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News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

SNOW STORM TO HIT THE BERKSHIRES HARD

The Berkshires is poised to get walloped by a wintry nor'easter today, making one of the heaviest travel days of the year troublesome at best. The National Weather Service is predicting upwards of 10 inches for Berkshire County - and maybe as much as 15 or 16 inches. Slightly less is predicted for the North Adams area. A winter-storm warning remains in effect until 7am tomorrow. Other forecasters anticipated anywhere from 7 to 12 inches, since ocean storms are notoriously difficult to track a day in advance. The snow is expected to spread from south to north across the area and could be mixed with rain at the onset. The snow will be heaviest during the afternoon into the evening with the snow tapering off late tonight. This storm will significantly impact holiday travel... Making driving dangerous at times with snow covered roads and poor visibilities. Isolated power outages will be possible where the heaviest snow occurs.

CLARKSBURG MAN FACES DRUG CHARGES AFTER LEADING POLICE ON FOOT CHASE

A Clarksburg man with four warrants for his arrest was being held on $50,000 bail after leading state police on a foot chase through the woods of Savoy on Friday following a routine traffic stop. 30 year old Aaron Rowett pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Friday on charges of resisting arrest, failure to stop for police, operating a motor vehicle with a suspended license, operating an unregistered motor vehicle, operating an uninsured motor vehicle, possession to distribute a class A drug, class B drug possession, and conspiracy to violate drug law. He was ordered held on $50,000 bail.




     Everyone's a winner at the pie auction (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)

OH BE THANKFUL PIE AUCTION RAISES FUNDS FOR CHARITIES

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. - The bidding, as usual, was fierce and unpredictable at the annual Oh Be Thankful Pie Auction on Tuesday night in North Adams. The annual event at the American Legion auctioned off some 40 Thanksgiving pies (and one cheesecake) to raise funds for local charities and food pantries. Established by Gabriel Abbott Memorial School Principal Heidi Dugal more than a decade ago, the pie auction has become a community service project of the Florida school's 8th grade. Kristy Keeler, Jenah Janz and Krista Furlon did the event as part of The event also included a 50/50 raffle and a chinese auction.

BERKSHIRE FOOD PROJECT SERVES THANKSGIVING

About 180 people gathered for an old-fashioned, made-from-scratch, family- style Thanksgiving dinner Monday - a dinner that was locally sourced and prepared by more than 30 volunteers. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Berkshire Food Project, which serves free lunch every weekday at the First Congregational Church on Main Street, put on dinner, as it does every year in the same place, to help local folks who might not have the opportunity for a holiday meal otherwise.




     Residents Richard Scholz and John Tremblay asked the board to request an independent review of Dollar General's traffic study. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)Jack Guerino)
 

CHESHIRE SELECTMEN MAY SEEK PEER REVIEW OF DOLLAR GENERAL

The Selectmen may request a peer review of the Dollar General curb cut traffic study. Iberkshires.com reports that residents Richard Scholz and John Tremblay approached the board with a letter last night asking them to request the peer review of the traffic study by the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission. The discount chain store has shown interest in purchasing and demolishing the dilapidated historic property at the corner of West Mountain Road and Route 8 to make way for a Dollar General.

UNEMPLOYMENT LOWEST IN SIX YEARS

The Berkshire County unemployment rate dropped precipitously in October, reaching its lowest level in six years. According to figures released yesterday by the state Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, the county jobless rate fell more than a percentage point, from 6.1 percent in September to 5.0 percent. It's the lowest Berkshire unemployment has been this year; the previous low was 5.5 percent in May. Overall, Berkshire unemployment is at its lowest level since October 2008, when it reached 4.9 percent.

DALTON TEEN FACING CHARGES FOR RAMMING CAR, ASSAULTING DRIVER

A Dalton teen is facing felony charges for allegedly ramming a vehicle and attacking the driver during an incident last week on Crane Avenue. 18 year old Stefan Kosof, of North Mountain Road, rammed the man's SUV, causing his own vehicle to flip. He then allegedly chased the driver on foot and punched him in the face twice before fleeing the scene, according to police. He apparently blamed the driver for causing him to get in a fender bender with his girlfriend. Kosof was released on $500 bail and ordered him not to have contact with the alleged victim. He is due back in court on January 16th for a pretrial hearing.





    The City Council met Tuesday night. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

PITTSFIELD COUNCIL ACCEPTS SCHOOL BUDGET LAW AND MORE

The Pittsfield City Council took power away from the mayor last night. IBershires.com reports that the City Council took ultimate say over the school budget and appointing authority away from the mayor in two separate votes. The first was to adopt a state law allowing the council to override the mayor's school budget. The second was to reject an administrative order that solidified the already existing hiring protocol that has the mayor as the appointing authority. Both of the votes were against subcommittee recommendations. The school petition was first put forth by Councilor At Large Churchill Cotton, which would give the council authority to override the mayor's recommended school budget by a supermajority.

PITTSFIELD SHOOTING: ALLEGED GUNMAN FACES ADDITIONAL CHARGE

Pittsfield City police have filed a new charge against a teenager who allegedly shot a Goshen man in the leg during a robbery attempt last week. The victim died a day later, and authorities are still trying to determine the cause of death. The Berkshire Eagle reports that 18 year old Peter Campbell, of Francis Avenue, is being arraigned in Central Berkshire District Court today on a charge of armed assault to rob with a firearm, which carries a minimum mandatory state prison sentence of five years and a maximum 20 year sentence upon conviction. The investigation by the Pittsfield Police Department and state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney's Office is still open and ongoing. A second suspect remains at large.

FREE SAND PILES AVAILABLE FOR PITTSFIELD RESIDENTS

If you live in Pittsfield and haven't done so yet, you may want to take advantage of Department of Public Works sand piles that have been place in three locations in the city. The piles are located at the Barker Road Fire Station, the Peck's Road Fire Station, and at Williams Street Plaza. The free sand may just come in handy when you're digging yourself out of the from today's snowstorm. The sand is available for free pick-up by city residents for their own personal use throughout the winter season. Residents are requested to limit their pick-ups to 50 pounds per visit, which is the equivalent to one five-gallon pail. If you happen to see anyone loading up a pick-up truck or taking more than one five-gallon pail at a time, you are requested to contact the DPW Highway Division.

BRTA BUSES NOT RUNNING ON THANKSGIVING

The Berkshire Regional Transit Authority will not be running buses on Thanksgiving Day tomorrow. The offices in Pittsfield will also be closed in observance of the holiday. The regular schedule of service will resume on Friday morning, but the administrative offices will remain closed until Monday at 8am.




Tuesday, November 25, 2014

    
Suzanne Bateau from GE Healthcare was on hand to review the operations. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)

BMC ADDS MAMMOGRAPHY SERVICES AT NORTHERN BERKSHIRE CAMPUS

Berkshire Medical Center's Northern Berkshire Campus has begun conducting its first mammograms this week, seeing about 10 patients a day. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the reintroduction of digital mammography - with new equipment - marks another restoration of outpatient services to North County, joining endoscopy, the emergency department, and others following the abrupt closure of North Adams Regional hospital in March.

WINTER STORM COULD EFFECT HOLIDAY TRAVEL

A potential winter storm could make holiday travel hazardous for Berkshire residents preparing to visit family and friends for Thanksgiving. The National Weather Service in Albany has issued a winter storm warning that will be in effect 7am tomorrow through 10am Thursday. The watch is for all of western New England and all of Eastern New York excluding the western Adirondacks and the western Mohawk Valley. Heavy snow is expected with accumulations of anywhere between 6 and 16 inches with snow falling at a rate of 1 to 2 inches per hour. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation projects nearly one million motorists, fueled by the lowest gas prices in 4 years and an improved economy, will be on the roads during the five-day holiday period, a four-percent increase from last year.

THREE CHARGED IN ABUSE CASE

Three North County residents are facing charges in connection with the severe physical abuse of an 11-month-old boy who suffered a skull fracture and burns to his body. 26 year old Chelsey Roy and 25 year old Brett Logan Jr., of North Adams, and 31 year old Karisa Miranda-Ruiz, of Williamstown, all had reason to know that an 11-month-old boy was being severely abused and did nothing to stop or report it, police and prosecutors say. The child suffered a fractured skull and burns on his body consistent with being made by a lighter in North Adams between September 1st and October 5th. The three defendants pleaded not guilty to single counts of felony reckless endangerment of a child.



    The Selectmen hold up town flag submissions for the folks watching on television at home. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
 

SELECTMEN LOOK AT NEW SIGNAGE FOR BEE HILL ROAD

The Board of Selectmen in Williamstown yesterday directed town officials to install new signage to help increase traffic safety on Bee Hill Road. IBerkshires.com reports that the board addressed the South Williamstown road in response to a concern raised by a resident about the danger to pedestrians posed by vehicles using Bee Hill as a "shortcut" between the Mohawk Trail and Cold Spring Road. Selectmen Andrew Hogeland asked that the issue be put on the agenda for yesterday's meeting, and the board's two longest serving selectmen both noted that the issue is not new.

HEALTH CARE WEBSITE WORKING AS HOPED

Nearly 52,000 individuals in Massachusetts have been found eligible for insurance plans that comply with the federal Affordable Care Act during the first seven days of the open enrollment period for 2015. Officials say the revamped Massachusetts Health Insurance Exchange website has attracted more than 334,000 visitors in its first full week. The rollout is a sharp contrast to a year ago, when a failed website forced the state to place hundreds of thousands into temporary Medicaid coverage.

GAS PRICES DOWN ONCE AGAIN

Another drop in gas prices in Massachusetts is welcome news for Thanksgiving travelers. AAA Southern New England reports that the price of a gallon of self-serve, regular has dropped 6 cents in the past week to an average of $2.87 per gallon.

