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Friday, March 27, 2015

     Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco shares his ideas about creating an economic development coordinator post with the Selectmen. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)


ADAMS LOOKS AT NEW STRATEGIES  
 
Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco says some strategic investments are needed to push Adams out of its economic doldrums. IBerkshires.com reports that Mazzucco told the Selectmen on Wednesday that the town needs to invest in the community and economic development. He also said they need to invest in positions and staff resources. Mazzucco said one of the focal points of this push will be a marketing and economic development coordinator who would market current events, bring in employers, and bring in established events.
 
BAKER ADMINISTRATION OK'S BERKSHIRE SCENIC RAILWAY'S HOOSAC VALLEY SERVICE  
 
After months of delay and weeks of anticipation, Gov. Charlie Baker's administration has given the green light to the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum, according to North Adams officials. The Berkshire Scenic Railway's planned Hoosac Valley Service between North Adams and Adams was on hold as Baker's team reviewed a number on ongoing projects statewide. Though local officials have expressed understanding the new governor's methodology, the Scenic Railway hopes to begin operations in the early summer.
 
ELECTION LINES FILL UP IN WILLIAMSTOWN  
 
Williamstown voters will have a full selection of Selectmen and Elementary School Committee candidates to choose from at the May 12th annual town election. Town Clerk Mary Kennedy said as of Tuesday's 5 p.m. deadline, four people had returned nomination papers for the one open seat on the Board of Selectmen, and three people had returned papers for the two spots on the School Committee.



    (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
  
PITTSFIELD WOMAN STRUCK BY TRAIN  
 
A middle aged woman suffered multiple injuries last night after being struck by a train. IBerkshires.com reports that emergency personnel responded to the report an individual being struck by a train on the CSX tracks underneath the bridge on Second Street in Pittsfield at about 9pm. According to police, the woman was found conscience and alert next to the tracks with multiple injuries including a Level 1 head trauma and a broke femur. She was taken to Berkshire Medical Center because of the injuries. It is unclear why the individual was on the tracks.  
 
EIGHT COUNCILORS CONFIRM 'YES' VOTES FOR NEW TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL
 
The proposed $120.8 million new Pittsfield Taconic High School may have enough City Council votes in hand to ensure a $44 million bond to cover the city's share of the project. An informal survey by The Eagle this week found eight councilors voicing support for the project and the required bond, which the council will be asked to endorse on April 14th. If the bond is approved, project planners estimate the annual tax increase for residential property owners would be about $106 on a house assessed at $150,000.

MAN ACCUSED OF RAPING UMASS STUDENT SAYS SEX WAS CONSENSUAL  
 
One of four men charged with gang-raping a University of Massachusetts student has testified that the sex was consensual. Twenty-one-year-old Emmanuel Bile Jr. of Pittsfield took the stand at his trial yesterday and said the woman was conscious and willing when they had sex in October 2012. Bile is the first of the four men to go on trial. The 21-year-old woman testified Wednesday that Bile and his three friends raped her repeatedly in her Amherst dorm room while she was drunk and drifting in and out of consciousness. The other three men charged are Pittsfield residents Adam Liccardi and Justin King and Caleb Womack of Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Closing arguments in the case were expected to take place today.
 
SHARTRAND SAYS ALLEGATIONS ARE FALSE  
 
Paul Shartrand took the witness stand in his own defense yesterday in Berkshire Superior Court. He is being accused of forcefully trying to receive oral sex from a bed ridden patient. Shartrand claimed that the allegation is false and malicious and he was only adjusting the immobile patient in her bed. The 48 year old Shartrand, of Pittsfield, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with the intent to commit rape, caretaker abuse on a disabled person, and assault and battery on a disabled person. The alleged victim, a 55 year old woman, now deceased, had been in the late stages of Huntington's disease.
 
THREE COUNTY SCHOOLS RANKED IN NICHE.COM TOP 100  
 
Three Berkshire County High Schools were ranked in the top 100 Best High Schools in Massachusetts by ranking and statistics portal niche.com. The ranking are based on dozens of key statistics and 4.6 million opinions from 280,000 students and parents. A high ranking indicates that a school is an exceptional academic institution with a diverse set of high-achieving students who rate their experience very highly. Lenox Memorial High School broke the Top 30, coming in at #27. Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington was ranked #55 and Mount Greylock Regional High School in Williamstown was ranked #85. An additional 834 schools received grades but were not eligible for ranking. That list includes magnet, charter, and online schools.
 
PITTSFIELD OPENS THIRD COMMUNITY CENTER IN PUBLIC HOUSE COMPLEX  
 
Pittsfield has opened its third community center to provide services to residents in public housing. On Tuesday, city officials and representatives from an array of social service groups held an open house at a unit in Wilson Park. The programming at the new center will replicate the two other community centers at Dower Square and Francis Plaza.
 
FORMER GREAT BARRINGTON OFFICER FOUND NOT GUILTY OF OUI
 
A Jury of Six has cleared a former Great Barrington police officer of an OUI charge from early 2014. 55 year old Timothy Hassett was arrested on a charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of liquor after police said he arrived at a crash scene involving his son, Ryan, on January 11th. He was found not guilty on Monday.
 
GREAT BARRINGTON SELECTMEN APPROVE $27.3 MILLION BUDGET  
 
The Great Barrington Selectmen have unanimously approved a $27.3 million municipal and school spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year. The budget represents an overall increase of 3.95 percent, or 61 cents per thousand dollars, on the tax rate, according to Town Manager Jennifer Tabakin. The town's tax rate is $13.72 this year and could go to $14.33. The Selectmen approved the budget Wednesday night.
 


Thursday, March 26, 2015


     Joseph Thompson, director of Mass MoCA, talks about the art of photography that will be a big part of the upcoming summer season. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Rebecca Dravis)
 
MASS MOCA SUMMER FILLED WITH MUSIC, PHOTOGRAPHY ... AND 'TOP GUN'  
 
Wilco is bringing its Solid Sound Festival back to Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art this summer. The summer season announced yesterday will be a packed one. Also performing this summer will be Brooklyn-country stars, The Lone Bellow. They will kick off the summer season on Memorial Day Weekend and Fresh-Grass, MoCA's annual festival of bluegrass and roots music, will wrap up the concert season shortly after Labor Day. On top of the live music, the Mass MoCA galleries will be filled with exhibits that offer traditional and modern takes on the art of photography.
 
MOUNT GREYLOCK ARCHITECT TO GIVE PRESENTATION TONIGHT 
 
The Mount Greylock Regional School Building Committee is inviting the public to its meeting tonight at 5:30, which will feature a presentation and Q&A beginning at 7 p.m. by Design Partnership of Cambridge, the architect firm selected to conduct the school's feasibility study. The meeting will take place in the school's Meeting Room. The session will kick off the Feasibility Study process, which consists of a thorough assessment of the school building's needs and deficiencies as well as proposing alternatives for improvement.

3 BERKSHIRE OB/GYN SERVICES CREATE 'UNIFIED PRACTICE'  
 
Three area obstetric and gynecologic services have joined forces under Berkshire Health Systems to form a single entity designed to ensure long-term women's health care throughout the county. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Berkshire OB/GYN Associates of Pittsfield and Lenox; and Northern Berkshire OB/GYN and GYN Services of the Berkshires, both located in Adams, have formed Berkshire OB/GYN of Berkshire Medical Center under BHS' Physician Practice Group. The three practices began operating as a single entity last month but are still staffing offices at their original locations. The new entity includes eight doctors, and three certified nurse midwives.



    Designers for the Heritage Park renovation offered several styles of lighting for the commission's review; the verdict was the bell-shaped fixture with the S-curve on the arm — as long as it's black. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
 
HISTORICAL COMMISSION OKS LIGHTING FOR HERITAGE PARK
 
The lighting fixtures are high-tech LED but the option offered by Greylock Market has enough of a vintage swirl to pass the muster of the Historical Commission.
The commission on Wednesday afternoon voted to approve the bell-style light poles by Kim Lighting.Commissioners agreed, dismissing several other options as not up to par.
The panel had rejected a proposal for what members deemed "Jetsons" lights earlier this month. The very contemporary poles had been selected to blend in with the renovation of Western Gateway Heritage State Park into the mixed-use Greylock Market.
 
TESTIMONY CONTINUES IN UMASS RAPE TRIAL
 
The woman who accused four men of gang-raping her in 2012 tearfully told a jury yesterday that when her two female friends left her alone with the men in her dorm room at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she heard a voice say, "Turn the lights off and rip her clothes off." The Berkshire Eagle reports that one of the men she has accused, 21 year old Emmanuel Bile Jr., is expected to take the witness stand in his rape trial this morning. The woman testified in Hampshire Superior Court that she was so drunk she couldn't move or speak while the men raped her, sometimes when she was unconscious. Bile, 20 year old Adam Liccardi, 21 year old Justin King, all of Pittsfield, and Caleb Womack, 20, of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, each have pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated rape.



    DeFazio's is being rebranded as a Southwestern eatery. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
 
NORTH ADAMS LICENSE BOARD OKS NAME TRANSFER, BEER TENT FOR ZUMBA
 
DeFazio's Italian Bistro and Bar, which opened last summer, has reopened as TJ's Southwestern Bar & Grill.Timothy Lanfair, a principal in the restaurant, told the License Board on Tuesday that the rebranding is a matter of economics.
The new restaurant will continue in the same building, which has been the site of several restaurants and bars. The commission approved the transfer to the new name, with all other information remaining the same.
 
The old signage is still up until the eatery can go before the Planning Board next month.
The commission also approved a one-day license for Lefty's Brewing Co. of Greenfield at the 5th annual Zumba Dancing in the Streets on Sunday, May 3.
The license was approved for the hours of 2 to 6 p.m. on May 3. 



    The City Council questioned Bruce Collingwood on the use of the cold patch material on Tuesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com /Andy McKeever)
 
PITTSFIELD COUNCIL QUESTIONS USE OF COLD PATCH FOR POTHOLE REPAIRS
 
Some Pittsfield city councilors are questioning whether it is appropriate to use cold patch on potholes when the repair breaks down just days later.
But, Commissioner of Public Safety Bruce Collingwood says the city doesn't make enough hot patch to keep up with the amount of potholes this spring, so cold patch is the only way to reduce liability. On Tuesday, both Collingwood and the City Council agreed that hot patch is a better repair but disputed the wisdom of using cold patch at all.
This year the holes are particularly worse than in other years, officials said, because the cold winter froze water deeper than before. Water soaking into the soil underneath pavement freezes and expands. When it melts, the road erodes. Adding to the problem, the city didn't release a contract for road repairs last summer because of a dispute between the mayor and the City Council.
 
