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Wednesday, April 16, 2014
North Adams Closes Beaver Street Over Mudslide Fears

 Highway crews were keeping an eye on the banking along Beaver Street. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Jack Guerino)

Officials are concerned that the steep hillside along Beaver Street in North Adams could collapse. State geologists evaluated the embankment on Wednesday. DPW Director Paul Markland said they had offered suggestions, but in the meantime the roadway will remain closed.The mayor and Public Services Superintendent Timothy Lescarbeau had been met  this afternoon to formulate a plan.
Several hundred yards of the street, which is also Route 8, have been sectioned off just south of the Clarksburg town line and traffic is being detoured until further notice.
The well-traveled connector road to Vermont runs between the North Branch of the Hoosic River on the east and a steep banking on the west side in the area that has been closed off.
Community Members And Healthcare Workers Deliver Petition

Michael O'Brien presents the signatures Hoffman. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Tammy Daniels)
Community members and healthcare workers from the now defunct North Adams Regional Hospital boarded two buses yesterday and headed off to the State House in Boston to deliver a petition to the high ranking government officials there. There was first a symbolic stop at MEMA headquarters before the buses set their sights on Beacon Hill. The petition, with about 12,000 signatures, calls for the immediate restoration of a full service hospital – not just emergency services. Governor Patrick was not available to receive the petition yesterday, as he was attending a ceremony with Vice President Biden and other dignitaries to mark last year's Boston Marathon bombings. An update on the State House trip was given at the weekly community meeting at the American Legion yesterday afternoon.
Williamstown Candidates' Forum Tonight 
The League of Women of Williamstown is sponsoring a public forum tonight for candidates running for the office of selectman. Andrew Hogeland of Cold Spring Road, Jack Nogueira  of Luce Road,  Hugh Daley of Southworth Street, and Gary Fuls of Elm Street have returned papers to town hall and have all been certified to be on the ballot. There are two open seats on the select board with both Selectman David Rempell and Chairwoman Jane Allen having announced they will not seek another term. League President Anne Skinner will moderate tonight. Each candidate will make opening and closing statements, and members of the audience will have the opportunity to ask questions. The forum will take place in the Selector's Room at the Town Hall at 7pm. The Annual Town Elections will be held May 13th at the Williamstown Elementary School.
Williamstown Board Goes Against Committee 

 Mollye Wolahan of the Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development and Elton Ogden of Berkshire Housing Development Corp. appear before the Selectmen on Tuesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Stephen Dravis)

 The Board of Selectmen in Williamstown on Tuesday decided to enter negotiations with developers who have proposed to build 46 units of affordable housing on the former Photech mill site on Cole Avenue. reports on a vote of 3-2, the board decided not to follow the recommendation of the town's Affordable Housing Committee, which last week voted unanimously to favor a competing proposal that pitched up to 85 units on both Cole Avenue and 59 Water Street, the old Town Garage site. The Affordable Housing Committee had recommended the town pursue a deal with Boston's Arch Street Development, which had proposed 60 units on Cole Avenue and 25 on Water Street. The Selectmen voted to go with the more modest proposal submitted by Boston's Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development and Pittsfield's Berkshire Housing Development Corp.
Lanesborough Loses Lawsuit Over Park Construction

 The construction of the park led to a lawsuit against the town. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)
When Bill Laston Memorial Park was built, the town of Lanesborough completely cut off a neighbor's access to her own property. And now the town has to pay for it. reports the town recently lost a court case against Virginia Mach, who accused the town of taking the gravel from her deeded right of way and then building the ballpark in her way. Mach owns property on both sides of the town brook and the 12-foot wide right away provided access to the rear portion of the land. The town is on the hook for $84,900 to compensate Mach for lost logging revenues and her attorney fees, plus interest. The town is also required to provide a $7,600 tax abatement for the five years she was unable to use the right of way.
Pittsfields Cutural Czar Moving On  

 Megan Whilden shows off a plaque that was given to her by the local chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)

The city of Pittsfield's long time cultural czar is stepping down after nearly a decade of cultivating arts and culture in Pittsfield. Appointed by Mayor James Ruberto in 2005 to the then newly formed Department of Cultural Development, Megan Whilden brought the creative arts into focus in an otherwise, industry-focused community. reports that Whilden announced her departure yesterday and will now head the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at Berkshire Community College. She turned in her resignation to the mayor's office last week. 
East Otis Man, Missing Since January, Found Dead In Woods
The body of an East Otis man, who was reported missing in January, has been found. 39 year old Gregory Dickson, formerly of Chester, had been living in East Otis at the time he was reported missing on January 23rd.
The Berkshire Eagle reports his body was found on Sunday by an East Otis resident walking his dog in the woods. Dickson's remains were found in a wooded area off of Otis Stage Road in Blanford, and according to Otis Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki, no foul play was suspected. Dickson was last seen in the area on January 9th, walking near Katie's Country Store in East Otis. He was believed to be suffering from depression at the time.
 More Info- Missing Mans Body Found
There is more information this morning from Great Barrington Police about the body of a former guest of Gould Farm that was discovered on Sunday. Two young men that were fishing in the East Mountain Reservoir spotted the body and called police. Police confirmed the identity of the body as that of 28 year old Alexander Dickey. According to police, a wallet with his identification was in his pants pocket. Dickey had been missing October 19th. A large scale search was conducted at the time in both Great Barrington and Monterey. He was last seen on Main Street in Great Barrington. The Great Barrington Fire Department was called to remove the body from the water, and the medical examiner’s office is conducting an autopsy. The case remains under investigation.
Renewed Push For Downtown Cell Service In Stockbridge
After years of frustration and concern over urgent public safety communication, help is on the way for downtown areas of Stockbridge and other sections plagued by poor to non-existent cellphone service. The Berkshire Eagle reports Police Chief Robert Eaton has confirmed that he is asking town officials to pursue an agreement with a wireless carrier to plug the signal gap he confronted when the Elm Street branch of Lee Bank was robbed on March 10th. Eaton calls the gap a public safety issue. The Select Board, which disclosed the project at its meeting last week, is awaiting a letter from Eaton detailing his concerns.
60 Days In Jail For A Housatonic Man  
A Housatonic man was sentenced to 60 days in the Berkshire Jail and House of Correction and mandatory drug testing following an incident last year in which he fought with police following a motor vehicle accident. 28 year old Ryan Babcock, of Park Street, Housatonic pled guilty to one count each of resisting arrest, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, operating under the influence of drugs and possession of a class C substance, marijuana. Otis Police responded to a report of a one-car accident on Aug. 18, 2013, on Monterey Road. Babcock has a history of drug use over the past decade.
 Mount Everett Comes Up A Bit Short  
Mount Everett Regional High School’s robotics club came up short of the world championships last weekend. The robot built by the Mount Everett club, bested teams from New York City, Connecticut, Virginia and Pennsylvania in the FIRST Tech East Super Regional Competition in York, Pennsylvania.  The run was upended in the first round of the playoffs. Following its win in the March state championships, Mount Everett finished in 27th place out of 72 teams at the East Super Regional Competition — or two spots from advancing to the FIRST Tech Challenge World Championship in St. Louis. The competition took place April 3-5. Mount Everett could still compete in the world championships if two teams decline to travel and pay admission.

Monday, April 14, 2014
Courts Hearings Take Center Stage In NARH Efforts

Efforts to establish emergency services in Northern Berkshire will take center stage in court proceedings this week. This comes as several parties involved in the negotiations said they are working to restore emergency care in Northern Berkshire as quickly as possible. State Sen. Ben Downing reiterated on Friday that setting up an emergency department in North Adams is his “top priority” moving forward. The Berkshire Eagle reports hearings scheduled for Tuesday in Superior Court in Northampton and Wednesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield could help resolve some of the issues surrounding the status of the Northern Berkshire Healthcare’s debt and Berkshire Medical Center’s efforts to open a satellite center. The hospital closed on March 28, after three days’ notice, leaving more than 500 employees out of work and no emergency care in Northern Berkshire.
Meanwhile, the recent closing of North Adams Regional Hospital has sparked a growing uncertainty about the future of health services in North Berkshire – and community members are banding together to find solutions. Nearly 100 people attended the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition's monthly forum at the First Baptist Church on Friday. 
Lock-Down Drills At Brayton And Greylock Schools Tomorrow
Whole school lockdown drills are planned for Brayton and Greylock Elementary schools tomorrow. The North Adams Publics School District is partnering with local and regional law enforcement to implement the drills. The purpose of the drills is to increase the ability of the police to respond to a safety threat, to allow the school administration and law enforcement to coordinate on the use of what is called the Incident Command System, and to observe and evaluate the drills for ongoing improvement. Assistant to the superintendent, Ellen Sutherland, says parents should expect to receive phone calls through the School Messenger automatic call system today. She encourages parents to talk to their children about the purpose and seriousness of the drills. Lockdown drills will be held at Sullivan Elementary and Drury High School on April 29TH.
Tax Deadline-Massachusetts
The overwhelming majority of Massachusetts taxpayers are filing their state tax returns electronically. The Department of Revenue reported that as of Friday it processed just under 2.5 million returns, of which nearly 2.2 million had been e-filed. The agency reported issuing about 1.8 million refunds totaling $858 million. The average turnaround time for a refund was 3.3 days for returns filed electronically, and 5-1/2 days for paper returns. The deadline for filing state and federal taxes is tomorrow. The department said it was fielding about 34,000 calls a week with tax questions and the average wait time for callers was 46 seconds.
iBerkshires Celebrates 14 Years

 iBerkshires celebrated 14 years on Friday with cake and pizza. Members of the editorial team Community Editor Rebecca Dravis, left, Editor Tammy Daniels, reporter Jack Guerino and Pittsfield Bureau Chief Andy McKeever (a partypooper for not wearing a birthday tiara). (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Staff Reports)

Fourteen years doesn't sound like much but in the virtual world it's pretty significant. Our valued friends and media partner celebrated its 14th birthday on Friday. iBerkshires has been a little bit of everything over the years, a mix of press releases, community bulletin board, citizen journalism, professional reporting, sports write-ups and lots and lots of photos.
Christians Marks Start Of Holy Week
Christians Marked the start of Holy Week with Palm Sunday this weekend, which commemorates the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, before his crucifixion on Good Friday and resurrection on Easter Sunday, which is next weekend. According to gospel, Jesus road into the city on a donkey, while the crowds spread their cloaks and palm branches on the street to honor him as their long-awaited Messiah and king.
Two Injured In Windsor Roll-Over
Two men were sent to the hospital after a one-vehicle accident in Windsor early Saturday morning. Windsor Police and Windsor Ambulance Company responded at about 4:20 a.m. to Worthington Road, where the vehicle had rolled over. According to police, speed was a factor in the crash. The vehicle failed to negotiate a turn, rolled over and struck a guardrail. The injuries to both men, 25 year old John Copelande and 26 year old Lavone McClendon – both of Hudson, New York – were non-life threatening and both were conscious upon transport to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield.
Lanesborough Questions Support of Legion Building