46 ITEM AGENDA IN PITTSFIELD TONIGHT

The Pittsfield City Council faces a 46-item agenda for its meeting tonight. The lengthy agenda includes a bid to restrict a mayor's outside business activities and other issues that have sparked debate at the subcommittee level.

NEW PIPELINE ROUTE CONSIDERED

The company proposing to build a gas pipeline through Berkshire County is "seriously considering" an alternative route that would spare Richmond, Lenox, Washington, Pittsfield, Dalton and Hinsdale. An official of Kinder Morgan Energy Partners on Monday said the company is looking at a new path, known as the New York Power-line Alternative, which would enter the county in Hancock from Stephentown, N.Y. The pipeline would follow an existing utility corridor through Hancock, Lanesborough, a slice of southern Cheshire, into Windsor before rejoining the previously outlined main route in Peru to points east and north.



    The Ordinance & Rules Committee is recommending the City Council reject a petition on Tuesday to adopt a law allowing it to override a mayor's school budget. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)
 

PITTSFIELD COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS AGAINST SCHOOL BUDGET LAW

The Pittsfield Committee on Ordinance & Rules is recommending the City Council reject a petition on Tuesday to adopt a little used Massachusetts law enabling it to override a mayor's decision on the annual school budget. The subcommittee voted 3-2 last week against recommending a petition. IBerkshires.com reports that if enacted, Massachusetts' Chapter 329 would allow a school budget appropriation to be increased above that called for by a mayor, provided at least four members of the School Committee, and eight members of the City Council vote to do so. Opponents of the move point out that there do not seem to be any other discernible cases where a community has adopted this in the 17 years it's been on the books.



    The Polish Community Club has been told it must find a manager for its bar.
(Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)  

LIQUOR LICENSE IN LIMBO

Who will take the responsibility of management at the Polish Community Club's bar remained unclear following a meeting of the city's Licensing Board yesterday. Club representatives said their intention had been to appoint one officer to hold the license while others would manage the bar's operations, a plan that was flatly rejected by the board.

FROZEN'S IDINA MENZEL COMING TO TANGLEWOOD

Tony Award-winner Idina Menzel - singer and star of "Frozen," "Wicked," "Glee" and the current Broadway musical, "If/Then" - is scheduled to perform in the Koussevitzky Music Shed at Tanglewood in Lenox on August 29th. The concert is part of a nearly 40-date North American tour that begins July 7th in Richmond, Va., and ends October 3rd in Los Angeles. The itinerary includes stops in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Boston and Chicago.

LIBRARY TO HOST ANNUAL BOOK SALE

Friends of the Great Barrington Library will hold their annual book sale from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Mason Library on Main Street. Highlights include a collector's donation of books on food, including cookbooks, diet, sustainability, politics, and culture; local history, gift books, sets, and books on CD. All books are $1 except children and teen items which are 50 cents each. Small mass market paperbacks are five for a $1. The last hour of the sale will feature the opportunity to fill a bag with books for $6. The sale benefits the library Friends' programs.

GREAT BARRINGTON MAN ARRAIGNED ON DRUG CHARGES

A Great Barrington man was arraigned yesterday in Berkshire Superior Court on a drug charge. 28 year old Bryan Arce of 357 State Road had not guilty pleas entered on his behalf on one count of possession of heroin with intent to distribute and one count of conspiracy to violate drug laws, to wit: possession of heroin with intent to distribute. Judge Agostini released him on $7,000 bail. The charges stem from a motor vehicle stop in Great Barrington on October 1st of this year.

MONTH-LONG COMMENT PERIOD ON MGM CASINO OPENS

MGM Resorts is taking steps to break ground in 2015 on an $800 million casino in Springfield that's being billed as the largest single development in western Massachusetts history. A month-long public comment period officially opens this week on the casino's final environmental impact report. The Springfield City Council is also meeting with casino officials to talk about the road ahead.

TURBINES ALONG THE COASTLINE

Massachusetts is one step closer to seeing its coastline waters dotted with wind turbines as federal officials announced yesterday that an auction date has been set for wind energy leases to develop more than 742,000 acres off the coast. The sale is set for January 29th.


Monday, November 24, 2014

    
Tony Mazzucco, center, speaks with residents after Saturday's interview. The Selectmen voted unanimously to offer Mazzucco the post of town administrator, which he accepted. He and the board went into executive session to iron out salary and benefits details. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Jack Guerino)

ADAMS HIRES NEW TOWN ADMINISTRATOR FROM MAINE

The Adams Board of Selectmen unanimously voted on Saturday morning to hire a town administrator with experience in public and private management. IBerkshires.com reports that Tony Mazzucco, assistant city manager of Caribou, Maine, and a native of Randolph, was the third and final candidate interviewed. The board made its decision shortly after speaking with him Saturday morning. Mazzucco said he comes from an area that is similar to Adams and has similar challenges.

STAMFORD MAN SENTENCED TWO YEARS PROBATION FOR RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT

A Stamford VT man was sentenced to two years of probation on last week in the criminal division of Bennington Superior Court, for a reckless endangerment charge, following some jail time served for an incident that took place in August. 33 year old Christopher Crockwell was accused of smashing the side mirror of a sport utility vehicle with a baseball bat, while his girlfriend and her children were inside. The altercation came after an argument the couple had regarding Crockwell's alcohol intake earlier that day. In 2013, Crockwell threatened two men with a gun. He was ordered by the court that he not consume any alcohol, be electronically monitored, meet all terms set by his probation officer, and to attend alcohol and mental health counseling.




    Terri Louison, with Mayor Richard Alcombright, was honored for her efforts in helping the homeless and in establishing Louison House family shelter. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Paul Hopkins)

LOUISON HOUSE 25TH ANNIVERSARY FETES NAMESAKE

Louison House namesake Theresa Louison was honored for her contributions to the Northern Berkshire community and especially to the cause of solving homelessness in the region last week. Louison was surrounded by nearly 50 friends and family at the Adams Council on Aging on Thursday as part of a celebration marking 25 years since Louison House and the Family Life Support Center opened. The agency, focused on homelessness and its causes, has assisted thousands of residents in its history.

POSITIVE SIGNS FOR RAILWAY

Three of Berkshire Scenic Railway's five railcars are now parked in North Adams, a promising sign for officials who hope to have the Hoosac Valley Service up and running in 2015. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the Lenox-based Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum last week orchestrated, with the help of three private railroad companies, the transport of three of its railcars from Lenox to North Adams, where they are currently resting near the city's Department of Public Works garage. Two more cars should be on their way to North Adams in the coming week, according to Jay Green, government affairs director for the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum.




    Kirt Mayland of Reservoir Road Holdings reviews plans for a private array off Gravel Bank Road. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)Jack Guerino)

CLARKSBURG CONSIDERS TWO POSSIBLE SOLAR ARRAYS

Clarksburg is considering a municipal solar array on the former landfill. The Selectmen on Monday were also updated on a proposal for the development of a private array on Gravel Bank Road. IBerkshires.com reports that Town Administrator Carl McKinney informed the board that he plans to apply for a state Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative grant that will pay for technical consulting of a 77-acre parcel of town-owned land. McKinney said the parcel extends from the Department of Public Works building on West Cross Road north to the old dump. A solar array would be placed on the capped landfill and some of the land could possibly be developed for public use.




    Gordon Noseworthy, the Williamstown-Lanesborough schools new interim superintendent, answers questions by video conference on Friday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

WILLIAMSTOWN-LANESBOROUGH TRI-DISTRICT PICKS INTERIM SUPERINTENDENT

Gordon Noseworthy of Northampton has been selected as the interim superintendent of Williamstown and Lanesborough schools. The one-time interim Pittsfield superintendent was picked over two other candidates on Friday afternoon in a meeting of the Mount Greylock Regional School Committee and Superintendency Union 71, a combination of Lanesborough Elementary and Williamstown Elementary. Noseworthy won out largely because committee members thought he had the political acumen to handle the contentious relationship between the rest of the Tri-District and the Lanesborough School Committee.




    Kevin Tyree of the Friendship Pantry unloads boxes of food with Mayor Richard Alcombright and his administrative assistant Rosemari Dickinson. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
 

NORTH ADAMS WORKERS, STUDENTS DONATE 800 LBS. TO FOOD PANTRY

The North Adams city department food drive exceeded its goal by 200 pounds this year. IBerkshires reports that the boxes of goods - boxed stuffing, cans of fruits and vegetables, fruit juices and baking supplies - were donated at drop-boxes at all the schools, library, City Hall, the public safety building, city yard and the Spitzer Center. School Department employees Gordon Tower, Russ Beauchamp and Jim McLain delivered the 816 pounds of food to the Friendship Pantry on Eagle Street on Friday morning. The volunteer pantry's entering its fourth year. It was established by the Northern Berkshire Interfaith Action Initiative after the closure of Berkshire County Action Council's North Berkshire office.




    Superintendent Jason McCandless said enrollment at some Pittsfield schools is unbalanced, while the overall number of students in the district has dropped. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)
 

PITTSFIELD SCHOOLS GRAPPLE WITH ENROLLMENT DROP

Pittsfield School officials are mulling the implications of a new report that indicates the district has 170 students less than it had this time last year. IBerkshires.com reports that at a meeting of the Pittsfield Public School Committee on Wednesday, Superintendent Jake McCandless presented data from an annual state enrollment report. According to statistical data, the city's school district has seen a 14 percent decline in student population over the past 20 years, though this is significantly less than the 21 percent decrease seen regionally across Berkshire County schools. Only McCann Technical School saw an increase during this time, rising by four-percent.