SUPERVISOR TAKES STAND IN CAN SEX ASSAULT CASE  
 
A supervisor of a Lee nursing home said Paul Shartrand sounded confused and unsure when he contacted her after being accused of trying to sexually assault a patient. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Ellen Candlish, director of nursing at the Laurel Lake Center for Health and Rehabilitation, testified on yesterday at Shartrand's trial in Berkshire Superior Court. The 48 year old Shartrand, of Pittsfield has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with the intent to commit rape, caretaker abuse on a disabled person, and assault and battery on a disabled person. Candlish said she was awoken by a phone call about 2 a.m., Aug. 12 and notified about the accusations against Shartrand. A co-worker said Shartrand, who was a per-diem certified nursing assistant had been spotted in a patient's room attempting to receive oral sex.
 VAN CRASHES THROUGH STORE FRONT
 
A motor vehicle accident at the corner of Second and Fenn streets in Pittsfield sent a van smashing into the front of a hardware store yesterday morning. IBerkshires.com reports that the white van went through angled corner door of J.M.S. Industrial Supply at 289 Fenn, skimming a street light. The collision occurred just before 11 a.m. Police are still investigating the accident but say the Ford van operated by John Eckert was northbound before careening into the storefront. According to police, an eastbound Berkshire Regional Transit Authority van operated by Rebecca Whitaker was also involved in the accident but it is unclear exactly how. No one was reported hurt but firefighters had to evacuate seven residents living in the building that runs along Second Street and utilities were shut off. Three people inside J.M.S. were evacuated as well.  
 
PITTSFIELD CITY COUNCIL HOLDS FATE OF TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL  
 
The ball is now firmly in the Pittsfield City Council's court regarding the proposed $120.8 million new Taconic High School project: A council vote on a bond for Pittsfield's $44 million share of the cost is set for April 14th. The Berkshire Eagle reports that councilors received a final update Tuesday from school officials, consultants and members of the School Building Needs Commission on plans for the new school, which the commission endorsed unanimously on March 16th. If at least 8 of 11 councilors approve bonding for the city's share, the next step would be anticipated approval by the Massachusetts School Building Authority for the balance of the project funding — likely at the authority's June 3 board meeting.
 
PITTSFIELD POLICE SEEK TIPS ON BREAK IN AT INSTANT REPLAY  
 
Pittsfield Police are seeking the public's help in identifying whoever was responsible for a recent break-in and robbery at a Lyman Street business. In the early morning hours of March 15th, someone broke into Instant Replay and stole four compound bows, camouflage jackets and backpacks, a snowboard and skateboard wheels, among other items. Anyone with information is asked to call Pittsfield Police. Surveillance photos from the store are available on the department's Facebook page. Police are asking that names and tips not be posted publicly.



    The last phase of streetscape spans Madison Avenue to Columbus Avenue. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever) 
 
PITTSFIELD ROLLING OUT FINAL NORTH ST. RECONSTRUCTION; PARKING MANAGEMENT
 
The fourth and final phase of North Street's reconstruction in Pittsfield is eyed to begin in early summer and the city is looking to implement a new parking system shortly after.
The city was awarded $4.5 million through the state MassWorks program to complete the multiyear project to improve pedestrian safety, the appearance, and the functionality of the city's main downtown road. Engineer Jon Dietrich presented to the public the 25 percent design of the final section, which will span Madison Avenue to Columbus Avenue.
 
TOWN MAKES “TOKEN” PAYMENT TO EMPLYEE PENSION FUND
 
The town of Great Barrington is trying to tackle the problem of how to pay benefits to retired municipal employees, while a multi-million dollar unfunded liability stares them in the face. The Berkshire Record reports in its latest edition that at last week’s joint meeting between the select board and finance committee, the two boards agreed to place $50,000 into an account in order to fund Other Post-Employment Benefits. Those are benefits which are mandated by the state and promised to municipal workers. The publication reports that as of June 30th, 2012 the town had an unfunded liability of more than $9.1 million, while the Berkshire Hills Regional School District had a liability of more than $38 million. An updated actuarial study is expected to be done in the fall.
 
LEE AND LENOX DISCUSS SHARINGOF PERSONNEL  
 
The Lee and Lenox school districts have taken the first step toward possibly sharing administrators, teachers and other personnel. During a joint meeting Tuesday night, the towns' two school committees voted unanimously to create a working group that will develop a model by which the school systems could combine human resources. Under the plan, the group consisting of two committee members and the school superintendents from Lee and Lenox, have until October to develop the model and forward it to the school boards for separate votes. Lenox Committee members Robert Vaughn, Fran Sorrentino and Superintendent Timothy Lee will join Lee interim Superintendent Alfred Skrocki and two Lee school board members to be named later.  



Wednesday, March 25, 2015


    John Zaffis, left, explains his plans for a paranormal museum to the Planning Board on Monday night. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)

 
ADAMS PLANNERS OK HAUNTED ARTIFACTS MUSEUM SITE PLAN
 
Paranormal researcher John Zaffis' site plan for his Paranormal Artifact Museum in Adams has received approval from the Planning Board. IBerkshires.com reports that paranormal researcher and host of Syfy show "Haunted Collector" met with the Planning Board on Monday night to go over the site plan of his proposed museum in the old McBride Funeral Home. IBerkshires.com reports that the Liberty Street museum would house some of the haunted artifacts he has removed from various locations throughout his more than 40 years of paranormal investigating. He added he also plans to host lectures, ghost hunts and weddings.
 
POWNAL SCHOOL BOARD LOOKS AT NEXT STEPS IN BUS BATTLE
 
The Pownal School Board has begun to prepare their case as to why they should receive a waiver to keep operating their own buses, in response a state law that says transportation must be handled at the supervisory union level. The board is acting in response to Act 153, which, in the name of keeping costs down across the state, requires the SU to operate all transportation, unless it can be shown that a district operating independently is more cost-effective both for the district and for the SU as a whole. The Pownal board is convinced that operating their own buses has, and will continue to lead to cost savings for the district, but now they must prove to the SVSU board that Pownal being independent would represent cost savings for them as well.
  
PITTSFIELD MAN GETS PROBATION FOR KICKING MAN DURING NORTH ADAMS MELEE
 
A Pittsfield man has been sentenced to nine months' probation for kicking a man when he was down. 32 year old Davon Fitts admitted he kicked a man who was on a sidewalk outside the Artery Lounge on Union Street in North Adams during a brawl on June 15th, 2013. All five of the other men involved have already pleaded guilty to charges connected Fitts pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday to a lone charge of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. While on probation, Fitts must have no contact and stay away from the victim.
 
TRIAL BEGINS FOR CNA ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ASSAULT  
 
Prosecutors says a former nursing home employee at Laurel Lake Center for Health and Rehabilitation in Lee was caught in the midst of attempting to sexually assault a bedridden patient in his care in August 2012. The man's attorney says however, there is no physical evidence linking his client to the alleged assault and the accusation may have been the result of retribution from a co-worker. The Berkshire Eagle reports that 48 year old Paul Shartrand, of Pittsfield, has pleaded not guilty to charges of assault with the intent to commit rape, caretaker abuse on a disabled person, and assault and battery on a disabled person. Testimony in his trial began yesterday in Berkshire Superior Court.
 
NURSE TAKES STAND IN UMASS RAPE TRIAL
 
 A nurse who examined the former University of Massachusetts student who alleges four men raped her in her dorm room testified yesterday that the 18-year-old woman said she may have been unconscious for one to three hours during the incident. Lou Rios, an emergency department nurse at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield took the witness stand on the third day of the trial of Emmanuel Bile Jr., one of four men accused of taking part in the alleged gang rape. Rios, who also serves as the state Department of Public Health sexual assault nurse examiner for Western Massachusetts, told jurors that the woman had signs of injuries. The 21 year old Bile, of Pittsfield, is the first of the four men to be tried. Bile, 20 year old Adam Liccardi, 21 year old Justin King, 21, all of Pittsfield, and 20 year old Caleb Womack, of Windsor Locks, Conn., each has pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated rape.

TAX TITLE AUCTION LOOKING TO MAKE A DENT IN $10 MILLION IN BACK TAXES
 
The City of Pittsfield is holding a Tax Title Auction, likely sometime in the month of May, to try and make a dent in the some $10 Million in the amount of property taxes that have not been paid in several years in many cases. The city will basically sell the tax titles and the right to collect the back taxes to a third party. Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi told the Berkshire News Network that the auction is not meant to be punitive.
Since the city announced the program, several property owners have made payment arrangements with the city – and according to Mayor Bianchi, there is still time to do that before the auction takes place.   
 
PITTSFIELD MAN GETS 18 MONTHS FOR OUI, WEAPONS CHARGES
 
A Pittsfield man was sentenced to 18 months in jail after being convicted of OUI and other charges stemming from a 2013 chase with police. 45 year old William Neronha, failed to pull over during an attempted traffic stop by Becket Officer Steven Hilton on June 1st, 2013. Neronha was found guilty in Southern Berkshire District Court of operating under the influence of alcohol, use of a motor vehicle without authorization, possession of a firearm without a license, possession of chemical-mace without an FID card and illegal possession of ammunition. He was given credit for 41 days of time served.



    Carl Franceschi and Dale Caldwell outlined the plan to the City Council on Tuesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever
 
PITTSFIELD RESIDENTS PLEAD CASE FOR NEW SCHOOL TO CITY COUNCIL
 
An array of Pittsfield residents voiced their opinions for and against the Taconic High School project during more than 30 minutes of public comment at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. Borrowing for the $120.8 million project will be decided by the City Council. On Tuesday, Drumney Rosane & Anderson Architects Inc. and Skanska USA, the consultants crafting the project presented the plans to the council. The council is expected to cast a vote on April 14 that requires a minimum of eight votes in favor to move forward. The Massachusetts School Building Authority will need to approve reimbursing the city 80 percent of eligible costs.
  
PITTSFIELD AREA JOB LOSS LIKELY CAUSED BY SEASONAL EMPLOYMENT  
 
The Berkshire County unemployment rate fell slightly in February, although 700 jobs were lost in the Pittsfield metropolitan area last month, according to state figures released on Tuesday. The Berkshire Eagle reports that county unemployment dropped one-tenth of a point to 6.4 percent last month, but the job losses in the Pittsfield metro area represented a 1.7 percent decline, according to the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Heather Boulger, the executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Bureau, attributed the drop in the Pittsfield metro area to changes in seasonal employment. February's overall Berkshire unemployment rate is 1.4 points lower than the 7.8 percent registered 12 months ago.


    Commissioner of Public Services Bruce Collingwood presented the schedule to the City Council on Tuesday night. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
 
PITTSFIELD OUTINES PAVING PROJECTS  
 
City officials are expecting bids today to perform road work on 21 city streets. IBerkshires.com reports that Commissioner of Public Services Bruce Collingwood outlined the $3 million worth of work expected this summer. The City Council and the mayor failed to come to terms on a capital budget until late last year so very little work was completed in the late summer and fall. Eventually, the City Council approved a $3 million borrowing authorization for road repairs. The 21 roads up for bid vary in the level of repairs that are needed.
 
LENOX COMMITTEE FAILS TO BACK UNDERMOUNTAIN FARM PRESERVATION PLAN
 
A bitterly divided Lenox Community Preservation Committee deadlocked Monday night on the Berkshire Natural Resources Council's application for $250,000 in taxpayer support for a $700,000 conservation restriction on 146 acres of open space owned by the Sprague family at Undermountain Farm. The Berkshire Eagle reports that on a 4-4 vote, the CPC failed to approve funding through the Community Preservation Act to protect the scenic vista from possible development. The BNRC holds an option for the acquisition through October, with possible extensions until April 2016.
 
