Ex-NBA star Darryl Dawkins, aka 'Chocolate Thunder' has died (Yahoo Sports)
Darryl Dawkins was once summoned in the Philadelphia 76ers' locker room to come meet a celebrity who wanted to meet the man known for dunking with backboard-breaking force. The guest was Grammy Award winner Stevie Wonder. The entertainer is blind, yet even he could tell there was something very unique about Dawkins' game.
Redskins LB Junior Galette out for season with Achilles tear (Yahoo Sports)
Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden says outside linebacker Junior Galette will miss the entire season after tearing his left Achilles tendon. Galette had missed Washington's first two exhibition games as he worked his way back from an injury to a chest muscle. Washington signed Galette at the start of training camp after he was released by New Orleans because of off-field issues.
Johnny Manziel's preseason is over, sacked by a stinging elbow. Browns coach Mike Pettine said Thursday that Manziel, who has made strides in his second year in the NFL after a rough rookie season, will not play in Cleveland's last two exhibition games because of lingering soreness in his right elbow. Manziel will miss Saturday's game at Tampa Bay as well as Cleveland's preseason finale at Chicago on Sept. 3.
Adams-Cheshire Makes High School Pitch to Lanesborough
Town Adminstrator Tony Mazzucco looks at the numbers on Thursday at Hoosac Valley High School during a presentation to Lanesborough.
CHESHIRE, Mass. — Adams and Cheshire touted the school district's benefits to an audience of nearly 80 on Thursday night.
The presentation by Adams and Adams-Cheshire Regional staff and officials was an attempt to sway Lanesborough residents in considering to send high school students their way.
Mount Greylock Regional held a similar demonstration on Wednesday to remind Lanesborough of the advantages of being educated at the Williamstown school.
But whereas Mount Greylock focused on academics, Adams went straight for the pocketbook.
The town could save around $1.6 million and still get a quality education, Town Adminstrator Tony Mazzucco told them.
He calculated it would cost Lanesborough about $8,700 per student in tuition to attend the newly renovated Hoosac Valley High School. After subtracting Chapter 70 education funds, it would cost Lanesborough about $1.1 million to educate its high school students at the Cheshire school. It currently pays Mount Greylock about $2.7 million, according to Mazzucco.
Lanesborough can achieve this low rate because Hoosac Valley's costs are fixed, he said, and has the capacity for the 180 students that go to Mount Greylock.
"What Lanesborough could do with those savings is really up for them to decide," Mazzucco said. "You could reduce taxes ... you could add money to your schools, roads, public safety — that would be yours to decide."
Joining with Adams-Cheshire Regional School District would allow Lanesborough to keep tax increases flat or minimal for several years. He said this is not likely possible if the town stays with Williamstown and builds a new high school.
"We are presenting a tuition option that would be good for us but great for you and that is what we are going to talk about," Mazzucco said. "Public education is the most important thing we do ... there is no strong local economy without a strong school system, but public education is also one of the least sustainable thing that we do in any community."
He added that there are efforts to regionalize throughout the state and Adams-Cheshire would be interested in collaborating in other ways.
Thursday's session was prompted by Adams-Cheshire's own budgetary issues this past year and declining population overall. Lanesborough and Williamstown, which are regionalized at the middle and high school level and collaborative at the elementary, have had a testy few years largely over costs. The towns have also been exploring possible K-12 regionalization and are currently in the process of planning a reconstruction of Mount Greylock Regional School.
Mazzucco took the opportunity to invite Lanesborough officials and residents to see what Hoosac Valley had to offer, prompting Wednesday's presentation by Mount Greylock at Lanesborough School.
After a brief video presentation, various speakers took the stage to explain aspects of Hoosac Valley.
Principal Jeremiah Ames said Lanesborough students would fit in at Hoosac Valley, which educates students from a range of backgrounds.
"I am very, very proud of this school, the faculty, our students, the families, and I am proud of this community," Ames said. "I think what I am most proud of is our ability to work with so many different students ... from different backgrounds, with different abilities, and different aspirations and somehow we work with this group of students, and we make them all feel like they belong here."
Ames said 86 percent of Hoosac Valley 10th-graders scored proficient or advanced on standardized tests, but added that test scores are not always the best indicator of what a student is capable of.
He felt the level of a school is also a poor indicator of the opportunities it holds for students. (Hoosac is a level 3 and Mount Greylock a level 1.) He asked members of the crowd to try to remember what level school some of their acquaintances in the room attended and if it affected them.
He said he is proud that the school produces adults who join the work force, the military, and go to college – many to competitive colleges such as Williams College.
If the towns combine, it would allow the school to look into expanding language programming to include Latin and more online options. Ames added there would be more levels in core classes and certificate programs in subjects such as business, criminal justice and alternative energy.
Hoosac Valley basketball coach Bill Robinson said Hoosac allows students to be different and is an incredibly passionate school.
