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News
Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Stretching Of Medical Services Continues

  
Dr.Oscar Rodriguez said everything is in place to reopen the emergency room - except the actual room. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)

 
 First-responders and medical entities are continuing to be stretched a month after the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital. IBerkshires.com reports the Brien Center is extending its hours and going seven days a week to serve mental health patients in crisis, emergency medical technicians are reporting increased hours to make the long trip to Pittsfield and back, and Berkshire Medical Center has had one or more periods when hasn't had enough beds because of the influx of patients. Meanwhile, the weekly meeting of the Save NARH group was held at the American Legion in North Adams yesterday. Michael O’Brien, the former head of the Local 1199SEIU chapter of the hospital, was given a standing ovation for his efforts in organizing to protest the hospital’s closure.
 
North Adams Mayors Fitness Challenge Set To Begin In May  
 

If you have ever thought about trying to lose a few pounds, or maybe moving toward a more-healthy life style... you might be interested in the North Adams “Mayor's Fitness Challenge.” It's a 10 week program designed to promote a healthier you! Teams or individuals are invited to take part. The event kicks off on May 5th.
If you haven't signed your team or yourself up yet, you have until May 2nd to do so. You can register and get more information at www.NAfitnesschallenge.com.
 
 Cigarette Likely Cause Of April 10th Fire
 

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

A fire that displaced ten residents of a Furnace Street apartment building on April 10th could have been avoided, fire officials say. Officials say that the most probable cause was improper disposal of smoking material. North Adams Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the fire began after a guest of one of the third-floor tenants flicked a cigarette butt off the porch. Though no one was injured in the fire at the historic eight-unit build­ing, more than 40 firefighters responded to the scene with mutual aid called in from Adams, Clarksburg and Williamstown.
 
Layoffs Not Part Of March Jobless Rate
 
Last month’s closing of North Adams Regional Hospital and other Northern Berkshire Healthcare operations did not appear to register on Berkshire County’s March unemployment rate because the layoffs hit at month’s end. A state official says it could land in April’s numbers. Ann Dufresne, a spokeswoman for the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, says those workers may not have had filed by the time the month ended.
 
Section Of Route 8 Closed By Landslide Reopens



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

Beaver Street in North Adams reopened on Monday following a week's worth of work to clear landslide debris. The section of Beaver Street (Route 8), just several hundred feet from the Clarksburg line, was closed completely April 15 after a landslide cut off an important artery between the communities. The slide was caused by heavy rain.
 
No Bail Given In Attempted Murder Case
 
A man charged with attempted murder over the weekend is being held without bail following his arraignment on Tuesday. The Berkshire Eagle reports, citing his alleged level of dangerousness, Northern Berkshire District Court remanded Richard Ladouceur to jail after his arraignment on charges of assault and battery, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, attempted murder, intimidating a witness, and threatening to commit a crime. Ladouceur allegedly attempted to strangle his live-in girlfriend on Saturday.
 
Berkshire Establishments Named Best By Yankee Magazine
 
 The May/June edition of Yankee Magazine’s Special Travel Guide, on newsstands April 29th, names local establishments in Massachusetts as “Best of New England — Editors’ Choice” winners for 2014. This designation is awarded by Yankee’s editors and contributors, who name select restaurants, lodgings, and attractions in New England to the exclusive list. This special issue also names 20 top events in Massachusetts, and a total of 120 events across New England. Here in the Berkshires, establishments and attractions from Stockbridge and Great Barrington on the southern end of the county – to North Adams and Williamstown on the Northern end of the county are named on the list.
 
Partial Jury For Triple Murder Trial Seated
 
A partial jury for the triple murder trial of David Chalue was seated yesterday. Eight jurors in all - five women and three men -- will soon be hearing testimony. Police and prosecutors allege that Chalue, Adam Lee Hall and Caius Veiovis kidnapped, tortured, and killed three Pittsfield men in August 2011. Testimony is expected to begin Thursday, and the case could last a month. The trial was moved from Berkshire County due to pretrial publicity. Adam Lee Hall was already convicted, while Veiovis has been scheduled to go on trial in September.
Meanwhile, the Berkshire Eagle is reporting today that the death of a prosecution witness and partner of one of the victims in a triple murder trial has postponed the opening of evidence by a day. Willie Haywood Jr., the longtime partner of Robert Chadwell, passed away over the weekend, prompting Berkshire District Attorney David Capeless to ask that the evidentiary portion of David Chalue’s trial in Hampden Superior Court be postponed a day so the friends and family — some of whom are also prosecution witnesses — could attend the funeral.
 
Pittsfield Holding First “Truck Rodeo”

  
Kathy Lloyd of How We Roll is organizing the city of Pittsfield's first Food Truck Rodeo. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
 
The city of Pittsfield will host its first Food Truck Rodeo on May 4th. Iberkshires.com reports, the event showcasing area food trucks, local breweries, a local band and children's games will give its proceeds to Moments House. Starting at 11 a.m., five food trucks will open their doors at Palace Park on North Street. Beer will be served by local breweries Wandering Star and Big Elm. At noon, the Jill Gallagher Band will take the stage. Craft brewers Wandering Star and Big Elm will feature some of their award-winning brews. Admission to the event is free, but the food and drink will cost money.
 
Pittsfield Councilor Switches Vote


 The 11-member committee previously fell one vote shy of approval. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

Pittsfield Ward 1 City Councilor Lisa Tully changed her vote from two weeks ago to allow bonding on a $2.7 million school bus purchase. IBerkshires.com reports Tully had voted against the five-year bond for 43 new school buses, saying she preferred the city replace buses on a revolving schedule instead. She cited the city's current $1.5 million owed on the last bus purchase as a reason to not purchase an entire fleet. On Tuesday night, she changed that vote to one in favor, providing the two-thirds majority needed. The vote change came after Tully called other cities and towns and met with the purchasing offices.
                                                                       
Man Accused Of Wrench Attack
 
A Pittsfield man who is awaiting trial on charges he struck his nephew was arrested on Monday evening after allegedly using a wrench during a fight. 25 year old Francis Gauthier of Kellogg Street was arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court yesterday on the new charges. Police responded to a call from a male who alleged Gauthier knocked him unconscious while he was visiting his sister.
 
Stuff-A-Bus Looks To Stock Local Food Pantries
 
Sheffield Kiwanis is holding an event all this week to help stock up the food pantries in Great Barrington and Sheffield. It’s called “Stuff-a-Bus”, and it is exactly what it sounds like. The goal is to stuff a school bus with donations of non-perishable food items - multiple times if possible – in order to restock the local food pantries.
The bus will be parked at Berkshire GMC on Route 7 at the Sheffield/Great Barrington town line each day the rest of the week through Friday from 9am to 5pm.
 
