state economic development planning," Alcombright said. "We need to engage the local business community, but at the same time, work with regional and state organizations to craft the best plan.

"We also need to take a really good look at and review the process for businesses which want to locate in the city. We've been called unfriendly. Whether that perception is real or perceived, we need to figure out what to do to combat that image."

He credits the huge success of his campaign to a base of over 700 active volunteers, who stood in the cold with him, ladled spaghetti, hosted meetings in their homes and went door-to-door with his message.

"I think people also really listened to our message," Alcombright said. "I don't agree with those who are saying I won because people were voting for change for the sake of change. I don't see it as a mandate for sweeping changes. I think people listened to our message about the need to bring in jobs and working harder on improving our school scores. They listened to us address crime and poverty -- conversations that we don't have and recognized that we want to change those things and make improvements."

Looking closely at budget

The mayor-elect also plans to spend a lot of time over the next seven weeks delving into the city budget and the planning process for the $15 million in road and streetscape projects that will begin in the new year.

"We're also working with the state on a feasibility study for the school district," Alcombright said. "This is one of the reasons I need a transition plan. I want to be able to hit the ground at least jogging on Jan. 1. I need to spend some time with the budget, luckily it seems we've escaped the 9c cuts for this round. We're going to have those challenges in the future, though."

Other priorities include growing the office of tourism, hosting roundtable discussion with area teens and working to give more autonomy to local boards such as the School Committee and the planning and zoning boards.

"I want to have some conversations with the artist community and I want to really turn the office of tourism into one that includes cultural development," he said. "I want to start really marketing the city, but also discuss new initiatives that can begin in the spring and summer that can be done on the cheap but also make this a happier place."

He said that throughout the seven months of campaigning, he heard a lot from teenagers about a lack of activities.

"I've heard about everything from an arcade to a skate park," Alcombright said. "The kids say they don't have anything to do. I'm a parent, so I'm going to suggest those safe things like bowling or seeing a movie. I want to hear from them about what they need and what they expect."

Despite rumors, he said he won't be "cleaning house" when he takes office in January.

"I'd be shooting myself in both feet if I came in and made wholesale changes," he said. "I think what people will notice is a difference in my management style. I believe that department heads should have the ability to manage and open up to their potential. I think there is an incredible staff and I would never pretend to have an intimate knowledge of their day to day jobs."

He's also planning to tap the individual talents of the city councilors.

"I think one of the things that got me to the point of running for mayor was my frustration as a councilor," Alcombright said. "As councilors, we understand our role is as a legislative body, to support the administration, to craft ordinances and authorize spending. But when you look at them as a whole there's so much expertise."

He continued, "Lisa Blackmer has a marketing background, while Al Marden has years of experience in business management and economic development. Gailanne Cariddi has a handle on green initiatives and projects like the bike path and the Hoosic River Revival. Michael Boland has great expertise in social services. I want to give them the opportunity to play a much bigger role."


"Crane to relocate stationery facility: Operation to be consolidated in Dalton"
By Tony Dobrowolski, Berkshire Eagle Staff, November 6, 2009

DALTON -- Crane & Co. plans to consolidate its stationery paper division to a new state-of-the-art facility near its Dalton headquarters, CEO Charles Kittredge said on Thursday.

The move will not result in layoffs, but it will require transferring the company's 200 employees from Crane's Personal Design Services facility on Curran Highway in North Adams, and 100 additional workers in the stationery division who currently work in plants in Dalton and Pittsfield.

Kittredge said Crane plans to close its North Adams facility by early 2011. After the workers are transferred, he said the company will either put another Crane division in the North Adams plant or put it on the market.

Kittredge said the consolidation, which isn't expected to take place for six months, will keep Crane's stationery division "viable" and "productive," while retaining those jobs in Berkshire County. The cost of the consolidation was not disclosed.

The stationery paper division will be based at either Crane's Byron Weston Mill in Dalton or the Downing Industrial Park in Pittsfield, where Crane maintains both a warehouse and the marketing staff for its stationery division. Kittredge said both facilities have plenty of square footage that is not being utilized.

Kittredge said it will take six months to "reconfigure" either facility for its new use.

"Quite a bit of planning has to go into that," Kittredge said. "We don't want to disrupt the business because of our move. We didn't want to go quickly. We want to make it as efficient as possible."

The North Adams employees were notified of Crane's plans on Thursday morning.

"What I told the employees is that we haven't done all of the planning yet," Kittredge said. "If we feel we can't move it in the first part of 2010, we'll do it in the first part of 2011."

North Adams employees who live closer to Dalton were pleased by the news, Kittredge said, while those who live in North County were disappointed.

"People understand the rationale for the move," Kittredge said. "We'll try to minimize the impact by providing travel from North Adams. Some people might not make the move with us."