The Selectmen and the Finance Committee met this week to discuss the budget. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)

Lanesborough Voters will have to decide if they want to pay for a building the town doesn't own.
It's been determined that the American Legion post home is not owned by the town, but for years, the town has had a budget line to support the organization.
Now, with the Legion claiming to have documents proving it owns the property, Town Administrator Paul Sieloff has questioned that support.
To further complicate matters, the town's legal counsel has researched the deeds and says no one owns it. The town spent $5,500 in last year's budget to support the post home; Sieloff has proposed shifting $3,000 into the veterans benefits line that hadn't been properly funded.
Shifting to the benefits line is being considered a "compromise" with the town still supporting veterans, just not a building.
Tourism Committee Looks To Improve Pittsfield Visitor Center

 The city's Visitors Center has seen a precipitous drop in use that officials believe is a combination of factors, including its  relocation and the availability of information on the Web. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Durwin)

Representatives of local tourism organizations are looking for ways to improve the performance of the Pittsfield Visitor Center, which has seen a drastic decline in visitors in recent years. reports that according to director of the RSVP program, Sheila Pia, from a peak of more than 10,000 visitors in a year at its original location a decade ago, the small informational hub served around a hundred people last summer. A number of factors may have contributed to the drop off in traffic, including location, signage issues, parking and access. The Visitors Center will reopen at the station on Memorial Day weekend, and members of the Tourism Commission are looking for ways to improve its visibility.
Blood Moon Rising
There is quite a show in store for star gazers overnight tonight into tomorrow morning. North America will have the perfect rare view of a spectacular lunar eclipse, because Earths western hemisphere will be looking toward the moon when it occurs. There are many lunar eclipses during any given year, but one that the entire continent can see happens rarely, and will not occur again until 2019. According to NASA, starting at about 2am here on the East coast, we will see several changes over the course of the eclipse including the partial and full shadow. At one point we will see what is referred to as the “Blood Moon” - which is when the moon appears to be dark red in color because of the way the sun's rays are refracted and scattered by the atmosphere of the Earth. This occurrence, called the “Lunar Tetrad” is the first of four happening about every six months.
Senator Barry Finegold Visits Pittsfield
Candidate for Treasurer and Democratic State Senator from Andover, Barry Finegold made a campaign stop at Juice 'n' Java on South Street in Pittsfield on Friday to offer remarks alongside State Senator Ben Downing as part of a brief meet and greet. Finegold launched his campaign for treasurer in January and says he has received a lot of support from mayors and state officials. State Rep. Thomas Conroy is also seeking the Democratic nomination for treasurer – and the Green Rainbow party will be putting Ian Jackson on the ballot.
 Egremont Water Employee Under Fire For Errors

An Egremont water department employee is under fire for billing errors that have caused customers to be undercharged for years, according to Egremont officials. The Berkshire Eagle reports the water commissioners, who oversee the Egremont Water Company, agreed on Thursday to strip the employee, Jack Muskrat, of any billing duties.  Selectmen will meet with the Egremont water commissioners tonight at 7 p.m. to sort out the problem. Muskrat will meet with Selectmen at 7:30 p.m.
Busy Election Ballot In Great Barrington
The town of Great Barrington will have a busy election ballot when the town holds its Annual Town Election on May 8TH. There several races this year, and topping the election ballot is a race for a three year seat on the town board of selectmen. John Beebe and Edward Abrahams, both political newcomers will be vying for the seat which is being vacated by Andrew Blechman , who has decides not to run. Incumbent Town Moderator Ed McCormick is being challenged by former ZBA member, David Magadini. There are also races for planning board, housing authority, and finance committee. Several incumbents are running unopposed for spots in the board of health, zoning board of appeals and board of library trustees.
Early Run Up To Budget Talks For School District
The Berkshire Hills Regional School Committee agreed last week to several adjustments for next year’s budget talks that would include a much earlier start to the overall discussions. The Berkshire Eagle reports the principal decision was to begin informational discussions with the district administration during the summer months. These discussions would include information on programming, cost and enrollment. According to School committee chairman Stephen Bannon, the summer meetings are often relatively clear of agenda items and would give the committee more time to process the information by the time budget talks begin in earnest in the fall. Those meetings would likely beginning in September.
Egremont Water Employee Under Fire For Errors
An Egremont water department employee is under fire for billing errors that have caused customers to be undercharged for years, according to Egremont officials. The Berkshire Eagle reports the water commissioners, who oversee the Egremont Water Company, agreed on Thursday to strip the employee, Jack Muskrat, of any billing duties.  Selectmen will meet with the Egremont water commissioners tonight at 7 p.m. to sort out the problem. Muskrat will meet with Selectmen at 7:30 p.m.
Vast Majority Of Massachusetts Taxpayers E-Filing
BOSTON (AP) — The overwhelming majority of Massachusetts taxpayers are filing their state tax returns electronically.
The Department of Revenue reported that as of Friday it processed just under 2.5 million returns, of which nearly 2.2 million had been e-filed.
The agency reported issuing about 1.8 million refunds totaling $858 million. The average turnaround time for a refund was 3.3 days for returns filed electronically, and 5-1/2 days for paper returns.
The deadline for filing state and federal taxes is Tuesday.
The department said it was fielding about 34,000 calls a week with tax questions and the average wait time for callers was 46 seconds.
Federal Judge To Rule On Massachusetts Drug Ban
BOSTON (AP) — A federal judge will hear arguments in a lawsuit claiming the state's first-in-the-nation ban of Zohydro, a powerful new painkiller, is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Court Judge Rya Zobel is expected to decide Monday whether to order an immediate but temporary halt to the ban, which is believed to be the first attempt by a state to block a federally-approved drug. The court would decide later if the ban should be permanently vacated.
Drug maker Zogenix argues that the ban is unconstitutional because the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has already approved Zohydro's use for treatment of severe and chronic pain. The state argues that Zohydro will "exacerbate a severe public health crisis" in Massachusetts, where Gov. Deval Patrick has declared prescription drug abuse a public health emergency.
Friday, April 11, 2014
Afternoon Apartment Fire In North Adams

 (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Tammy Daniels) 

An early afternoon fire yesterday on the fourth floor of a Furnace Street apartment building left roughly 20 people temporarily homeless. Damage to the eight-unit building at 132-146 Furnace Street was limited to one side only, and no one was injured. Fire Chief Stephen Meranti said that the fire did not appear to be suspicious, but the cause is under investigation with the North Adams Police and Fire Departments. The American Red Cross tells us that they are working with about 8 residents that were displaced from 4 of the units. Volunteers were providing the residents with emergency funds for food and clothing. Right now it appears everyone has another place to stay.
Hikers Rescued From Mount Greylock
Two hikers had to be rescued from the top of Mount Greylock on Tuesday night. According to North Adams Fire Director Steve Meranti, two men from Connecticut, unprepared and under-dressed for cold temperatures and snowy conditions at the summit, were brought down the mountain by firefighters on snowmobile after 10 p.m. The North Adams Fire Department received a call from Massachusetts State Police, who had had heard from one the men's parents in Connecticut alerting them to the situation around 9:45 pm. The two men were treated by ambulance workers at the base and did not in need to be sent to the hospital.
Massdot Stabilizing Route 8 Section In Clarksburg

 A section of Route 8 is being repaired after several years of sinking. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner

A section of River Road in Clarksburg will hopefully be on its way to being stabilized after the State Department of Transportation began a full reconstruction of a problem area between the Red Mill Spring and the north end of Hayden Hill this week. reports James Moulton – superintendent of the project, said work to stabilize the roadway will include excavating both lanes of Route 8, laying down a heavy-duty landscaping fabric, topping it with gravel and then paving. He estimated the total time for the project would be about two weeks. Work has begun on the southbound lane. Once that has been completed, the focus will switch to the northbound lane.
Lock-Down Drills Set For North Adams Schools
The North Adams Publics School District is partnering with local and regional law enforcement to implement whole school lockdown drills. Word of that comes from Assistant to the superintendent, Ellen Sutherland, yesterday. Representatives from the North Adams Police Department, the Berkshire County Special Response Team and canine handlers from the Massachusetts Police Work Dog association will all be participating. Drills are planned for Brayton and Greylock Elementary on April 15th and Sullivan Elementary and Drury High School on April 29th. On the day before the drill, parents will receive phone calls through the School Messenger automatic call system. 
Mount Greylock Committee Rejects Enrollment Recommendation


 School Committee members Robert Ericson and David Langston were on opposites of the enrollment debate. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Stephen Dravis)

The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee on Thursday night started on a road that could lead to the elimination of choice and tuition students at the junior-senior high school. On a vote of 4-2, the committee rejected the enrollment recommendation of the School Building Committee to instead certify a "study enrollment" to the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The study enrollment provision allows districts entering the MSBA's feasibility study process to do so with two enrollment projections under consideration. In Mount Greylock's case, the two possibilities are 535 students and 450 students. The School Building Committee had advised using 535.
Adams Vandal Causes Thousands In Damage
Police in Adams are looking for a vandal armed with a can of red spray paint who caused thousands of dollars of damage to vehicles and residences throughout the town over the weekend. Adams Police Chief Richard Tarsa told the Berkshire Eagle, Police fielded more than 30 reports of damage late Saturday and early Sunday. Many of the reports came from police officers as they discovered them. Areas that were targeted included Anthony Street, Summer Street, Spring Street, Richmond Lane, Mill Street and Depot Street. Police are asking anyone with information to contact them.
Pittsfield's Juvenile Resource Center Will Vacate Prison Building

  Superintendent Jason McCandless said the School Department is seeking a new location for the alternative program. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Durwin)

The Pittsfield school district's alternative high school program, a source of some recent controversy and criticism, will relocate this year from the Second Street former jail facility that currently houses it.
Superintendent Jason McCandless said the decision had come from the sheriff's department, which has informed the district that it needs the former jail building for other purposes. But McCandless said it's a development that the department doesn't oppose because they were out of space
The Juvenile Resource Center, which educates students who for disciplinary or related reasons cannot be served by the city's two high schools, has recently come under fire from the NAACP and others, in large part because of its location.. 
State Eyes 'Functional' Health Exchange By Fall
The board overseeing the state's health care exchange has been told that a long-term fix for the connector's troubled website is still months away, even while the state is reporting progress in clearing the backlog of applicants for subsidized insurance. Sarah Iselin, the health care executive tapped by Gov. Deval Patrick to oversee a solution to the website issues, said she will present the board with recommendations next month for how to achieve a functional system by the next open federal enrollment period that is scheduled to begin Nov. 15. Iselin said her goal is "minimal compliance" with requirements of the Affordable Care Act by that time. A more robust system won't likely be available until 2015. The federal government granted Massachusetts a three-month extension until June 30 from the original March 31 enrollment deadline.
River Restoraration Looks To Land Acquisitions
The third phase of the Housatonic River Restoration project will focus on land acquisition. That’s according to Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard Sullivan Jr. The Berkshire Record reports that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Massachusetts Sub-Council of the Housatonic River Natural Resource Trustees, are now soliciting a third round of proposals to restore wildlife habitat through land acquisition in Berkshire County as part of the Massachusetts Housatonic River Watershed Restoration Program. Massachusetts has conserved more than 100,000 acres under the program so far.
Job Fair Draws Hundreds Looking For Work