LAWMAKERS AND DEVELOPER LOOK TO CONVINCE FEDS
 
A proposed $70 million revitalization project of the Eagle Mill is in danger of falling through because of a dispute with state and federal agencies over which buildings should be preserved. Mill Renaissance LLC, led by Jeffrey Cohen of Great Barrington, has determined eight brick structures erected from 1808 to 1932 are historically significant and would be rehabilitated as part of the mixed-use project. But the Massachusetts Historical Commission — based on correspondence with the developers — wants four additional post-World War II buildings preserved as well. The National Park Service, which also has to sign off on the plans, has backed the state's guidance. In a bid to salvage the deal, state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli has reached out to the commission and arranged for a site visit later this week, along with local officials and members of the development team.
 
MGM BREAKS GROUND ON CASINO  
 
MGM has officially broke ground yesterday on an $800 million casino in western Massachusetts that represents the largest economic development project the region has seen in generations. The groundbreaking was largely symbolic: Casino officials say there's more to be done before construction can start in earnest. MGM seeks to become Massachusetts' first resort casino as rivals in Connecticut and the Boston area are also trying to open casinos.
 
SENATOR LOOKING TO REPEAL MEDICAL DEVICE MAKER TAX
 
Senator Edward Markey wants to repeal a tax aimed at medical device makers. The Massachusetts Democrat said he filed a bill Tuesday that would eliminate the 2.3 percent excise tax.The tax was included in President Barack Obama's 2010 health care law. While Markey supports the health care law, he said the medical devices tax harms innovation. Massachusetts is home to many medical device companies.
 
GROUP WANTS RESIDENTS TO DECIDE IF OLYMPIC BID GOES FORWARD  
 
The group behind Boston's bid to host the 2024 Summer Olympics says that it wants the residents of Massachusetts to decide whether the effort to bring the games to the city should go forward. John Fish, chairman of Boston 2024, told a gathering of business leaders that the privately funded organization would help gather signatures to put a referendum on the November 2016 state ballot.



Tuesday, March 24, 2015

    The Selectmen recommended a citizen's petition on instituting a plastics ban be submitted as a resolution instead.
(Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
 
PLASTIC BAGS BAN BEING CONSIDERED IN WILLIAMSTOWN
 
The Selectmen are encouraging the backers of a polystyrene ban to consider social rather than legislative pressure.  IBerkshires reports that the ad hoc group Greening Williamstown is hoping to place a bylaw before town meeting that would ban the use of plastics — including plastic bags, food containers and silverware. The Selectmen expressed concern yesterday over enforcement issues and over-legislation — either by the board or by citizen's petition. 
 
NORTH ADAMS MAN ALLEGEDLY ASSAULTED PREGNANT EX-GIRLFRIEND  
 
A North Adams man was held without bail yesterday after allegedly pulling his pregnant ex-girlfriend out of her car and assaulting her early Sunday morning. 30 year old Scott Kennedy, of East Main Street, ran out in front of the woman's car about 1:30 a.m. Sunday as she was stopped at the corner of St. John's Way and Ashland Street. Kennedy pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday to charges of aggravated assault and battery, domestic assault and battery, and wanton destruction of property. The defendant denied a court-appointed attorney and the case was continued to March 30th, where prosecutors will seek to have Kennedy held on dangerousness for 120 days.
 
WILLIAMSTOWN MAN ALLEGEDLY SMASHED GIRLFRIEND'S HEAD WITH BOTTLE  
 
A Williamstown man is facing felony charges for allegedly "badly and violently" assaulting his girlfriend on Friday night before she could call police for help. 53 year old James Colbert, of Simonds Road, assaulted the woman at her Secor (SEE-kor) Avenue residence unprovoked, including breaking a 40 ounce beer bottle over her head. The woman was transported to BMC in Pittsfield for treatment, and Colbert was arrested and remains held without bail. He pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court yesterday to charges of domestic assault and battery and assault and battery with a dangerous weapon.  
 
SORT OF RETURN TO MAIN STREET FOR MOUNTAIN ONE  
 
A former bank branch on a high-visibility Main Street property in Williamstown will soon be re-occupied by folks from the same company that vacated the building about two years ago. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Mountain-One has hired Moresi & Associates to manage the property once known as a branch of Hoosac Bank at 296 Main Street. Mountain-One consolidated much of its operations in 2013, and as a part of that consolidation, the branch was closed and put on the market. President and CEO of Mountain-One, Robert Fraser, says several parties expressed interest — including the town in seeking a location for its police headquarters — but nothing substantive came of it.
 


     (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Staff)

SENATOR WARREN TO SPEAK AT BCC COMMENCEMENT  
 
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren will be the keynote speaker at Berkshire Community College's 55th commencement exercises to be held May 29th at Tanglewood in Lenox. Warren was elected to the Senate in 2012 and is recognized as one of the nation's top experts on bankruptcy and the financial pressures facing middle class families. The Massachusetts Democrat was a law professor for more than 30 years, including nearly 20 years at Harvard Law School.
 
NATIONAL GRID PROPOSING RATE CUTS  
 
Following a winter that saw dramatic increases in utility bills, National Grid is now proposing a drastic rate cut. The company announced yesterday that they are proposing a substantial cut in the supply rate for their basic service customers. The rate change would have to be approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities. For a customer who uses 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per month, the supply portion of their bill will decrease by more than 40 percent, bringing down their overall bill by about 26 percent, or roughly $32. If approved, the rate change would take effect on May 1st. The move comes not long after Eversource Energy, the other major supplier to the Berkshires, gave its CEO a hefty r
Friday, March 20, 2015


    Gov. Baker is authorizing up to $30 million to help towns and cities across the state deal with a plague of potholes. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)

 
BERKSHIRE COUNTY IN LINE FOR $1M IN POTHOLE MONEY  
 
Towns in Berkshire County are getting some $1 million pothole relief for the second year in a row. IBerkshires.com reports that Gov. Charlie Baker on has authorized the release $30 million from the 2015 transportation bond to help communities across the state fill in the pavement chasms left behind by this winter's wild weather. All work would have to be completed by June 30th and all work invoices have to be provided to the state Department of Transportation by July 31st. MassDOT will reimburse cities and towns as invoices are received. Berkshire County is getting a total of just over $1,192,000, with each town getting a portion of the funds based on the Chapter 90 calculation of population, employment and road mileage. Pittsfield will receive $207,177. Mayor Daniel Bianchi said that amount should keep crews working on finding and filling holes for an extra month. North Adams will receive $66,312, on par with what it received in last year's Winter Recovery Assistance Program.


    A joint meeting of the Mount Greylock Regional and Superintendency Union 71 school committee selected two finalists to interview Monday for the superintendent's position. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

 
WILLIAMSTOWN-LANESBOROUGH SUPERINTENDENT FINALISTS NAMED
 
The Mount Mount Greylock Regional School Committee and Superintendency Union 71 last night announced the two finalists for the Tri-District superintendent position. IBerkshires.com reports that Woodstock, Conn., Public Schools Superintendent Francis Baran and Medway High School Principal Douglas Dias were chosen from 16 qualified applicants. The pair will be in town on Monday, visiting Mount Greylock and both SU71 elementary schools — Williamstown Elementary and Lanesborough Elementary. The final interview with School Committee members will be on Monday evening starting at 5 p.m. at Mount Greylock.




    Michael Conforti is retiring from the Clark Art Institute after 20 years as director. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Staff)
 
CONFORTI RETIRING FROM CLARK ART INSTITUTE  
 
The Clark Art Institute's Michael Conforti is retiring after 20 years in leading the internationally known museum. Conforti, recently named the Felda and Dena Hardymon Director in recognition of the Hardymons' donation of $15 million to the museum, will continue with the museum for the next five months as a committee is empaneled to search for his successor. Since his appointment in November 1994, Conforti has been widely credited for his transformational leadership of the Institute and is recognized as a leading innovator and advocate in the museum community.
 
    Parents and residents attended the discussions on the budget held at Hoosac Valley High School. The Cheshire Elementary Parent-Teacher Group has started a letter writing campaign asking state and local officials to help the district. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)

ADAMS-CHESHIRE
SCHOOL BUDGET TALKS BEGIN ON HIGH MARK
 
The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District may put forth a $19 million budget that does not include "devastating cuts" — but which goes beyond what the towns said they can afford. The School Committee began its discussions on the final draft of the fiscal 2016 budget yesterday. The $19,416,521 budget shows a 4.4 percent increase.
 
 ADAMS CLEARS $14.3 M BUDGET  
 
The Adams Board of Selectmen unanimously approved a $14.3 million town spending plan for fiscal 2016 on Wednesday that just comes in under the levy limit. The budget, which includes a reduction in services to offset a structural deficit, accounts for a 1.23 percent increase in town operating expenses, a 4 percent increase in assessment to the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District, and a 6 percent increase in obligations to the McCann Technical School — a total increase of $323,033.
 
SETTLEMENT: VOTER CARDS MUST BE OFFERED TO WELFARE SEEKERS  
 
Massachusetts residents applying for welfare must be offered voter registration cards and other information under a settlement reached between voting rights groups and the Baker administration.
The groups pushing for the settlement say it will bring the state into compliance with the 1993 National Voter Registration Act, which requires public assistance offices to offer voter registration services to eligible citizens. The settlement was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court.
 
ACCUSED UMASS RAPIST GOES TO TRIAL  
 
Emmanuel Bile goes on trial today in Hampshire Superior Court. He is facing three charges of aggravated rape. The 21 year old Bile, of Pittsfield, is one of four defendants accused of sexually assaulting a University of Massachusetts student in her Amherst dorm room in the fall of 2012. He and three other men with Berkshire ties will be tried separately in the case. Advocates for the victims of sexual violence say this case is among the relatively few rape and assault cases that ever make it as far as a courtroom. Jury selection wrapped up in the case yesterday, with opening statements scheduled for today. According to prosecutors, Bile and his three co-defendants allegedly raped the woman repeatedly in her dormitory room while she went in and out of consciousness, openly wept and repeatedly said "no" and "stop."  
 
PITTSFIELD GREEN COMMISSION ENDORSES PROPOSED POLYSTYRENE BAN  
 
The Pittsfield Green Commission has unanimously endorsed a proposed ban on single-use disposable polystyrene food containers. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Rinaldo Del Gallo, who proposed such a ban in December 2012, met Monday with the commission and urged action on that initiative and on his similar proposal to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. At the request of commissioners at a prior meeting, Del Gallo submitted a draft ordinance banning the foam containers commonly used for take-out foods and beverage cups, among other uses. He said the proposed ordinance was in large part based on one enacted in Amherst.
 
LENOX ZBA DELAYS VOTE ON ELM COURT  
 
The third time turned out not to be the charm for the Lenox Zoning Board of Appeals as it continued to review the proposed 112-room Elm Court resort off Old Stockbridge Road. The Berkshire Eagle reports that citing the last-minute absence of a member due to illness and a continuing onslaught of public comments, the ZBA delayed a vote and scheduled a fourth, final and decisive public hearing for 7 p.m. Thursday, April 9th. Front Yard, LCC is seeking a special permit for a $50 million hotel, spa and public restaurant for Travaasa Experiential Resorts on the 90-acre acre parcel straddling the Lenox/Stockbridge town line.
 
GRAND OPENING SET FOR YOUTH CENTER
 
The Pittsfield Drop-In Center for Youth at 243 North St. will celebrate its grand opening at 1pm on Sunday with a ribbon cutting and reception. Mayor Daniel Bianchi will be present, and everyone is welcome to attend. The Youth Center, otherwise known as "The HuB," provides youth ages 11-18 with a safe place to come after school Monday through Friday from 2:30 to 6:30 pm. Summer hours are also planned.
 