A worldwide drop-off in demand for personalized stationery caused Crane in March to layoff 70 hourly and salaried jobs in its stationery division, and implement a 9 percent wage reduction for the remaining employees.

"Our stationery business is stressed by the marketplace," Kittredge said. "We looked at the costs, and decided that we could save a lot of money in a lot of different areas by consolidating everything."

Crane has had operations in North Adams since 1970 when the company purchased Excelsior Printing and Excelsior Process & Engraving. In 1985, Crane moved Excelsior Printing and Engraving to the Robert Hardman Industrial Park on Curran Highway, where the company's personal design services plant is currently located.

Mayor John Barrett III said city officials and state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley had offered Crane several proposals to remain in North Adams -- including the construction of an addition to the plant on Curran Highway.

"But I think that what came out of this is that this is the best plan for them," Barrett said. "We can't do anything about the national economy and this is related to that. The best thing is that no one is losing their jobs. So, it's not completely lemons."

Mayor-elect Richard Alcombright could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
To reach Tony Dobrowolski:, or (413) 496-6224.

"North Adams Insurance: Barrett tells City Council his instincts were correct"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, New England Newspapers: The North Adams Transcript & The Berkshire Eagle, November 26, 2009

NORTH ADAMS -- Mayor John Barrett III told the City Council Tuesday night that the decision of the public employee committee not to vote on the city's offer to join the state Group Insurance Commission only further proves his initial reaction a year ago was correct.

"As I walk out the door, I don't want it to be said that I cost the tax payers $1.5 million by not allowing the unions to join the GIC," he said under suspension of the rules. "I want it to be perfectly clear that I gave them the option of the GIC. I haven't changed my position from a year ago, I still think that it is not in the best interest of the city and not in the best interest of the employees."

He added, "A year ago, the unions were picketing because they didn't get a chance to vote. I told everyone I thought the numbers they presented from Boston Benefits were skewed. I said that the information they were handing out didn't have anyone entering the indemnity plan and that there would be a significant raise in the rates and co-payments. That's happened, and now they refuse to vote."

On Monday, Brian Kelly, chairman of the public employee committee and president of the North Adams Police Association, said the group was taking the GIC contract under advisement because there was not enough time to analyze the plan offerings before the state's Dec. 1 deadline to join. He also said the group had issue with the contractual split, which had never been negotiated.

Barrett said he believes the reason for the refusal to vote also includes the GIC's skyrocketing rates -- which have drastically increased co-payments and costs to both employees and municipalities.

He also spoke about the city's medical insurance trust fund, which union members have said has been shortchanged $2 million by the city.

"This is a fallacy they've put forth -- using their theory we've shown a difference of $149,000 that they've underpaid," he said. "My advice to the new council and new mayor is that you tread lightly in this area. I'm just reminding this council and the new administration that when this committee was established, the insurance options were taken out of the hands of the council. This won't come back before you. It's between the committee and the administration now."

In other action, the City Council approved an addition increase of $308,174 to the fiscal 2010 budget, bringing it to $34.6 million. The rise covers the $85,000 increase in costs for the city's veterans benefits account -- 75 percent of which will be reimbursed by the state, along with $135,000 to cover the loss of funds from the state circuit breaker account, which provides reimbursement to the school department for students who are in residential programs outside of the district. The state reimbursement rate has dropped from 72 percent of the costs to 42 percent.

An additional $88,174 will go to the city's retirement and pension contributory account to pay the Retirement Board's annual assessment.

Also unanimously approved was the appointment of Wayne Wilkinson to the planning board to fill the unexpired term of William Schrade Jr.

Mayor-elect Richard J. Alcombright said his administration was fine with the appointment, which was discussed with Barrett, since Wilkinson had previously served on the board and brought numerous years of experience with him.

"We have agreed that all other appointments will be held off," he said. "Should any other appointments come forward, we'll be taking a hard look at them and the reasons behind them."

An ordinance amendment, which would change the city's payment schedule for sick-time upon retirement, was passed to a second reading and sent to the council's finance subcommittee for review.

"Property tax rates will head upward"
By Jennifer Huberdeau, North Adams Transcript, January 1, 2010

NORTH ADAMS -- When city tax bills arrive in the next few weeks, homeowners can expect to see an average increase of about $35, while commercial property owners will average an increase of about $760.

The City Council unanimously approved a dual tax rate for the city during Wednesday night's tax classification meeting. The residential rate increased from $11.71 to $12.44 per thousand dollars of valuation -- or 6.2 percent. Commercial, industrial and personal property rates went from $27.03 to $27.92 per thousand dollars of valuation.

"Although the tax rate is going up, people should understand that residential property values decreased drastically this year," Mayor John Barrett III said during his final City Council meeting. "At the same time, commercial valuations went up, which is a good thing."