Hundreds of job seekers made their way to Berkshire Hills Country Club in Pittsfield yesterday for the annual Berkshire Chamber of Commerce career fair. The fair featured 51 employers from all over the region. Available jobs ranged from entry level all the way to management. Berkshire Chamber of Commerce director of Marketing, Darci Hess told the Berkshire News Network prior to the event that the fair came at an opportune time with the closure of the North Adams Regional Hospital, which left 530 people looking for employment.
Bulky Waste Day Slated For Saturday
The town of Great Barrington will accept bulky waste at the Recycling Center during regular hours tomorrow at no charge to residents of town. No businesses will be accepted. The facility is open at 7 a.m. Disposal items include: furniture, including couches, recliners, tables and chairs; mattresses and box springs; rugs and carpeting; window and door frames, windows, doors, and screens. Items that will not be accepted during the special collection include: demolition debris; household trash; household hazardous wastes; white goods; CRTs; household appliances such as vacuum cleaners and toasters; tires and auto batteries; and yard waste.
Natural Gas Leak Legislation Passes Senate
The Massachusetts Senate yesterday unanimously passed a bill that establishes natural gas leak classification standards, requiring gas companies to repair the most dangerous leaks immediately, and aligns civil penalties for pipeline facility and gas transportation safety violations with federal law. The bill takes important steps to ensure that leaks are classified, prioritized and repaired accordingly. State Senator Ben Downing says the bill takes common sense steps to reduce pollution, address consumer costs, and protect our neighbors. The bill identifies a three-tiered classification system. Grade 1 is a hazardous leak that requires immediate repair.  Grade 2 leaks represent a probable future hazard and must be repaired within one year. Grade 3 represents a non-hazardous leak that must be reevaluated at a later date.
Bank Robbery Suspect Arraigned
A Hillsdale, New York man, accused of robbing the Stockbridge branch of Lee Bank last month, was arraigned yesterday in Berkshire Superior Court. 34 year old Christopher Blair had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on one count of unarmed robbery and one count of larceny over $250.  Blair was ordered held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $250,000 bail. Blair allegedly robbed the Stockbridge branch of Lee Bank on March 10th. 
State Eyes 'Functional' Health Exchange By Fall
BOSTON (AP) — The board overseeing the state's health care exchange has been told that a long-term fix for the connector's troubled website is still months away, even while the state is reporting progress in clearing the backlog of applicants for subsidized insurance. 
Sarah Iselin, the health care executive tapped by Gov. Deval Patrick to oversee a solution to the website issues, said she will present the board with recommendations next month for how to achieve a functional system by the next open federal enrollment period that is scheduled to begin Nov. 15.
Iselin said her goal is "minimal compliance" with requirements of the Affordable Care Act by that time. A more robust system won't likely be available until 2015.
The federal government granted Massachusetts a three-month extension until June 30 from the original March 31 enrollment deadline.
Massachusetts Governor Unveils Development Plan

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has unveiled a $100 million proposal he says will spur economic growth by improving job training, expanding the state's international marketing efforts and ending barriers to high tech workers who want to change jobs.
Patrick's plan released Thursday would eliminate so-called "non-compete" agreements designed to discourage workers in high tech companies from quitting and taking their skills to a competing company.
Patrick said the agreements stifle competition. He said tougher protections for trade secrets and intellectual property is a better solution.
Patrick's plan would also invest in the state's older, financially strapped municipalities known as Gateway Cities.
Patrick wants to promote market-rate housing, speed the clean-up of old manufacturing properties for re-use, and give cities and towns greater control over the number of liquor licenses in their communities.
Senate hopeful Brown: Health Law CostsLiberty
PORTSMOUTH, N.H. (AP) — The speculation is over and the campaign has begun for Republican Scott Brown, the former Massachusetts senator who is hoping to return to Washington by way of New Hampshire.
Brown formally announced his campaign Thursday in Portsmouth, where he lived as a baby before moving to Massachusetts.
He accused Democratic incumbent Jeanne Shaheen of being a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama, and criticized her support for the federal health care overhaul law. Tweaking New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto, Brown said the law forces people to make a choice "live free or log on," and said the worst is yet to come.
Brown, who moved to New Hampshire in December, faces several other Republican primary opponents in the September primary.
Clergy Seek Stronger Minimum Wage Bill
BOSTON (AP) — A group representing clergy from around the state is urging lawmakers to agree on a bill that not only raises the minimum wage but also ties future increases in the wage to inflation.
Massachusetts Faith Voices met Thursday with representatives of House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Senate President Therese Murray and delivered a letter signed by 344 religious leaders of several faiths.
The Senate has approved a hike in the state's $8 per hour minimum wage to $11 per hour over three years and includes automatic cost-of-living adjustments in the future.
The House bill increases the wage to $10.50 per hour by 2016 but does not index to inflation.
The clergy also called for raising the minimum wage for workers who earn tips to at least 50 percent of the minimum wage for other workers.
Harvard Study Suggests 'Jesus' Wife' Text Not Fake
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — A Harvard University professor says scientific tests suggest a fragment of papyrus mentioning Jesus had a wife is more likely an ancient document than a forgery.
The text is written in Coptic and contains a dialogue in which Jesus refers to "my wife." Karen King, a professor of divinity, writes in the Harvard Theological Review that the papyrus probably dates to eighth-century Egypt based on carbon dating and chemical tests on the ink.
Other researchers are still questioning the authenticity of the document.
King stresses that the fragment of text doesn't prove that Jesus was actually married. She says, if anything, it provides insight into early Christianity's debates over whether it was better to be celibate or to marry and have children.
King announced the research in 2012. Publication was delayed for the tests.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

BMC Hires 143 NARH Workers 


Berkshire Medical Center has provided an update on efforts to date in restoring emergency and medical services previously provided by the now defunct Northern Berkshire Healthcare.  Mike Leary - spokesman for Berkshire Health Systems - which is the parent company of Berkshire Medical Center, says some services will remain where they are, while others will soon relocate. North Adams Regional Hospital was closed on March 28 after a short three days’ notice, leaving 530 employees unexpectedly without jobs and Northern Berkshire County without a local hospital. Meanwhile, BMC has hired a total of 143 former North Adams Regional Hospital employees. Of these, 96 are permanent positions and 47 are temporary 90-day positions.

PittsfieldAdams Plants Consolidated To Lee 
The Lane Construction Corp. of Connecticut has closed the asphalt plants it operated in Adams and Pittsfield and consolidated those operations at its Lee facility. The Berkshire Eagle reports the company decided to close those plants for good after they were shut down for the winter in November. According to Laura Lee Heckman, a spokeswoman for the company, it made more sense due to where their customers are based. Lane’s plant in on Willow Hill Road in Lee began distributing hot mix asphalt on Monday. Lane’s Pittsfield plant was located on East Street, while the Adams facility was located on Howland Avenue. Three of the five employees who worked at the Adams and Pittsfield plants have been laid off, according to Heckman. The two others are now working in Lee.
State Dumping $40 Million Into Pothole Repairs


 North Adams crews patching potholes on Eagle Street. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner /Staff)

The state announced good news on Wednesday for motorists tired of slamming into the widening potholes along the region's byways. The new Pothole and Winter Recovery Program is providing some $40 million to smooth over the scarred and cracked pavement and infrastructure damaged by the long winter. Thirty million of the funds will be distributed to cities and towns through Chapter 90. The remaining $10 million will be used by the state Highway Division. The program is funded through existing year authorizations available to the department prior to the expected passage of the Transportation Bond Bill and requires all work to be completed by this September.
Hydraulic Fluid Leaks Send Kids Home Early 
The Brayton Elementary School in North Adams dismissed students early yesterday after a fire alarm was activated. The fire department determined that a leak of hydraulic fluid from the elevator caused the activation. While there was no immediate danger to the students or staff, they needed to keep the building evacuated while the elevator was repaired.  Since the repair could not be done quickly, students were dismissing at 1:45. After school activities at Brayton were also cancelled yesterday.  Students from Greylock and Sullivan Elementary School, who normally go to Brayton for the afterschool program, were sent directly home after school.
BaRT School In Adams Gets Permitting, But Expansion On Hold

 Attorney Sydney Smithers, right, explains Berkshire Arts & Technology's building needs to the Zoning Board on Tuesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Jack Guerino)

The Zoning Board of Appeals in Adams approved a variance Tuesday night from a zoning bylaw for construction of an addition to the Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School. Unfortunately, BART’s groundbreaking for the expansion has been put on hold. Although the school has passed all the permitting and variances for the 10,000 square-foot, two-story expansions, the bids for the addition exceeded the school's budget. The project was estimated to cost near $3.5 million. However, the general contractor bids came in between $3.9 million and $4.9 million. BART executive director Julia Bowen told the Berkshire News Network recently that they want to try and keep the original scope of the project intact, but at the same time try to save some money.
Crash Course For Williamstown Police
Local police officers were among the first in New England to be behind the wheel of a state-of-the-art emergency driving simulator this week. The Berkshire Eagle reports members of the Williamstown Police Department participated in the emergency training on Monday and Wednesday. The service was provided free of charge by the Massachusetts Inter-local Insurance Association, which is the town’s property and casualty insurance provider. The simulator is located in a 30-foot trailer parked behind the police station and can replicate more than 150 driving conditions that operators of police cruisers, fire trucks, ambulances and municipal vehicles may run into.
AG Working With Pittsfield To Target Blight
The state Attorney General's office and Pittsfield officials are promoting a program that targets distressed residential properties thar are in need of rehab work and causing neighborhood blight. The city's Department of Community Development will host a Receivership Training Seminar on April 15th at City Hall for anyone interested in taking on single- and multi-unit housing rehabilitation projects with funding assistance through the AG's Abandoned Housing Initiative. Certified receivers can act as general contractors for the purpose of rehabilitating dangerous or abandoned homes in otherwise viable neighborhoods.
Sexual Assault Victims Recognized
Victims of sexual assault will be recognized across the Berkshires starting today. A garden of 233 flags will sprout in Pittsfield’s Park Square today from 4pm to 6pm — each one representing a victim of sexual assault who was offered services last year by the Elizabeth Freeman Center. Further demonstrations, one in Great Barrington on April 17th and another in North Adams on April 24th — are in honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, a nationally recognized attempt to educate communities about the realities of sexual violence. The demonstrations are being held to bring awareness to Berkshire County residents of the issue of sexual violence, which the Center for Disease Control estimates will affect one in two women and one in five men in their lifetimes.
Closing In On Final Budget Agreement  
A revised Pittsfield School Department budget proposed for next fiscal year received favorable response from the School Committee following a public hearing on last night. reports the proposed budget for fiscal 2015 is just over $57,334,000, an increase of approximately a million dollars over this year's school budget. 56.5 million dollars of that must appropriated by the City Council. The remaining $710,000 comes from School Department revolving accounts. About two-thirds of this budget will come from state coffers, with a majority of the remainder derived from local taxes.
Local Aid Funding Will See An Increase
Democratic leaders in the Massachusetts House unveiled a $36.2 billion state budget plan yesterday for the fiscal year that begins July 1st. According to House Ways and Means Chairman Brian Dempsey, the proposal is about five percent higher than the estimated spending in the current fiscal year and $191 million less than Gov. Patrick’s proposed 2015 fiscal year budget. The House plan would increase funding for local aid by $25 million over Patrick’s proposal and includes $61 million in new spending for community colleges, state universities and the University of Massachusetts system.  Dempsey also says that the proposal also includes extra money for substance abuse programs to address what state and local officials have described as a surge in heroin-related overdoses and overdose deaths.
Three South County Towns Without Internet Service
The town halls in Egremont, Monterey and Mount Washington have been without Internet access this week. The worse news is that the cause of the disruption has not been identified, and according to officials, there is no certain timeline as to when the services will be restored. All three of the towns are customers of Troy based Cornerstone Telephone. The company says it has three employees working with multiple vendors trying to identify and correct the problem. The Egremont Town Hall has been hit the hardest as it has been without telephone service as well. The towns are part of The Massachusetts Broadband Initiative, which in February completed a 1,200-mile fiber-optic network throughout 120 Central and Western Massachusetts communities.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014
NARH Closure Taking Toll On Community