FINAL HURDLE CLEARED FOR SCHOOL PROJECT  
 
Voters in New Marlborough completed the final parliamentary lap of a three-week voting journey to approve the $7.7 million replacement of the roof at Mount Everett Regional School. The Berkshire Eagle reports that on Wednesday night, voters at a special election in New Marlborough overwhelmingly approved, by a vote of 137-34, a ballot question that would exempt the town's share of the project from the provisions of Proposition 2 1/2. The five member towns in the district, Sheffield, Egremont, Monterey, Alford and New Marlborough, already had voted to incur the debt. But both Sheffield and new Marlborough conditioned their approval on a debt exclusion vote.  Had either of the votes failed, the project would not have passed, as all five towns were required to approve the plan.
 
MASSACHUSETTS LAWMAKERS APPROVE STATEWIDE GRAND JURY
 
State Attorney General Maura Healey is praising House and Senate lawmakers for voting to reauthorize a statewide grand jury. The Senate added the amendment to its version of a spending bill, following the lead of House lawmakers, who also included it in their version of the same supplemental budget bill.
The statewide grand jury provision had lapsed before Healey took office. Healey said the statewide grand jury will help her office fight human trafficking and prosecute those involved in illegal gang, gun and drug activity.



Thursday, March 19, 2015
 
ADAMS APPROVES BUDGET  
 
The Selectmen approved the proposed fiscal 2016 budget but removed one of the two new cruisers requested by the Police Department. The budget will be voted at the annual town meeting in May.The Selectmen made final changes last night on the more than $14.5 million budget. Although a few of the budget items were discussed, the only one altered was the request of two new police cruisers for $72,000. This item was decreased to one cruiser for $36,000. Police Chief Richard Tarsa said the two cruisers that would be replaced have more than 100,000 miles on them but he did not have any direct safety concerns over using them.
 
SELECTMEN MEET WITH TOWN MANAGER SEARCH CONSULTANT  
 
The consultant hired to help the town of Williamstown find its next town manager said Wednesday that the process could take about 12 weeks. IBerkshires.com reports that the Board of Selectmen held a special morning meeting to visit with the owner and vice president of GovHR USA, the Illinois firm the town hired to help conduct its search. GovHR owner Joellen Earl laid out the timetable for a process that got under way in earnest on Wednesday.
 
NORTH ADAMS MAN FACES OUI CHARGE  
 
A North Adams man is facing a second OUI charge after he was found passed out in his truck in the center lane of one of the city’s busiest intersections. 31 year old Travis Cunningham, of Park Avenue, was found hunched over in his running Chevy Silverado with “his eyes closed and his head rolled onto his chest,” about 9:30 p.m. last Friday at the intersection of Holden Street and Veterans Memorial Drive, according to a police report filed by North Adams Police Officer Benjamin Austin. 
 
COLEGROVE PARK INTERIOR COLORS REVIEWED; WORK FALLING BEHIND
 
The North Adams School Building Committee reviewed the final finishes and paint colors for Colegrove Park Elementary School. But some of the renovations at the former Conte Middle School are slipping behind schedule. IBerkshires.com reports that Daniel Daisy, representing owner's project manager Strategic Building Solutions, said because of the cold weather and other unforeseen problems in construction, over the past week a lot of tasks began falling behind schedule. Still looking to complete the project by the original July deadline, Daisy said he has contacted the contractor requesting a recovery schedule.
 
BUSY NORTH ADAMS INTERSECTION MAY SEE CHANGES TO CUT ACCIDENTS
 
Changes could soon come to one of North Adams's busiest intersections in light of an increase in the number of accidents, according to state and local officials. The Berkshire Eagle reports that according to Mayor Richard Alcombright, the state Department of Transportation has been "extremely receptive" to concerns over the intersection of Curran Memorial Highway (Route 8) and Hodges Cross Road. The comments come following an increase in accidents that correlate with recent commercial development. Alcombright said numerous residents have contacted him since the opening of the Walmart Supercenter, the entrance of which is at the intersection. Conversations with nearby businesses and MassDOT officials began last summer, Alcombright said, with the goal of increasing pedestrian safety and improving traffic flow.
 
XEROX CEO TO SPEAK AT WILLIAMS COMMENCEMENT  
 
Xerox Chairwoman and Chief Executive Officer Ursula Burns will be the principal speaker at Williams College’s 226th Commencement Exercise on Sunday, June 7th. Burns joined Xerox in 1980 as a mechanical engineering summer intern, and by 2000 was the senior vice president of Corporate Strategic Services.  The day before Commencement, two-term former Gov. Deval Patrick will be the baccalaureate speaker, and writer and commentator Frank Deford, writer Gish Jen, and Nobel Prize-winning chemist Mario Molina will participate in conversations on campus. All five will receive honorary degrees at commencement.
 
ADVOCATE HOPING SHANNON GRANT CUTS CAN BE OFF-SET  
 
Advocates for the Pittsfield Community Connection program to combat youth violence and gang influences hope the final fiscal 2016 state budget plan will offset a $1.25 million reduction in the level of Shannon grant funding in Gov. Charlie Baker's spending proposal. The Berkshire Eagle reports that among several cuts that were recommended to deal with a projected budget deficit during this fiscal year, Baker trimmed the state grant program by $1.25 million across 12 Shannon-funded community programs statewide, from $8.25 million to $7 million. Baker is proposing $7 million for the program in fiscal 2016, beginning on July st1, according to Adam Hinds, coordinator of the Pittsfield program.
 
GUILY PLEA TO COCAINE CHARGE
 
A Pittsfield man is facing an 18-month jail sentence over an $80 crack deal last May. 32 year old Damien Galloway, of Dewey Avenue, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of cocaine in Berkshire Superior Court before Judge John Agostini. Galloway was originally indicted on the distribution charge as a subsequent offense, but it was reduced to a first offense charge as part of the plea agreement. Galloway admitted that on May 20th, police patrolling Madison Avenue spotted him making an exchange of drugs for money.
 
LEE AMBULANCE SERVICE SEEKS $390K IN OVERDUE PAYMENTS  
 
The Lee Ambulance Service is aiming to chase down $390,000 worth of overdue payments by being a more vigilant bill collector. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the six-figure tab run up by patients was incurred within the past six years, according ambulance squad director Lisa Michaud. Speaking before the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday night, Michaud and Town Administrator Robert Nason announced a plan to work more closely with Lee's ambulance billing agency to improve the collection rate.
 
MOTION FILED TO SUPRESS EVIDENCE IN DRIVE BY SHOOTING  
 
Defense attorneys say that when two city residents were stopped outside a Lee motel in December 2013 in connection with a Pittsfield drive-by shooting, police did not have reasonable suspicion to stop their car. The Berkshire Eagle reports that lawyers representing 25 year old Shaun Silverio and 24 year old Terry Martizna, both of Pittsfield, have filed a motion in Berkshire Superior Court to suppress evidence collected in connection with the stop. Officers responded to a report of shots fired near a Toyota Rav4 parked on Danforth Avenue in Pittsfield in the early morning hours of December 5th, 2013. The two suspects were later pulled over and arrested by Lee and Lenox Police in a motel parking lot on Housatonic Street in Lee.
 
HOMELAND SECURITY SETS ANTI-TERRORISM RESPONSE TRAINING IN BERKSHIRES
 
An upcoming training session is eyed to prepare local emergency responders in what to do should there be a terrorist attack. IBerkshires.com reports that the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council is using federal dollars to put on training seminars in all four Western Massachusetts counties. Agencies from across Berkshire County will participate in the daylong tabletop exercise on April 8th that will test their response to a terrorist planting a bomb at a local rail yard.
 
BOARDS SEEKING INPUT ON DRAFT BUDGET
 
The Great Barrington Select board and the Finance Committee are seeking public input on the town’s proposed budget. The Berkshire Edge.com reports that last week, the two boards finished their review of the draft town budget. Next week, on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the Great Barrington town hall, there will be a public hearing to get input, suggestions and feedback about the budget before it is formally proposed to the voters at Town Meeting in May.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

    Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco addresses the Maple Grove Civic Club on Sunday. The club meets the third Sunday of the month through the winter.
(Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever) 

 
TOWN ADMINISTRATOR DISCUSSES FINANCIAL STRATEGIES FOR ADAMS  
 
The Adams Town Administrator has some ideas for overcoming the growing structural deficit in the annual budget. IBerkshires.com reports that Tony Mazzucco met with the Maple Grove Civic Club on Sunday afternoon to explain some strategies and the direction he wants the town to go in. The town has been unable to match growth with expenses, according to Mazzucco, and it has been relying on declining reserves. He is looking at a few things that may help close the deficit. He said one of the main plans is to create an economic development committee that will specifically work on bringing jobs to town.  He envisions the committee focusing on small manufacturing companies to complement manufacturing that already exists in the industrial park.   
 
MOST ADAMS OPEN GOVERNMENT SEATS TO BE UNCONTESTED
 
As a 5 p.m. deadline came and went on Monday, few Adams non-incumbents had filed the paperwork necessary for running an available seat in town government, according to Town Clerk Haley Meczywor.The Berkshire Eagle reports that Select Board Chairman Arthur "Skip Harrington" and Vice Chairman John Duval will run unopposed for new two-year terms for the two open seats on the board this year. The two incumbents were the only to file paperwork for the May 4th town election. The town clerk position, a seat on the Board of Health, an assessor, two seats on the library board of trustees, two seats on the Cemetery Commission, a seat on the Adams Cheshire Regional School District's School Committee, and a seat on the Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District's committee all will be uncontested, barring any write-in campaigns. Additionally, nobody took out papers to run for an empty seat on the town's Planning Board, while multiple seats on the Redevelopment Authority are expected to remain open. According to Meczywor, the only contested race is for the three open seats on the Parks Commission, which has four potential candidates.



    The School Committee held its second public hearing on the fiscal 2016 budget on Tuesday night. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
 
MOUNT GREYLOCK SCHOOL COMMITTEE ASKS FOR OPTIONS TO ADD TO BUDGET
 
The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee on Tuesday night decided to ask its administration to develop a prioritized list of up to five items that it would most like to see added back to the fiscal 2016 budget.
For the second straight night, the School Committee heard feedback from residents challenging the cuts included in the current $10.5 million spending plan.
On Monday, the committee held a public hearing at Lanesborough Elementary School. On Tuesday, it held its annual public hearing in the regional school district's other town — a hearing timed to precede the committee's regular monthly meeting.
During both public hearings, residents from both towns stressed the impact those cuts would have on students. Everything from the school's music program to its cooperative swim team with St. Joseph to the elimination of the digital media specialist were championed by residents identifying themselves as parents of Mount Greylock students


    Selectman Robert Ciskowski, right, is suggesting the town hold an informational meeting on the proposed natural gas pipeline, with or without Kinder Morgan's participation. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)    
 
CHESHIRE EXPECTS SAND MILL ROAD BRIDGE CLOSURE, MULLS WATER SUPERINTENDENT
 
The Cheshire Selectmen anticipate having to close a bridge on Sand Mill Road.
LeFebvre said the state has done its inspection of the bridge and the town is awaiting the results. LeFebvre believes the bridge should be open for at least another week.
Selectman Paul Astorino said the bridge may be closed for a long time depending on if the state decides to fund any of the project.
LeFebvre said he will continue to notify all people affected by the closing. He said the bridge will still be walkable through the duration of the closing.
Water Commissioner Francis Waterman also met with the board and requested the town hire a full-time superintendent for the Water Department to help handle regulations from the Department of Environmental Protection.
 