Stockbridge Main Street Library Renovation
 
The town of Stockbridge's historic Main Street library will undergo its most extensive renovation project since 1937, when a new wing and the lobby are added to the original building. The Berkshire Eagle reports, one-third of the $3 million capital campaign goal already has been raised through private donations, including a $250,000 lead gift from the Jane and Jack Fitzpatrick Trust. Library Director Katie O'Neil says that construction is set to begin at the end of August and be completed in 10 to 12 months. The library first opened its doors in 1864.
 
Push To Close Schools  
 
Towns are urging the Southern Berkshire Regional School District to examine closing at least one of its elementary schools, but the idea isn’t gaining any traction with the School Committee. Committee Chairman Carl Stewart told The Berkshire Eagle on Monday that the requests to close a school will not be discussed by his board and that applications have been submitted to the state to fix the small rural schools. The district serves students in Alford, Egremont, New Marlborough, Monterey and Sheffield. The outlying elementary schools targeted for elimination are in Monterey and Egremont. New Marlborough and Sheffield have requested closing the Monterey School because of low in-district enrollment and large capital repair costs. New Marlborough has requested closing the South Egremont School.
 
Public To View Eagle Mill Proposal
 
Residents of Lee will have their first opportunity to see and comment on a Great Barrington developer’s multimillion-dollar proposal to make over and revitalize the Eagle Mill. The development team will present the plans for the 200-year-old mill, located along the Housatonic River off the north end of Main Street. The meeting is at 7 p.m. in the Lee Middle and High School auditorium.
 
State Issues Restrictions For Painkiller Zohydro
 
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has laid out new restrictions for the use of Zohydro, a powerful new painkiller, after a federal judge ruled earlier this month that his attempt at an outright ban was unconstitutional.
The governor's office said Tuesday that the state will now require doctors to complete a risk assessment and pain management treatment agreement before prescribing any extended-release medication that contains only hydrocodone and is "not in abuse-deterrent form.
The announcement comes after a federal judge prevented the state from enforcing Patrick's outright ban of Zohydro. In her decision last week, U.S. District Judge Rya Zobel said federal law pre-empted the governor's executive order because the Food and Drug Administration had already approved the drug's use.
Tuesday was the deadline for the state to appeal Zobel's decision.
 
Republican Official Cited For Excess Contributions
 
BOSTON (AP) — Three political action committees under the direction of a top Massachusetts Republican official have agreed to pay $17,500 for excess campaign contributions.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance said Tuesday that Chanel Prunier, elected Republican National Committeewoman for Massachusetts last year, effectively controlled the three PACs.
The office found 25 instances where a candidate received 2012 contributions from two or three of the PACs over the $500 limit. In total, the PACs made about $24,000 in excess contributions. 
Prunier said she didn't agree all three PACs were under her direction, but decided it was better to pay the fine and move on.
Prunier agreed to have no future involvement in any PAC other than her Massachusetts Republican Municipal Coalition PAC, which agreed to make no contributions before 2017 to candidates who received 2012 contributions from the three PACs.
 
Fluffernutter Gets Boost For State Sandwich
 
BOSTON (AP) — A bill that would make the fluffernutter Massachusetts' official sandwich has been given initial approval by state lawmakers.
The measure was advanced Tuesday on a voice vote during an informal session of the House of Representatives.
The fluffernutter — peanut butter and Marshmallow Fluff on bread — has remained a popular treat in New England for generations.
Marshmallow Fluff was invented in 1917 in Somerville and is made with just four ingredients — corn syrup, sugar syrup, dried egg whites and artificial vanilla flavoring. It's still made in a small manufacturing plant in Lynn.
The bill still needs another vote of the House before going to the Senate. It was filed by former state Rep. Kathi-Anne Reinstein of Revere.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014
 
Adams New Tourism Director Looks Forward To Challenge


 Samantha Talora is the town's first tourism director. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)

The town of Adams first tourism development director is looking forward to helping the area she grew up in. IBerkshires.com reports, Cheshire native Samantha Talora, who was hired last month by the town, says she plans to use her background in hospitality to help promote events in Adams. Talora was previously a manager at Canyon Ranch and Cranwell resorts and has a total of eight years' experience in tourism marketing and event planning, including operating her own business. During the past year, she has worked as an administrative assistant in the Adams Police Department. Talora says that her main duty is to assist different committees and community members and help promote their events.
 
Williamstown Appliance Shop Moves Into Daylight


   The former site of Leo's Luncheonette on Cole Avenue in Williamstown is the new home of LaPlante Appliance. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

David LaPlante, the proprietor of LaPlante Appliance, last week sought and received the approval of the Zoning Board of Appeals to give his Cole Avenue business more visibility. Iberkshires.com reports, LaPlante has been operating his repair shop in the basement of the same 248 Cole Avenue property that form many years housed Leo's luncheonette. When Leo's owner, Donna LaBombard retired, it gave LaPlante an opportunity to raise his visibility. He says the upstairs location will make it more convenient for those customers who do drop off small appliances for repair, and he may offer a line of vacuum cleaners for sale at the store.
 
Open Meeting Law Violation
 
The Board of Selectmen in Peru violated the Open Meeting Law by convening a meeting 35 minutes before the scheduled time. That was the recent ruling of the state Attorney General’s Division of Open Government. Joseph Kaminski and Kimberley Wetherell filed complaints nearly eight months ago, about a meeting on September 9th, and several other meetings. The Attorney General said the board acted correctly in other meetings that were held on August 19th and 26th. Wetherell says she hopes the ruling on the September 9th meeting will help to curb similar practices in the future.
 
 Man Charged With Attempted Murder
 
A North Adams Dover Street man is being held on $ 25,000 bail after he allegedly strangled his live-in girlfriend early Saturday morning. The Berkshire Eagle reports, that police have charged 24 year old Richard Ladouceur  Jr. with attempted murder, assault and battery, assault with a dangerous weapon, intimidating a witness, and threatening to commit a crime. According to North Adams Police a hatchet, Samurai sword, and knives the woman said Ladouceur allegedly had used to threaten her were found at the couple apartment. Police also noted woman had injuries consistent with strangulation.
 
Jury Selection In Second Of Three Murder Trials Starts Today
 
Jury selection in the triple murder trial of 47 year old David Chalue, the second of three men charged in the kidnapping, torture, and killing of three Pittsfield men, is set to take place today in Hampden Superior Court. Adam Lee Hall, the first to go on trial, was convicted on three counts of murder and was given consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole. Chalue has denied the charges and is being held without bail.  Robert Glasser, Edward Frampton, and Robert Chadwell, all went missing in August 2011 before they were able to testify against Hall. Their bodies were discovered in Becket about two weeks later. A large number of prospective jurors have been called in to the Hall of Justice today in order to seat as many as possible, and the jury selection is expected to continue into tomorrow.
 