Attendees raise their hands to join a bus trip to Beacon Hil (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Tammy Daniels)
The hopes of swiftly reopening at least the Emergency Department at North Adams Regional Hospital ha bogged down over bankruptcy, leasing options and federal approvals.
Mayor Richard Alcombright said a major obstacle has become leasing terms put forth by the trustee assigned to the case by U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Berkshire Medical Center, designated to operate the facility by Berkshire Superior Court, is being asked to rent the entire facility, not just the emergency room.
"The fact that they want to lease the entire building back, and that becomes cost-prohibitive and it creates a lot of questions and it slows down the process."
The Massachusetts Nurses Association and 1199SEIU, representing workers at the former Northern Berkshire Healthcare, are hoping to increase that pressure next Tuesday by taking a road trip to Beacon Hill with two or more filled chartered buses. They're also passing out posters, lawn signs and T-shirts to get the message out. 
In the meantime, the community continues to deal with the fallout from the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital two weeks ago.
 North Adams Stabbing Suspect Held On $20k Bail After Jumping Bail
A North Adams man accused of stabbing a friend during an argument in 2012 is back in custody on $20,000 bail after failing to appear for a court hearing last month.  27 year old Mario Babbs is accused of stabbing Cole DeSanty with a steak knife in June of 2012. Police say the defendant stabbed DeSanty multiple times during an argument. According to police, DeSanty suffered life-threatening wounds, including a punctured left lung and internal bleeding. Babbs pleaded not guilty on felony charges of assault to murder and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. While out on bail, Babbs failed to show up for a hearing in Berkshire Superior Court on March 28th.
Heroin – A Public Health Crisis


District Attorney David Capeless called a press conference Tuesday to both shed light on the situation but also show what resources are out there. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)

In just the first few months of 2014, five Berkshire residents are suspected to have died from heroin overdoses. reports District Attorney David Capeless on Tuesday called a press conference to shed light on what he calls a "crisis" situation in the region. Capeless says we are experiencing a public health crisis, nationally, in the commonwealth and here in Berkshire County.
He further says that last year, in 2013, we saw a major shift in the cause of overdose deaths. Up to that point, typically two-thirds of deaths involved prescription medications. There were 16 confirmed overdose deaths here in Berkshire County, 11 involved heroin.
Strive Youth Leadership Conference Tomorrow 
Nineteen public and private Berkshire County middle schools will send students to the Crowne Plaza, in Pittsfield tomorrow morning. The third annual STRIVE Youth Leadership Conference, which is sponsored by the District Attorney’s Office Youth Advisory Board, will run from 8:00 a.m. to 2:45 p.m. STRIVE is an acronym for “Students Teaching Respect Integrity Values and Equality.” The conference will engage students in presentation activities and discussions about social issues impacting today’s teens.  Featured presentations incl
Friday, April 04, 2014
NBH Files For Chapter 7 Bankruptcy 

Mary Beckman, chief of the AG's Non-Profit Organizations/Public Charities Division, explains some of the difficulties for emergency services in North County. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Tammy Daniels)
Northern Berkshire Healthcare yesterday filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection, which calls for the liquidation and sale of all the hospital's assets. Judge John Agostini extended an emergency restraining order, until Tuesday, when attorneys will meet in Hampshire Superior Court. The restraining order requires that all Northern Berkshire Healthcare equipment and materials remain at the hospital. The restraining order is being called into question because of the bankruptcy filing. The attorney for Northern Berkshire Healthcare argues that the Superior Court no longer has jurisdiction in the case because of the bankruptcy filing.

Adams Health Board Copes With Loss Of VNA
The Board of Health in Adams has approved a temporary Massachusetts Virtual Epidemiologic Network service – or “MAVEN” service – and has looked at options to replace visiting nurse services possibly lost in the closing of Northern Berkshire Healthcare. reports with the status of VNA & Hospice of Northern Berkshires still uncertain, the board has been approached by different programs. The board funds public health nursing and MAVEN reporting and with North Adams Regional Hospital out of service, Adams has no working programs in place. 
Nurses Will Have Say In NARH Talks
The Massachusetts Nurses Association, the labor union representing approximately 100 nurses that were recently laid off by the North Adams Regional Hospital when the facility closed its doors last Friday, has been granted what is called “intervenor status” in the hospital’s bankruptcy case. That basically means that the union will have a say in any decision regarding the hospital and the nurses. The ruling by Judge John A. Agostini came during yesterday’s Bankruptcy hearing in Berkshire Superior Court.
Streetscape Project Goes Out To Bid

Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, right, updated the board on the progress of a number of capital projects. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Jack Guerino)
The Park Street streetscape project in Adams should have a contractor by the end of the month. The project has been in the planning stages for four years, and the town last year received a $900,000 Community Development Block Grant toward the project. The project went out to bid yesterday, and bids due back by April 10th. Construction on the project should start soon after the bids are opened, according to Town Administrator Jonathan Butler.
Williamstown Holds Second Interview For Housing Project 

Richard Relich, left, and Colin O'Keefe address the Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee.(Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Stephen Dravis)

The Affordable Housing Committee in Williamstown held its second round of interviews of respondents to its recent requests for proposals to develop the former town garage site on Water Street and the former Photech property on Cole Avenue. reports only Boston's Arch Street Development submitted a plan to use both properties, and yesterday its principals met with the committee. Arch Street's proposal anticipates a 25-unit, four-story apartment house at 59 Water Street, and 60 units of apartments in a "series of townhouse clusters" at the Cole Avenue site.   
BMC And Community Health Programs Awarded Grant Money
Governor Deval Patrick has awarded nearly $2 million in grants to help train health care providers to improve patient service and reduce costs. The funding will go to 51 organizations across the state to begin assessing how to prepare health care workers for the careers of the 21st century economy. Here in the Berkshires: Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield is receiving just over $49,800 and Community Health Programs in Great Barrington is being awarded just over $37,480. The money is part of the first round of workforce training grants from the landmark Health Care Cost Containment Act. Governor Patrick announced the grants while visiting Lynn Community Health Center yesterday.
Farley Bouvier Touts Minimum Wage Increase
State Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier was among lawmakers who voted to pass a bill Wednesday that reforms the state’s unemployment insurance system and raises the minimum wage. Farley-Bouvier said that the bill provides a tremendous amount of protections for workers and gives a significant bump to the minimum wage over the next three years. The minimum wage increase will be implemented in steps. The $8.50 wage will increase to $9.00 an hour effective July 1st of this year, to $10.00 an hour effective July 1st next year, and to $10.50 an hour in July of 2016. The tipped minimum wage will increase to $3.00, $3.35, and $3.75 an hour respectively.
Chalue Lawyers File Motions Before Trial
The lawyer for David Chalue, who is accused of the murders of three city men, is seeking to keep out information from three jailhouse informants scheduled to testify for the prosecution. The Berkshire Eagle reports attorney Donald Frank recently filed a number of motions in preparation for the triple murder case scheduled to begin April 22nd. The 47 year old Chalue of North Adams is alleged to have helped Adam Lee Hall and Caius Veiovis kid-nap, torture and kill three men in August 2011. Three informants who say Chalue made incriminating statements to them while they were in jail together were at the center of many of the lawyer’s motions.
Pittsfield Mayors Office Send Pothole Statement
This winter season is one of the worst we have experienced in recent times. Winter storms caused very deep frost in the ground which has caused significant damage to the streets and utilities in Pittsfield. A statement from Mayor Dan Bianchi's office yesterday says that crews are out patching potholes whenever possible. The Highway Department receives hundreds of calls weekly this time of year, and they prioritize the work by first patching larger holes throughout the City. Residents are reminded to continue to drive with care. The blacktop plants open with the next few weeks so the City will continue to produce about 15 tons of blacktop per day. So far the city has placed about 120 tons of blacktop. Starting next week, the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office is providing two inmate crews to work with City crews to step up the effort to patch the potholes.
Pittsfield Man Sentenced To Prison Time
A Pittsfield man with a record of assaulting women has been sentenced to two and a half years in jail after being convicted by a jury for an incident in December. 22 year old Garrett Vil had been charged with assault and battery in December, after his girlfriend told police that he punched her in the face and choked her in a hotel room. According to the victim, Vil had been upset that she didn’t stand next to him at a party.
Renovation Plans At BCC
Preliminary design plans are expected this month for major renovations to two original Berkshire Community College buildings — Melville and Hawthorne halls. John Law, the school's chief financial officer, told the Berkshire Eagle the design firm, NBBJ architects, is scheduled to give a presentation on the projects at the board of trustees' April 22nd meeting. The state, in October 2012, set aside funding for the $23 million project. It’s expected to reach the construction stage during the summer of 2015 and be completed in 2017.
School District Awaits State Response
The Berkshire Hills Regional School District will be finding out in the next two weeks whether it can significantly reduce the scope of its high school renovation project as it looks to gain voter approval. The Berkshire Eagle reports in a letter to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, the district has proposed project adjustments and about $4 million in cuts to the project, which voters in Great Barrington refused to fund last fall. The revised plan would reduce the anticipated average taxpayer cost by 22 percent -- from $455 to $355.
Lenox School Super Leaving Post Early
Lenox School District Superintendent Edward Costa II has unexpectedly informed the School Committee in Lenox that he plans to retire at the end of the school year. Costa, 55 years old, will have completed four years in the district, but still had two years left to run on his second three-year contract. He told the Berkshire Eagle yesterday that there was no catalyst or any specific events that triggered the decision, but rather a lifestyle, personal-choice issue that he resolved with his wife.
Massachusetts Suing For-Profit College
BOSTON (AP) — Attorney General Martha Coakley is suing a for-profit school, saying it misrepresented its training programs and job placement rates.
Coakley said Corinthian Colleges, Inc., which operate Everest Institutes in Brighton and Chelsea, also pushed students into high-interest subprime loans, leaving many without jobs and unable to repay their debt.
The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Suffolk Superior Court, charges that the school "subsists largely on taxpayer-backed loans to students" and recruited new students regardless of their qualifications using deceptive marketing and high pressure enrollment tactics and steering some to additional private subprime loans.
The school said it has a strong record of offering students a quality education and treating them honestly and fairly. It said Coakley has failed to produce a complaint from any student.
Corinthian operates more than 100 campuses in the United States and Canada.
Tax Collections Miss Goals For March
BOSTON (AP) — Officials say weak corporate and business tax collections caused the state to fall short of its revenue goals last month.
Department of Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter said Thursday that preliminary estimates show overall tax collections were up 3.6 percent in March compared with the same month a year ago. But she said stronger than expected income and sales taxes were offset by a more than 8 percent drop in corporate and businesses tax collections, causing the state to miss its revised monthly benchmark by $60 million.
Revenues through the first nine months of the current fiscal year remain $228 million above benchmark.
Pitter said the weak performance in business taxes might have been due to more taxpayers carrying over losses or adjusting their taxable income projections.
Massachusetts Awards Health Care Training Grants
LYNN, Mass. (AP) — Massachusetts has awarded almost $2 million in grants to help train health care workers to improve service and cut costs.
Gov. Deval Patrick announced the grants to 51 organizations across the state to help them assess how to prepare workers for careers in the 21st century economy.
The recipients may work with hospitals, community centers, and educational institutions to create new ways to deliver health care and train workers to meet new demands on the industry.
The funding comes from health care cost containment legislation that provides $20 million to prepare the health care industry for requirements in the bill.
Patrick announced the funding Thursday at Lynn Community Health Center, one of several North Shore institutions partnering with the Service Employees International Union 1199 on a training program. The SEIU received a $37,400 grant.
World Series Champ Red Sox Return For Home Opener
BOSTON (AP) — The Boston Red Sox are getting ready to celebrate their third World Series title in a decade.
The Red Sox will play their home opener at Fenway Park on Friday. The Milwaukee Brewers will be in town to watch the defending champions receive their rings and raise another championship banner.
The Red Sox say the pregame ceremony will last about an hour and honor not just the current champions but also make note of the remarkable era in Boston sports history. The city's four major professional sports teams have won eight championships since 2002.
The team will also acknowledge the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and hold a moment of silence for the two firefighters who died in a Back Bay fire last week.
Ortiz, Pedroia Have Top-Selling MLB Jerseys
NEW YORK (AP) — David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia keep winning.
The two Red Sox stars have had the best-selling jerseys in Major League Baseball since Boston won the World Series in October.
No. 3 on the list released Thursday was Yankees captain Derek Jeter. His jersey has been the top seller since he announced Feb. 12 this would be his final season.
Yadier Molina, Clayton Kershaw, Andrew McCutchen, Buster Posey, David Wright, Robinson Cano and Manny Machado round out the top 10. Cano's sales are combined for his Yankees and Mariners jerseys after he signed with Seattle in December.
The rankings are based on sales of Majestic jerseys from