PITTSFIELD PLANNERS BACK $14 MILLION PLAN FOR APARTMENTS IN ONOTA BUILDING

A Pittsfield developer is a few months away from starting the second phase of a $14 million project to create additional downtown apartments through a state-sponsored housing program. The Berkshire Eagle reports that early next spring, Allegrone Construction Company expects to begin renovations of the Onota Building on North Street at an estimated cost of $9.2 million. The company noted the Onota price tag is $2.2 million higher than the estimate when the redevelopment plan was unveiled nearly two years ago. The Pittsfield Community Development Board unanimously backed the Onota project, which will create 25 market-rate apartments on the upper floors of 64-74 North Street.

BAKER'S POND PROJECT TO REVIVE 'HIDDEN JEWEL' IN LENOX PARK

The release of $125,000 in state funding to restore an obscure pond in a rarely seen section of the town's 500-acre Kennedy Park in Lenox represents a wish come true for a town native whose family hayed a nearby meadow by horse-drawn wagon 80 years ago. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the project fulfills a decades-old dream of Kennedy Park Committee Chairman Robert Coakley, who has personally carved out trails around the area frequented by his father and other family members going back to the 1930s. Following an expected final permit from the Lenox Conservation Commission, the one week of work would be done in early December.

LEE CHURCH WELCOMES ALL

The First Congregational Church on a Sunday morning displays a rainbow flag at its main entrance. The red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple banner means the United Church of Christ faithful openly welcomes all worshippers, especially those of varying sexual orientation. The Berkshire Eagle reports that a year ago, the 125-member UCC congregation located behind Lee Town Hall voted to become "open and affirming", publicly stating homosexuals and others feeling shunned by other religious organizations are fully accepted into the ministry of the local church.

SOLAR PROJECT LIGHTS BACK ON IN LENOX

The lights are back on for a long-awaited solar-panel project aimed at powering municipally owned buildings in Lenox, including Town Hall, the Community Center, the school buildings and the wastewater treatment plant there. At a special town meeting attended by 170 residents this week, voters unanimously approved a new joint effort with Lee to land a developer for a pair of installations in each town. The vote was required because previous approval at the 2012 annual town meeting had designated a specific developer, Boston-based Broadway Renewable Strategies. But the parent company, Broadway Electric, went out of business early this year, much to the surprise and dismay of town officials.

CITY DESCRIBED NAMES GREAT BARRINGTON #1 SMALL CITY IN MA

Citydescribed.com has listed Great Barrington in its List of Top 15 Small Cities to live in Massachusetts. In fact, the town was ranked number-one over all. The website describes the town as a quaint town which brings visitors from all over the state as well as day-trippers from Connecticut, New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire. The article also reverences the fact that Great Barrington is the birthplace of W.E.B. Du Bois. Other notes made about the town include that because of the town's location on the western side of Massachusetts, the average temperatures enjoyed by residents are a little lower than those experienced by many of the best towns along the coast. According to the website, the town also seems particularly committed to ensuring its residents lead a green lifestyle and has an extensive section on its official website detailing eco-friendly and earth-friendly procedures for energy, water use, and recycling.

WATSON FUND LOOKS AT $25,000 GOAL

The Watson Fund is back again this year, raising money for families on the southern Berkshires. The fund is looking to raise $25,000 this year, and is collecting donations at all southern Berkshire locations of Berkshire Bank. The Watson fun was founded in 1936 by local news man John S. Watson. Last year, 243 families were given food certificates and 399 children received clothing certificates. The fund is now in its' 78th year.

COMMERCIAL/RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT SLATED FOR LOG HOMES SITE

Twenty years after New England Log Homes, Inc. went belly up on Bridge Street, the polluted eyesore left behind by the company is soon to be an uber-sustainable, ecologically sensitive complex on the restored banks of the Housatonic River. The Berkshire Edge is reporting that the plan, now known as 100 Bridge, will - if all goes according to plan - feature an expanded Berkshire Cooperative Market as an anchor business in what will be an eco-commercial retail, housing and green public space complex.

UNITED INDEPENDENT AND GREEN RAINBOW PARTY'S GAIN OFFICIAL STATUS

When voters cast ballots on Election Day, they gave a big boost to those seeking an alternative to the state's top political parties. By the time polls closed, the number of parties with official status had doubled. The Democrats and Republicans were joined by the Green-Rainbow Party and the United Independent Party. Official status means they can hold primaries and field candidates under their party banners.

WESTERN MASS ELECTRIC RATE HIKE APPROVED

State regulators have approved a 29 percent rate increase sought by Western Massachusetts Electric Co., which serves about 200,000 customers in western Massachusetts. WMECo has said the rate increase would take effect January 1st and remain in effect for six months. It would raise the average residential customer's bill by about $26 a month.

RETIRED SPRINGFIELD BISHOP MAGUIRE DIES AT AGE 95

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield says former Bishop Joseph Maguire has died at the age of 95. Diocese spokesman Mark Dupont says Maguire died Sunday evening at his residence in Springfield surrounded by family and caregivers. His health had been in decline in recent years. Maguire led the diocese covering western Massachusetts from 1977 to 1992. He was its fifth bishop. After retirement, he faced allegations that clergy sex abuse and cover-up had happened on his watch. A Williamstown man accused Maguire and another former bishop of failing to stop a known pedophile priest who molested him. In a $500,000 settlement in 2012, Maguire apologized for the victim's suffering.

HEAVY TRAFFIC EXPECTED BEFORE, AFTER HOLIDAY

Massachusetts is gearing up for what could be a busier-than-usual Thanksgiving getaway. The Massachusetts Department of Transportation says it expects heavy traffic on state highways and at Logan International Airport in Boston in the coming days. Peak volume is expected tomorrow and Wednesday, and again on Sunday after Thanksgiving. AAA estimates that 46.3 million Americans will venture 50 miles or more from home over the holiday, a more than 4 percent increase from last year. The lowest gas prices in four years could contribute to the travel surge. The most recent average price in Massachusetts was $2.93 per gallon for self-serve regular.

Friday, November 21, 2014


    Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan fills the board in on the progress of the Park Street project. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)Jack Guerino)

ADAMS TOURISM DIRECTOR LEAVING POST

The town of Adams' first tourism director, Samantha Talora, has handed in her resignation. IBerkshires.com reports that, Chairman Arthur Harrington on Wednesday said a personnel subcommittee will meet to discuss how to fill the post. The position was created in December last year and Talora was hired in March. When contacted yesterday, Talora declined to discuss the reasons for her resignation and referred questions to Town Hall. Interim Town Administrator Donna Cesan at Wednesday's meeting said Talora had done a lot of good for the community and will be missed.




    Sandy Totter fills in the Solid Waste District committee on the recent paint collection. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)Jack Guerino)

NORTH BERKSHIRE WASTE DISTRICT REPORTS SUCCESSFUL PAINT COLLECTION

The Northern Berkshire Solid Waste Management District deemed this year's paint shed program a success. Program Coordinator Sandy Totter met with the committee last week to go over details of the paint round up. She said both Cheshire and Williamstown collected 600 gallons each of oil-based paint to be recycled. She said Cheshire also has seven 55-gallon drums of latex paint and two 30-gallon drums of spray paint. Williamstown has six 55-gallon drums of latex paint and one drum of spray paint.

VICTIM DIES DAY AFTER SHOOTING IN PITTSFIELD PARKING LOT 

A Goshen man who was shot in the leg during an alleged marijuana deal gone-bad on Tuesday night has died. 29 year old Anthony Gamache died Wednesday night - just a day after being shot in a vehicle in the parking lot of the Big Y Foods on West Street in Pittsfield. The Berkshire Eagle is reporting that an autopsy is being performed on the victim today in Boston at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. According to a police probable cause report, 18 year old Peter Campbell, of Francis Avenue, was sitting in the front passenger's seat of a vehicle in the parking lot of the supermarket about 8:50pm when he shot Gamache, who was sitting behind the wheel. Campbell remains at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction without bail pending a dangerousness hearing scheduled for today.



   Secretary of Education Matt Malone points to Lanesborough's certificate during a recent visit. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

LANESBOROUGH ELEMENTARY TOP LEVEL SCHOOL IN MCAS

Lanesborough Elementary School is again one of the top schools in the state. The school recently received its' standardize testing scores and has ranked as a Level 1 - the highest designation - for the second year in a row. Based on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System testing, the state sets target scores that measure both the growth of students throughout their educational career and the school's ability to narrow proficiency gaps. For Lanesborough, a score of 75 meets the state's target and Lanesborough Elementary scored 95 for all students and a 98 for students with high needs. The scores earned the school a certificate from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

FIGHT OUTSIDE PITTSFIELD HIGH SENDS GIRL TO HOSPITAL

A fight between two female juveniles in front of Pittsfield High School yesterday morning caused serious injuries to one of the parties involved. Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jake McCandless to the Berkshire Eagle that between 10:30 and 11 a.m., officers responded to a report of a fight involving two girls, one of whom was a student at the high school. According to police, the injured girl was transported to Berkshire Medical Center. McCandless did not comment further on the incident and police expect charges will be filed in the case, but the altercation remains under investigation.

PITTSFIELD MAN GETS 60 DAYS IN JAIL FOR NAKED 'TRICK OR TREAT' STUNT

A Pittsfield city man who yelled "trick or treat" at a female bus driver - while he was naked - has been sentenced to 60 days in jail after pleading guilty to indecent exposure. 49 year old Robert Ford, of Pittsfield, approached a female bus driver about 8pm on October 17th at the city's school bus operations on Merrill Road as the woman prepared a school bus for a trip. Ford knocked on the window to get her attention and yelled "trick or treat" when she turned to look. According to police, the woman ran into the office for help while Ford rode off on a bicycle. Judge William Rota sentenced Ford to 60 days at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction with 31 days credit.