Although the phrase "average tax bill" is commonly used, Barrett said it's safe to assume that a third of the city's residential tax bills will decrease, a third will stay the same and a third will increase by more than $35.

"I have a business manager who's fuming because her tax bill went up $200, while mine will go up only $20," Barrett said. "It all depends on what type of home you own and how its valuation changed.

According to figures provided by Assessor Christopher Lamarre, the city's residential property values decreased by $7.8 million over the last year, while commercial property values increased by $3.8 million. The total value of residential property in the city is $562,104,232, while commercial property within the city is valued at $105,965,641. Personal property valuations increased by just over $1 million, while industrial valuations dropped by $1.7 million.

Although councilors passed the tax rate and an accompanying $580,000 in budget cuts and $480,000 in transfers, the approvals came after a heated debate with Barrett.

The mayor explained that the cuts were required by the state Department of Revenue, which informed him late Wednesday afternoon that an error in the previous year's budget would not allow certain funds to be used to cover reductions made previously.

"What I was told was, last year the auditor put a figure in the wrong column," he said. "That error reduces the amount of money that can be used from the land sale account. Instead, I must use the overlay account to replace that money."

While $580,000 had to be cut from the budget, $480,000 of that amount was replaced from reserves via the transfers.

"We're reducing the amount to be raised by taxation," Barrett said.

However, Councilor Richard J. Alcombright, who will be sworn in as mayor today at 10 a.m., questioned if the city should be reducing its reserve accounts with bleak times ahead.

"We're using a lot of cash when we have the capacity to raise these funds through taxes," Alcombright said. "We've been told that fiscal 2011 could be the worst time we've ever seen, and it may be critical to maintain balances in our reserve accounts. I think we need to examine whether this move would be like the stimulus funds the federal government handed out, which is just prolonging some things. Do we either bite the bullet now or hold off a little longer before we're forced to bite the bullet?"

Lamarre estimated the average residential tax bill would rise by $85 to $90 if the council decided to forego the cuts and raise the $580,000 by taxation. He said the commercial rate increase would be comparable.

"It's a philosophical choice," Barrett said. "Do you want to raise taxes now or take a chance on the economy getting better in the next year? People are hurting now. They're having a tough time paying their taxes now. We've had higher delinquencies than ever. Why not wait?"

He added, "If you use your available resources now, when next year comes and you have more new growth, potentially with the new Walmart, you may have the ability to raise $1.2 million by taxation instead of just $850,000 [the levy limit this year]."

Councilor Gailanne Cariddi backed Barrett, saying the city has been in similar circumstances before and always used its reserves.

"It's a pay now or pay later situation," Alcombright responded. "I was questioning if we were just deferring the inevitable and thought it required a discussion. We're anticipating more municipal aid cuts from the state and cuts to Chapter 70 school aid."

Councilor David Bond questioned what resources the council would have in the future if drastic cuts came from the state and the reserves were depleted.

"You have plenty of other tools," Barrett said. "You have the food tax. You can institute a sewer fee, increase water fees, increase field fees, all the fees in the city clerk's office, raise fees for the transfer station stickers or raise parking fines. You could even charge fees for athletics at the high school."

Councilor Michael Bloom questioned if the city was funding enough public services in the current budget.

"You yourself have said we have skeleton crews," he said to Barrett. "I want to know if we have all the people we need to provide the services we need."

Barrett answered, "There are always wants and needs. Our crews are providing the services that are needed. If you want to have more people, then you're going to have to fund it."

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About Me

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Amherst, NH, United States
I am a citizen defending the people against corrupt Pols who only serve their Corporate Elite masters, not the people! / My 2 political enemies are Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., nicknamed "Luciforo" and former Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. / I have also pasted many of my political essays on "The Berkshire Blog": / I AM THE ANTI-FRANK GUINTA! / Please contact me at

50th Anniversary - 2009

50th Anniversary - 2009
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Columbus Avenue in Springfield, Massachusetts.

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety

Pittsfield Politics: Capitanio, Mazzeo agree on budget cuts, public safety
Paul Capitanio, left, speaks during Monday night's Ward 3 City Council debate with fellow candidate Melissa Mazzeo at Pittsfield Community Television's studio. The special election (3/31/2009) will be held a week from today (3/24/2009). The local issues ranged from economic development and cleaning up blighted areas in Ward 3 to public education and the continued remediation of PCB's.

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

Outrage swells in Congress!

Outrage swells in Congress!
Senate Banking Committee Chairman Sen. Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., left, and the committee's ranking Republican Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., listen during a hearing on modernizing insurance regulations, Tuesday, March 17, 2009, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh). -

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!

Beacon Hill's $pecial Interest Tax Raisers & $PENDERS!
Photo Gallery:

The path away from Wall Street ...