Thursday, April 03, 2014
Movement On The Lehovec Site 

 Public Safety Building Study Committee Chairwoman Jane Patton and member Andrew Hogeland review the minutes of its last meeting. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Stephen Dravis)

Williamstown's Public Safety Building Study Committee has decided to take two steps that it hopes will move it closer to making a decision on a potential site for a joint fire-police facility. reports the committee will ask the estate of Kurt Lehovec whether it will allow town-hired engineers to do test borings and wetlands delineation on the 3.7-acre Main Street parcel the estate owns. The committee will also to ask the town's procurement officer, Town Manager Peter Fohlin, to consult with the attorney for the Williamstown Fire District to decide whether the town can move forward on the property without issuing a request for proposals.

NARH Medical Staff Donates $100,000 To Ecu-Health Care
The Medical Staff of North Adams Regional Hospital has donated approximately $100,000 to Ecu-Health Care, the health care access organization in North Adams. The donation was made on Tuesday by members of the medical staff to Chip Joffe-Halpern and the executive team of Ecu-Health Care. Dr. Jeffrey Bath says the Medical Staff shares the community’s sadness at the loss of hospital services in northern Berkshire County. He says making the donation should go a long way to ensure continued access to healthcare. Joffe-Halpern expressed appreciation to the physicians and acknowledged the dedication of the providers for delivering quality care to the community, regardless of ability to pay. With the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital, the Medical Staff will no longer exist as an organization. The governing body of the Medical Staff voted April 1st to disperse the assets of the Medical Staff funds.
Former NARH Employers Hold Job Fair
Former employees of the recently closed North Adams Regional Hospital looked toward securing their future yesterday, as more than a dozen regional health care employers held a job fair at the Clark House building at the hospital, providing job applications and other information. Other agencies such as the Berkshire Community Action Council provided applications for heating fuel and other forms of assistance for the newly unemployed.
Two Practices Moving According To Website
According to a post on the North Adams Regional Hospital website, two medical practices currently in Northern Berkshire Healthcare properties are moving into new offices. The move will however depend on details of the pending Northern Berkshire Healthcare bankruptcy. Berkshire Health Systems has agreed to provide administrative support to both practices to allow them to keep operating. Berkshire Health Systems spokesman Mike Leary says a final decision on relocation of the two practices has not been reached. According to the website, Northern Berkshire OB/GYN is set to relocate to 2 Park St. in Adams and Northern Berkshire Family Medicine is set to move to the Ambulatory Care Building at 77 Hospital Avenue in North Adams.
Affordable Housing Committee Hearing Proposals
The first developer to come before the Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee to discuss a proposal to develop the former Photech Mill property says the group’s plans are preliminary. reports, the group led by Pittsfield's Berkshire Housing Development Corp. and Boston's Women's Institute for Housing and Economic Development, was the first to be interviewed by the committee, which plans to make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen later this month about who to choose for both the Cole Avenue property and former town garage site. The committee will next interview representatives from the Boston based Arch Street Development, the only other developer to respond to the town's request for proposals.
There’s Still Time—Fuel Assistance Applications
Berkshire Community Action Council still has some funds available for this years’ fuel assistance. Applications can be accepted up until April 30th for fuel cost reimbursement for this heating season. A household of one is eligible for assistance if their income is $32,065 per year or less, and for a household of two, the amount is $41,932. Applications are available at the Community Center, and assistance in filling out the forms properly is also available.
Downing Award Goes To NCC Founder

 (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)

Northern Berkshire Community Coalition founder Alan Bashevkin is the winner of this year's Gerard D. Downing Service to Children Award. Bashevkin founded NBCC in 1986 with the idea of bringing the community together and providing an array of programs to create the best environment for children to grow up in. NBCC develops programs to combat poverty and hunger, and provides resources to neighbors and parents. Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless presented the award last night. The award, named for the late and former District Attorney Gerard Downing, is presented each year to someone who has made an impact in fighting child abuse. It is given out by the Berkshire County Sexual Assault Intervention Network, which is a collaboration of local services combating child abuse.
Board Looks To Strengthen Billboard Regulations

 The Community Development Board approved the petition on Tuesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)
The Pittsfield Community Development Board is petitioning the City Council to strengthen billboard regulations. reports the board voted Tuesday to ask the council to take over the permitting authority, make proposals be by special permit, and implement specific size and setback requirements. The petition comes in the wake of a proposed electronic billboard that is being fought by residents fearful of it causing more pedestrian and vehicle accidents. Billboards are allowed now through a site plan review process. That process allows the City Council and the Community Development Board to set conditions related to specific criteria. It does not allow the board, however, to use as much discretion as the special permit process.
Houses Passes Minimum Wage Hike
The Massachusetts House has approved a bill that would increase the state's hourly minimum wage from $8 to $10.50 over the next two years. The legislation, which passed on a 123-24 vote, would also overhaul the state's unemployment insurance system and provide basic work standards and protections for nannies and other domestic workers. The Senate has already approved separate minimum wage and unemployment insurance bills. The Senate bill would increase the wage to $11 per hour over three years and link automatic increases to the rate of inflation. Massachusetts last increased the wage in 2008.
Richmond Meeting Set On Gas Pipeline Concerns
A group of concerned property owners in Richmond are planning to hold a meeting Saturday at the Richmond Congregational Church to discuss a proposed new natural gas line in town. The meeting will be held starting at 1pm at the church at 1515 State Road and will hear from Bruce Winn, president of Berkshire Environmental Action Team, and other speakers. The focus of the meeting will be concerns over the environmental impacts of the new gas line entering Richmond from New York State and extending across the northern half of Massachusetts to Dracut.
School Choice Remains Point Of Contention In Lenox
A discussion of school choice erupted into a brief but heated argument Tuesday night between two members of the Lenox School Committee's strategic study team. The Berkshire Eagle reports the dispute came during a three hour session at Town Hall exploring the future of the school choice program, which brings in close to 30 percent of total enrollment in the district. It was one of a half dozen strategic planning sessions held this week. Steve Kutno, a consultant hired by the School Department to shepherd the six-month study, called school choice the elephant in the community. Schools Superintendent Edward Costa II said the issue has polarized not only the School Committee but the entire community.
Sheffield Proposed One-Year Moratorium On Chain Stores
The Planning Board in Sheffield will propose a one-year moratorium preventing any chain store from opening in town. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Planning Board members say that a moratorium is needed to allow the board additional time to draft a bylaw that would regulate any business with 10 or more establishments that shares a trade name, logo, signage or other specified characteristics. The Planning Board voted 4-0 last week to support a moratorium, which will be voted on at May's annual town meeting. Members adopted the moratorium only after they were urged to by less than a half-dozen members of the public. The proposal could meet some controversy following the recent public dissension over a proposed Dollar General store, which apparently would not be impacted by the moratorium.
Instrument Presentation At Herberg
The Domenic A. Izzi Jr. Music Foundation supported in part by the Laborer’s International Union of North America, Local 473, has chosen seven students from Herberg and Reid Middle Schools to receive musical instruments. The Foundation is coming to Pittsfield this morning. The Foundation will be presenting the instruments to the students this morning at Herberg Middle School. The event gets underway at 10:30. Mayor Dan Bianchi will be there to congratulate the recipients. The Local 473 Laborers Union Business Manager, Mike Filpi will present the awards. The Domenic Izzi Jr. Foundation for Young and Aspiring Musicians was set up to provide financial assistance for children to purchase musical instruments.
Massachusetts Details Ban On Painkiller Zohydro