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION ADVISORY COMMITTEE HEARS PITTSFIELD MINORITY HIRING REPORTS

Pittsfield's Affirmative Action Advisory Committee notes some successes in creating a more diverse city workforce while acknowledging there is much more work to be done. The Berkshire Eagle reports that meeting on Wednesday, a year after the group was established upon revival of the long-dormant Affirmative Action Policy and Plan, members heard reports on positive but incremental hiring trends from city and school officials. The committee also advocated for submission of the updated plan to the City Council, something Mayor Dan Bianchi has not done, saying that is unnecessary as the 38-page document already is in effect and being followed.

PETITION TO RESTRICT MAYORAL EMPLOYMENT

The Pittsfield City Council is being asked to change city ordinances to ensure a mayor is available during working hours. IBerkshires.com reports that Councilor at Large Barry Clairmont has filed a petition that will bar the mayor from working for another employer while City Hall is open. The discussion first began during the City Council's debate over pay raises for the mayoral position. Clairmont suggested a clause that would completely prevent the mayor from working another job.

COUNCIL OK'S TAX RATE SPLIT

After rejecting three alternative tax rate formats, the Pittsfield City Council yesterday approved Mayor Dan Bianchi's proposal as submitted. The rates for fiscal 2015 are $18.06 per $1,000 of value for residential property and $36.62 per $1,000 for commercial and personal property. That compares with $17.15 per $1,000 for residential and $35.17 per $1,000 for commercial in fiscal 2014.

BERKSHIRE IMMIGRANT CENTER READY

The Berkshire Immigrant Center, located in Pittsfield, says it's ready to help local immigrants upon President Obama's executive order to grant work permits and deportation protection to millions living illegally in the United States. The Berkshire Immigrant Center, a program of the Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition, offers citizenship and immigration information and application support, legal assistance, advocacy, and referrals to the growing immigrant population of the Berkshires. The center says it will provide workshops, consultations, and filing services for Administrative Relief as the provisions and processes are made clear.

GREAT BARRINGTON COMPANY SAYS NO TO CHINESE MARKET/ANIMAL TESTING

Cosmetics company - Jane Iredale - has put compassion ahead of profits by publicly refusing to sell its products in China, where cosmetics companies are required to have their products dripped into rabbits' eyes and force-fed to animals in archaic product tests. Because of this move, PETA is presenting the company with its Courage in Commerce Award. The Great Barrington based mineral makeup line joins a growing list of beauty-industry leaders including Urban Decay, Paul Mitchell Systems, The Body Shop, Aveda, Jack Black, and NYX Cosmetics that have, after talking with PETA, refused to sell in China as long as tests on animals are required there.

GOVERNORS RACE NARROWEST MARGIN OF VICTORY IN 50 YEARS

Republican Charlie Baker's margin of victory over Democrat Martha Coakley in the November 4th election was the narrowest of any race for governor in the last 50 years in the state. Secretary of State William Galvin announced final vote totals yesterday. He says Baker defeated Coakley by 40,165 votes.

JOB GAINS IN MASSACHUSETTS

The state's office of Labor and Workforce Development says Massachusetts gained an estimated 1,200 jobs in October, but the state's unemployment rate remained unchanged at 6 percent. The monthly report also included a downward revision in job growth for September. The federal Bureau of Labor Statistics said the state gained 7,800 jobs in that month, down from the previous estimate of 9,400.

MASSACHUSETTS CELEBRATES NATIONAL ADOPTION DAY

Special ceremonies are planned across Massachusetts to celebrate and complete the adoptions of more than 100 children on National Adoption Day. The state Department of Children and Families says the children, ranging from babies to teenagers, will be formally adopted Friday morning by their new parents at five courthouses - in Boston, Brockton, Hadley, Springfield and Worcester. The Adoption Day project is one of several supported by the Massachusetts Court Improvement Program.



Thursday, November 20, 2014


    
The pieces of Mather House are moved in Williamstown on Wednesday morning. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)

WILLIAMSTOWN'S MATHER HOUSE MOVES TO NEW LOCATION

Williamstown traffic came to halt for several hours yesterday morning as the 1840 Mather House made its way up Main Street and around the corner at Field Park. IBerkshires.com reports that the move of the 170-year-old building in two pieces required the closure of Route 2 west of Spring Street and removal of the phone and electrical wires that crossed Stetson Court, where the house has been since being relocated in 2002. Spectators gathered in the chilly temperatures to take pictures of the structures making their way down Main Street. Street signs had to be removed and a few tree limbs cut to make way for the two-story house. The move had been scheduled for Monday but was postponed because of wet, snowy weather.




    Attorney Stan Parese said the failure to include the two-year limit on his client's gravel removal permit meant the permit was still viable. Selectmen said they'd get their own legal opinion. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)Jack Guerino)

CLARKSBURG SELECTMEN REVISIT SPECIAL GRAVEL REMOVAL PERMIT

Clarksburg Selectmen will seek town counsel's advice over an expired special gravel removal permit. Michael Milazzo and his attorney, Stanley Parese met with the board Monday night and claimed that the expiration of Millazzo's gravel removal special permit is void. Parese said the permit failed to mention a two-year expiration date and no one challenged the mistake in the allotted 20-day appeal period. Because Milazzo continued to work and use resources on his gravel business under the belief he was covered under the permit, the permit cannot be revoked, he said. The board decided the issue should go to town counsel first, but felt the permit did not have to state an expiration date because both the town's zoning bylaws and Massachusetts General Law state that there is a two-year expiration date on all special permits.

SCHOOL COMMITTEE PREPS FOR SUPERINTENDENT UNCERTAINTY

Williamstown Elementary School Committee has set a special meeting for Monday, November 24th, but it hopes not to need it. IBerkshires.com reports that the committee, at its monthly meeting last week, discussed what would happen if the Tri-District partnership of Williamstown and Lanesborough public schools cannot agree on an interim superintendent when it meets on Friday afternoon at Mount Greylock Regional School. The partner in question is Lanesborough Elementary School, one of three legs of the Tri-District along with Williamstown and Mount Greylock, the junior-senior high school fed by both towns' elementary schools. Throughout this year, Lanesborough's continued participation in SU71 has been in doubt. Two members of the three-person Lanesborough School Committee are on record advocating for the school's withdrawal.




    Attorney Jamie Art, left, and Williams College spokesman James Kolesar answer questions from the Planning Board about the college's proposed boutique hotel for Spring Street. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

WILLIAMSTOWN PLANNERS MULL ZONING CHANGE FOR COLLEGE HOTEL

Williamstown's Spring Street business community turned out in force on Tuesday evening to support a request to expand the Village Business zoning district to accommodate Williams College's plan for a new hotel. IBerkshires reports, the Planning Board held a public listening session to get feedback on the proposal, which would allow the college to build a facility with up to 100 guest rooms at the south end of the commercial district and, ultimately, close the Williams Inn at the junction of Routes 2 and 7. The college, which always owned the land on which the Williams Inn sits, purchased the note on the business earlier this year and facilitated the retirement of former owners Carl and Marilyn Faulkner. The college brought in Stockbridge-based Main Street Hospitality Group to manage the inn.




    The Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee discussed the topic on Wednesday morning. The committee consists of fire, police, emergency managers, and EMTs including the four pictured here: Lenox Fire Chief Dan Clifford, Dalton Fire Chief Gerald Cahalan, BMC Emergency Management Director Lucy Britton and Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

AREA RESPONDERS READY FOR EBOLA CASES

Berkshire Medical Center and area first-responders aren't naive enough to think an Ebola patient can't come here. IBerkshires.com reports that over the last six weeks, they have been making sure they know what to do if that happens. Now, area responders have plans right from start. A protocol has been developed for dispatchers with certain questions as to help determine if the caller is a suspected Ebola case. From there, a system to alert the responders, state Department of Health and the hospital has been arranged. Berkshire County has an advantage to other parts of the state in that there are fewer numbers of responders so ensuring everyone is on the same page is easier. All three of the county's emergency facilities are under Berkshire Medical Center's umbrella so the procedures are the same at all three.

PITTSFIELD MAYOR WANTS STUDY OF EMERGENCY RESPONSE OPERATIONS

Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi has asked the city Ambulance Review Committee to seek a consultant study of dispatching and emergency response operations to determine whether more efficient methods should be implemented. The Berkshire Eagle reports that during a meeting Tuesday, Chairman Christopher Pedersen said the mayor wants the committee to "define the parameters" for a study and develop a request for proposals to seek bids from consultants. The mayor wants to know where problems exist within the current system - and what options might be available for improving the emergency response procedures and making them more cost-effective.

PITTSFIELD TEEN HELD AFTER SHOOTING IN BIG Y PARKING LOT

A Pittsfield teen that allegedly shot a man in the leg Tuesday during a marijuana deal gone bad, is being held without bail. According to police, 18 year old Peter Campbell, of Francis Avenue, was sitting in a vehicle in the parking lot of Big Y Foods on West Street about 8:50 p.m. when he shot a 29-year-old Goshen man. The store was open at the time of the shooting. The man was transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton, where he was treated for his injury. Pittsfield police were contacted and began investigating. Campbell pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court yesterday to single counts of felony assault and battery with a dangerous weapon and misdemeanor possession of a firearm without a license and discharging a firearm within 500 feet of a building. He was ordered held without bail until a hearing.



    State Sen. Benjamin Downing overflowed two boxes of donations last year. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
 

DOWNING, BIANCHI LAUNCH TOYS FOR TOTS COLLECTION COMPETITION

State Sen. Ben Downing and Mayor Dan Bianchi are in taking part in a bit of friendly competition. The stakes are bragging rights, and the bet is - who can collect the most Toys for Tots. IBerkshires.com reports that both offices announced they are reigniting the friendly competition. Downing will collecting donations at his Pittsfield office at 7 North St., Suite 307, while Bianchi will be collecting toys at his City Hall office. Downing will collect unwrapped toys through December 15th. On December 11th, the senator will be hosting his annual Toys for Tots open house. The open house from 3 until 6 p.m. is a push for the toy drive. The office will be opened with refreshments and Downing will be announcing the winner of his first annual greeting card design contest.