31 Runners From Berkshires Take Part In Boston Marathon – Plus Winners 
 
American Meb Keflezighi has won the 2014 Boston Marathon, a year after a bombing at the finish line left three dead and more than 260 people injured. The former New York City Marathon champion and Olympic medalist ran the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the finish on Boylston Street in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds. He's the first American to win the men's race since 1983. Rita Jeptoo of Kenya won the women's title for the second year in a row with a finish time of 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. There were 31 entrants from Berkshire County that took part in all yesterday. Pittsfield's Stephen Foley finished the fastest with a time of 3 hours, 1 minute and 53 seconds. Lanesborough's David Wilson finished in 3 hours, 8 minutes, 6 seconds. Matt Kinnaman of Lee finished with a time of 3 hours, 12 minutes, 52 seconds.  Cara Reilly of Lenox Dale was the first Berkshire County woman to cross the finish line. She finished in 3 hours, 28 minutes, 2 seconds.
 
Gas Prices-Massachusetts
 
The price of a gallon of gas in Massachusetts has shot up by 7 cents in the past week, but still remains well below the national average. AAA Southern New England reports that self-serve, regular has risen to $3.60 per gallon. That's 7 cents less than the current national average, 8 cents higher than the in-state price a month ago and 16 cents higher than the in-state price at this time last year. According to the latest reported prices compiled by msn autos, prices in the Pittsfield area are ranging on average between $3.55 and $3.69 per gallon.
 
Serious Contender In MBTA Railcar Bid Still Hot On Berkshires Location
 
At least one manufacturer, described as a "serious contender" to make railcars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, remains interested in setting up its facility in the Berkshires. According to the Berkshire Eagle, officials declined to name the company, but an individual involved in the negotiations said the manufacturer has expressed a serious interest in this area. The manufacturer was one of four to tour the Berkshires as they scouted potential sites in Massachusetts. The MBTA recently extended by two weeks its deadline to May 15 for companies to submit proposals to conduct the work. The bid is expected to be awarded in December.
 
Start Up May Create Dozens Of Jobs In Lee
 
A start-up company wants to invest $9 million creating dozens of jobs at the Lee Corporate Center on Route 102. The Berkshire Eagle reports, Berkshire Sterile Manufacturing, a newly incorporated bio-pharmaceutical company, is poised to buy the center for $1 million from the Lee Community Development Corporation, pending approval next month of a local tax break plan. If the Lee Annual Town Meeting on May 8th approves the Tax Increment Finance plan, both parties expect to close the deal in June.
 
Student Cost Increasing – Lawmakers Push To Find Solution
 
The state university system is forcing administrators to push more of the cost of education on to students. Over the last 10 years, the University of Massachusetts increased fees 110 percent. The rest of the state schools are up 107 percent and community colleges, 71 percent. More and more, the cost of a college education isn't worth what a graduate is getting in return. State Representative Paul Mark is hoping he can do something about the problem. IBerkshires.com reports, Mark’s subcommittee has set its sights on finding ways to curb the trend and last week filed a report on its nearly yearlong research that Mark hopes is just the start of a serious statewide push to address the issues. The subcommittee delivered nine recommendations that span financial literacy to increased state aid to loan forgiveness programs. The subcommittee endorsed the report last week and in May will present it to the Joint Committee on Higher Education.
 
Main Street Reconstruction Awaits Governor's OK

 
A transportation bill that includes funding for the long-awaited Main Street reconstruction project in Great Barrington has made it to Governor Patrick’s desk and now awaits his signature. A spokesman told the Berkshire Eagle that the governor is expected to sign the bill soon, although he did not specify exactly when. Patrick has two weeks to sign it. Once the transportation bill is signed, towns and cities across the state can began scheduling road and bridge work. The Main Street reconstruction, estimated to cost $6.2 million, was slated to begin last spring and take about 18 months to complete. The work involves extensive infrastructure improvements to the corridor.
 
School Partnerships Explored By Sub-Committee

 
The Southern Berkshire Regional School District has created a "cooperation" subcommittee which will be tasked with exploring cost-saving partnerships with surrounding districts. A similar committee was formed about five years ago, although it failed in its bid to find willing partners. This time, the Lee Public Schools, Lenox Public Schools, and Berkshire Hills Regional School District have made public comments about working with other districts to reduce their budgets. Southern Berkshire School Committee member Dennis Sears will be on the committee once again. He helped form the original subcommittee five years ago.
 
New Deal For Skrocki
 
Alfred Skrocki has inked a deal that will put his retirement on hold for another school year. He will continue as the interim superintendent at Lee Public Schools through June 2015 after agreeing to another one-year contract with the Lee and Tyringham school committees. It’s a similar deal to the current one he signed last spring that pays him about $80,000 over a 12-month period.
  
1 Year After Bombs, Boston Marathon A Celebration
 
BOSTON (AP) — Unfinished business. Defiance. Hope, strength and resilience.
They used different words but the meaning was the same for thousands of people who were stopped by twin bombings at last year's Boston Marathon and came back this year to finish what they started.
The 118th running of the storied race from Hopkinton to Boston on Monday was run under the long and still-sharp shadow of the 117th, which turned tragic when two bombs exploded near the finish line, killing three people and injuring more than 260 others. For this marathon, there was no choice but to remember, reflect and even confront the past, but the athletes found it easier — and more fun — to celebrate.
Said Vicki Schmidt of Nashville after finishing the race: "You can't hold us back."
 
Moment Of Silence Held At Marathon Finish Line
 
BOSTON (AP) — A moment of silence has been observed at the finish line of the Boston Marathon to mark the moment when two bombs exploded at last year's marathon.
Outside Marathon Sports, near where the first of two bombs blew up, the moment of silence at 2:49 p.m. Monday was followed with the longest cheer of the day. People screamed, whooped, whistled, clapped and rang cowbells to celebrate how the city continues to move forward after last year's deadly bombing. Three people were killed and more than 260 were injured in 2013.
Authorities say two brothers built pressure cooker bombs and placed them near the finish line. Tamerlan Tsarnaev died following a police shootout several days after the bombings. His younger brother, Dzhokhar has pleaded not guilty to 30 federal charges and is awaiting trial.
 
American Meb Keflezighi Wins Boston Marathon
 
BOSTON (AP) — American Meb Keflezighi has won the Boston Marathon, a year after a bombing at the finish line left three dead and more than 260 people injured.
Keflezighi is a former New York City Marathon champion and Olympic medalist. He ran the 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to the finish on Boylston Street in Boston's Back Bay on Monday in 2 hours, 8 minutes, 37 seconds.
Keflezighi held off Wilson Chebet of Kenya who finished 11 seconds behind. The 38-year-old from San Diego looked over his shoulder several times over the final mile. After realizing he wouldn't be caught, he raised his sunglasses, began pumping his right fist and made the sign of the cross.
No U.S. runner had won the race since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach took the women's title in 1985; the last American man to win was Greg Meyer in 1983.
 