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts health regulators have sent a letter to doctors and other health care providers outlining the decision to ban the prescribing and dispensing of the painkiller Zohydro.
The Public Health Council approved the ban last week after Gov. Deval Patrick declared a public health emergency in response to the state's growing epidemic of heroin overdoses and opioid addiction.
Zohydro is a single-ingredient hydrocodone drug recently approved by U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Patrick said he fears the pill could add to Massachusetts' spike in overdose deaths. 
The letter dated March 31 explains that doctors cannot write Zohydro prescriptions to be filled in other states and cannot order the drug for patients in hospitals or extended care facilities.
San Diego-based Zogenix, which makes Zohydro, has criticized the ban, saying it will add to patient suffering.
Toga! Toga! Red Sox Plan 6 Student Theme Nights

BOSTON (AP) — It's not going to be just a baseball game. It's a toga party.
The Boston Red Sox are planning six special theme nights this season to attract area high school and college students. The traditionally slow-selling games in April and May will include Student Toga Night, a student scavenger hunt and Greek Night. Students will be able to get in for $20.
The World Series champs also are making standing room tickets available to students for $9, the cheapest tickets in Fenway Park. The team has the highest average ticket price in the major leagues, $52.
Red Sox executive Sam Kennedy says last year's fun-loving ballclub connected with young fans. The team wants that to continue as it develops the next generation of supporters.
Items From Boston's Johnny Pesky To Be Auctioned

BOSTON (AP) — Memorabilia from longtime Boston Red Sox player and coach Johnny Pesky's personal collection will be sold during a live auction at Fenway Park next week.
The items include Pesky's 2004 and '07 World Series rings, as well as the Rolex watch he received when his number was retired by the team. Also to be auctioned are bats autographed by Ted Williams and a ball that includes a Babe Ruth signature.
Pesky was a player, manager, coach and broadcaster in a career with the club that spanned over 60 years. He died in 2012 at 93.
According to Hunt Auctions, his ring from the 2004 World Series championship is expected to fetch $50,000 to $100,000.
A portion of the proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Jimmy Fund.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014
Governor Patrick Addresses NARH Issue At Mcla Yesterday

 Gov. Deval Patrick, with Mayor Richard Alcombright, Public Health Secretary John Polanowicz, state Sen. Benjamin Downing and state Rep. Gailanne Cariddi at MCLA on Tuesday morning. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)
Governor Patrick was in North Adams yesterday for a morning press conference at MCLA regarding the status of restoring services at North Adams Regional Hospital. There wasn't a lot of new information to take away from what the governor had to say, but he did make it clear that he and other officials are doing everything they can to get at the very least emergency services restored at the hospital. Patrick confirmed that, at his request, Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield has applied to open the emergency Department at North Adams Regional as a Satellite Emergency Facility. How long it will take to get that application approved is uncertain. Governor Patrick says he is trying to expedite the process.The Governor also reiterated that BMC has already hired 75 or so of the former North Adams Regional Hospital personnel, and that if the emergency department is able to open again, it could lead to the addition of more jobs.
AG Says She Will Look For Answers After Services Are Restored 


 (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Tammy Daniels)

Attorney General Martha Coakley held a press at North Adams City Hall yesterday to discuss the ongoing efforts to re-establish emergency services at North Adams Regional Hospital. Coakley said that the first priority is to make sure that those services are put into place. After state and federal permitting has been settled and the emergency department has reopened, then the Attorney General’s office will look for answers.
Sitting by Coakley's side were State Senator Ben Downing, Mayor Richard Alcombright and State Representative Gailanne Cariddi.
Downing Leads Community Meeting
State Senator Ben Downing received a standing ovation yesterday for his part in the effort to give the city of North Adams its hospital back. He quipped, “I'll take the standing-o when we re-open the hospital, and we are gonna re-open the hospital” - and that drew thunderous applause. A very passionate crowd filled the American Legion Hall in North Adams yesterday to get an update and to speak their minds. Downing told the people in attendance that they are not alone, and that support for them is far reaching.
Also in attendance yesterday were former hospital employees, representatives if the United healthcare Workers East, Mayor Alcombright, State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, and representatives from  the offices of U.S. Senator's Ed Markey and Elizabeth Warren.
Conte Has A New Name

 Silvio O. Conte Middle School will be renamed Colegrove Park Elementary School. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Tammy Daniels)
The North Adams School Committee on has approved a recommendation to name the former Conte and Drury school as Colegrove Park Elementary School. reports the naming committee had been mulling a number of possibilities raised by members, residents and the school community. According to School Committee policy, the new name should have some significance within the community. Jeremiah Colegrove owned a grist mill near where the School Department's Educational Center on West Main Street had been, and he or his family had owned the land, originally a cemetery, in front of Drury.
CHP ’S Mobile Medical Van To Provide Relief Services
A South County health program is sending some help to the northern Berkshires. In response to the closing of North Adams Regional Hospital and their physician services, Community Health Programs in Great Barrington is sending a team of medical professionals to provide relief services on its 35-foot mobile medical van, which will be parked near the NARH emergency department today from 10:00 am until 4:00 pm.  Dr. Michael Kaplan, one of CHP ’s Family Physicians will be on board, along with medical assistants to triage and see patients as needed. CHP is also partnering with Ecu-Healthcare and will send four Enrollment Specialists to assist people who have lost their health insurance get coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
April Fools Day Prank Causes School Delay In Williamstown 

Dufour Tours school buses in the company's Main Street lot in Williamstown lot, their tires refilled with air. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Stephen Dravis)

Police are investigating an apparent April Fool's Day prank that forced a one-hour delay at Mount Greylock Regional School and Williamstown Elementary on yesterday morning. Police were called to the scene of the Dufour Tours bus lot on Main Street at 6:35 a.m. after Dufour personnel found that air had been let out of the tires on seven of eight buses on the lot.
Pittsfield Man Not Hit By Train On Housatonic Tracks
A Pittsfield man found near the Housatonic Railroad Co. tracks off Industrial Drive in Pittsfield yesterday is in critical condition with a head injury, but police have concluded that he was not struck by a train after earlier report indicated that he was believed to have been. According to police, 40 year old Trent Camrin was spotted near the tracks by the conductor of a freight train as it was passing through the area about 10 a.m. Pittsfield firefighters and police found the man lying near the tracks. He was transported by County Ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center, where he was being treated for the head injury. 
School Officials Inch Closer To Mayors Target Budget

Superintendent Jason McCandless and Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Kristen Behnke presented aspects of he budget to the School Committee's finance subcommittee on Monday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever)
Pittsfield School officials are $150,000 closer to hitting the mayor's targeted budget, but they are still $50,000 short of the target. reports the School Committee initially requested a $2 million increase in the school budget but Mayor Daniel Bianchi asked them to bring that down to $1 million. School officials have since cut some $800,000 from the first proposal but struggled finding more funds because of $1.3 million in contractual agreements for step raises for 1,100 employees.
Pittsfield Club Facing Sanctions
A Wahconah Street bar is facing a liquor license suspension and curtailed hours of operation following a melee outside the club in last month that city police are calling the "worst scene" in years. The Berkshire Eagle reports the Pittsfield Licensing Board on Monday said Johnny's Beach Club, formerly Pepe's Wings & Dogs (but under the same ownership), will likely lose its license temporarily. The board also plans to discuss an earlier closing time for Johnny's -- possibly midnight-- for up to 90 days. The incident on March 15th led to seven arrests and at least two city police officers being kicked and punched.
Great Barrington Man Charges After Gyspy Joint Incident
A local man is facing numerous charges after an incident Friday night at the Gypsy Joint Restaurant on Main Street in Great Barrington. 32 year old Brian Meehan of Bridge Street was taken into custody after smashing a window at the restaurant and fighting with patrons and the Gypsy Joint staff in the businesses rear parking lot. Upon arrest he became combative with the arresting officers, hitting his head against the plexi-glass transport cage inside a police cruiser. He broke the glass and ended up with a large laceration on his head. According to the report Meehan spit blood through the glass onto the back of the head of Officer Daniel Bartini. The fighting with the officers continued back at the police station, where he again spit blood on Bartini and two other officers. Meehan was sent to Fairview Hospital for treatment of his laceration. The three officers were treated for exposure to blood-borne pathogens. The charges against Meehan include five total counts of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, assault and battery, disorderly conduct and destruction of property. He was held on bail until his arraignment yesterday morning. He was released on personal surety of $5,000.
South Berkshire Music Program Honered
The National Association of Music Merchants Foundation has named the Southern Berkshire Regional School District and its music education department as one of its 2014 “Best Communities for Music Education.” The Berkshire Eagle reports the national award designates 376 districts as BCME honorees, and 96 individual schools as “Support Music Merit Award winners.” Now in its 15th year, the BCME program evaluates schools and districts based on funding, staffing of highly qualified teachers, commitment to standards, and access to music instruction.
Rockwell Red Sox Painting Expected To Go For Up To $30,000
A New York City auctioneer says a Norman Rockwell painting of Boston Red Sox players could bring up to $30 million. The painting appeared on the cover of the March 2, 1957, issue of the Saturday Evening Post. The title is: "The Rookie (Red Sox Locker Room)." The painting isn’t hanging at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge however. Christie's is offering it May 22nd with a pre-sale estimate of $20 million to $30 million.