BERKSHIRE COUNTY HIGHWAY CREWS BATTLING BRUTAL POTHOLE SEASON
 
 Potholes are showing up fast around the Berkshires, and as local highway crews patch them, the more they show up. Public works officials expect that to be the case for another month. Municipal pavement repairmen were out in force throughout the Berkshires on Monday, primarily using cold patch until the hot asphalt plants re-open in mid-April for another road construction season. Many roads will likely require a complete resurfacing job, while others will need to be patched up. Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito says that the Baker administration is devising a plan to help cities and towns fill the plethora of potholes caused by severe winter weather.
 
PITTSFIELD MAN ARRESTED ON WARRANT; HAD STOLEN VETERANS PLATE
 
A Pittsfield man who allegedly attached a stolen veterans license plate to his otherwise uninsured and unregistered car was hit with numerous charges following a traffic stop on Monday. 56 year old Kenneth Sheldon was arrested in connection with the motor vehicle charges as well as on an open warrant issued from Westfield District Court. The police report did not specify what the warrant was for. He pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court on Tuesday to receiving stolen property valued under $250, concealing license plate information, operating an unregistered motor vehicle, operating an uninsured motor vehicle and miscellaneous motor vehicle violations. A passenger, 37 year old Martin Davis, 37, of Orchard Street, Pittsfield, allegedly had two oxycodone pills and was charged with possession of a Class B drug. Both men were released on their own recognizance and are due back in court on May 5 for pre-trial hearings.
 


    The City Council sent the petition back to the subcommittee level. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

COUNCILORS SPLIT ON INCREASING PARKING FINES
 
 Pittsfield City Council leadership is heading a petition to significantly increase the city's parking fines. IBerkshires.com reports that Council President Melissa Mazzeo and Vice President Christopher Connell had their petition to raise all of the parking fines sent back the Rules and Ordinance Committee last week. The plan calls for some significant increases, which gave some city councilors concern. The most dramatic increase is for parking in a bus stop, for which the fine proposed is to increase from $15 to $100.
 
PITTSFIELD TO AUCTION TAX TITLES  
 
With its first-ever tax title auction approaching, the city of Pittsfield has received an influx of nearly $400,000 in overdue property tax payments, and the owners of 62 properties on the delinquent list have come to the treasurer's office to enter into repayment plans. City officials announced in early February that a tax title auction would be conducted in the spring with the help of an auction firm as part of efforts to whittle down a total of about $10 million in overdue property taxes.
 
 OFFICIALS CHEER PROPOSED BAN
 
A move by the state’s top law enforcement officer to keep electronic cigarettes away from minors drew praise from Berkshire Health officials yesterday. Attorney General Maura Healey Healy proposed a statewide ban on the sale of e-cigarettes and nicotine delivery devices such as gels and dissolvables to anyone under 18. A prohibition already is in place in 44 Massachusetts cities and towns, including nine in Berkshire County.
 
GOV. BAKER NAMES 2 TO STATE BOARD OF HIGHER EDUCATION  
 
Gov. Charlie Baker has named education activist Chris Gabrieli to serve as chairman of the Board of Higher Education. Gabrieli is well known in education circles in Massachusetts. He's co-founded three nonprofit focused on education issues and is a lecturer at Harvard's Graduate School of Education.
He also ran for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2006, losing to Deval Patrick after spending about $10 million in personal funds. He spent about $5 million on an unsuccessful 1998 bid for Congress.
Baker also appointed Sheila Harrity to the same board yesterday. Harrity is a school superintendent and a former School principal.
 
GOV. BAKER TAKING FAMILY VACATION TO UTAH  
 
Gov. Charlie Baker is taking a short break after spending his first ten weeks in office. But he's not getting away from the snow. The governor's office says Baker, his wife Lauren and their three children are taking a family vacation to Utah, where they plan to go skiing while staying in the Salt Lake City area.
The governor is scheduled to leave tonight and will return to Massachusetts on Sunday.  
 
MASS HAS LOWEST RATE OF UNINSURED  
 
Massachusetts has the lowest rate of residents without health insurance. Figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau show Massachusetts had an uninsured rate of 4.3 percent in 2013. Texas has the highest rate of uninsured residents at 24.8 percent.

 
Tuesday, March 17, 2015
 
LAWMAKER FILES BILL TO ATTRACT JOBS
 
State Rep. Gailanne Cariddi wants to give new businesses a little extra incentive to open in areas of that could use more jobs. IBerkshires.com reports that the North Adams Democrat has introduced a bill to create a tax increment financing program for new businesses. The bill would forgive state taxes such as sales tax on new equipment, personal income taxes, state fees and corporate taxes over a decade with the company paying a little bit more of the tax burden each year.
 
CLARKSBURG SEEKING BUDGET REDUCTIONS
 
Town officials in Clarksburg are pondering how to address an 11 percent increase in the 2016 budget, a jump of $342,399. The first place they're looking is the school budget. IBerkshires.com reports that reviewing a very preliminary budget last night, the Finance Committee and Selectmen said they will be looking at ways to reduce the increase without overly relying on the town's recent boost in free cash. The town now has about $478,000 in free cash on hand, the result of several years of the state holding funds back because of accounting errors.
 
MOUNT GREYLOCK BUDGET CUTS CRITICISED 
 
The Mount Greylock Regional School Committee took some flack yesterday over its proposed fiscal 2016 budget — mostly from residents who said the committee has cut too far. IBerkshires.com reports that the committee and administration laid out a proposed spending plan that raises the school's operating budget by .85 percent — an $88,586 bump on a budget of more than $10.4 million. Among the cuts outlined on Monday: the loss of two full-time teachers, the non-hiring of two teachers cut last year in an effort to lower the assessments to taxpayers, the elimination of late buses and the loss of the school's digital media specialist. Several residents at Lanesborough Elementary School spoke from the floor during the 90-minute hearing to object to the cuts, and two members of the seven-person regional School Committee said they, too, were unsure whether they could support the reductions.
 
EARLY EDUCATION ADVOCATES PLAN ON RESTORING HEAD START
 
Early education advocates plan to restore funding for the Head Start program and full-day kindergarten expansion grants in upcoming state budget deliberations, both of which were cut in Gov. Charlie Baker's budget proposal. Stacy Parsons, executive director of Berkshire County Head Start said through the program's preliminary budgeting process, she estimates that the local Head Start faces approximately $30,000 in cuts. Parsons said Berkshire County Head Start is also working with Pittsfield and Lee public schools to see how they might collaborate to expand services and collaborate to best help children and families.
 
AG HEALEY TO UNVEIL ELECTRONIC CIGARETTE REGULATIONS
 
Attorney General Maura Healey is planning to unveil proposed regulations today aimed at tightening the sale of electronic cigarettes in Massachusetts. Lawmakers have debated the merits of regulating the increasingly popular e-cigarettes as they would other tobacco products like traditional cigarettes or chewing tobacco. The metal or plastic battery-powered devices resemble cigarettes but heat a liquid nicotine solution, creating vapor that users inhale. While they contain fewer toxic substances than burning traditional cigarettes, health officials warn they shouldn't be considered harmless and say much more needs to be known about long-term effects of e-cigarette use.
 
MASSACHUSETTS LAUNCHES 60-DAY TAX AMNESTY THROUGH MAY 15
 
Scofflaw taxpayers are getting a chance to pay up their delinquent accounts without facing a fine.The Massachusetts Department of Revenue announced a 60-day amnesty program from now through May 15th. The amnesty applies to tax liabilities billed on or before January 1st. Approximately 24,000 qualifying taxpayers will receive a tax amnesty notice from the Department of Revenue this week letting them know they qualify for the program.
 
PRICE AT THE PUMP DROPS SLIGHTLY
 
After several weeks of rising prices, the cost of gasoline in Massachusetts is falling again. AAA Northeast reports that the cost of a gallon of self-serve, regular has dropped 4 cents to an average of $2.41, a penny less than the national average. The price is still 20 cents higher than it was a month ago, but $1.10 lower than a year ago.

    The School Building Needs Commission approved the project on Monday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever) 
 
PITTSFIELD SETS $120.8M BUDGET, DESIGN FOR NEW TACONIC
 
Pittsfield has a new school design that will cost $120.8 million to build. Now, the City Council and the state have to decide if they want to finance it. IBerkshires.com is reporting that the School Building Needs Commission yesterday unanimously approved the project and the budget. The new three-story Taconic High School would be built across the driveway from the current building, with construction beginning next spring and opening in 2018. Work on designing the project began a decade ago. 
 
KINDER MORGAN FILING CONFIRMS REVISED BERKSHIRE PIPELINE ROUTE
 
Energy giant Kinder Morgan has submitted its first draft environment impact report for its 430-mile, nearly $5 billion Tennessee Natural Gas pipeline proposal, including responses to initial reaction by federal regulators. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the 2,120-page resource report sent to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doubles down on the company's revised pipeline route first outlined on December 8th. Kinder Morgan confirmed it has settled once and for all on a route through upstate New York, entering Berkshire County from Stephentown and passing through parts of Hancock, Lanesborough, Cheshire, Dalton, Hinsdale, Peru and Windsor.
 
PITTSFIELD MAN FACES 18 MONTHS IN JAIL FOR $80 CRACK SALE
 
A Pittsfield man is facing an 18-month jail sentence over an $80 crack deal last May. 32 year old Damien Galloway, of Dewey Avenue, pleaded guilty to one count of distribution of cocaine in Berkshire Superior Court before Judge John Agostini. Agostini released Galloway on his own recognizance, and must return to court Friday morning, when he will formally be sentenced. Until then, Galloway must avoid any legal trouble and arrive on time to his court appearance, or be subject to the maximum penalty of up to 10 years in state prison.
 
PITTSFIELD WOMAN CHARGED FOR ALLEGEDLY PUNCHING CASHIER
 
A Pittsfield woman is facing assault charges for allegedly attacking a Price Rite cashier for hitting her daughter with a shopping bag. According to Pittsfield Police, 35 year old Shah Matthews, of West Street, was arrested Friday after she allegedly grabbed the cashier by the neck and punched her at least 10 times, leaving cuts, bruises and marks on her face, neck and arms. The woman was treated by EMTs at the scene. Matthews pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court to charges of assault and battery and disturbing the peace. She was released on her own recognizance and must abide by an indefinite trespass order from the store. She is due back in court on May 7th for a pre-trial hearing.
 
TRIAL OF PITTSFIELD MAN ACCUSED IN UMASS-AMHERST GANG RAPE BEGINS THIS WEEK
 
The trial is set to begin this week of a Pittsfield man accused of taking part in the alleged gang-rape of a University of Massachusetts-Amherst student in October 2012. Jury selection is expected to start today against 21 year old Emmanuel Bile, of Pittsfield — the first of four defendants, each of whom will be tried separately in the case. Opening statements are tentatively set for Friday in the trial, which is expected to last until approximately the end of the month. Bile and his co-defendants — 21 year old Justin King,  20 year old Adam Liccardi, and 20 year old Caleb Womack — each have pleaded not guilty to three counts of aggravated rape in the case. If convicted, the men face up to life in prison.