The path away from Wall Street ...
...Employers in the finance sector - traditionally a prime landing spot for college seniors, particularly in the Northeast - expect to have 71 percent fewer jobs to offer this year's (2009) graduates.

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Economic collapse puts graduates on unforeseen paths: Enrollment in public service jobs rising...

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis

Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis
Should he be fired? As Bank of America's Stock Plummets, CEO Resists Some Calls That He Step Down.

Hookers for Jesus

Hookers for Jesus
Annie Lobert is the founder of "Hookers for Jesus" - - Saving Sin City: Las Vegas, Nevada?

Forever personalized stamped envelope

Forever personalized stamped envelope
The Forever stamp will continue to cover the price of a first-class letter. The USPS will also introduce Forever personalized, stamped envelopes. The envelopes will be preprinted with a Forever stamp, the sender's name and return address, and an optional personal message.

Purple Heart

Purple Heart
First issued in 2003, the Purple heart stamp will continue to honor the men and women wounded while serving in the US military. The Purple Heart stamp covers the cost of 44 cents for first-class, one-ounce mail.


The bottlenose is just one of the new animals set to appear on the price-change stamps. It will serve as a 64-cent stamp for odd shaped envelopes.

2009 price-change stamps

2009 price-change stamps -&-

Red Sox v Yankees

Red Sox v Yankees
Go Red Sox!

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
AP photo v Shepard Fairey

Rush Limbaugh lackeys

Rush Limbaugh lackeys
Posted by Dan Wasserman of the Boston Globe on March 3, 2009.

Honest Abe

Honest Abe
A 2007 US Penny

Dog race

Dog race
Sledding for dogs

The Capital of the Constitution State

The Capital of the Constitution State
Hartford, once the wealthiest city in the United States but now the poorest in Connecticut, is facing an uphill battle.

Brady, Bundchen married

Brady, Bundchen married
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and model Gisele Bundchen wed Feb. 26, 2009 in a Catholic ceremony in Los Angeles.

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto

Mayor Jimmy Ruberto
Tanked Pittsfield's local economy while helping his fellow insider political hacks and business campaign contributors!

Journalist Andrew Manuse

Journalist Andrew Manuse

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

New Hampshire Supreme Court Building

Economic State of the Union

Economic State of the Union
A look at some of the economic conditions the Obama administration faces and what resources have already been pledged to help. 2/24/2009

President Barack Obama

President Barack Obama
The president addresses the nation's governors during a dinner in the State Dinning Room, Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009, at the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari).

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.

The Oscars - 2/22/2009.
Hugh Jackman and Beyoncé Knowles teamed up for a musical medley during the show.

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009

The 81st Academy Awards - Oscars - 2009
Hugh Jackman pulled actress Anne Hathaway on stage to accompany him during his opening musical number.

Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow
A Progressive News Commentator

$500,000 per year

$500,000 per year
That is chump change for the corporate elite!


Jeffrey R. Immelt, chairman and chief executive of General Electric

The Presidents' Club

The Presidents' Club
Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton & Carter.

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!

5 Presidents: Bush, Obama, Bush Jr, Clinton, & Carter!
White House Event: January 7, 2009.

Bank Bailout!

Bank Bailout!
v taxpayer

Actress Elizabeth Banks

Actress Elizabeth Banks
She will present an award to her hometown (Pittsfield) at the Massachusetts State House next month (1/2009). She recently starred in "W" and "Zack and Miri Make a Porno," and just signed a $1 million annual contract to be a spokesmodel for Paris.

Joanna Lipper

Joanna Lipper
Her award-winning 1999 documentary, "Growing Up Fast," about teenaged mothers in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

Happy Holidays...

Happy Holidays...
...from "Star Wars"

Massachusetts "poor" economy

Massachusetts "poor" economy
Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states, but it is also very inequitable. For example, it boasts the nation's most lucrative lottery, which is just a system of regressive taxation so that the corporate elite get to pay less in taxes!

Reese Witherspoon

Reese Witherspoon
Hollywood Actress

Peter G. Arlos.

Peter G. Arlos.
Arlos is shown in his Pittsfield office in early 2000.

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes

Turnpike OK's hefty toll hikes
Big Dig - East-west commuters take hit; Fees at tunnels would double. 11/15/2008.

The Pink Panther 2

The Pink Panther 2
Starring Steve Martin

Police ABUSE

Police ABUSE
I was a victim of Manchester Police Officer John Cunningham's ILLEGAL USES of FORCE! John Cunningham was reprimanded by the Chief of Police for disrespecting me. John Cunningham yelled at a witness: "I don't care if he (Jonathan Melle) is disabled!"

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
The 44th US President!