    The state approved the plan to build a new school. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)

MSBA MOVES TACONIC HIGH SCHOOL PROJECT TO DESIGN PHASE

The Massachusetts School Building Authority agreed yesterday to move to the design phase for a brand new Taconic High School. The Board of Directors voted in favor of the moving the project to the schematic design phase when architects will design the final product. The project is expected to cost in the $115,700,000 range, with the final numbers being fleshed out in the coming months. The city would borrow that amount and receive about 80 percent reimbursements for a majority of the items. In total, Pittsfield is expected to pay about $40 million with the state covering the rest.




The Festival of Trees is now on display at the Berkshire Museum and will remain up through Jan. 4. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Rebecca Dravis)

B
ERKSHIRE MUSEUM FESTIVAL OF TREES OPENS

The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield has kicked off its annual Festival of Trees. This year's theme is "On Safari" which connects with the museum's "Lions & Tigers & Bears: Through the Lens with National Geographic" exhibit. More than 100 local businesses and organizations decorated trees in a safari theme to grace the entire second floor of the museum. The Festival of Trees will be on display at the Berkshire Museum and will remain up through January 4th. The annual exhibit, which attracts visitors from throughout the Berkshires, opened last weekend.

LEE MAN ADMITS TO 5TH DRUNKEN DRIVING OFFENSE

A Lee man who pleaded guilty to fifth offense drunken driving is being held without bail pending sentencing scheduled for next week. 58 year old Nathaniel Greene, of Ferncliff Drive, was arrested shortly after 10:20 p.m. on June 20th by two state troopers who were alerted by a screeching noise followed by a bang as they were gassing up their vehicle. The Berkshire Eagle reports that troopers located a car that had lost its wheel parked in front of a Subway sandwich shop. Two witnesses reportedly saw Greene looking at the damage to the car before fleeing the scene on foot. According to police, Greene returned a few minutes later and after initially denying it was his car, he admitted it was his and that he had been behind the wheel at the time of the incident.

LENOX VOTERS TAKE STAND

In a turnout described as "amazing" by local officials, 170 voters at a special town meeting tripled down on tightened legal and conservation protections of the watershed area threatened by a proposed natural gas pipeline extending from Richmond through 45 towns to Dracut, north of Lowell. The Berkshire Eagle reports that residents resoundingly confirmed that the 965-acre reservoir system land is protected by Article 97, a 1972 amendment to the state constitution in three unanimous votes followed by applause on Tuesday night. The current route of Kinder Morgan's Tennessee Gas Co. pipeline crosses the watershed and the town-owned, 500-acre Kennedy Park.

GOVERNOR LOOKING TO CLOSE BUDGET SHORTFALL

Governor Deval Patrick's administration is seeking spending cuts to close a $330 million state budget shortfall. The administration is ordering nearly $200 million in immediate spending cuts, while asking lawmakers to approve reductions in local aid and other accounts.

TOBACCO SALES BAN PROPOSAL WITHDRAWN

Health officials in a Massachusetts town have withdrawn a first-in-the-nation proposal to ban all tobacco sales. The Sentinel & Enterprise of Fitchburg reports Westminster's board of health voted 2-1 at its regular meeting yesterday to drop the proposal, a week after rowdy opposition led them to end a public hearing early.

STAPLE TO CLOSE MORE STORES

Staples says it will close more stores than previously announced this year as it tries to reposition itself to remain competitive. The Framingham-based office supply retailer also delivered a solid third-quarter performance and fourth-quarter forecast yesterday, which sent its shares sharply higher.



Wednesday, November 19, 2014

DRUG DEALER TIED TO SLAIN NORTH ADAMS MAN GETS UP TO 17 YEARS IN PRISON

Calling Ernest Harvin a "professional" drug dealer, a judge sentenced the Williamstown man to up to 17 years in state prison for a slew of heroin and gun charges in a case with links to a slain North Adams man. The Berkshire Eagle reports that during a Berkshire County Drug Task Force Investigation from the summer of 2013, investigators learned that Harvin, who goes by "E" and "Ezus," was supplying heroin to dealers in the Northern Berkshires, including a 25-year-old North Adams man named Joshua Bressette. According to Assistant Berkshire District Attorney Richard Locke, Bressette was taken into custody in a sting operation after selling heroin to a police informant and agreed to give up his supplier.

GOVERNOR PATRICK PROUD OF AGENDA

Gov. Deval Patrick, on a tour announcing state funding for two environmental protects and for a $25 million Mass MoCA expansion in North Adams, acknowledged mixed, bittersweet feelings as he approaches the January 8th conclusion of his eight years in office. Patrick told The Berkshire Eagle that he is proud his agenda was ambitious for the whole of the commonwealth. He said that Massachusetts has been leading the nation on many measures, but also acknowledged there is still more to do. Patrick addressed one of his biggest second-term challenges, the troubled Massachusetts Health Connector website that hampered some 400,000 income-eligible residents, including about 8,000 in Berkshire County, from applying for new, federally subsidized insurance. That forced the state to extend existing MassHealth and Commonwealth Care coverage while the site was overhauled.

NORTH ADAMS FIRE DEPARTMENT DELIVERS TURKEY DONATION

North Adams firefighters not only fight fires, but hunger, too. IBerkshires.com reports that the North Adams Firefighters Local 1781 donated 20 turkeys to the Salvation Army on Monday afternoon to help those struggling to feed their families this holiday season. Firefighter Michael Goodson said the department usually tries to do something every year for the community. He said this year, firefighters decided to do a little extra because more people need help. Fire Director Stephen Meranti said the local fire department tries to do more than just fighting fires.

2 LOCAL MEN ALLEGEDLY CAUGHT WITH CASH, NARCOTICS IN NORTH ADAMS

Two North Adams men are facing charges after police allegedly caught them with a quantity of cocaine, crack and cash last week. 35 year old Tyree McKinnon, of Hancock Road, Williamstown, and 25 year old Robert Scutt, Jr., of Beaver Street, North Adams, were arrested Thursday last week on Brown Street. McKinnon pleaded not guilty in Northern Berkshire District Court on Monday to a charge of possessing to distribute a class B drug for a subsequent offense, conspiracy to violate the drug law, and use of a motor vehicle without authority. Scutt pleaded not guilty to charges of possessing a class B drug and conspiracy to violate the drug law. Both men were released on personal recognizance and scheduled for pretrial hearings in January.

FIREFIGHTERS' QUICK RESPONSE SAVES READSBORO HOME

A quick - and overwhelming - response to woodstove fire on Tuesday afternoon in Readsboro, Vermont saved a local family's home. IBerkshires.com reports the call came around 3 p.m. from the home at 2045 Route 100, near the intersection at Old Country Lane, as Readsboro Volunteer Fire Department called for mutual aid backup from surrounding towns. Stamford, Wilmington, Whitingham, and Clarksburg sent trucks and personnel. North Adams Ambulance Service also sent an ambulance and the rehab trailer. The fire from the first-floor woodstove went up the wall and slightly into the second floor above it. The family will not be able to return to the building right away.

MATHER HOUSE MOVE TODAY

Safety concerns brought on by the overnight mix of snow and rain overnight Monday forced the postponement of a historic house move in Williamstown. The crew is trying again today to relocate the 1840 Mather House from the Williams College's campus to 63 North Street. All the same road closures, detours and temporary power outages anticipated on Monday now move to Wednesday. Mather House was expected to make the turn from Stetson Court onto Main Street at around 8 o'clock this morning.

PITTSFIELD HOLDING TAX CLASSIFICATION HEARING THURSDAY

The Pittsfield City Council will decide Thursday how the $73.5 million needed to fund the budget will be split among various property tax payers. IBershires.com reports that the administration is proposing to shift slightly more of the overall burden onto the residential properties than last year. The city currently has a split tax rate with commercial users paying $35.17 per $1,000 of assessed value and residents paying $17.15 per $1,000. That has residential owners paying 63.74 percent of the total fiscal year 2014 tab. The proposal before the City Council is to adopt a residential factor and shift that would set the fiscal 2015 rates at $18.06 for residential properties and $36.62 for commercial.

PITTSFIELD CITY COUNCIL COMMITTEE RECOMMENDS AGAINST SCHOOL BUDGET CHANGE

A Pittsfield City Council committee is recommending against adoption of a provision in state law that allows the council to add to the School Department budget. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the Ordinance and Rules Committee voted 3-2 yesterday against a request from School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon and Councilor at large Churchill Cotton. The petition will now go back to the full council, which is being asked to adopt a provision adopted by the Legislature in 1987. Currently, the council can only reduce the bottom line of a School Department budget from the mayor, who submits those along with other city department budgets.

MAYOR CONTINUES STANCE ON PIPELINE

Despite being accused of having a conflict of interest, Mayor Daniel Bianchi is maintaining his support for the proposed Tennessee Gas pipeline project. Kinder Morgan's Northeast Energy Direct project is currently in the federal permitting phase and the mayor has been the only elected official to vocalize support for the natural gas line that will cut through the Berkshires. One of those groups opposing the project, Berkshire Environmental Action Team has filed an ethical complaint against Bianchi. The mayor has ties to the energy company Global Montello as a former salesman and account manager. The mayor says he still reviews contracts as a consultant for the company occasionally. The mayor said he has no connections with Kinder Morgan, does the consulting outside of his role as mayor and there is no conflict of interest. He says the impact on energy costs through a denial of this project could hurt the local economy.