Kenya's Rita Jeptoo Wins Boston Marathon Again
 
BOSTON (AP) — Rita Jeptoo of Kenya successfully defended the Boston Marathon title she said she could not enjoy a year ago after the fatal bombings.
 
Jeptoo finished Monday's race in a course-record 2 hours, 18 minutes, 57 seconds. She becomes the seventh three-time Boston Marathon champion.
Jeptoo broke away from a group of five runners at the 23-mile mark. Buzunesh Deba finished second with an unofficial time of 2:19:59.
American Shalane Flanagan finished seventh after leading for more than half the race. She took a gamble by setting the early pace. She ran her first mile in 5 minutes, 11 seconds, but fell back on the Newton Hills about 21 miles into the race.
 
Van Dyk Wins Wheelchair Race At Boston Marathon
 
BOSTON (AP) — Ernst van Dyk of South Africa has won the men's wheelchair division of the Boston Marathon for a record 10th time.
The 41-year-old crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 20 minutes, 36 seconds.
Van Dyk holds the record for most all-categories Boston Marathon wins. This was his first win at this race since 2010.
Van Dyk finished 38 seconds ahead of two Japanese racers. Kota Hokinoue finished less than a wheel length ahead of Masazumi Soejima, with both recording a time of 1:21:14.
 
American Mcfadden Wins Boston Wheelchair Division
 
BOSTON (AP) — Tatyana McFadden of the United States has won the women's wheelchair race at the Boston Marathon on her 25th birthday. It was the second straight year she won the race.
McFadden listened Monday as "The Star-Spangled Banner" played on Boylston Street one year after the bombings that left three dead and more than 260 injured.
She crossed the finish line in 1 hour, 35 minutes, 6 seconds.
McFadden was born in Russia and lived in an orphanage as a child before starring at the University of Illinois.
She also won the 2013 New York City Marathon women's wheelchair race after taking the titles in Boston, London and Chicago last year. No other athlete has won those four races in the same year.
 
Bombing Survivors Return For Boston Marathon
 
BOSTON (AP) — Survivors of last year's bombing did not shy away from this year's Boston Marathon.
Heather Abbott, who lost her left leg, ran the last half-mile with a friend. She says she was really nervous about falling while running on a prosthetic leg, but she stayed upright and learned she's a lot stronger than she thought.
Celeste Corcoran, who lost both of her legs, crossed the finish line with daughter Sydney, who was injured in the bombing.
Lee Ann Yanni, whose left leg was badly injured in the bombing, ran the full marathon.
Newlyweds Patrick Downes and Jessica Kensky, who each lost a leg, participated in the full marathon on hand cycles.
In the stands were Jeff Bauman, who lost both legs, and Adrianne Haslet-Davis, who lost part of her left leg but has returned to dancing.
 
Massachusetts Gas Prices Up 7 Cents
 
BOSTON (AP) — The price of a gallon of gas in Massachusetts has shot up by 7 cents in the past week, but still remains well below the national average.
AAA Southern New England reports Monday that self-serve, regular has risen to $3.60 per gallon.
That's 7 cents less than the current national average, 8 cents higher than the in-state price a month ago and 16 cents higher than the in-state price at this time last year.
AAA found regular, self-serve selling as low as $3.43 per gallon and as high as $3.79.
 



Monday, April 21, 2014
 
 
Pothole Money Not Nearly Enough

 


 Fixing potholes on Eagle Street in North Adams earlier this month. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)

Local officials are happy that the state released some $30 million toward municipal road repairs — but it's not enough to fill all the potholes on the streets of North Adams caused as a result of a rough winter. Timothy Lescarbeau, North Adams superintendent of public services, says the $66,000 the city is receiving through Chapter 90 funding, won't help all that much. Cities and towns are receiving an amount determined by road funding calculations based on populations and miles of roadways. The state Department of Transportation is distributing $40 million.$30 million is being sent to towns and cities and the remaining $10 million is to be used for repaving and maintenance of state roads.
 
Work Continues On Route 2 And Route 8



 
Debris from Friday morning's collapse was scattered across the road. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)

Drivers may notice an unusual sight at the hairpin turn on the Mohawk Trail over the next several weeks: A traffic light. IBerkshires.com reports repairs to the westerly slope of Route 2 on the North Adams line have required placement of a temporary signal alternating one-way traffic while the state carries out the work. It's one of three slope stabilization projects that MassDOT's Highway Division will be completing on state-maintained roads this spring in the Northern Berkshires. Done through a districtwide road repair contract, the total cost is approximately $850,000. Work at the hairpin turn is expected to take about four weeks. Similar work on a section of Route 8 (River Road) in Clarksburg is also ongoing.
 
Candidates Forum This Past Wednesday
 

 

 The four candidates for two seats on the Board of Selectmen focused on jobs at an election forum last week moderated by Anne Skinner. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

A candidate’s forum was presented this past Wednesday by the Williamstown League of Women Voters for the four men vying for three open seats on the Board of Selectmen in Williamstown. The event, which ran for a little more than an hour, was moderated by chapter President Anne Skinner. IBerkshires.com reports the forum focused almost entirely on how each of the candidates would help revive the local economy. Hugh Daley, Gary Fuls, Andrew Hogeland and Jack Nogueira  are on the ballot for the May 13th town election. Two of the four will win three-year terms on the five-person board. Three of the candidates hit on the theme of economic development in their opening statement, and Skinner pressed the for more details about their ideas in that area with her first question of the night.
 
Patriots Day Means Two Things Here – The Marathon And Morning Baseball  
 
It's Patriots Day today... and that means two things to Massachusetts residents, The Boston Marathon and morning Red Sox baseball. The 2014 Boston Marathon comes a little more than a year after a twin bombing attack that killed three people and injured more than 260 during last year’s running of the annual event. There are 30 Berkshire County runners listed as entrants on the event's website. They come from all corners of the Berkshires, from Williamstown in the northern Berkshires to Sheffield in the southern Berkshires, and many places in between, including Pittsfield, Great Barrington, North Adams and more. Officials expect an unprecedented wave of visitors and an influx of tourism dollars to the race area. The memory of last year's bombings has elevated interest in one of the world's greatest races, and the field of runners has greatly expanded. Tourism officials expect this year's marathon will generate more than $175 million in economic activity over about five days. That's up from previous year projections of $130 million to $140 million. David Ortiz plans to visit the finish line after the Red Sox are done with their Patriots' Day game against Baltimore. Ortiz says he loves to visit Boylston Street to see the marathon wrap up. The Red Sox play the Orioles on today in its traditional 11 a.m. Patriots' Day start.
 