The Bailout & the economic stimulus check

The Bailout & the economic stimulus check
A political cartoon by Dan Wasserman

A rainbow over Boston

A rainbow over Boston
"Rainbows galore" 10/2/2008

Our nation's leaders!

Our nation's leaders!
President Bush with both John McCain & Barack Obama - 9/25/2008.

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).

Massachusetts & Big Dig: Big hike in tolls for Pike looming (9/26/2008).
$5 rise at tunnels is one possibility $1 jump posed for elsewhere.

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My FAVORITE Journalist EVER!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!

9/11/2008 - A Show of Unity!
John McCain and Barack Obama appeared together at ground zero in New York City - September 11, 2008.

John McCain...

John McCain...
...has all but abandoned the positions on taxes, torture and immigration. (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman. September 2008).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
The deregulated chickens come home to roost... in all our pocketbooks. September 2008.

Sarah Palin's phobia

Sarah Palin's phobia
A scripted candidate! (A cartoon by Dan Wasserman).

Dan Wasserman

Dan Wasserman
Family FInances - September, 2008.

Mark E. Roy

Mark E. Roy
Ward 1 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas

Theodore “Ted” L. Gatsas
Ward 2 Alderman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Peter M. Sullivan

Peter M. Sullivan
Ward 3 (downtown) Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Jim Roy

Jim Roy
Ward 4 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Ed Osborne

Ed Osborne
Ward 5 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Real R. Pinard

Real R. Pinard
Ward 6 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

William P. Shea

William P. Shea
Ward 7 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Betsi DeVries

Betsi DeVries
Ward 8 Alder-woman (& NH State Senator) for Manchester, NH (2008).

Michael Garrity

Michael Garrity
Ward 9 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

George Smith

George Smith
Ward 10 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Russ Ouellette

Russ Ouellette
Ward 11 Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy

Kelleigh (Domaingue) Murphy
Ward 12 Alder-woman for Manchester, NH (2008).

“Mike” Lopez

“Mike” Lopez
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH. (2008).

Daniel P. O’Neil

Daniel P. O’Neil
At-Large Alderman for Manchester, NH (2008).

Sarah Palin for Vice President.

Sarah Palin for Vice President.
Republican John McCain made the surprise pick of Alaska's governor Sarah Palin as his running mate today, August 29, 2008.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.

U.S. Representative John Olver, D-Amherst, Massachusetts.
Congressman Olver said the country has spent well over a half-trillion dollars on the war in Iraq while the situation in Afghanistan continues to deteriorate. 8/25/08.

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!

Ed O'Reilly for US Senate in Massachusetts!
John Kerry's 9/2008 challenger in the Democratic Primary.

Shays' Rebellion

Shays' Rebellion
In a tax revolt, Massachusetts farmers fought back during Shays' Rebellion in the mid-1780s after The American Revolutionary War.

Julianne Moore

Julianne Moore
Actress. "The Big Lebowski" is one of my favorite movies. I also like "The Fugitive", too.

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"

Rinaldo Del Gallo III & "Superman"
Go to:,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=699&cntnt01returnid=69

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"

"Income chasm widening in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts"
The gap between rich and poor has widened substantially in Massachusetts over the past two decades. (8/15/2008).

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley

Dan "Bureaucrat" Bosley
"The Bosley Amendment": To create tax loopholes for the wealthiest corporate interests in Massachusetts!

John Edwards and...

John Edwards and...
...Rielle Hunter. WHO CARES?!

Rep. Edward J. Markey

Rep. Edward J. Markey
He wants online-privacy legislation. Some Web Firms Say They Track Behavior Without Explicit Consent.

Cindy Sheehan

Cindy Sheehan
She gained fame with her antiwar vigil outside the Bush ranch.

Olympics kick off in Beijing

Olympics kick off in Beijing

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall

Exxon Mobil 2Q profit sets US record, shares fall
In this May 1, 2008, file photo, a customer pumps gas at an Exxon station in Middleton, Mass. Exxon Mobil Corp. reported second-quarter earnings of $11.68 billion Thursday, July 31, the biggest quarterly profit ever by any U.S. corporation, but the results were well short of Wall Street expectations and its shares fell as markets opened. (AP Photo/Lisa Poole, File) 7/31/2008.

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'

Onota Lake 'Sea Serpent'
Some kind of monster on Onota Lake. Five-year-old Tyler Smith rides a 'sea serpent' on Onota Lake in Pittsfield, Mass. The 'monster,' fashioned by Smith's grandfather, first appeared over July 4 weekend. (Photo courtesy of Ron Smith). 7/30/2008.

Al Gore, Jr.

Al Gore, Jr.
Al Gore issues challenge on energy

The Norman Rockwell Museum

The Norman Rockwell Museum
Stockbridge, Massachusetts

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's financially wasteful pork barrel project!