ALLEGED CHILD RAPIST RELEASED

A 74-year-old man accused of sexually assaulting a young child has been released from custody, but he must wear a GPS locator pending the outcome of his case. According to police, Wayne Ovitt, of Pittsfield, sexually assaulted a 7-year-old girl on October 24th. The child later told her mother what happened, leading to a Pittsfield police investigation and Ovitt's arrest on November 15th. Ovitt has been held since that time awaiting a dangerousness hearing.

LENOX VOTERS PROTECT WATERSHED

About 150 or so registered voters in Lenox sent a clear message last night - stay out of our watershed. IBerkshires.com reports that in three motions, a special town meeting unanimously approved three motions to ensure Article 97 designation is on all of the watershed land. The town had crafted a conservation restriction for the land in the past and more land had been donated. However, there was some legal confusion over whether the Article 97 designation was in place. Energy-company Kinder Morgan has proposed digging into the watershed land for a natural gas line prompting town officials to seek out the quickest way to end confusion over the land's protected status.

LEE AND LENOX DISCUSS SHARED SUPERINTENDENT

The Lee School Committee is reaching out to its Lenox counterpart to begin exploring the concept of a shared superintendent. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the seven-member Lee board has unanimously agreed to invite the Lenox School Committee to open a discussion on possibly unifying their public school administrations. The committees in both towns are facing an immediate need to find permanent superintendents. Each currently operates with interim superintendents. Alfred Skrocki has led the Lee Public Schools since July 1st of last year and Timothy Lee took over at the Lenox Public Schools nearly four months ago.

PIGNATELLI HIRES LEGISLATIVE AIDE

State Representative Smitty Pignatelli has hired a new legislative aide to his office in the Boston State House. Pignatelli, now in his 7th term representing the 4th Berkshire District, has brought on Great Barrington native Gena Frank. Frank is a graduate of Monument Mountain Regional High School and Allegheny College in Pennsylvania. She will replace former aide Kerry Richards, who is now attending Harvard Law School. Pignatelli says that Frank will be a great addition to his team, and she will work closely with district director, Kerry Sullivan.




Tuesday, November 18, 2014

    
Gov. Deval Patrick announced $25.4 million in state money to help expand the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)

MASS MOCA MARKS $25.4M STATE FUNDING

Gov. Deval Patrick was at Mass MoCA in North Adams yesterday to announce the state's $25.4 million investment in a new round of development at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. The museum funding, passed by the Legislature and signed into law earlier this year, will lead to the expansion of more than 130,000 square feet of space at Mass MoCA by 2016. It's the third and final phase of renovations to the museum, which opened in 1999.

WOMAN GETS PRISON FOR FAKING ARMED ROBBERY IN NORTH ADAMS

A Vermont woman has been sentenced to up to four years in prison after a jury found her guilty of faking an armed robbery in order to hide her own theft. 45 year old Lois Aubin nearly collapsed in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday when guilty verdicts were read aloud. It took a jury of seven men and five women a little more than two hours to find the Stamford woman guilty of larceny over $250 and misleading a police officer. Aubin was ordered to serve at least two years and no more than four years in state prison.



    The smaller back half of the building will be last of the lot but first on the new foundation. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

MATHER HOUSE MOVE DELAYED UNTIL WEDNESDAY

Safety concerns brought on by the overnight mix of snow and rain forced the postponement of a historic house move in Williamstown yesterday morning. The crew will try again tomorrow to relocate the 1840 Mather House from the Williams College's campus to 63 North Street. All the same road closures, detours and temporary power outages anticipated on Monday now move to Wednesday. Once again, Mather House is expected to make the turn from Stetson Court onto Main Street at about 8 a.m.



 Alfred Diesz speaks to the Maple Grove Civic Club about town spending.) (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Paul Hopkins)     

CIVIC CLUB CONSIDERS ADAMS TAXPAYERS ASSOCIATION REVIVAL

Members of the Adams Maple Grove Civic Club will consider resurrecting the former Adams Taxpayers Association within the Civic Club structure, after hearing from proponents Alfred Diesz and John Cowie on Sunday. IBerkshires.com reports that Diesz, investigating spending by the town, said the Adams Taxpayers Association was a "hard-working organization" 15 to 20 years ago. The civic club meets the third Sunday of the month at 3 p.m. at the Polish National Alliance. It is seeking new members from Adams and surrounding communities.
 

WILLIAMS HOTEL PROJECT PERCOLATING THROUGH TOWN BOARDS

More than a year after Williams College made public its internal discussions about building a small hotel on the bottom of Spring Street, the proposal is taking its first tentative steps in the permitting process. IBerkshires.com reports that last Thursday, the Conservation Commission reviewed a vegetative wetlands delineation commissioned by the college from local engineering firm Guntlow & Associates. On Tuesday evening, the Planning Board will hold a "community input session" to consider a possible expansion of the Village Business District to include the same parcel. Currently the business district ends at Latham Street at the south end of Spring Street, according to a zoning map available on the town's website.



 

    The Selectmen received good news about the town's free cash situation on Monday night. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)Jack Guerino) 

CLARKSBURG RECEIVING FREE CASH

After nearly three years of financial struggles, Clarksburg received an early Christmas present: $600,000 in certified free cash. Town auditor Thomas Scanlon, of Scanlon Associates, reported Monday night to the Selectmen that the town's accounts are finally balanced. Scanlon said the town will receive $485,662 in certified free cash and $163,723 for the sewer enterprise fund. He said the town's books are squared away.



    The passenger car for ticketing and educational videos is 70 feet long. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
 

BERKSHIRE SCENIC RAILCARS ARRIVE IN NORTH ADAMS

The vanguard of the Hoosac Valley Service arrived in the middle of the night Sunday after a trip through the historic Hoosac Tunnel. IBerkshires.com reports that the three train cars - a caboose, stripped-down passenger car and an engine are the beginnings of what will be weekend scenic rail excursions between North Adams and Adams next year. Efforts to bring the Berkshire Scenic Railway Museum to North Berkshire were announced in January 2013.

FIRE DISPLACES PITTSFIELD FAMILY OF FIVE

A Pittsfield family of five has been displaced following a fire that destroyed their Seymour Street home yesterday morning, shortly before 11am. According to the Pittsfield Fire Department, the family - which was renting the property - was not home at the time of the fire. The structure was damaged so severely that the building inspector has ruled it uninhabitable. Two dogs that were inside during the fire were rescued by firefighters. The displaced family consists of two adults and three children. The American Red Cross has been called to assists the family. The fire led to the closure of Seymour Street for more than three hours. The cause of the fire is still unknown.

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Friday, November 14, 2014

     The 1840 structure built by Benjamin Mather is slated to be relocated from Stetson Court on the southeast portion of the college's campus to 63 North St. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

WILLIAMSTOWN BUILDING MOVE TO DISRUPT ROADS, POWER

The relocation of Mather House Williamstown will require road closures on Monday. IBerkshires.com reports that the 1840 structure built by Benjamin Mather is slated to be relocated from Stetson Court on the southeast portion of the college's campus to 63 North Street, where Vincent Guntlow plans to use the building for a mixture of residential and office space. Williamstown Police plan to close Main Street to vehicles at about 8am on Monday when the house is scheduled to make a left-hand turn toward the Field Park rotary. Motorists traveling west on Main Street with plans to take Cold Spring Road should plan to take Water Street toward the Five Corners intersection. Motorists planning to take Main Street to North Street will be directed via Cole Avenue to North Hoosac Road. The same detours will be used in the reverse directions.

GOVERNOR IN NORTH ADAMS FOR MASS MOCA ANNOUNCEMENT MONDAY

MASS MoCA in North Adams will hold a special press conference on Monday at 11am to announce the Patrick Administration's recent execution of a capital infrastructure investment bill, which includes more than $25,000,000 for MASS MoCA's Phase III development. Governor Deval Patrick will remark about public funding for the arts and its relationship to economic and community development in general and North Adams specifically. Museum staff will outline programming plans and introduce long-term collaborators slated for the Phase III renovations. And an announcement will be made regarding private fund-raising related to Phase III programs and facility renovations.

CLARKSBURG OVERNIGHT PARKING BAN ALREADY IN EFFECT

The Clarksburg Board of Selectmen has placed an overnight parking ban on all town roads and streets effective immediately. The ban will stay in effect until April 15th. No overnight parking will be allowed between the hours of 10pm and 6am. Absolutely No Parking on town roads and streets during any snowstorms will be permitted. Offenders will be ticketed and the vehicle towed at the owner's expense. The Board and the Highway Department says that it appreciates citizen cooperation during the winter months.

NORTH ADAMS FIRE DEPARTMENT CHECK SENIORS' FIRE AND CARBON MONOXIDE ALARMS

The North Adams Fire Department is working once again this year to ensure local seniors' homes are properly protected from fire and carbon monoxide. The Berkshire Eagle reports that for any senior in a single family home in the city, the department will come and inspect smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, making sure they are functional and up to date. If the homeowner then wishes to update their alarms, the department can recommend a replacement and even install it free of charge. Department staff will also have a supply of batteries for any detectors that need a replacement. The program runs through the end of the year.

    Former Councilor Lou Costi was one of several who chided the council for a perceived climate of hostility. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)

MAYOR AND SUPPORTERS FIRE BACK AT COUNCIL

In the wake of several controversies in recent weeks, Mayor Dan Bianchi fired back at members of the City Council for what he termed political "mean-spiritedness." IBerkshires.com reports that the mayor addressed the council flanked by a crowd of supporters during a lengthy open microphone period at Wednesday night's council meeting. In an unusual twist, the open microphone portion accounted for more than half the total time of an otherwise sparse agenda. Bianchi, along with a variety of former political officials and other allies, defended the mayor's right to outside employment and denounced continued challenges from Bianchi's opponents on the Council on a variety of issues.