 Berkshire County Man Partnering In Today’s Marathon With Blind Athlete


 Boston Marathon bombing victim Mery Daniel participates in a Harvard road race in the fall with help from Achilles International, a nonprofit that includes runners from the Williamstown. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
 
 Berkshire County resident and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Cluett will be taking part in the Boston Marathon today. Iberkshires.com reports that Cluett (of Williamstown) will be lacing up his running shoes in Hopkinton, not with dreams of setting a personal record, but with a mission to help a fellow athlete achieve her goal. He will be following in the footsteps of his mentor, Williams College professor Hank Art, as a volunteer guide with Achilles International. The New York-based non-profit helps mobility-impaired athletes compete in distance running events. Dr. Cluett will be partnered with Toronto's Maya Jonas, who is blind. Jonas will be making her second attempt at Boston. Her first try was interrupted by last year’s marathon bombings.
 
Second Murder Trial About To Begin  
 
The second of three men charged in a triple murder will be heading to trial tomorrow. 47 year old David Chalue of North Adams is facing nine charges for his alleged participation in the kidnapping, torture and killings of three Pittsfield men in August 2011 with the help of Adam Lee Hall and Caius Veiovis. Police and prosecutors alleged Chalue was involved in the planning, execution and cleanup of the killings. He has denied three counts each of murder, kidnapping and witness intimidation and is being held without bail. Adam Lee Hall was already convicted on three murder charges and was given consecutive life sentences.
 
Pittsfield Committee Divided On Chiefs In Civil Service
 


 The Civil Service advisory committee is split on whether to retain Civil Service for appointing the fire and police chiefs. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)

The majority of a temporary task force on Civil Service in Pittsfield is leaning toward recommending the position of police and fire chiefs be taken out of the troubled system - But representatives of those departments on the committee oppose such a move. Iberkshires.com reports all the members seemed to agree that permanent appointments need to be made for the chiefs of the fire and police departments. The task force does remain split, however, on the best way to do accomplish that. Non-union members of the committee envision removing these two positions from Civil Service, but only if it can be replaced with an improved selection process that is fair, apolitical and transparent. Three members representing local police and firefighters voiced opposition. They instead stressed a need to explore other options, such as the use of Civil Service-approved assessment centers to expedite the process.
 
Two Men Charged With Breaking Into Softball Complex
 
Two men were charged with multiple felonies after allegedly breaking into the Berkshire County Softball Complex in Pittsfield on Friday afternoon. The Berkshire Eagle reports, 26 year old Joseph Errichetto of Lee, and 25 year old Cody Martin of Great Barrington, allegedly stole boxes of softballs from the building after breaking in a door into the complex known as The Softball Center on East Street. Both men were each charged with vandalism for damage to the building's door and gate, breaking and entering into a building in the daytime and larceny. They were held on $1,000 bail pending a court appearance.
 
Pittsfield’s Troop 8 Earns New Health Patch



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

The boys of Cub Scout Pack 8 in Pittsfield are the first Scouts in Massachusetts to earn the Scout-Strong Healthy Unit patch. The new patch is given by Healthy Kids Out of School, which is an initiative of ChildObesity180 at Tufts University. The troop is the first in Massachusetts and the second in all of New England to earn it. In Massachusetts more than 25 percent of school-age children are overweight or obese, and a study published by the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that as a result of this epidemic, children today may have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
 
Leed Up To Device Mercy Sunday

 
Now that Easter Sunday has passed... this week will lead up to and culminate with Devine Mercy Sunday. Also known as "The Feast of Mercy," Divine Mercy Sunday marks the Second Sunday of Easter as well. More than 20,000 people are expected to attend the annual Divine Mercy Sunday weekend festivities at the National Shrine of The Divine Mercy, home of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception on Eden Hill in Stockbridge. Pilgrims will be traveling from around the world to celebrate at the National Shrine.
 
Great Barrington Clean-Up

 
More than 50 volunteers cleaned around the Housatonic River in Great Barrington on Saturday. They also removed invasive species and planted native plants to protect the soil from erosion just ahead of Tuesday's Earth Day.
 
Challenge For Incumbent’s Seat In Egremont
 
Incumbent Selectmen Charlie Flynn is facing a challenge from Kevin Zurrin on May 13th in his bid for another three-year term on the Board of Selectmen. The Berkshire Eagle reports Flynn is employed as the technology administrator at Lee Elementary School and represents Egremont on the Southern Berkshire Regional School District School Committee. Zurrin runs a private business that preserves roof shingles and is known as an outspoken commentator on town government. The race is for the only open seat on the board of selectmen.
 
Bruins Top Red Wings 4-1, Even Series At 1-1
 
BOSTON (AP) — Justin Florek and Reilly Smith scored in a three-minute span in the first period and the Boston Bruins evened their playoff series with a 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings in the Game 2 on Sunday.
Showing more spark after not taking enough challenging shots on goal in their 1-0 loss Friday night, the Bruins had 18 shots in the first period after managing just 25 in the entire opener.
Luke Glendening cut Boston's lead to 2-1 at 13:20 of the second period before Milan Lucic scored late in the second and Zdeno Chara added a power-play goal early in the third.
Game 3 of the best-of-seven series between the top-seeded Bruins, who won the Presidents' Cup with an NHL -high 117 points, and eighth-seeded Red Wings is set for Detroit on Tuesday night.
 
 
Friday, April 18, 2014
 
Committee Finds Leaking at Hoosac Valley High



 
The subcommittee reviewed a number of maintenance issues in the school (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)
 
The Adams Hoosac Valley High School remains in good shape with only a few maintenance issues to report.
After the Maintenance Subcommittee for the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District Committee toured building with janitorial staff, they met with the Building Committee to discuss minor maintenance problems.
The renovated school, a $40 million project, reopened in September 2012.
One of the main concerns the committee had was leaks in the newly renovated school's roof. There are visible leaks and staining on the ceilings. On the tour, the committee was shown 10 problem areas. The leaks are believed to be both external and internal and many are located around sprinkler and heating systems.
Another issue the committee found was peeling floor tiles.
The members of the Maintenance Subcommittee does maintenance tours of all the schools throughout the year so they can be more proactive toward problems.
 
 
Ecu-Health Care Relocates 
 
The closing of North Adams Regional Hospital hasn't stopped Ecu-Health Care from helping Northern Berkshire County resident’s access health insurance. The Berkshire Eagle reports, this week, Ecu-Health Care successfully relocated its five-person staff and offices to 26 Union Street in North Adams. Ecu-Health Care officials say they will conduct a "media blitz" in May to alert residents to the new location. Since its inception in 1995, the nonprofit had operated out of the hospital until it closed March 27th.
 