"Big Dig"

"Big Dig"
Boston's pork barrel public works project cost 50 times more than the original price!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer

U.S. Rep. John Olver, state Sen. Stan Rosenberg and Selectwomen Stephanie O'Keeffe and Alisa Brewer
Note: Photo from Mary E Carey's Blog.


Boston Symphony Orchestra music director James Levine.



Jimmy Ruberto

Jimmy Ruberto
Faces multiple persecutions under the Massachusetts "Ethics" conflict of interest laws.

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
Obama vows $500m in faith-based aid.

John McCain

John McCain
He is with his wife, Cindy, who were both met by Colombian President Alvaro Uribe (right) upon arriving in Cartagena.

Daniel Duquette

Daniel Duquette
Sold Mayor James M. Ruberto of Pittsfield two tickets to the 2004 World Series at face value.

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008

Hillary & Barack in Unity, NH - 6/27/2008
Clinton tells Obama, crowd in Unity, N.H.: 'We are one party'

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Wanna-be Prez?


"out of this World"

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck

Crisis in the Congo - Ben Affleck -

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
NH's Democratic returning candidate for U.S. Senate


a cool robot

Ed O'Reilly

Ed O'Reilly

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
World Champions - 2008

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
J.D. Drew gets the same welcome whenever he visits the City of Brotherly Love: "Booooooo!"; Drew has been vilified in Philadelphia since refusing to sign with the Phillies after they drafted him in 1997...

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs

Joe Kelly Levasseur & Joe Briggs

NH Union Leader

NH Union Leader
Editorial Cartoon

Celtics - World Champions!

Celtics - World Champions! - - -

"The Nation"

"The Nation"
A "Liberal" weekly political news magazine. Katrina vanden Heuvel.



The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone
List of Twilight Zone episodes -

Equality for ALL Marriages

Equality for ALL Marriages
I, Jonathan Melle, am a supporter of same sex marriages.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.

Kobe Bryant leads his time to a Game 5 victory.
L.A. Lakers holds on for the win to force Game 6 at Boston

Mohawk Trail

Mohawk Trail
The 'Hail to the Sunrise' statue in Charlemont is a well-known and easily recognized landmark on the Mohawk Trail. The trail once boasted several souvenir shops, some with motels and restaurants. Now only four remain. (Caroline Bonnivier / Berkshire Eagle Staff).

NASA - June 14, 2008

NASA - June 14, 2008
Space Shuttle Discovery returns to Earth.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Go Celtics! Game # 4 of the 2008 NBA Finals.
Boston took a 20-second timeout, and the Celtics ran off four more points (including this incredible Erving-esque layup from Ray Allen) to build the lead to five points with just 2:10 remaining. Reeling, the Lakers took a full timeout to try to regain their momentum.

Sal DiMasi

Sal DiMasi
Speaker of the Massachusetts State House of Representatives

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire

Kelly Ayotte - Attorney General of New Hampshire

John Kerry

John Kerry
He does not like grassroots democracy & being challenged in the 2008 Massachusetts Democratic Party Primary for re-election.

Tim Murray

Tim Murray
Corrupt Lt. Gov. of Massachusetts, 2007 - 2013.

North Adams, Massachusetts

North Adams, Massachusetts

Howie Carr

Howie Carr
Political Satirist on Massachusetts Corruption/Politics

Polar Bear

Polar Bear
Global Warming

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links

Elizabeth Warren - Web-Site Links &

Elizabeth Warren

Elizabeth Warren
Consumer Crusader

Leon Powe

Leon Powe
Celtics forward Leon Powe finished a fast break with a dunk.

Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett
Kevin Garnett reacted during the game.

Rajon Rondo

Rajon Rondo
Rajon Rondo finished a first half fast break with a dunk.


Los Angeles Lakers teammates help Pau Gasol (16) from the floor in the second quarter.

Kobe Bryant

Kobe Bryant
Kobe Bryant took a shot in the first half of Game 2.

Kendrick Perkins

Kendrick Perkins
Kendrick Perkins (right) backed down Lamar Odom (left) during first half action.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
The Boston Symphony Orchestra performed the national anthem prior to Game 2.


Garnett reacted to a hard dunk in the first quarter.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce reacted after hitting a three upon his return to the game since leaving with an injury.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Kobe Bryant (left) and Paul Pierce (right) squared off in the second half of the game.

James Taylor

James Taylor
Sings National Anthem at Celtics Game.

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick

John Forbes Kerry & Deval Patrick
Attended Celtics Game.

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!

Greats of the NBA: Dr. J, Bill Russell, & Kareem!
Attend Game 1 of the 2008 NBA Finals.

Bruce Willis

Bruce Willis
The actor (left) and his date were in the crowd before the Celtics game.