Mass. Domestic Violence Bill To Be Unveiled
BOSTON (AP) — House Speaker Robert DeLeo says he hopes to make Massachusetts one of the strongest states in the nation for how it deals with domestic violence.
DeLeo plans to join Attorney General and Democratic gubernatorial candidate Martha Coakley on Tuesday to unveil a bill that seeks to toughen penalties for abusers while also helping victims caught in the cycle of domestic violence. 
Work on the legislation began after Jared Remy was arrested last August and charged with the fatal stabbing of his girlfriend, Jennifer Martel. Remy, the son of Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, has pleaded not guilty. 
An independent review later found problems with the way Middlesex County prosecutors had handled previous assault allegations against Jared Remy, and placed too much weight on Martel's decision not to seek an extension of a restraining order.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014
Adams Selectmen Approve School Budgets for 2015

The Selectmen encouraged more communications between the boards to develop a more sustainable school budge. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Jack Guerino)
The Adams Board of Selectmen hesitantly approved the Adams Cheshire Regional School District's budget Monday night that favored financial over educational responsibility.
The school district asked Adams to approve an assessment of $4,601,300 for fiscal 2015. This is a $125,505 increase from this year’s assessment. Two board members had to abstain from voting, but the board approved the budget with a 2-1 vote. This budget still leaves the district with a $469,000 budget gap to close.
Superintendent Kristen Gordon said cuts include a reduction of four paraprofessionals and one staff position.
Along with this, the school district will not be able to hire a curriculum director, additional adjustment councilors, math and literacy coaches, more foreign language instructors, and a much-needed school psychologist to combat the rise in troubled children.
Health Connector Helping To Insure NARH Employees
A statewide effort by multiple organizations is looking to sign up former North Adams Regional Hospital employees for health insurance to provide temporary coverage. The executive director of Ecu-Health Care, Chip Joffe-Halpern, told the Berkshire Eagle that at least 300 people have lost their health insurance, probably many more, as a result of the hospital's closing.  Massachusetts Health Connector officials reached out to Ecu-Health Care last week, sending four staff members to coordinate efforts to help employees get health coverage quickly. 14 representatives from several organizations will be on site today and tomorrow, including Health Care for All of Boston, Hilltown Community Health Center of Huntington, Caring Health Center of Springfield, Advocacy for Access of Pittsfield, and Community Health Programs of Great Barrington.

Deal To Reopen NARH Emergency Room As BMC Satellite

 (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner

According to the Massachusetts Nurses Association, officials from BMC and the state Department of Public Health spent yesterday working on the parameters of a licensing agreement that would allow Berkshire Medical Center to operate parts of North Adams Regional Hospital. Governor Patrick commented yesterday that he was working to get the emergency room open as soon as possible. There is also an effort underway to designate the hospital as a Critical Access Hospital, a designation that allows hospitals to receive cost-based reimbursement from Medicare, instead of standard fixed reimbursement rates. Congressmen Richard Neal had previously mentioned that was something that he was working on. BMC spokesman Michael Leary said the hospital had nothing to say beyond the comments that it had released on Friday.
Berkshire Food Project Looks To Lend A Hand To NARH Employees
As many as 530 people los
Friday, March 28, 2014

Court Order Keeps Emergency Services At NARH Open  

A Superior Court judge ordered the North Adams Regional Hospital emergency room to stay open until an injunction hearing next week. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Andy McKeever) 
A Berkshire superior court judge has ordered that North Adams Regional Hospital keep its emergency department open for at least the next week. The temporary restraining order was issued at the request of the attorney general's office, which filed a complaint yesterday alleging that Northern Berkshire Health Care had failed to provide the 90-day notification prior to closure as required by law. Berkshire Medical Center Inc. has been appointed as temporary provider to avoid an immediate threat to the health and safety of northern Berkshire residents. A hearing on a permanent injunction has been scheduled for Thursday, April 3rd where the Attorney General's office will seek to keep emergency room services operating for at least 90 days during any ownership transition or closure. Northern Berkshire Healthcare on Tuesday announced the closure of the hospital and its affiliated services effective today, citing financial failure.
NARH Responds To Court Order With Full Compliance
Northern Berkshire Healthcare is taking the necessary steps to comply with yesterday’s court decision. North Adams Regional Hospitals Emergency Department WILL remain open with staffing including emergency physicians, registered nurses, lab, medical imaging and pharmacy services, as well as necessary support staff. The order requires the emergency department to keep operating until the organizations funds are exhausted, and at this time there has been no offer of additional funding from any source.
Emergency Services Evaluate Travel Times

The North Adams Fire Department might see increased need for its firemen to help with medical services when North Adams Regional Hospital closes. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Jack Guerino)
With the potential closing of the North Adams Regional Hospital, local emergency services are preparing for extra duties. reports first responders have been meeting to discuss possible plans to combat the extra services they may need to provide. Without a local hospital, ambulance services would have to travel much farther to bring patients to BMC in Pittsfield or Southwestern Vermont Medical Center in Bennington, and that would slow down ambulance turnaround times. John Meaney Jr., general manager of the North Adams Ambulance Service believes that the ambulance service can effectively fight the longer travel times.
Protests, Vigils, And Occupations

Protesters line Hospital Avenue outside the NARH campus on Thursday afternoon. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Stephen Dravis)
About two dozen protesters gathered just off the grounds of North Adams Regional Hospital yesterday afternoon. Inside the building, union representatives helped union and non-union employees alike prepare for life after today's announced closure of the more than 125-year-old institution. Meanwhile, a prayer vigil was held last night at the First Baptist Church on Main Street in North Adams. - And Mike Wilbur, of the April 4th Coalition, encouraged residents today to attend an "Occupy North Adams Regional Hospital" demonstration in front of the hospital.
Religious Leaders May Be Helpful At Protests

The region's religious leaders met with Mayor Richard Alcombright on Wednesday to see how they could help the community and perhaps dampen some of the anger being felt. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Jack Guerino)
Mayor Richard Alcombright met with local religious leaders Wednesday at First Baptist to discuss aiding the community and quelling anger toward the North Adams Regional Hospital's possible closing today. The mayor said that the community needs to pull together and focus on a solution. reports the mayor shared concerns about protest that are taking place today at the hospital, to coincide with closing, and felt it might be proactive to have members of the religious community present to help diffuse sadness and anger. The Rev. David Anderson of First Baptist added that a religious presence might provide comfort to angry citizens.

Settlements At Williams College
Dozens of servers, wait-staff, and bartenders at Williams College will be reimbursed for tips that they claimed were withheld by the college from December 2009 through October 2012. The Berkshire Eagle reports under a settlement that was approved on January 29th by Berkshire Superior Court Judge Daniel Ford, the college will pay $86,000 into a fund for distribution to the 58 current and former employees of the Williams College Catering and Dining Services departments. Individual awards range from $40 to $6,000, depending on how many hours an employee worked.
Massachsusetts Health Officials: Cleared Backlog
Massachusetts health officials say they've eliminated an application backlog that stood at 72,000 two months ago. Officials say they have also extended transitional health insurance coverage to 125,000 people, up from 32,000 in February. The state still faces significant challenges after its bungled launch of the federal health care law here, including getting a functioning health exchange website up and running. The Connector Board also announced yesterday that while the federal open enrollment deadline is March 31st, anyone who has had trouble signing up online for unsubsidized coverage will have extra time.
NAACP Urging Changes In Pittsfield School System

The local NAACP chapter presented statistics to the School Committee that show institutionalized discrimination. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Durwin)
In the most recent piece of a growing community discussion in recent months, the Berkshire County branch of the NAACP asked the city of Pittsfield School Department to address "very serious concerns" about institutionalized discrimination within the educational system.
A lack of minority personnel, disparities between school buildings, and achievement gaps between student demographics were among the chief issues the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People raised at a presentation to the School Committee on Wednesday, along with harsh criticism of the former jail that has become the district's "alternative" educational site, the Juvenile Resource Center.
Singleton said that while 20 percent of the district's students were children of color, it employs only five African-American teachers, challenging the notion that this is due to a lack of diverse applicants.
Mayors Top Aide Stepping Down And Going Back To BHS
After a busy year as director of administrative services for the city, Mary McGinnis will soon be returning to Berkshire Health Systems, where she has 35 years of service in nursing-related positions. The Berkshire eagle reports that McGinnis, who became Mayor Dan Bianchi's top administrative aide in April 2013, has worked under a 12-month leave of absence from her job with BHS. McGinnis said she enjoyed the experience (at the mayor’s office) and is proud of the initiatives and programs she has helped to direct. The position has been posted by the city Personnel Department with an April 1st deadline for submission of applications.
Lee Public Schools To Costly
The Lee Public Schools needs to change the way it operates — possibly through regionalization — as the status quo isn’t an option. The Berkshire Eagle reports that’s the message several town residents delivered to local school officials during the last of three public input sessions on the status and future of the district’s budget, leadership structure, academics, athletics, and after-school programs. Local resident Peggy Biron told the Eagle with declining enrollment and rising school spending over the past decade, town taxpayers can’t afford the current school system. Since 2003, Lee Public Schools' enrollment has declined from about 900 to 717 as of March 25th, as school spending rose $1.8 million— a 29 percent jump to the current $8.1 million budget for fiscal 2014.
Lenox Man Injured In Two Car Crash
A Lenox man suffered minor injuries on Tuesday in a head-on collision at Walker Street and Routes 7 and 20. According to police, 55 year old Mark Connelly was heading westbound on Walker Street when his vehicle collided with an eastbound vehicle which was being operated by a minor. Connelly was transported by Lenox Ambulance to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. Both cars were totaled and towed from the scene. According to police, the cause of the accident remains under investigation.
Mass. Health Officials: We've Cleared Backlog
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts health officials say they've eliminated an application backlog that stood at 72,000 two months ago.
Officials say they have also extended transitional health insurance coverage to 125,000 people, up from 32,000 in February.
The state still faces significant challenges after its bungled launch of the federal health care law here, including getting a functioning health exchange website up and running. 
The Connector Board also announced Thursday that while the federal open enrollment deadline is March 31, anyone who has had trouble signing up online for unsubsidized coverage will have extra time.
Those who hit IT troubles while trying to register will be allowed to continue shopping through the Health Connector until April 15, but must choose a plan by that date with a first payment due April 23 for coverage beginning May 1.
Boston Mourns 2 Firefighters Killed In Blaze
BOSTON (AP) — Several firefighters remain hospitalized a day after a wind-driven fire in a Boston brownstone that killed two of their colleagues.
Fire Department spokesman Steve MacDonald says he isn't sure exactly how many firefighters remain in the hospital. Thirteen were taken for treatment Wednesday. Some were admitted for burns, heat exhaustion and other injuries.
MacDonald says nothing has been ruled out regarding the cause of the fire, but officials know strong winds made it much more difficult to fight.
Lt. Edward J. Walsh and firefighter Michael R. Kennedy sent out a mayday call from the basement of the brownstone, indicating something extraordinary happened that trapped them there.
The fire union will work with their families on funeral plans.
Overdoses Prompt Health Emergency In Mass.
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has declared a public health emergency in Massachusetts in response to the state's growing epidemic of heroin overdoses and opioid addiction.
The governor announced on Thursday that he has asked the Department of Public Health to take several immediate steps to combat overdoses and help with addiction recovery.
Patrick's emergency order will allow first responders to universally carry the overdose drug naloxone — more commonly known by the brand name Narcan — and also make the drug more widely available by prescription to friends and family members of people battling addiction.
The governor said his administration will also dedicate an additional $20 million for addiction and recovery services in the state.
Massachusetts Lawmakers Approve Veterans Bill
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts lawmakers have passed a bill designed to build on an existing law expanding opportunities and services for military personnel, veterans and their families.
The bill provides property tax relief and strengthens employment, educational and health care support services.
The legislation, known at the Valor Act II, creates a home modification program to help injured veterans stay in their homes. It also authorizes the Secretary of Veterans' Services to establish enhanced training and certification for officials working on veterans' benefits and services.
The bill also allows students enrolled in college, who are called to active duty, to either complete their course work without penalty after returning, or to withdraw and receive a tuition refund.
It also increases penalties for disturbing military funerals and helps guard against charity fraud.
The bill heads to Gov. Deval Patrick's desk.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

(Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner

Efforts To Save North Adams
Regional Hospital
State and local officials are working toward finding a solution to the financial woes of Northern Berkshire Healthcare and potential restoration of services at North Adams Regional Hospital to some degree. The hospital is due to close its doors tomorrow amid financial turmoil. There wasn’t a lot of clarification yesterday as far as exactly what direction officials were planning to take, but among the possibilities that came up during the day included everything from emergency legislation to government intervention to possible legal action. State Representative Gailanne Cariddi told the Berkshire News Network that efforts are indeed being made. Cariddi told us that she met with State Senator Ben Downing yesterday and that they discussed the possibility of filing emergency legislation to keep the hospital open. Barring any type of last minute miracle, operations at the hospital are scheduled to cease at 10am tomorrow.  
Efforts To Halt The Closing Of  NARH
The announcement that North Adams Regional Hospital will close Friday morning lead to many various efforts to stop the closing, express feelings, and in some cases to simply come to grips with the decision. By Wednesday evening, a petition to save the hospital had garnered more than 1,000 signatures, and a Facebook group against the closure had garnered thousands of likes. Mike Wilbur, of the April 4 Coalition, is encouraging residents to attend an "Occupy North Adams Regional Hospital" demonstration set for tomorrow morning in front of the facility starting at 9:30. Wilbur said the closing had far-reaching impacts on safety and he stressed that a person in a critical accident locally could die before being taken to Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield or Southern Vermont Hospital in Bennington.
Independent Clinics Remain Open
Independent medical offices on the North Adams Regional Hospital campus were busy yesterday letting their patients know they’ll remain open following the closure of the hospital and its affiliates. The Berkshire Eagle reports the hospital’s announcement it will close Friday lead to some confusion over practices that are also located on 77 Hospital Ave. in the onsite Ambulatory Care Center, which is not owned by the hospital. The center is used by many independent private clinics, such as Northern Berkshire Pediatrics, the Orthopedic Associates of Northern Berkshire, and Williamstown Medical Associates. Those practices say they will continue to operate from the building.
 Four-Way Race For Two Select Board Seats In Williamstown

  (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Stephen Dravis)

Two open seats on the Board of Selectmen in Williamstown will be sought by four town residents. Hugh Daley, Andrew Hogeland, Jack Nogueira and Gary Fuls filed for the two three-year positions before Tuesday's deadline. Select Board Chairwoman Jane Allen and Selectman David Rempell previously are not seeking re-election for their seats on the five-member panel. The Select Board posts will feature the only contested races at the May 13th annual town election. Amy Jeschewitz is the only candidate to file for a seat on the town's Planning Board. Current planner Patrick Dunlavey is not seeking re-election.
Adams Selectman Approve FY2015 Budget

  (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Jack Guerino)

The Board of Selectmen in Adams has approved all the items listed on the towns proposed fiscal year 2015 budget. reports although most of the items came in level budgeted for the fiscal 2015 budget session, there were capital increases in the technology budget that included a new phone system to replace the Town Hall’s outdated system. The replacement system, including phones and new voicemail server, will cost $17,000. Town Administrator Jonathan Butler said the current phone system is notorious for not working and being confusing to callers.
North Adams Settle Contracts With Police, Fire And Works
The city of North Adams has settled contract negotiations with its fire, police, and public works departments for the first time in more than a year. The Berkshire Eagle reports the new contracts include raises of one-percent or less per year and will add about $137,000 in back pay. The period of each departments back pay, however, is less than the length of time they were without a contract.  Mayor Richard Alcombright says the Fire Department has gone the longest without a new contract, dating back three years. Firefighters have been working under an expired contract for the past three years, but it agreed to accept increases retroactive to only a year and a half. All three departments agreed to contracts that will run through fiscal 2015.
Pittsfield Reconsiders Demolition Delay Guidelines
The Pittsfield Historical Commission is concerned that it’s looking at too many garages, under the broad language of the city's ordinance on demolition permits. reports a local regulation designed to protect historically significant buildings may also be adding unneeded requirements for minor structures of limited interest. The city added a demolition delay provision to its ordinance in 2007, and since then, applications for demolition of structures more than 75 years old have required review by the Historical Commission. The body can then add a six-month delay before demolition is approved, and then it would have to be upheld by the Community Development Board. 
Facebook Reps Hold Free Conference In Pittsfield Friday  
Facebook’s Small Business Boost will stop in Berkshire County tomorrow morning to teach more than 100 small business owners how to optimize their presence on the world’s largest social network. U.S. Congressman Richard Neal will kick off the event. He says that regional entrepreneurs should take this unique opportunity to learn how to maximize their social media skills from Facebook experts. The event will be hosted by representatives of Facebook and co-hosted the Berkshire Chamber of Commerce. Those in attendance will hear first-hand from local businesses and nonprofits that have found success through Facebook. Registration for the free event starts at 8:30am at the Crown Plaza in Pittsfield, and the conference will run from 9:30am to 10am.
Great Barrington Cultural Center Project In The Works
The state’s Economic Assistance Coordinating Council has approved 12 projects for participation in an Economic Development Incentive Program. The projects are expected to create 638 new jobs and retain 851 existing ones, in addition to leveraging over $155 million in private investment and supporting construction projects across the Commonwealth. 20 Castle Street, LLC's plan to invest $4 million to restore and renovate the former Great Barrington Fire Station into a cultural center, is among the projects that were approved. The new center will provide retail, restaurants, a historical center and an educational facility for vocational training. The town is supporting the project with a 10-Year Tax Increment Financing Agreement valued at more than $44,000.
Smitty Urges GB Selectmen To Take Lead
Emphasizing that Great Barrington is the de facto hub of South Berkshire County, state Rep. William “Smitty” Pignatelli urged town selectmen on Monday to consider a leadership role in solving a host of state-related issues. The Berkshire Eagle reports Pignatelli and State Senator Ben Downing weathered a 90-minute, good-natured grilling by the selectmen. Topics included state aid, the school assessment formula, Internet access and the concept of regionalization. There was an extensive dialogue about state aid, but much of the conversation revolved around efforts toward regionalization and shared services.
Both Sheffield Candidates Certified For Spring Ballot
Both candidates for an open seat on the Board of Selectmen in Sheffield have been certified and according to town clerk Felecie Joyce, will appear on the spring ballot. Nadine Hawver – and Martin Mitsoff will be vying for the seat currently held by Julie Hannum, who has decided not to run for re-election. The annual election is scheduled for May 12. Mitsoff most recently lost to David Smith Jr. in a special election and subsequent recount for the seat which was previously held by Ted Dobson.
Activists Call For Massachusetts Ban On Fracking
BOSTON (AP) — Environmental advocates are planning to rally at the Statehouse to urge lawmakers to pass a ban on the natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing or fracking.
The group Environment Massachusetts said they're planning to release a collection of personal stories from individuals affected by fracking across the country during the Wednesday event near the main entrance to the Statehouse.
In November, a legislative committee approved a bill that would place a 10-year moratorium on fracking, which involves blasting chemical-laden water deep into the ground. The measure has yet to come up for a vote before the full Legislature. 
Supporters of the technique say it's a safe method for extracting natural shale gas that would otherwise remain trapped underground, and can help lower energy prices. 
Audit Finds Problems In Mass. Foster Care Program
BOSTON (AP) — A state audit of the Department of Children and Families' foster care program has found that the agency was not checking whether registered sex offenders were living in or near foster homes, and not ensuring all children get required medical screenings within seven days of being placed in state care.
The report released Wednesday by Auditor Suzanne Bump also found that the agency cannot adequately document background checks were being performed on all people living in foster homes, and was not safeguarding the personal information of children in its care.
The medical screenings are critical to ensure that children are not continuing to suffer from undetected health issues from abuse and neglect.
In a statement, DCF said it is taking steps to ensure all foster children undergo medical checks and improve documentation of background checks.
House Offers New Plan On Mass. Charter Schools
BOSTON (AP) — House lawmakers are offering a new proposal that would allow for the expansion of charter schools in struggling urban school districts.
The bill was introduced on Wednesday, one day after the Legislature's Education Committee, made up of House and Senate members, failed to reach agreement before a deadline for acting on previously-filed legislation.
The House proposal would gradually raise the cap on charter school spending in Boston and 28 other low-performing school districts from 18 percent to 23 percent.
The measure would also create a new category of "challenge schools" that would be subject to two-year turnaround plans.
The bill would not tie charter school expansion to state reimbursements to school districts, as Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz, the Senate chairman of the education panel, had proposed before Tuesday's deadline.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

North Adams Regional Hospital And Affiliates To Close

  NAAS General Manager John Meaney Jr. told the City Council that turnaround time for an ambulance going to Pittsfield or Bennington, Vt., was 90 minutes to 2 hours, while transporting to North Adams kept a vehicle out of service for 15 to 20 minutes. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner Tammy Daniels)
After more than 125 years of proving medical care to the northern Berkshires, North Adams Regional Hospital will be closing its doors on Friday. Hospital officials have looked into every avenue and exhausted all of its options in trying to keep the hospital and its affiliates open amid financial struggles. Those affiliates include VNA & Hospice of Northern Berkshire, the Northern Berkshire Healthcare Physicians Group of Northern Berkshire Family Medicine, Northern Berkshire OB/GYN and Northern Berkshire General Surgery. The hospital is no longer taking admissions. The emergency department will close on Friday, March 28, at 10 a.m. Hospital officials said the health care system is working with area hospitals and ambulance services to ensure continuation of emergency services. Ecu-Health Care, which uses space in the facility, will have to move. In the end, the financial losses were just too many to overcome.  Some 530 full and part-time employees will be losing their jobs, and that is of huge concern. Mayor Richard Alcombright told the Berkshire News Network yesterday, as big a concern as that is – the other major concern is what the community will do now for its healthcare needs. The nearest hospital will now be Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield. The mayor said he is hopeful that the state might be able to come through with some type of aid package for the hospital. State Senator Ben Downing and State Representative Gailanne Cariddi had been working on that effort for some time. Mayor Alcombright also told us that he spoke with Governor Patrick yesterday, and he pledged to do whatever he could to help the situation.
BMC Stepping Up Efforts After NARH Closing
In response to the North Adams Regional Hospital closing on Friday, Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield says it is implementing an “emergency plan” to provide care to patients of the Northern Berkshires. BMC officials say they will adjust their emergency department staffing to be able to handle additional patients. North Adams Regional’s emergency department will close at 10 a.m. on Friday. Berkshire Medical Center is a bit more than 20 miles away from the hospital in North Adams. Officials at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, which is 18 miles