Fire District Budget Up In Williamstown



 Fire District clerk/treasurer Corydon Thurston discusses a proposal to install a new radio antenna at Mount Greylock Regional School. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
 
Voters in the Williamstown fire district next month will be asked to approve spending for fiscal 2015 that is 7.7 percent higher than the current budget. Iberkshires.com reports the Prudential Committee, the elected body that oversees the district, has voted to approve the budget that will be submitted to voters at the annual Fire District meeting on May 27th. The district's projected operating budget for next year is expected to be a modest 1.6 percent higher than FY14.
 
 
Cariddi Reminder: Ready To Help With Other Issues Besides The NARH Situation 
 
The Northern Berkshires has been very focused on the North Adams Regional Hospital situation. Community members, the mayor’s office, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, and state lawmakers have been looking for answers and solutions. State Representative Gailanne Cariddi, paid a visit to the WNAW studios yesterday. She says she has been getting a lot of phone calls regarding the hospital situation, and now that things have quieted just a little, she wanted to make sure citizens know that she is still there to assist with other needs as well.
You can reach State Representative Cariddi's North Adams office at 664-6812.
 
 
Adams Selectmen Ask For Pole Relocation



 Jeffrey Lefebvre complained over what he described as 'bullying' behavior by Town Administrator Jonathan Butler. Butler denied he was a bully and Chairman John Duval asked Lefebvre to come to him with any complaints. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)
 
The Adams Board of Selectmen expressed their concerns about a utility pole placement in the proposed roundabout that could pose a danger. IBerkshires.com reports selectmen told a representative from Verizon at Wednesday's public hearing on the location of the pole that the plans appeared to show the pole off-center and close to the Columbia Street traffic lane. Selectman Arthur Harrington urged moving the utility pole to the center of the roundabout and farther away from the traffic lane. The selectmen all agreed that they would rather put the needed wiring underground, however that would be a more costly measure.
 
Three Resign In Williamstown


 Affordable Housing Committee members, from left, Cheryl Shanks, Catherine Yamamoto and Charles Bonenti each tendered a resignation this week. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
 
Two days after the Board of Selectmen declined to follow the recommendation of the Affordable Housing Committee on the development of two town-owned properties, three members of the committee have submitted their resignations. IBerkshires.com reports Chairwoman Catherine Yamamoto, Vice Chairman Charles Bonenti and Secretary Cheryl Shanks each have resigned their positions on the committee. Town Manager Peter Fohlin informed the remaining five committee members in an email yesterday.
 
Transportation Bond Bill Sending Money To The Berkshires  
 
State Senator Ben Downing has announced that the House of Representatives and Senate have given their final approval to a $12.7 billion Transportation Bond Bill. The long-term borrowing bill for transportation-related capital projects is now on the Governor’s desk. Downing worked with his House colleagues to secure the authorization of more than $23.7 million for local projects in this T-bond, including:
$6 million for the replacement of a parking garage in downtown Pittsfield
 
$5 million for the reconstruction of the Hubbard Avenue overpass in Pittsfield
 
$1.75 million for roadway and utility improvements on Thiel Road in Adams
 
$1.5 million for the repair of the Brown Street Bridge in North Adams
 
$1 million for the repair of the Route 7 Bridge in Great Barrington
 
$500,000 for replacement of deficient bridges in New Marlborough
 
$175,000 for the Berkshire Scenic Railway
The bill also funds the Chapter 90 local road and bridge repair program for Fiscal Year 2015 at $300 million. The Governor has ten days to review and act on the legislation.
 
Emergency Responders Put To The Test


 
 Most of the agencies in the central Berkshires were represented (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

On the more typical emergencies, responders know their roles, but they were put to the test on Wednesday in Hinsdale. Area emergency response agencies — including local and state police, fire, Berkshire Medical Center, ambulance, Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, the state Department of Environmental Protection, the sheriff's department and railroad police — all got quizzed on how they would respond in a not so typical emergency situation. More than two dozen representatives from the central Berkshire area performed a four-hour tabletop exercise, the details of which were kept secret until the 8 a.m. exercise began. The exercise was put on by the Central Berkshire Emergency Planning Committee.
 
State Unemployment Rate Down Slightly
 
According to the state office of Labor and Workforce Development, preliminary estimates show Massachusetts gained more than 8,000 jobs in March while the state’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.3 percent from 6.5 percent the previous month. In addition to the estimated increase of 8,100 jobs in Massachusetts last month, the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised its February estimates to show a net gain of 5,500 jobs in February, up from the previous estimate of 3,800 jobs. State officials are pointing to a net gain of 50,400 jobs in the past 12 months.
 
Municipal Solar On Hold In Lee And Lenox  
 
Lee and Lenox have put municipal solar energy on hold, as the towns have been unable to find a company to take over their embattled solar array projects. The Berkshire Eagle reports attempts to replace the defunct Broadway Renewable Strategies of Boston with a suitable solar-energy firm have failed, in part, due to a state-mandated deadline. Broadway, which unexpectedly went out of business earlier this year, had until June 30th to complete the installation to qualify for this year’s round of money-saving energy credits that would have benefited each community.
 
Stockbridge Town Offices Sealed Off Beginning Today
 
The Town offices in Stockbridge, the hub of government, community, and police activities in the town, will be sealed off today through Monday because of an environmental project. However, thanks to mutual aid from the Pittsfield Police Department and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, essential public safety services will be maintained through a mobile command center that was installed outside the building at 50 Main Street. All other activities in the building will be suspended for the four-day period so any fumes from an insulation upgrade in the gymnasium can dissipate.
 
 Police And Fire Chief Positions May Be Removed From Civil Service  
 
The City of Pittsfield’s Civil Service Task Force is set to recommend that the Pittsfield police and fire chief positions be removed from Civil Service, primarily due to how the statewide system operates. The Berkshire Eagle reports in two weeks, over the objection of city police and firefighter union leaders, the majority of the 10-member panel will likely issue a report calling on Mayor Dan Bianchi to find an alternative way of selecting the city’s top two public safety officials.
 
No Interruption In The Works Of Berkshire-Works  
 
BerkshireWorks Career Center’s services in Pittsfield remain unchanged, according to officials there. This comes despite its executive director remaining on paid leave with no official interim replacement in place. Melanie Gelaznik, Berkshire-Works’ manager of program operations says there will be no interruption in services whatsoever. Executive Director William Monterosso, who has served in the state-funded position since January 21st, has been placed on paid leave.
 
Egremont Public Works Guru Retiring
 
Jeffrey Vincent, long-time Department of Public Works infrastructure guru in Egremont, is stepping down after 19 years. He is retiring from Town Hall as of Monday. Vincent’s formal title was superintendent of the Department of Public Works through August 2012, when he became capital projects manager for the town. He also carried the title of co-interim town manager in recent months while that position was vacant.
 