John Kerry

John Kerry
Golddigger attends Celtics game

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton
Ends her 2008 bid for Democratic Party nomination

Nonnie Burnes

Nonnie Burnes
Massachusetts Insurance Commish & former Judge

Jones Library

Jones Library
Amherst, Massachusetts

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton

Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton
2008 Democratic Primary

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"

"US vs Exxon and Halliburton"
U.S. Senator John Sununu took more than $220,000 from big oil.

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
4- U.S. Senate - 2008

William Pignatelli

William Pignatelli
Hack Rep. "Smitty" with Lynne Blake

Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke
Federal Reserve Chairman

Boys' & Girls' Club

Boys' & Girls' Club
Melville Street, Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Denis Guyer

Denis Guyer
Dalton State Representative

The Berkshire Eagle

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
Williams College - May 2008

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Larry Bird & Magic Johnson

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries

Regressive Taxation! via State Lotteries
New Massachusetts state lottery game hits $600 million in sales!

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo

John Barrett III

John Barrett III
Long-time Mayor of North Adams Massachusetts

Shine On

Shine On



Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce kissed the Eastern Conference trophy. 5/30/2008. AP Photo.

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton

Kevin Garnett & Richard Hamilton
Kevin Garnett (left) talked to Pistons guard Richard Hamilton (right) after the Celtics' victory in Game 6. 5/30/2008. Reuters Photo.

Paul Pierce

Paul Pierce
Paul Pierce showed his team colors as the Celtics closed out the Pistons in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals. 5/30/2008. Globe Staff Photo / Jim Davis.

Joseph Kelly Levasseur

Joseph Kelly Levasseur
One of my favorite politicians!

Mary E Carey

Mary E Carey
In the Big Apple: NYC! She is the coolest!

Guyer & Kerry

Guyer & Kerry
My 2nd least favorite picture EVER!

Mary Carey

Mary Carey
My favorite journalist EVER!

Nuciforo & Ruberto

Nuciforo & Ruberto
My least favorite picture EVER!

Jeanne Shaheen

Jeanne Shaheen
U.S. Senate - 2008

NH Fisher Cats

NH Fisher Cats
AA Baseball - Toronto Blue Jays affiliate

Manchester, NH

Manchester, NH
Police Patch

Michael Briggs

Michael Briggs
#83 - We will never forget

Michael "Stix" Addison

Michael "Stix" Addison

Charlie Gibson

Charlie Gibson
ABC News anchor

Scott McClellan

Scott McClellan

Boise, Idaho

Boise, Idaho
Downtown Boise Idaho

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Legislative Hearing in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, BCC, on Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson
My favorite classical U.S. President!

NH Governor John Lynch

NH Governor John Lynch
Higher Taxes, Higher Tolls

Paul Hodes

Paul Hodes
My favorite Congressman!

Portland Sea Dogs

Portland Sea Dogs
AA Red Sox

New York

New York



New Hampshire

New Hampshire

New Hampshire

New Hampshire

Carmen Massimiano

Carmen Massimiano
"Luciforo" tried to send me to Carmen's Jail during the Spring & Summer of 1998.

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative

Kay Khan - Massachusetts State Representative


Andrea F Nuciforo II


Pittsfield's monopoly/only daily newspaper

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!

Jon Lester - Go Red Sox!
A Red Sox No Hitter on 5/19/2008!

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Dustin Pedroia & Manny Ramirez

U.S. Flag

U.S. Flag
God Bless America!

Jonathan Melle's Blog

Jonathan Melle's Blog
Hello, Everyone!

Molly Bish

Molly Bish
We will never forget!

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics guard Rajon Rondo listens to some advice from Celtics head coach Doc Rivers in the first half.

Go Celtics!

Go Celtics!
Celtics forward Kevin Garnett and Pistons forward Rasheed Wallace embrace at the end of the game.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox closer Jonathan Papelbon calls for the ball as he charges toward first base. Papelbon made the out en route to picking up his 14th save of the season.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka throws to Royals David DeJesus during the first inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka delivers a pitch to Royals second baseman Mark Grudzielanek during the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox right fielder J.D. Drew is welcomed to home plate by teammates Mike Lowell (left), Kevin Youkilis (2nd left) and Manny Ramirez after he hit a grand slam in the second inning.

Go Red Sox!

Go Red Sox!
Red Sox third baseman Mike Lowell crosses the plate after hitting a grand slam during the sixth inning. Teammates Manny Ramirez and Jacoby Ellsbury scored on the play. The Red Sox went on to win 11-8 to complete a four-game sweep and perfect homestand.

JD Drew - Go Red Sox

JD Drew - Go Red Sox

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!