"We have what I call the most passionate fans in the county, we have the most passionate coaches in the county, and with that passion we promote our kids and we instill in those kids who play with that passion," Robinson said. "That passion helps students succeed not only in the fields and in the gyms, but in life."
He added that he has been to Lanesborough sporting events and recognizes the same passion in their students.
"We are passionate about who we are," he said. "We are Hoosac proud, and I know that you are very passionate about your town and your athletics, but if we ever join together, God bless the county."
Hoosac Valley teacher Stephanie Somerville lauded the school's faculty, who offer more to students than an education.
She said the faculty also come from many different backgrounds and have diverse experiences they impart to students.
"A school is a community and this community comes together in times of adversity," she said. "We also dance at the prom, we go to musicals, we cheer at football and basketball games, we cry at graduation, and we all want our students to grow, thrive, and develop into happy productive citizens."
Hoosac Valley teacher Kayleigh Colombero said Hoosac has an array of class subjects at different levels that allow students to customize their education.
"Students can select a course that best meets their academic needs," she said. "A struggling learner who may want a slower pace may want an intensive class in one subject while they may be ready for a challenge in another course."
Band director Jacob Keplinger said the school also offers plenty of performing and visual arts courses.
He said the band is split into three levels for different age groups and has more than 100 members. He said 15 percent of Hoosac Valley students are involved in the band.
The school's award-winning marching band also takes a trip to Disney World every few years.
There is also a jazz ensemble, a chorus, and dance and choreography class held in the school's dance studio, and ceramics and photography courses among other visual art programs.
Teacher Tom Corrigan said the new school is embedded with technology such as the solar array on campus and the water collection system on the roof of the school.
He added that the school has 240 computers, hundreds of iPads, smart boards, and state-of-the-art science labs.
After the presentation attendees were invited to have refreshments and tour the school.
Opened or Closed? Debate Over Kirvin Park's Gate Grows
The Conservation Commission members will also weigh in on the debate over opening the gates.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — While the City Council is mulling whether to open Kirvin Park's back gate, a neighbor has come out in opposition.
City Councilor at Large Kathleen Amuso filed a petition on behalf of a constituent to open the gate.
The constituent is handicapped and has trouble walking across the playing fields to access the rear portion of the park. The gate stops vehicles in a parking area closer to Williams Street and limits traffic to the back.
However, both the Maintenance and Parks Departments have opposed opening it because previously vehicle access back there led to damage to the playing fields at night.
On Thursday, Kathleen Connor, whose property abuts Kirvin Park, stressed her objection to the Conservation Commission, which has jurisdiction over some of the park's land.
"I have major issues if this gate is open," Connor said. "I just think it would create such a negative environment."
She said even with the gates open snowmobilers and ATVers are driving in the park and often stopped and congregating. Connor says if the gates are open, even more people will be accessing the area late at night. That concern echoed what Parks and Open Space Manager James McGrath told the City Council earlier this month.
"If you do that, you are just creating a place for teenagers to go. They will drink. They will do drugs. They will have sex," Connor said.
At the City Council meeting, council Vice President Christopher Connell suggested security cameras. Connor, however, says that wouldn't work because the teenagers would just destroy them. She said she'd like to see a "no ATV use" restriction enforced.
"It is not enforced with the all-terrain vehicles," she said.
The Conservation Commission didn't weigh in on Thursday as Chairman James Conant brought the issues to the board's attention for the first time. Conant says he hopes to hear a lot of input before the board takes a stance.
"I'm looking for neighborhood input and stakeholder input as well," Conant said.
In other business, the Conservation Commission is also looking to clarify lease agreements with the Controy Pavilion. Conant said there was confusion recently over whether or not the pavilion's rental included the lawn area along the lake. Conant said a group has rented the pavilion for a large event and when they arrived that sunny day, there was a dispute with the people who were already using the lawn area. That dispute eventually led to police being called.
"Our initial thought was that parkland can't be included," he said.
Commissioner Thomas Sakshaug said one alternative would be to put a fence up to separate the rented area from the park, but he has "mixed feelings about doing it." The question centers on the use and rental of the building versus public park access.
In more formal business, the commission gave Verizon Wireless the OK to place a roof-mounted antenna on the Berkshire Crossing shopping center. The antenna will rise from the roof of the stretch of store that includes Staples and in the rear there will be an 8-by-8 equipment area. That equipment area is in wetlands so it will be elevated above flood hazard.
The commission approved a fence being installed on a residential site of Reuter Avenue and a commercial site on Lyman Street.
The commission also had no objections two projects that were already done as well. Ribco on Dalton Avenue filled in potholes in its gravel parking lot with more gravel. It did not have a permit and the parking lot is in the floodplain. The commission agreed that since the gravel was only filling holes where gravel used to be, there was no problem with the project. The commission also noted an emergency cleanup on box culverts on Cadwell Avenue. Conservation Agent Rob Van Der Kar said there were two culverts there and where they met created an abutment.