MGM Asks State To Delay Casino Fee Collection
 
BOSTON (AP) — Casino giant MGM is asking Massachusetts gambling regulators to slow down the process of collecting required state fees for a casino license in the state's western region as it seeks to open an $800 million casino in downtown Springfield.
MGM Springfield President Michael Mathis suggested Thursday that the state Gaming Commission award the company a license, as expected, by the end of May.
But he requested the commission consider holding off finalizing the process and collecting the required state fees, pending the outcome of an effort by gambling opponents to repeal the state's 2011 casino law.
The proposed anti-casino ballot question is currently before the state's highest court.
"Repeal the Casino Deal," the group that is pushing for the referendum, said MGM 's request is a sign the "landscape for casinos has shifted" in Massachusetts.
 
Massachusetts Teacher Charged In Child Porn Case
 
BOSTON (AP) — Boston federal prosecutors have filed a child pornography charge against a Cambridge fifth grade teacher they say acknowledged secretly videotaping children changing clothes, including in a locker room.
The U.S. attorney's office said 27-year-old Josh Wairi of Somerville was arrested Thursday and charged with transportation of child pornography.
A postal inspector's affidavit doesn't say where the videotaping occurred. It alleges Wairi received child pornography by email, and uploaded images and videos of children being sexually exploited that he transferred to others.
Wairi is held until a hearing Wednesday. It's not immediately known who is representing him.
Cambridge School Superintendent Jeffrey Young said he feels "shocked and betrayed," and apologized to parents. He said Wairi has been placed on administrative leave and the district is cooperating with investigators. Community meetings are planned at the school.
 
Coakley Pays $24,000 To Settle Campaign Violations
 
BOSTON (AP) — Attorney General Martha Coakley's campaign committee has agreed to pay nearly $18,000 to charity as part of an agreement with campaign regulators over payments made with federal committee funds.
Coakley, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Massachusetts governor, also agreed to pay $6,000 to the state to cover the cost of the review.
The Office of Campaign and Political Finance concluded Coakley's state committee violated campaign finance law when her former U.S. Senate committee paid for services that should have been covered by Coakley's state committee.
Coakley ran for U.S. Senate in 2010 and lost.
Under Massachusetts law, federal committees are prohibited from providing anything of value to state committees.
The issues relate to payments Coakley made for database services and to attend the 2012 Democratic National Convention.
 
Patrick Names Gants State's Chief Justice
 
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick has nominated Supreme Judicial Court Justice Ralph Gants to serve as the chief justice of the state's highest court.
If confirmed by the governor's council, Gants would succeed Roderick Ireland, who announced last month that he plans to retire in July.
Patrick says Gants understands the need for the law to be fair and make sense in people's lives.
Gants was appointed to the state's high court by Patrick in 2009 after having serving as a Superior Court judge since 1997.
He was also a federal prosecutor for eight years in Massachusetts and worked as a special assistant under then-FBI director William Webster in the early 1980s.


Thursday, April 17, 2014
 
BHS Closer To Acquiring Northern Berkshire Healthcare

 

 Discussions for Berkshire Health Systems to take over Northern Berkshire Healthcare continued in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Wednesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)

Berkshire Health Systems is moving closer to acquiring the assets of Northern Berkshire Healthcare. A status hearing on the bankruptcy proceedings was held yesterday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Springfield. The court-appointed trustee of NBH, Harold Murphy, said "substantial discussions" for both short-term use, and long-term disposal of assets, are ongoing. Both sides reportedly were in negotiations until 11 p.m. Tuesday and again Wednesday morning before the hearing, which started more than a half-hour later than it was scheduled. The two health systems had reportedly been in conversations for some time about a merger or partnership before a deal fell apart over NBH's debt.
 
MCLA Christens New Veterans Resource Center



 Coleman Nee, Massachusetts secretary of veterans affairs, speaks during a ceremony at MCLA on Wednesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Rebecca Dravis)
 
Massachusetts College of Liberals Arts yesterday marked the opening of a new Veterans Resource Center in the college's Venable Hall that will give all veterans in the MCLA community the support they need and deserve.
Before helping cut the ribbon on the door of Room 309 with Sen. Benjamin B. Downing, Mayor Richard Alcombright, MCLA President Mary Grant and MCLA student and Navy veteran Brian Nelson were there to cut the ribbon.
None of it would have been possible without the support from not only the college community but the greater Northern Berkshire community as well, said Associate Dean of Students Theresa O'Bryant, who spearheaded the effort. O'Bryant said she asked a lot of people for a lot of support while planning the VRC .
 
Mansion Will Be Razed To Make Room For Dollar General



The 19th-century home at the corner of South Street and West Mountain Road will be demolished to make way for a Dollar General. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Jack Guerino)
 
A Dollar General is coming to the town of Cheshire and not everyone is happy about it, but town according to town officials, there's nothing they can do about it. IBerkshires.com reports a 19th-century Second Empire-influenced mansion at 12 South Street will be knocked down to make way for the plain-box discount store. Selectmen told abuttors who attended Tuesday's meeting that they have little control over development along that stretch because of Cheshire's old zoning laws. The discount store passes the current zoning requirements and building permits and can build by right because the property is commercially zoned.
  
Probation And Restitution For Former Ambulance GM
 
A Williamstown man pleaded guilty this yesterday in Berkshire Superior Court to a larceny charge. According to prosecutors, 59 year old Albert Miller and his wife, 58 year old Cara Miller of Williamstown, allegedly stole $240,000 from the Village Ambulance Service between January 1st, 2006, and December 31st, 2011. During that time, Albert Miller was the nonprofit's general manager and his wife was the office manager. Miller pleaded guilty to one count of larceny, ongoing and continuing offense. Judge Daniel Ford placed him on 3 years’ probation and ordered Miller to pay $240,000 in restitution. Cara Miller has pleaded not guilty to the same charge plus an additional count of embezzlement. She remains free on personal recognizance.
 
Mass MOCA’S Packed 15th Season Announced
 
Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Arts is cutting prices, extending hours and scheduling a summer full of music and exhibitions designed to attract visitors — and keep them here longer. IBerkshires.com reports Museum officials revealed a season that kicks off on Memorial Day with a 15th anniversary party, Beck performing on June 24th and the Fresh Grass music festival capping off the summer. The packed schedule also includes Roomful of Teeth and regulars Bang on a Can – and of course plenty of art displays. Director of Communications Jodi Joseph said Mass MoCA will extend summer hours in order to keep visitors in the Berkshires longer.
 