Thank you for serving; God Bless America!
Master Sgt. Kara B. Stackpole, of Westfield, holds her daughter, Samantha, upon her return today to Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee. She is one of the 38 members of the 439th Aeromedical Staging Squadron who returned after a 4-month deployment in Iraq. Photo by Dave Roback / The Republican.

Kathi-Anne Reinstein

Kathi-Anne Reinstein

Ted Kennedy

Ted Kennedy
Tragic diagnosis: Get well Senator!

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search

Google doodle - Jonathan Melle Internet search

John Forbes Kerry

John Forbes Kerry
Billionaire U.S. Senator gives address to MCLA graduates in North Adams, Massachusetts in mid-May 2008

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France

A Red Sox Fan in Paris, France
Go Red Sox!

Rinaldo Del Gallo III

Rinaldo Del Gallo III
Interviewed on local TV

Andrea Nuciforo

Andrea Nuciforo

John Adams

John Adams
#2 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood under a tree on the afternoon of May 9, 2008, on the foregrounds of the NH State House -

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Inside the front lobby of the NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Bill Clinton campaign memorabilia

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Liberty Bell & NH State House

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jon Keller

Jon Keller
Boston based political analyst

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Franklin Pierce Statue #14 U.S. President

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
NH State House

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Stop the War NOW!

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
"Mr. Melle, tear down this Blog!"

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I stood next to a JFK photo

Jonathan Levine, Publisher

Jonathan Levine, Publisher
The Pittsfield Gazette Online

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made rabbit ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I made antenna ears with John & George

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
I impersonated Howard Dean

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
pretty ladies -/- Go to: - Go to: - -

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Go Red Sox! Me at Fenway Park

Mary E. Carey

Mary E. Carey
My favorite journalist! Her voice sings for the Voiceless. -/- Go to: -/- Go to:

Velvet Jesus

Velvet Jesus
Mary Carey blogs about my political writings. This is a picture of Jesus from her childhood home in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. -//- "How Can I Keep From Singing" : My life goes on in endless song / Above Earth's lamentations, / I hear the real, though far-off hymn / That hails a new creation. / / Through all the tumult and the strife / I hear its music ringing, / It sounds an echo in my soul. / How can I keep from singing? / / Whey tyrants tremble in their fear / And hear their death knell ringing, / When friends rejoice both far and near / How can I keep from singing? / / In prison cell and dungeon vile / Our thoughts to them are winging / When friends by shame are undefiled / How can I keep from singing?

Jonathan Melle

Jonathan Melle
Concord NH

The Huffington Post

The Huffington Post

Barack Obama

Barack Obama
smiles & beer

Jonathan Lothrop

Jonathan Lothrop
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Michael L. Ward

Michael L. Ward
A Pittsfield City Councilor

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large

Peter Marchetti - Pittsfield's City Councilor at Large
Pete always sides with the wealthy's political interests.

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez

Gerald Lee - Pittsfield's City Council Prez
Gerald Lee told me that I am a Social Problem; Lee executes a top-down system of governance.

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large

Matt Kerwood - Pittsfield's Councilor at Large
Kerwood poured coffee drinks for Jane Swift

Louis Costi

Louis Costi
Pittsfield City Councilor

Lewis Markham

Lewis Markham
Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor

Kevin Sherman - Pittsfield City Councilor
Sherman ran for Southern Berkshire State Rep against Smitty Pignatelli; Sherman is a good guy.

Anthony Maffuccio

Anthony Maffuccio
Pittsfield City Councilor

Linda Tyer

Linda Tyer
Pittsfield City Councilor

Daniel Bianchi

Daniel Bianchi
A Pittsfield City Councilor

The Democratic Donkey

The Democratic Donkey
Democratic Party Symbol


What is Paramount to you?

NH's Congresswoman

NH's Congresswoman
Carol Shea-Porter, Democrat

Sam Adams Beer

Sam Adams Beer
Boston Lager


Disney Animation

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008

Ruberto Details Plans for Success - January 07, 2008
"Luciforo" swears in Mayor Ruberto. Pittsfield Politics at its very worst: 2 INSIDER POWERBROKERS! Where is Carmen Massimiano? He must be off to the side.



Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
Leader of the Autobots

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime
1984 Autobot Transformer Leader

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

Cleanup Agreements - GE & Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction

GE/Housatonic River Site: Introduction

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports

GE/Housatonic River Site - Reports

US EPA - Contact - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

US EPA - Contact -  Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

GE Corporate Logo - Pittsfield's PCBs toxic waste sites

Commonwealth Connector

Commonwealth Connector
Commonwealth Care

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts
Healthcare Reform

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan

Network Health Forward - A Commonwealth Care Plan
Massachusetts Health Reform

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care

Network Health Together: A MassHealth Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform
Massachusetts Health Reform

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care

Neighborhood Health Plan - Commonwealth Care
Massachusetts Health Reform