    Churchill Cotton, a Pittsfield city councilor, has been involved in the restoration of the Rev. Samuel Harrison House. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Staff)

 
BERKSHIRE MUSEUM HONORS THREE FOR LOCAL PRESERVATION EFFORTS
 
The Berkshire Museum presented the third annual Berkshire Awards to three honorees who have made significant contributions to creating, keeping, and promoting artistic, historical, and natural heritage in the Berkshires. They were honored at an awards ceremony on Friday of last week at the museum. The honorees were Lila Berle, Churchill Cotton, and Mary Rentz.
 
TOWN WRESTLES WITH UNFUNDED LIABILITIES
 
The Select board and Finance Committee in Great Barrington agreed last week to fund an account for “Other Post-Employment Benefits”  after batting the idea around at previous meetings. The Berkshire Edge.com reports that the decision was made after learning that new accounting rules will require municipalities to list liabilities consisting of health and life insurance (not pensions) on their books as real numbers. At their joint budget meeting, the Select board and Finance Committees voted unanimously to put $50,000 in the account, with $20,000 of that taken from free cash, which is money unspent from the previous year. The amount of the Town’s liability is estimated to be around $9 million as of June 2012, but an actuarial study is underway to determine a current number. That study won’t be ready until November or December and will be completed for the 2015 audit.
 
TRIAL OF EX-NFL PLAYER AARON HERNANDEZ RESUMES AFTER DAY OFF
 
The murder trial of former New England Patriots player Aaron Hernandez is resuming after taking a day off. The trial picks up again today after an unspecified scheduling issue canceled Monday's session.
Hernandez is accused of the June 17, 2013, killing of semi-professional football player Odin Lloyd.
 
OBAMAS TO ATTEND EDWARD M. KENNEDY INSTITUTE DEDICATION  
 
President Barack Obama is planning to attend the dedication of the new Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate in Boston later this month. Kennedy widow and institute co-founder Victoria Reggie Kennedy announced yesterday that the president, first lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden all plan to attend the ceremony on March 30.


Monday, March 16, 2015


    (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

 
WILLIAMSTOWN ELEME
Friday, March 13, 2015
 
    The fiscal 2016 spending includes cutting two jobs in the Department of Public Works. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)
 
PROPOSED ADAMS DPW BUDGET CUTS TWO POSITIONS  
 
The Adams proposed Department of Public Works budget for fiscal 2016 calls for the reduction of two full-time employees. IBerkshires.com reports that Director of the Department of Public Works Joe Bettis presented the budget items that fall under the DPW's purview during a joint meeting Wednesday between the Selectmen and the Finance Committee. He said the Highway Department personnel budget is decreased by 9.11 percent, from the reduction of one employee. He said there is a proposed elimination of another position at the waste-water treatment plant, but his recommendation is only to reduce one position.

    A development plan offered by Joan Burns and David Westall with Water Street at left. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
 
WILLIAMSTOWN ARCHITECTS OFFER DEVELOPMENT IDEAS FOR WATER STREET LOT
 
Three different architects appeared before the Williamstown Board of Selectmen on Monday night to pitch ideas to develop the town-owned former home of the town garage. IBerkshires.com reports each of the professionals presented visions that he or she said would help make use of the current dirt lot at 59 Water St. as part of a revitalization of that end of the Village Business District. The plans shared similarities but also had elements that set them apart. All of the plans discussed involved private development, not the affordable housing that was initially supported by but later rejected last spring by the Board of Selectmen.


     The Clark Art Institute has received a $15 million donation. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Staff) 

 CLARK ART INSTITUTE RECEIVES $15 MILLION GIFT  
 
The Clark Art Institute has received a $15 million gift from Felda and Dena Hardymon that is one of the largest donations in the Clark's history. The Hardymons, residents of Berkshire County and Cambridge, have watched the Clark's evolution over the last two decades. While the gift was made to support the Clark's campus expansion program and ongoing activities, the Institute's Board of Trustees recently voted to name the director's position in recognition of their generosity. The newly established Felda and Dena Hardymon Director position is held by Michael Conforti. 
 
MCCANN SCHOOL COMMITTEE OK’S BUDGET  
 
The McCann School Committee yesterday approved an $8.8 million nearly level-funded budget for fiscal 2016. The budget is up 1.8 percent overall from this year, from $8,687,831 to $8,846,251, or a $158,000. Committee member Daniel Maloney Jr. pointed to fixed costs, health insurance and state minimum spending that is not keeping pace with cost increases. The largest culprit is health insurance costs, accounting for $1.4 million of the budget.
  
BERKSHIRE JOBLESS RATE SEES SEASONAL UPTICK TO 6.5 PERCENT
 
State unemployment may have dropped in January, but the jobless rate in the Berkshires has increased. According to figures released Thursday by the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development. Local unemployment jumped slightly over half a percentage point, from 5.8 percent in December to 6.5 percent in January. The state unemployment rate is 5.6 percent. The Berkshire Eagle reports that a Berkshire employment official attributed the bump to a seasonal uptick in the local jobless rate that normally occurs in January and February when seasonal hiring ends and employers begin a new calendar year. Despite that jump, the Berkshire jobless rate is 1.5 percent less than it was in January 2014 when a seasonal uptick also took place. Unemployment in the Great Barrington, Pittsfield and North Adams labor market areas all increased in January, with the South County rate jumping a full percentage point to 5.6 percent.
 
PITTSFIELD SCHOOL SUPERINTENDENT JASON "JAKE" MCCANDLESS DIRE BUDGET OPTIONS
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While briefing the Pittsfield school Committee this week, Superintendent Jake McCandless predicted a severe fiscal 2016 school budget season that likely will result in some layoffs. The Berkshire Eagle reports that he also issued an impassioned plea to state and federal lawmakers to drop what he termed a fixation on unfunded mandates and standardized testing and focus more on the soaring percentage of public school students who are living in impoverished households. Nationally for the first time, he said, just more than 50 percent of students live in low-income households, while in Pittsfield the figure has topped 60 percent and is rising.
 
AT LARGE COUNCILOR BARRY CLAIRMONT WILL NOT SEEK RE-ELECTION  
 
Pittsfield City Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont has announced that he will not be seeking re-election in the fall. The At Large councilor, in a press release, informed the Berkshire News Network of his decision yesterday. Clairmont sites demands on his time and ability to manage competing priorities. Also a Pittsfield based Certified Public Accountant, Clairmont was first elected as one of the four at large council members in 2011 and then was re-elected in 2013. He says that while he is dedicated to his work as a city councilor, his first commitment must be to his partners and clients.
 
LEE MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO HEROIN POSSASSION  
 
The second of a pair of brothers caught up in a drug sting last year has been sentenced to six months in jail. 28 year old Scott Kearin, of Lee, pleaded guilty to a lone charge of possession of heroin in connection with a search of his vehicle in April. Kearin and his brother William were both arrested after search warrants executed at their homes netted 1,300 bags of heroin weighing about 32.5 grams worth an estimated $13,000.
 
 
THREE COMMUNITY MEMBERS TO BE HONORED WITH BERKSHIRE AWARDS
 
Three community members will be honored this evening for outstanding contributions to the Berkshires' appreciation for farming, black history, land and building preservation and the arts. The Berkshire Museum has announced Lila Berle, Churchill Cotton and Mary Rentz are this year's recipients of the third annual Berkshire Awards. They will be honored during a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. at the museum.
 
WINDSOR MAN SPARED JAIL  
 
A Windsor man will likely spend the last year of his life on probation after admitting he tried to rob a Subway restaurant with a knife last year. 29 year old Matthew Calautti pleaded guilty to charges of armed assault with intent to rob and assault by means of a dangerous weapon (knife) in Berkshire Superior Court Wednesday. He was sentenced to one year of probation and 39 days of time already served. Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Robert Kinzer said a relatively light sentence recommendation was given due to factors including that no money actually being taken from the restaurant and that Calautti has been diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.
 
LEE RESIDENTS TO SEE SLIGHT INCREASE IN SCHOOL FUNDING  
 
Lee taxpayers will likely shell out 1.56 percent more for education in the new fiscal year, an increase that seemed to surprise and please the town's Finance Committee. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Lee Public Schools officials have outlined a $9.07 million operating budget for fiscal 2016 starting July 1, up more than $250,000 from the current $8.82 million. Factor in the use of $650,000 in school choice funds and $61,000 in other revenue and the net assessment to the town is $8.36 million, an increase of almost $129,000 — or 1.56 percent. The modest jump in school spending is in spite of significant increases for special education transportation, vocational education, electric and natural gas costs heading into the next school year.
 
EGREMONT OFFICIALS EARNS CET AWARD
 
Egremont Board of Health director Juliette Haas has received the inaugural Alan Silverstein and Laura Dubester Award for Community Environmental Leadership from the Center for EcoTechology. Haas, also Egremont's Sustainability Coordinator, received the award Wednesday at a Berkshire Chamber of Commerce event at the Country Club of Pittsfield. The award is named after Silverstein and Dubester, a couple who served as co-directors of CET for 22 years until they retired in 2010. Silverstein died last year.
 
MASSACHUSETTS AG HEALEY BACKS RENEWABLE ENERGY EFFORTS
 
State Attorney General Maura Healey says she wants to expand the state's use of solar power and other renewable energy sources. Healey said yesterday that her office is already working with a task force to encourage the growth of the solar energy industry until it is price competitive with traditional sources of energy. She wants to guarantee that electric distribution companies modernize the grid to meet current energy demands while also making it easier to integrate solar and other renewable energy sources.
 
LABOR DEPT. PUTS LATE SEN. KENNEDY IN ITS 'HALL OF HONOR'  
 
The late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts has been memorialized as a tireless champion of working families at a Labor Department ceremony inducting him into the agency's "Labor Hall of Honor."
Kennedy was a senator for 47 years until his death from brain cancer in 2009, when he was 77.
Labor Secretary Thomas Perez praised Kennedy's work on behalf of working families. Many of Kennedy's family members and former staffers attended the ceremony. His son Patrick Kennedy delivered a moving tribute. Kennedy served alongside 10 presidents, including his brother John Fitzgerald Kennedy.
 
JUDGE STRIKES SOME GUN TESTIMONY IN AARON HERNANDEZ TRIAL
 
The judge overseeing the murder trial of former NFL player Aaron Hernandez has struck some testimony from an employee of firearms manufacturer Glock who said surveillance video showed Hernandez carrying a gun less than 10 minutes after the killing. Hernandez is charged with killing Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of Hernandez's fiancée.


Thursday, March 12, 2015
 
   NBCC Executive Director Alan Bashevkin, seen here after being presented the Downing Award, is stepping down after 29 years leading the coalition. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
 
BASHEVKIN LEAVING AFTER 29 YEARS  
 
The founder and executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, Alan Bashevkin, is stepping down after nearly 30 years of leading the agency. IBerkshires.com reports that the board of directors, under Chairwoman Courtney Shapiro-Van Dusen, has enlisted the services of Executive Transitions Program of Third Sector New England, to aid in the search for a new executive leader. Transition consultant Nancy Jackson will lead this process with the NBCC's nine-member transition team. Bashevkin anticipates staying on through the end of the fiscal year in June as the budget for the next year is set and the board goes through its nominations and elections. And he'll work with transition team to ensure a smooth transfer of leadership.
 