Inmate Testimony Will Be Heard In Murder Case
 
A judge has ruled that the testimonies of two jailhouse informants can be heard at David Chalue’s triple murder trial. Two inmates allege Chalue, of North Adams, admitted to killing three Pittsfield men in August 2011. The Berkshire Eagle reports, a judge ruled this week that the testimony was admissible at trial. Chalue’s attorney, Donald Frank, had argued that the two inmates had elicited the allegedly incriminating statements while acting as government agents, which he say is a violation of Chalue’s rights. Frank said both men have a history of working with police and are active police informants.  The judge said no evidence of any agreements existed between law enforcement and either man at the time.
 
Pittsfield Man Arraigned For Failure To Register As Sex Offender
 
A Pittsfield man was arraigned in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday. 60 year old Raymond Yetz had a not guilty plea entered on his behalf on one count of failure to register as a sex offender (2nd offense). Yetz allegedly failed to register as a sex offender in Pittsfield between October 18, 2013 and December 24, 2013. Judge Daniel Ford ordered that he be held at the Berkshire County House of Correction on $5,000 bail.     
 
 
MBTA Project Still On The PEDA Wish List  



 PEDA is hoping that even if the state rail-car contract doesn't land in the Berkshires, there will still be a trickle-down effect. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)
 
With bids due for an $800 million state train car construction contract next month, local economic development officials believe the Berkshires are still in the running as an option for the selected manufacturer's future location. IBerkshires.com reports Corydon Thurston, executive director of the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, told its board of directors yesterday that they are cautiously optimistic that when it comes time for the RFPs to be submitted, that there may still be one company that's interested in doing the project in the Berkshires. May 1st is the deadline for rail companies seeking the new contract to assemble cars for the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority's Orange Line. The contract could mean up to 250 new jobs over the next 10 years. The state Department of Transportation will make the determination and award a contract by December.
 
Berkshire-Works Director Placed On Leave
 
William Monterosso is on paid leave from his job as executive director of the BerkshireWorks Career Center, according to sources familiar with the operation. The Berkshire Eagle reports that officials aren’t commenting publicly on his job status with the county’s employment agency. Monterosso is three months into the job. He was formerly the head of Kentucky’s Office of Employment and Training. Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi said in response to an inquiry about Monterosso’s status, that they are looking into some issues and that the situation was in the hands of the city’s personnel department.
 
Moratorium Sought Regarding Smart Grid Program  
 
The head of an area non-profit is looking for some help from Sheffield town meeting voters to block a National Grid program that would implement new “upgraded” meters for your home. The meters, according to Nina Anderson, President of the Scientific Alliance for Education says there are multiple reasons that these meters are a bad idea. She says that the upgrade in the state of Maine to these new meters cost about $70 billio. but that’s not the only issue she has with them…
Anderson has filed a citizens petition to place a warrant on the agenda at the Sheffield Annual Town Meeting on May 5th to vote on a moratorium regarding the “Smart Meter, Smart Grid” program.
 
Stockbridge Town Offices Sealed Off
 
The Town offices in Stockbridge, the hub of government, community, and police activities in the town, will be sealed off tomorrow through Monday because of an environmental project. The Berkshire Eagle reports however, thanks to mutual aid from the Pittsfield Police Department and the Berkshire County Sheriff’s Office, essential public safety services will be maintained through a mobile command center that was installed outside the building at 50 Main Street. Town Administrator Jorja Ann Marsden says all other activities in the building will be suspended for the four-day period so any fumes from an insulation upgrade in the gymnasium can dissipate.
 
 Muddy Brook Has A New Principal
 
The Berkshire Hills Regional School District has hired an in-house candidate as the new principal of Muddy Brook Elementary School. Effective on July 1st, Mary Berle, the director of learning and teaching in the district, will take over as principal. She will replace outgoing Principal Todd Dingman. He moves on after four years at the school to take a principal’s position in the Arlington School District. Berle is a 1983 graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School and a 1987 graduate of Harvard University. She earned her master’s degree in education at Harvard.
 
Road Repairs Gain Approval In Mount Washington
 
Bash Bish Falls Road is getting a long overdue upgrade in the summer. Voters at a special town meeting earlier this week approved spending $100,000 on the project, which will allow the town to receive $1 million in funding from the state. The turnout for the vote was fairly poor. Only thirteen of the towns 151 registered voters came out to Town Hall to vote on the four-article warrant, which was approved with minimal changes.
 
House Approves $13B Transportation Bill
 
BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House has approved a bill authorizing the state to borrow nearly $13 billion to jumpstart major transportation projects around the state.
The House voted 149-2 on Wednesday to accept a compromise worked out by legislative negotiators. The Senate could act on the measure as early as Thursday.
The bill would authorize borrowing for a range of transportation proposals, many of which have been on the drawing board for years. The list includes $2.3 billion to bring commuter rail service to the South Coast region.
Other projects include the extension of the MBTA 's Green Line to Medford, and renovations to Boston's South Station.
The measure also calls for $300 million for local road improvements.
The Legislature passed a transportation financing bill last year that included tax increases on gasoline and cigarettes.
 
Gov. Patrick: Appeal Of Zohydro Ruling Unlikely
 
BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick is leaning against any further court action on the state's bid to ban the powerful new painkiller Zohydro in Massachusetts.
A federal judge has issued an injunction against the ban, which Patrick ordered after declaring a public health emergency in light of a surge of drug overdoses.
Patrick told reporters on Wednesday that while no final decision had been made, he did not believe his administration would appeal the injunction. He cited the time and resources involved in an appeal, and added that he considered Zohydro only one small part of a much larger problem.
The maker of the drug, San Diego-based Zogenix, had challenged the ban.
Judge Rya Zobel noted in Tuesday's ruling that the Food and Drug Administration had approved Zohydro in October and that federal law pre-empted Patrick's emergency order.
 
Lawmakers Advance Bill To Help People With Autism
 
BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts House is backing a bill that offers strategies for addressing the needs of the growing number of children diagnosed with autism.
The measure given unanimous approval on Wednesday would establish a permanent state commission on autism and develop a training program for teachers to help educate students with the disorder.
The proposal, which now goes to the Senate, would a
Friday, April 11, 2014
 
Afternoon Apartment Fire In North Adams



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

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



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

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

 

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

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



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

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

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

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


Thursday, April 10, 2014

 
BMC Hires 143 NARH Workers 

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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



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



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

 

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

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


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

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


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


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

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




Thursday, April 03, 2014
 
Movement On The Lehovec Site 
 


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

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


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



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

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



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

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

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

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



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



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

 

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

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



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



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

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



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

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



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



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

Deal To Reopen NARH Emergency Room As BMC Satellite
 


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

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

Court Order Keeps Emergency Services At NARH Open  


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


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


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


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

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


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


Thursday, March 27, 2014


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

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

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

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



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

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



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

North Adams Regional Hospital And Affiliates To Close


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