"It did seem like it was an emergency situation. They ultimately removed the material and the work has been done," he said.
North Adams Neighborhood Opposed to Bike Path Plan
West End neighbors gathered at Greylock School to discuss the proposed bike path route. More on the bike path, including a survey, can be found here.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — West End residents were loud clear about the possibility of a bike path going through their neighborhood.
A public session Thursday night at Greylock School was to be focused on residents at the so-called "pinch point" in the heavily residential area along Barbour Street between Phelps and Hawthorne avenues but neighbors from throughout the affected region showed up to express their opposition.
They cited fears over traffic, parking, crime and littering as reasons not to route the path through the heavily residential area despite efforts by Berkshire Regional Planning Commission's Lauren Gaherty to mitigate their concerns.
"You didn't hear our concern," said Patti Lentine of Phelps Avenue. "We don't want it in our neighborhood.
Mayor Richard Alcombright cautioned that the potential routes "are lines on a map" at this point and that nothing is set in stone.
"I'm hearing what you're saying, you don't want it," he said, adding the answer to Thursday's meeting was "to go back to the drawing board."
The city is trying to pull together a route that will link the downtown to the planned Williamstown bike path running from Cole Field to the Spruces. The goal is eventually to hook up to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail on the Adams end.
Williamstown is at 100 percent design and has $619,000 toward engineering. That section is expected to cost $4.9 million, which is already set aside. North Adams is at 25 percent design, largely because of the difficulty in finding usable land for the route. It would have to have the route determined before applying for grant funding.
"We're trying to catch up a little to Williamstown," said Gaherty, who is acting as the consultant on the city's plan. "Our job is to try to work with everyone across the city to try and make a bike path for the city that everybody wants, that everybody said they want, that they can get the money for."
The idea of a bike path was popular at meetings held through the city during the development of the Vision 2030 master plan. Meeting attendees questioned the percentage of the city's population that those meetings included but Gaherty said it came up at every Vision 2030 session.
"Every single meeting, every single neighborhood, residents kept saying they would like to see a bike path that connected to the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail," she said. "That's what's driving this meeting."
The route would go through the airport and come out at Barbour Street, run through that neighborhood, then south along the river before crossing Route 2 near Roberts Drive. The street was proposed because of the wetlands, highway, hills, railroad and lack of public lands on the north side. Several options for running the path through the neighborhood included one-way streets, a shared street between cars and bikes and marking for bike lanes on both sides. Attempts at rerouting ran into more driveways to cross and slopes above the recommended 5 percent maximum.
Using Route 2 had been discarded at an earlier meeting when riders expressed discomfort using the heavily trafficked way for family biking; Massachusetts Avenue is narrow, winding and sloping. Using the riverway ran into the railway, berms, private property and areas to narrow for a 10-foot wide path.
Gaherty said respondents to a survey of residents along the 14-year-old Ashuwillticook Rail Trail, which runs through downtown Adams and several residential areas, found that most believe there has been positive or no change. Even the few who disliked the path used it, she said, and most surveys found a bike path raises property values.
She also said police in the three towns it crosses reported no rises in crime, other than some cars broken into at the Lanesborough parking area near the Berkshire Mall. The main complaints had been parking, rude users and dogs.
A couple of law enforcement officers who live in the West End said they didn't believe that crime didn't occur on the trail. One said a drug user had been arrested on the trail, the other that police could be heard on the radio being called to incidents on it.
Click for larger version.
Benjamin Austin, a North Adams officer, was concerned that "people of a lessor moral character" would use a bike path to move through the area.
"You are going to be giving them a direct access to our neighborhood," he said.
Another West End resident said she'd lived next to the bike path in Burlington, Vt., and seen crime had rise. Another woman said she didn't want to bike path users to intrude on her back yard. Several raised the issues of traffic and lack of parking, especially around Alcombright Field, and the route's proximity to Greylock School.
Gaherty said many of their concerns could be addressed through engineering and design, such as traffic calming features like speed humps, better signage and fencing.
Several residents repeated they were not against a bike path, they just didn't think it was appropriate for their neighborhood.
The crowd frequently interjected during her presentation. They also refused to break out into the traditional groups of a charette to discuss what they'd like to see — because they didn't want to see a bike path at all.
"If a vote or petition says 75 percent of the neighborhood doesn't want it here at all, will it still go through here?" asked Anthony Molinari, who said he'd moved from Long Island, N.Y., three years ago to find a quiet neighborhood.
Alcombright said the point of the meeting had been to weigh what the neighborhood had to say.
"I am empathetic to your angst," he said. "The thing is we have a great opportunity for the city of North Adams here along with the town of Adams and along with the town of Williamstown to have a path that will take us from Cole Field in Williamstown to the Berkshire Mall ...
"I can't let go of the idea."