PROBATION FOR ASHLEY FALLS MAN

An Ashley Falls man has been sentenced to three years' probation and must register as a sex offender after admitting to possessing child pornography. According to the Berkshire District Attorney's Offices 62 year old Michael Agar attracted the attention of Homeland Security in 2012 after Australian police reported that he had been posting "child erotica" on a website there and discussing his interest in child pornography. On May 14, 2013, police raided Agar's New Ashford home and discovered hundreds of child pornography images and videos on his home computer and storage devices. Originally charged with 10 counts of child porn possession, seven of those counts were dismissed in the wake of a state Supreme Judicial Court ruling last month that now only allows prosecutors to charge a single count of possession for any single cache of images or videos found at the same time on a single device. Because of the ruling, the judge in the case was only able to go forward with three charges for the hundreds of images and videos found on three different devices. Agar pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court on Thursday to three counts of knowingly possessing child pornography.

TANGLEWOOD ANNOUNCED 2015 CONCERT SEASON

Tanglewood in Lenox is planning on a wide offering of music for its 2015 concert season which was announced yesterday. The Boston Symphony's new Music Director Andris Nelsons and a 75th anniversary celebration of the Tanglewood Music Center will highlight the season - and the Popular Artists Series will not disappoint either. 88 year old Tony Bennett and pop star Lady Gaga will be performing on June 30th in support of the album they recorded together entitled "Cheek to Cheek." Other performances announced so far in the Popular Artists series include the return of jazz-pop singer and pianist Diana Krall, in support of her upcoming album "Wallflower" on June 21st. And as part of their "While Were Young" tour, Huey Lewis and the News will make their Tanglewood debut on June 28th. If there are going to be any James Taylor performances, they haven't been announced as of yet - but there are still open dates throughout the concert season.

PITTSFIELD MAN HELD ON $25K BAIL; ALLEGEDLY HAD CRACK WORTH $11K

An alleged Pittsfield drug dealer who police say had thousands of dollars-worth of crack cocaine on him during a traffic stop remains held on $25,000 cash bail. 24 year old Jason Deines, of Orchard Street, was arrested October 21st by members of the Berkshire County Drug Task Force after a traffic stop on West Housatonic Street. Deines pleaded not guilty in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday to single counts of felony trafficking in cocaine and misdemeanor possession of heroin. The trafficking charge carries a minimum mandatory 3 1/2 year state prison sentence upon conviction with a maximum 20 year sentence. Deines was held on $25,000 cash or surety bail.




The Historical Commission is discussing ways to have a greater presence in preservation efforts. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)

PITTSFIELD HISTORICAL COMMISSION CONSIDERS EXPANDED ROLE

The Pittsfield Historical Commission believes there are many ways, both small and large, that it can become more involved in preserving local heritage. But prioritizing which cases to devote limited time and resources to will require careful planning. IBerkshires.com reports that at its monthly meeting on Monday, members of the local advisory body discussed the implications of events, both local and statewide, driving interest in the invigoration of historical commission activity. The Historical Commission will meet again on December 8th to further finalize an agenda for the second preservation summit.

CRANE LAUNCHES PARTNERSHIP TO PRINT MOROCCO BANK NOTES

Six months after selling its technical materials division, Crane's currency division has established a strategic printing partnership with a bank in Morocco. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the sole supplier of currency paper to the U.S. Government for the past 50 years, Crane has formed an agreement with Bank Al-Maghrib, the Central Bank of the Kingdom of Morocco, to manufacture bank notes for the international market. The agreement is expected to contribute to the global expansion of Crane's currency operations due to the production capability and modern equipment that are available at Bank Al-Maghrib's industrial facility in Dar-As-Sikkah, Morocco. Crane's currency division is based in Dalton.

GREAT BARRINGTON WINTER PARKING BAN BEGINS ON SATURDAY

The Great Barrington Police Department has announced that the town's all night parking ban will take effect tomorrow, November 15th and will run through April 1st.Police Chief Williams Walsh says that any vehicles parked on any town streets between 1am and 6 am will be ticketed. In case of snowfall, the vehicles will be towed at the owner's expense.

STATEWIDE FOOD WASTE BAN EVENT TODAY IN STOCKBRIDGE

The Patrick Administration recently celebrated the implementation of the Commonwealth's new commercial food waste ban - the first statewide ban in the nation. Under the ban, entities that produce at least one ton of food waste a week must recycle or reuse that material and not send it for disposal at landfills or incinerators. Instead, the materials must be re-purposed or donated to food banks, sent for composting or for animal-feed or utilized in anaerobic digestion facilities. The Patrick Administration will celebrate "America Recycles Day 2014" by featuring the recycling of food waste and organics at the Red Lion Inn, in Stockbridge this morning. The Food Waste Composting Program starts at 10am. MassDEP Commissioner David Cash will be in attendance, as will Red Lion Inn Managing Director Sarah Eustis and other dignitaries.

BAKER NAMES Transition TEAM MEMBERS

Massachusetts Gov.-elect Charlie Baker has announced leaders of his transition team as he prepares to take the reins of state government from outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick. Among those tapped by Baker is Martin Meehan, chancellor of the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The former Democratic congressman will team with Beth Anderson, CEO for the Phoenix Charter Academy Network, to lead Baker's advisory committee on schools. Others chosen by Baker to help lead the transition include former Massachusetts Department of Social Services Commissioner Linda Carlisle, Executive Director of the Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston at the Harvard Kennedy School Steve Poftack, and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company CEO Roger Crandall. Baker said his running mate, Lt. Gov.-elect Karyn Polito, will head up the transition team.

WARREN TAPPED FOR TOP POST

Senator Elizabeth Warren has been tapped for a top Democratic leadership post. Warren has been picked by Nevada Senator Harry Reid to serve as strategic policy adviser to the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. Warren first won election to the Senate just two years ago.

EX-MASSACHUSETTS PROBATION OFFICIAL GETS 18 MONTHS

A former Massachusetts probation commissioner convicted of rigging the agency's hiring process to favor politically connected candidates has been sentenced to 18 months in federal prison. U.S. O'Brien's deputy Elizabeth Tavares was sentenced to three months in prison and deputy, William Burke to a year of probation. O'Brien and Tavares were convicted by a jury of racketeering and mail fraud this summer. Burke was convicted of the lesser charge of racketeering conspiracy.

FLORIDA COURT TO REHEAR EX-FBI AGENT'S MURDER CASE

A Florida appeals court in February will reconsider its decision to toss the murder conviction and prison sentence for a former FBI agent in a mob-style killing linked to jailed Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger. The 3rd District Court of Appeal set oral arguments February 12th in the case of ex-agent John Connolly. A three-judge panel of the court ruled in May that Connolly's second-degree murder conviction was barred by the statute of limitations because a firearms enhancement was improperly applied. Connolly is serving 40 years in the 1982 slaying of Miami gambling executive John Callahan



Thursday, November 13, 2014

   The Cable Mills project is expected to be ready for occupancy by the end of next year. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)


CABLE MILLS DEVELOPER PUSHING FOR DECEMBER 2015 OCCUPANCY

The developer of the Williamstown Cable Mills housing project said Wednesday that it hopes to have 61 units ready for occupancy by the end of 2015.
David Traggorth of Boston's Mitchell Properties told the Board of Selectmen that contractors will be working in the former mill buildings throughout the winter to maintain an aggressive construction schedule and that the apartments will be marketed as early as spring 2015. A significant change since the original plan is a switch from condominium sales to rentals for at least five years. Traggorth and Town Manager Peter Fohlin explained to the board that because of the $27 million project's reliance on federal historic preservation grants, 160 Water Street cannot sell the units as condos for at least five years after occupancy begins.

NORTH ADAMS SEEKS CONTRACTOR FOR RENOVATION

The City of North Adams is seeking a contractor for $750,000 in state-funded renovations to the Western Gateway Heritage State Park. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the city announced an invitation to bid this month on infrastructure improvements in the park while it continues to work to sign a lease with the Greylock Market LLC development group, which plans to revitalize its buildings into a business district. The privatization of the park, situated adjacent to State Street in North Adams, requires approval from the state and city, both of whom have a stake in the park. Bids are due on November 24th, and officials hope to begin demolition of the current pathways before snow falls this winter. They aim to have to entire project completed next summer.

WORKER WHO FELL AT MCLA EXPECTED TO RECOVER

A construction worker who fell at a work site on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus is expected to recover. The man's name or age is still not being releases because of the ongoing investigation. The man fell 20 to 25 feet Monday afternoon while working on Bowman (BO-min) Hall. One of the campus's main academic buildings, Bowman Hall, is undergoing a $15 million renovation slated to be completed by June 2015. The North Adams Fire Department was called to secure a helicopter landing zone at Berkshire Medical Center's Northern Berkshire Campus before the man was taken by helicopter to Albany Medical Center.

BRONX DRUG DEALER GETS UP TO 4 YEARS IN PRISON IN NORTH ADAMS OPERATION

A New York man who was dealing drugs in North County last year was sentenced to up to four years in state prison after pleading guilty to cocaine trafficking and other charges. 26 year old Johnte Smith, of the Bronx, pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday to felony cocaine trafficking and three counts of distribution, possession of heroin and cocaine with the intent to distribute, and two counts of conspiracy to violate the drug laws. Judge John Agostini sentenced him to serve a minimum of 3 1/2 years and no more than four years in state prison.



      A number of the hospital advocates from the Tuesday group attended the meeting. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
 

COUNCIL INVITING BHS OFFICIALS TO SPEAK

The North Adams City Council will invite Berkshire Health Systems officials to attend a public forum to discuss progress made restoring services at the former North Adams Regional Hospital. IBerkshires.com reports that the decision to proffer the invitation came after nearly an hour of debate at yesterday's meeting as councilors questioned the city government's role and determined a compromise solution through the mayor's office wasn't enough. The "Tuesday night group" - a mix of residents, community leaders and members of NARH's former union locals - has been meeting weekly since the hospital's closure in March to share information. Members have been advocating for some time for Berkshire Medical Center leadership to address them.