NORTH ADAMS MAN PLEADS GUILTY TO CALLING IN PHONY MCLA BOMB THREAT
 
A North Adams man admitted he was off his prescribed medication when he called in a phony bomb threat which evacuated the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus in October 6th. 21 year old Jarret Ferriter appeared in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday to plead guilty to the charges, which were brought forth in a District Attorney's Complaint, bypassing the normal process of submitting the case to a grand jury for indictment. Judge John Agostini accepted the agreed-upon sentencing recommendation and continued the count of threatening the use of an explosive without a finding for two years.
 
NORTH ADAMS MAN GETS 15 MONTHS IN JAIL FOR BREAKING AND ENTERING  
 
A North Adams man has been sentenced to 15 months in jail for breaking into an acquaintance's apartment late one night last year, prompting the tenant to bludgeon the intruder with a pellet gun. A Chase Avenue resident told police on December 27th that 42 year old Shawn Bulson, of North Holden Street, had come to his apartment earlier that night and asked to talk. Given the late hour, the man turned away Bulson — a person he had met through mutual friends. Bulson pleaded guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Tuesday to a charge of breaking and entering in the nighttime for a felony and malicious destruction of property under $250. He was sentenced to 15 months in Berkshire County House of Correction, but offered 68 days of credit for time already served.
 
COUGHLAN HITS GAME-WINNING SHOT IN 2OT, SENDS HOOSAC TO STATE FINAL
 
Hoosac's Jameson Coughlan scored with 1.6 seconds left in the second overtime to give the Hurricanes a Hoosac Valley’s Jameson Coughlan scored on a baseline inbounds play from Austin Milesi with 1.6 seconds left in the second overtime to give the team a 54-52 win over Uxbridge in the Massachusetts Division 3 state semi-finals yesterday at the MassMutual Center. Coughlan scored 27 points, including seven of Hoosac's 12 points in OT and all four points in the second overtime to send the Hurricanes to Saturday's state championship game against Old Rochester at the DCU Center in Worcester on Saturday. The game at 12:30pm will be broadcast on WNAW. Meanwhile, Madi Ryan scored 16 points to lead the Hoosac Valley girls basketball team to a 63-57 win over Bellingham in the state Division 3 girls basketball semi-finals yesterday, also at the MassMutual Center. The Hoosac Valley girls will take on South Sectional champion Archbishop Williams on Saturday at 10:45am in the state championship that will also be broadcast on WNAW.
 
PITTSFIELD MAN CONVICTED IN HOME INVASION, ASSAULT
 
22 year old Malik Grandson was convicted yesterday of home invasion and assault and battery in connection with a May 20th, 2013, incident on West Union Street in Pittsfield. Attorney Jill Sheldon had argued the victim in the case misidentified Grandson as her attacker and criticized Pittsfield Police for not being thorough in their investigation and failing to follow up other leads — a claim police staunchly deny. A home invasion conviction carries a penalty of 20 years to life. Grandson is scheduled to be sentenced on March 23 in Berkshire Superior Court. Sheldon said she plans on appealing the onviction.
 
POST IDOL PERFORMANCE FROM WINSTON LAST NIGHT
 
"American Idol" semifinalist Katherine Winston performed at Lenox Memorial High School’s Duffin Theater last night. A portion of the proceeds from the show are going to the Lenox Robotics Club. Winston made it to the American Idol top 24 before being eliminated through viewer voting.
 
PITTSFIELD PARKING FINE INCREASES SENT BACK TO CITY COUNCIL  
 
A long-planned update of Pittsfields's decades-old schedule of parking and related fines was sent back by the City Council for further review. The Berkshire Eagle reports that an ordinance upping numerous fine amounts for parking violations had been recommended for approval by the council's Ordinance and Rules Committee. However, after some councilors raised objections Tuesday to the size of some of the increases, and it became apparent some amendments would be put forth to the list as recommended by the committee, the ordinance was sent back for another look.
 
DOWNTOWN PITTSFIELD LOOK TO CRAFT NEW FIVE-YEAR PLAN  
 
There has been a net gain of six businesses in Pittsfield's downtown in the past year. IBerkshires.com reports, that's according to the mid-year report given to the City Council on Tuesday by Downtown Pittsfield Inc. President Kate McGuire on the non-profit advocacy group's efforts to improve business activity. She says downtown businesses have been growing but there is a lot more to be done. She says a total of 16 businesses closed but 22 opened, during a period of time with a "difficult economy."  The organization's membership grew from 167 members to 181 and McGuire says she anticipates nine more to sign on this week. The organization is now calling for new eyes to help the organization put market studies into action to attract more businesses. The group is also calling for the development of a new five-year plan.
 
ALFORD VOTES ON MOUNT EVERETT PROJECT TONIGHT  
 
The towns of Egremont, Sheffield and Monterey have all had special town meetings regarding their respective shares of a $7.7 million project to repair the roof and replace the three boilers at Mount Everett Regional School. All three towns voted in approval. Tonight, the Town of Alford will have its say, as voters will vote at a special town meeting at 7pm at the Alford Town Hall. New Marlborough has its special town meeting scheduled for March 16th.
 
SHEFFIELD SCHEDULED SPECIAL ELECTION ON PROP 2 ½  
 
The Sheffield Town Administrator’s office says that the vote taken at their special town meeting on March 2nd is contingent on passage of a ballot question at a Special Election which is scheduled for Monday, March 16th. The ballot question will be to see if the voters will allow an exemption from Proposition 2 ½, the amounts needed to fund the project with an estimated cost of $7,741,000.
 
 MASSACHUSETTS HOUSE APPROVES $50M EXTRA FOR SNOW REMOVAL
 
The Massachusetts House has approved a spending bill that includes an additional $50 million to cover the costs of snow and ice removal during the recent blast of winter weather. Parts of Massachusetts have received more than 8 feet of snow. The measure filed by Gov. Charlie Baker totals more than $350 million. It includes $190 million to cover unanticipated increases in state employee health care costs and $44 million for a program that provides shelter for homeless families. The bill now heads to the Senate.
 
BILL WOULD PROTECT THOSE WHO ADMINISTER ANTI-OVERDOSE DRUGS
 

First responders, health professionals and family members who administer overdose-reversing drugs would be shielded from potential lawsuits under a bill filed in Congress. The bill's supporters say the use of drugs like naloxone — also known as Narcan — in an emergency overdose situation shouldn't be deterred by fear of legal action. The bill is sponsored by U.S. Sens. Edward Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat; Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican, and Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat.
The bill is a response to a surge in the number of overdose deaths in the region in recent years.
 
MAN STABBED DURING CELTICS-GRIZZLIES GAME IN BOSTON
 
Police are investigating a stabbing that took place during an NBA game in Boston. Authorities say a man was stabbed last night at TD Garden, just before the end of the Celtics' 95-92 victory over the Memphis Grizzlies. It happened in the balcony of the arena. The victim was taken to a Boston hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. His name was not immediately released. No arrests have been made.
 
MASSACHUSETTS POLICE TO HONOR SLAIN PHILADELPHIA OFFICER
 
Massachusetts State Police are honoring a Philadelphia police officer killed a week ago, trying to stop an armed robbery. The state police team is playing Philadelphia in a police hockey tournament Thursday in Boston. The Massachusetts team will give their Philadelphia colleagues a hockey sweater bearing the name of 30-year-old Officer Robert Wilson III. Wilson was shot March 5th at a video game store where he had gone to buy a gift to reward his son for good school grades. Monday was the boy's 10th birthday.



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

    Officer David Lemieux takes the oath from City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau before the City Council. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)

 
NORTH ADAMS ADS NEW POLICE OFFICER
 
 The latest member of the North Adams police force was sworn in last night. IBerkshires.com reports that Officer David Lemieux took the oath from City Clerk Marilyn Gomeau before the City Council. Mayor Richard Alcombright has made it a point to recognize new full-time members of the Fire and Police departments by introducing them at the televised meetings. According to the mayor, Lemieux was officially sworn in a few weeks ago and then put immediately to work.
 
NORTH ADAMS SKATING RINK MANAGER PLACED ON PAID LEAVE (NA)
 
The manager of the Peter W. Foote Vietnam Veterans Memorial Skating Rink North Adams has been placed on paid administrative leave for undisclosed reasons. The Berkshire Eagle reports North Adams officials have confirmed that Darin Lane, who was absent from the Bay State Games last weekend, was placed on leave last week. Lane both manages the rink and coaches the Berkshire Battalion hockey team, which plays its home games at the facility. Rink operations will continue with little to no interruption, according to Mayor Alcombright. City Administrative Officer Michael Canales will take over day-to-day management of the facility, which is owned by the state and leased by the city.  
 



    Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco summarizes the fiscal 2016 budget at a public meeting at the Adams Visitors Center. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)   

TOUGH BUDGET DECISIONS AHEAD IN ADAMS  
 
Town Administrator Tony Mazzucco said Adams will have to go through some changes to fix budget trends. He presented a preliminary budget fiscal 2016 to the Selectmen, Finance Committee, and the public last night. Mazzucco explained the more than $14 million budget does not mark a change in the town's declining stream of revenue and tax base that cannot keep up with increasing expenses. He said he projects a 75 cent increase to residential tax rates and 64 cents to commercial.
 
NEW MCLA PRESIDENT APPROVED; WILL START JULY 1  
 
Greg Summers will be the next president of Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. The state Board of Higher Education in Boston unanimously approved the trustees' recommendation yesterday that Summers be the school's 12th president. Summers, the current provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, will start in his new position on July 1, according to Board of Trustees President Tyler Fairbank. Salary range and contract details are still being finalized, Fairbank said. His predecessor, Mary Grant, earned just over $243,000 in 2014.
 
POWNAL FIRE DISTRICT NO. 2 MULLING SOLAR ARRAY
 
Pownal Fire District No. 2, working with solar developer Green Lantern Capital, is seeking feedback on a proposed 500-kilowatt solar array on its 5.4 acre parcel on Route 346. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the array would provide revenue to support the entity's operating costs, according to Prudential Committee chairman Ray Bub. Pownal's Fire District No. 2 is its own municipality with authority to tax and is overseen by a Prudential Board. The entity provides water for some 140 households in the village of Pownal, the southernmost of the town's three villages.
 
PITTSFIELD MAN ALLEGEDLY ATTACKS THREE, INCLUDING MAN IN WHEELCHAIR
 
A Pittsfield man is being held on $1,000 bail for allegedly assaulting three different victims — including one in a wheelchair — Monday evening. 23 year old John Gajewski, of Kent Avenue, pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court yesterday to charges of assault and battery on a person over 60 or disabled, two counts of assault and battery and one count of assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, a glass plate. Judge William Rota set a hearing in the case for April 7th.
 
PITTSFIELD RSVP HIRES NEW DIRECTOR, SECURES GRANT
 
A woman with social service experience in the states of Washington and Kansas has been hired as director of the Pittsfield Retired Senior Volunteer Program. The Berkshire Eagle reports, Cheryl Whalen, who moved to the Berkshires last year after her husband, Thomas Whalen, joined the business department faculty at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, said she was excited to find a position in her field. Carolyn Valli, president of the RSVP board of directors said the local program, which matches seniors with organizations or other entities seeking help, also recently received approval for an annual grant through the Corporation of National Service Corp.  
 
PITTSFIELD MAN SENTENCED TO 2 1/2 YEARS FOR ASSAULT WITH BAT
 
A Pittsfield man was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail on Tuesday after admitting he struck another man in the head with a metal bat last year, sending him to the hospital for surgery. 20 year old Robin Houghtling, of Robbins Avenue, became involved in a violent argument with the victim, then 47, on Feb. 13th of last year, according to court documents.  Houghtling pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Tuesday to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, causing serious bodily injury.  He was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in jail, 18 months of which will be served directly, with the balance suspended for a two-year period of probation.



    Selectman Henry Sayers, left, Fire Chief Charlie Durfee, Selectman Robert Ericson, Selectman John Goerlach, and Deputy Chief Jeff DeChaine show off the new vehicles. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
 
LANESBOROUGH FIRE REPLACES FOUR VEHICLES IN TWO YEARS  
 
In the last two years, the Lanesborough Fire Department has replaced three vehicles and added another. IBerkshires.com reports that next year, firefighters hope to continue to modernize their vehicle fleet with a new fire truck. The four vehicles are owned by the town but used by the Fire Department.  Next year, the town is looking to buy a new fire truck. That comes at a cost of some $500,000 and by then the town will have half of that saved. The Fire Department has applied for a grant that typically requires only a 10 percent match and he's hoping the town's additional contribution will help win it.
 
KRIPALU LEAVES VOLUNTEER PROGRAM BEHIND  
 
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge has terminated its residential volunteer program after 30 years. The Berkshire Eagle reports that according to chief executive officer of the nonprofit resort, David Lipsius, the program was discontinued because of a realignment of resources. Some former volunteers and staffers have voiced deep dismay about the changes, contending that the facility has become much less accessible to area residents who can't afford the higher price of admission. Kripalu attracts an average of 36,000 visitors each year.
 
POST IDOL PERFORMANCE FROM WINSTON  
 
"American Idol" semifinalist Katherine Winston will perform her first concert in the Berkshires since her recent run on the famed Fox TV talent show tonight. The "Welcome Home Katherine" show will begin at 7 p.m. at the Duffin Theater at Lenox Memorial High School. A meet and greet will follow. Admission is $5 with a portion of the proceeds going to the Lenox Robotics Club. Winston began in a pool of an estimate 140,000 performers auditioning across the country for the talent show and made it to the top 24 man and women before being eliminated through viewer voting.
 
LONG TIME CHORAL LEADER STEPPING DOWN  
 
After preparing the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in more than 200 works for more than 1,000 performances, John Oliver is stepping down as its founding director. The Boston Symphony Orchestra announced yesterday that the 75-year-old conductor, a part-time Alford resident who will now become a permanent resident, will retire at the end of the coming Tanglewood season. In honor of his 45 years of service, the BSO will award him its Tanglewood Medal at a ceremony at the festival. Oliver will remain on the Tanglewood Music Center faculty with the title of master teacher, continuing to work with students in various capacities. His farewell concert will be the BSO's closing-day performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony on Sunday, Aug. 16th.
 
KRIPALU LEAVES VOLUNTEER PROGRAM BEHIND  
 
The Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health in Stockbridge has terminated its residential volunteer program after 30 years. The Berkshire Eagle reports that according to chief executive officer of the nonprofit resort, David Lipsius, the program was discontinued because of a realignment of resources. Some former volunteers and staffers have voiced deep dismay about the changes, contending that the facility has become much less accessible to area residents who can't afford the higher price of admission. Kripalu attracts an average of 36,000 visitors each year.
 
LEE FEATURED IN AA PUBLICATION
 
The town of Lee is featured in the March edition of Horizons Western & Central Massachusetts. In its regional monthly newsletter AAA Northeast invites members to describe key historical facts of their community and list its best parts. Former director and board member emeritus of the Lee Chamber of Commerce, Phil Smith, filled out and submitted the required AAA form and Horizons editors chose to publish it in the “My Town” section.
 
TWO DAYS WITHOUT A VERDITC IN GRANDSON TRIAL
 
The second full day of deliberations in the trial of Malik Grandson ended with no verdict and one less juror. Judge John Agostini excused one female juror who cited financial hardship if her service were to continue. One of the two alternate jurors — one male and one female — will join the remaining deliberating jurors this morning when court resumes. Testimony in the trial began last Wednesday and ended Friday. Prosecutors allege Grandson, 22 of Pittsfield, along with four other men, broke into a West Union Street apartment early on May 20, OF 2013, where one of the men assaulted a woman.



Tuesday, March 10, 2015

    Colegrove Park Elementary School will have two traffic loops, one for buses and one for parents picking up. The Traffic Commission is determining signage and route recommendations for the school's opening. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)


TRAFFIC COMMISSION REVIEWING SAFE ROUTES  
 
The newly reconstituted Traffic Commission's first priority is to recommend a walking and driving safety plan for the soon-to-open Colegrove Park Elementary School. A major change could be the elimination of the long crosswalk across Church Street in front of the library to detour young walkers to the much shorter and safer one at Summer Street. The downtown building, once a high school and later a middle school, will open for the school year in September with a new set of traffic concerns — about 310 elementary children being bused, driven or walking to and from it each weekday.
 
NORTH ADAMS MAN GETS PROBATION IN KNIFE ASSAULT  
 
A North Adams man has been sentenced to a year's probation for allegedly slicing a woman's hand with a knife after a night of drinking in March 2014. According to a probable cause report, 22 year old Bryce McBee, of State Road, had been involved in an argument while several people were drinking at a West Main Street residence on March 23rd, of last year. Witnesses told police that he left, but allegedly later returned with a knife in hand, tapping it on the glass of the front door as he asked to be let back inside. According to the report, the alleged victim exited the back door and walked around to the front porch in an effort to calm him down. The two argued before McBee allegedly cut her right index and ring fingers. Officers discovered blood on the porch when they responded to the disturbance. McBee was arrested later.
 
NORTH ADAMS MAN HELD ON ASSAULT CHARGE AFTER FOOT CHASE  
 
A North Adams man wanted in connection with a domestic assault led police on a foot chase through a residential neighborhood early Sunday before being arrested in a backyard. According to police,  41 year old Jayson Daniels, of New Street, was being held without the right to bail yesterday after his arraignment in Northern Berkshire District Court on charges of domestic assault and battery and threatening to commit a crime, specifically murder. Daniels is due to appear for a dangerousness hearing on Wednesday. If determined by the court to be dangerous, Daniels could be held for up to 90 days without the right to bail.



     The School Committee is preparing for tough budget decisions this year. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)      
 
ADAMS SCHOOL DISTRICT FACING CUTS
 
The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District is preparing for cuts that could eliminate up to 28 positions. IBerkshires.com reports that School Committee Chairwoman Darlene Rodowicz said both the committee and the towns' selectmen have tough decisions ahead of them. The School Committee met last night with Superintendent Kristen Gordon and discussed hearings for the draft budget of more than $19 million. Rodowicz said the committee can either alter the budget or propose a budget the towns say they cannot afford. She said if this happens, the towns can either make other cuts to compensate or trigger a Proposition 2 1/2 override vote. Gordon said if the district has to cut anymore they will have to cut much needed positions.
 


    The School Committee got its first glance at the fiscal 2016 budget on Wednesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
 
PRELIM LANESBOROUGH ELEMENTARY BUDGET CALLS FOR $100K REDUCTION  
 
Lanesborough School officials are proposing to cut the budget by nearly 4 percent. IBerkshires.com reports that business manager Lynn Bassett presented last week the first draft of the fiscal 2016 budget, which is $101,417 less in appropriations than last year. However, the School Committee may add more back in for a contingency. The biggest cut in the budget is $164,330 in special education salaries. The administration is suggesting cutting about seven positions. Another change is with preschool program. The program was halted a few years ago because it wasn't paying for itself through tuition. Now, the school is trying to absorb some of the costs into the operating budget. A little more than half of the teacher's salary — $28,155 — is now proposed to be paid out of the appropriated budget.
 
HEALTH BOARD MAY RAISE TOBACCO SALES AGE  
 
Concerned about a range of new products allegedly helping to hook teens on tobacco use, Board of Health members indicated this week they might consider a hike in the legal purchase age from the current 18. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the board heard an annual report on local anti-tobacco use programs from James Wilusz, health director with the Tri-Town Health Department and administrator of the Tobacco Awareness Program, which coordinates the initiatives in 12 communities, including Pittsfield. Wilusz reported on a growing trend in Massachusetts toward hiking the minimum age for purchasing tobacco products. He says 44 communities in the state have raised the legal age from 18 to 21, while four have raised the age to 19.


    Carl Franceschi of Drumney Rosane & Anderson Architects Inc. fielded questions about the project Monday night. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

COMMISSION SPLIT ON TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL PROJECT DETAILS  
 
After a second nearly three-hour meeting on the subject, the Pittsfield School Building Needs Commission yesterday again tabled action on the design scope and overall budget for a new Taconic High School project. The discussions brought into sharper focus the key remaining project items to be decided upon — a design that adds thousands of square feet of space to allow more flexible education space and extension of air conditioning into the classrooms. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the two items, estimated to add more than $4 million to the tentative $116 million project total outlined last week by project designers Drummey Rosane Anderson of Waltham, were among a list of changes suggested by the firm after cost figures came in higher than expected.
 
PITTSFIELD MAN GETS UP TO 5 1/2 YEARS IN PRISON FOR DRUG, GUN CHARGES  
 
A Pittsfield man was sentenced to up to 5 1/2 years in prison on Monday for having cocaine and a loaded revolver at a Springside Avenue home last year. 28 year old Andre Austin, of Linden Street, pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday to narcotics and weapons charges in connection to a drug raid at the home, which was believed to be a base of drug operations. Judge John Agostini Sentenced Austin to a 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 years in State prison.
 
LENOX SCHOOL BOARD CHAIRMAN RESIGNS
 
The leader of the Lenox School Committee, who strongly advocated collaboration with nearby school districts and a potential limit on school choice enrollment, has abruptly resigned, effective immediately.
The Berkshire Eagle reports that Don Fitzgerald submitted his letter of resignation to schools Superintendent Timothy Lee last week, a few days after he was on the losing end of a school board vote to continue school choice with no percentage limits for the upcoming year, subject to the discretion of the superintendent. Fitzgerald is in his last week as full-time building inspector in Adams and begins work Monday as the building department supervisor and chief inspector in Lenox.
 
LEE CHAMBER ACADEMIC GRANT PROGRAM
 
In an annual show of support for the students of Lee, the Lee Chamber of Commerce will award three graduating seniors with academic grants of $1,000 each to be applied to the cost of attending college. These grants are awarded yearly to student graduates who live in Lee and plan on attending a college or trade school. Students do not need to attend Lee High to be eligible for the grants; residents of Lee from other local schools may also apply. This will be the fourth year the Lee Chamber has awarded academic grants to Lee residents. The deadline for submitting applications is Monday, April 27th. Any questions about the application process should be directed to the Lee Chamber.
 
PUBLIC HEARING ON BRIDGE REPLACEMENT TONIGHT
 
A Public Hearing will be held by MassDOT in Great Barrington tonight to discuss the proposed superstructure replacement project of a Route 183 bridge over the Housatonic River in the Village of Housatonic. The purpose of the hearing is to inform the public about the bridge replacement project and to provide an opportunity for public question and comment. All que
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