GOVERNOR OPTIMISTIC ABOUT NEW HEALTH INSURANCE WEBSITE

Governor Deval Patrick says he's cautiously optimistic about the state's revamped health insurance website. Patrick says the team charged with fixing the website has been "testing and retesting" the new website, which he says has a "98 percent passage rate." The new system will go live at 8 a.m. Saturday, the start of the new open enrollment period.



    The research committee held its second meeting on Tuesday. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
 

LANESBOROUGH SCHOOL RESEARCH COMMITTEE MAKES PROGRESS DESPITE DISPUTES

The Lanesborough research committee formed to look at school affiliations made progress in sorting out research topics Tuesday. But continued bad blood between two members could threaten the committee's existence. IBerkshires.com reports, Town Administrator Paul Sieloff forewarned the nine members that if they did not cooperate, the Selectmen would disband the panel. The committee, appointed by the Selectmen, first met last week. Tuesday's meeting kicked off with an argument between Robert Barton and Rich Cohen. Barton threatened to resign and request the Selectmen disband the committee if Cohen wouldn't "back off."

SEEKING LOWER POWER RATES THROUGH CONSORTIUM

A plan that could provide electricity at reduced rates to Great Barrington is moving forward, though not quickly enough to ease an anticipated spike in power costs in the coming months. The Berkshire Eagle is reporting that an energy consortium, of which the town is a member, hopes to have a Request For Proposals ready within the next few months to begin bulk electrical purchase. The town is one of 35 communities that have joined the Hampshire Council of Governments' Municipal Aggregation program. Great Barrington is the only Berkshire County community in the Municipal Aggregation program. But ten other Berkshire County towns, known as the Berkshire 10, have banded together for a similar purpose, also working with the Hampshire Council of Governments. These include Lenox, Dalton, Williamstown, Adams, Tyringham, Sheffield, West Stockbridge, North Adams, New Marlborough and Clarksburg.

PITTSFIELD MAN ALLEGEDLY FLED ACCIDENT SCENE, DUMPED POT AT DAY CARE

A Pittsfield man who allegedly fled the scene of a traffic accident then dumped marijuana in the yard of a day care center was held on bail after pleading not guilty to eight charges. 32 year old Timothy Bragan Jr., of North Street, pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court yesterday to single counts of felony carrying a dangerous weapon, a switchblade knife, drug violation in a school zone and possession of chemical Mace without a license and misdemeanor possession of marijuana with the intent to distribute, driving with a revoked license, leaving the scene of a property damage accident and possession of a class B drug. Bragan was ordered held at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction on $1,000 cash or $10,000 surety bail. The defendant is due back in court for a pretrial hearing on December 10th.

NEW VETERANS OFFICER CONFIRMED

A retired army lieutenant colonel and Taconic High School and West Point graduate has been named the city's new veterans service officer. James Clark, of Pittsfield, was confirmed unanimously yesterday by the City Council, after his name was submitted by Mayor Dan Bianchi. The 54 year old Clark fills a city department head vacancy created after Bianchi fired former Veterans Service Officer Rosanne Frieri in August. Frieri has since filed a complaint over the dismissal with the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, which is pending.

TOWN OF LENOX SETS TAX RATES

Selectmen in Lenox opted to stay with a split tax rate for 2015, which will cause a 1.07 percent increase on the average residential tax bill and a 3.76 percent increase for commercial. The Board of Selectmen held its annual tax classification hearing Wednesday and opted to stay with the split rate. To fund the 2015 budget, the town needs to raise more than $14.2 Million in tax levy, which is 1.87 percent more than last year. To do so, the average residential home assessed at about $372,000 will see a 1 percent increase - based on a $12.33 rate. The average business valued at $961,395 will see a 3.76 percent increase. Last year's residential and commercial rates were $12.07 and $14.91, respectively.

LEE MAN AND WOMAN SENTENCES FOR COPPER THEFT

A man and a woman, both from Lee, pleaded guilty in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday to several charges in relation to the theft of copper from Iberdrola Renewables last year. 34 year old Eli Waters pleaded guilty to twelve counts of receiving stolen property over $250 and several other charges including wanton destruction of property, larceny, trespassing, and being present where heroin is kept. Waters was ordered to serve concurrent 2 to 4 year state prison sentences at the Massachusetts Correctional Institution at Cedar Junction on the charges of receiving stolen property and larceny. He was given concurrent house of correction sentences on the other charges. 33 year old Gina Arnold pleaded guilty to four counts of receiving stolen property and several other charges as well. Arnold was ordered to serve 6 months of an 18 month sentence at the Berkshire County House of Correction and was given two years of probation. Both Waters and Arnold sold copper that belonged to Iberdrola Renewables Florida, Massachusetts location between October 19th and November 12th of last year.

MEETING ON TOBACCO BAN BREAKS UP EARLY

A public meeting on a central Massachusetts town's proposed first-in-the-nation ban on tobacco and nicotine sales has ended early. Officials say the crowd of hundreds last night was getting too unruly to continue. The three-member Westminster Board of Health, which proposed the ban, had to be escorted out by police.

PATRICK HOPES TO AVOID CUTS IN EDUCATION AID

Governor Deval Patrick is hoping to avoid cuts in education aid to cities and towns as he drafts a plan to close an anticipated $325 million budget gap. Patrick says everything else is on the table. He said his plan wouldn't dip into the state's rainy day fund. Administration officials announced the budget hole last week. They said they would unveil their plan to close the gap within two weeks.



Wednesday, November 12, 2014

    (Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Staff)

VETERANS DAY OBSERVANCES YESTERDAY

The cities of Pittsfield and North Adams - and the town of Adams were among communities that observed Veteran' Day with parades and ceremonies yesterday. The City of Pittsfield's Parade led to the Peace Memorial on Veteran's Way where a ceremony was held. Opening remarks were given by Pittsfield Mayor Dan Bianchi and Cpl. Michael Ancora from the Marine Corps League Detachment #137 was the guest speaker. The City of North Adams held its ceremony at the Veterans Memorial at the conclusion of its parade. Marine Col. Allan M. Faxon Jr., chief operating officer of the Vermont Veterans Home in Bennington, was the guest speaker. And the Adams American Legion Post 160 held a ceremony at the Adams Town Hall yesterday.




    The Affordable Housing Committee is redefining its mission statement. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)

WILLIAMSTOWN HOUSING COMMITTEE REWRITING MISSION STATEMENT

The Williamstown Affordable Housing Committee is in the process of redefining its mission in light of an eventful year for the committee and the issue it addresses. IBerkshires.com reports that the committee and the board of the Affordable Housing Trust met in late October in separate meetings. The latter voted to release funds it promised earlier this year to the Highland Woods senior housing project off Southworth Street on land being donated by Williams College. The committee will take up the draft mission statement at its next meeting tomorrow.





    Both Bacom Lodge, on the left, and the War Memorial Tower are being renovated. (Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Staff)
 

MOUNT GREYLOCK TOWER TO UNDERGO $2 MILLION RENOVATION

The War Memorial Tower at the top of Mount Greylock will receive a $2 million upgrade. Gov. Deval Patrick announced yesterday the release of $1.2 million from the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, which will be matched with an $800,000 federal earmark. The tower has been closed to the public since August of 2013. The tower was constructed in 1931 and now the mortar joints are deteriorated, and the interior finishes and utilities were damaged by water. The water damage ultimately led to the closing of the tower. The state Department of Conservation and Recreation will also spend $300,000 in making repairs to Bascom Lodge.

MOUNT GREYLOCK REGIONAL HIGH SCHOOL PROJECT FEASIBILITY STUDY

School officials are making progress in carrying out a feasibility study that will determine the future of Mount Greylock Regional High School. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the School Building Committee last week met for the first time with representatives from Dore and Whittier Management Partners of Newburyport, which will serve as project manager and provide oversight during the feasibility study. Voters in Lanesborough and Williamstown, towns making up the grades 7-12 regional school district, voted to fund $850,000 for a feasibility study at separate town meetings this spring. Building inadequacies of concern to school officials include energy inefficiencies, non-ADA compliant spaces, and a sprawling campus designed to serve a population twice the size of its current enrollment.



    North Adams Ambulance Service has added a fifth ambulance to its fleet. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com)Jack Guerino) 

NORTH ADAMS AMBULANCE GETS NEW VEHICLE

The North Adams Ambulance Service has welcomed a new ambulance to the fleet. IBerkshires.com reports that according to General Manager John Meaney Jr., the new unit has been on the road since early October and has taken a lot of stress off the other units. The 2014 Chevy C3500 Series made by McCoy Miller and purchased from Yankee Fire and Rescue cost $122,000 and will be the non-profit organization's fifth ambulance. Meaney said the service was due for a new ambulance and this one was purchased before North Adams Regional Hospital closed.

EXTENDED HOURS AR ADAMS TAX COLLECTORS OFFICE

The Tax Collectors office in Adams will be holding extended hours at town hall today, tomorrow, Friday, Saturday and Monday - so that residents can pay their real estate taxes which are due on Monday. Special hours today through Friday will be held from 7:30am to 6pm. On Saturday, the hours will be 9am to noon, and on Monday from 7:30am to 6pm.

PRICE CHOPPER CHAIN CHANGING NAME TO MARKET 32

The Price Chopper supermarket chain plans to change the name of its 135 stores in six states to Market 32 in a $300 million rebranding move. Schenectady-based parent company Golub Corp. made the announcement yesterday that the change will begin in the spring as the chain modernizes its stores and offers new services and products. The first conversions will be made at New York Price Chopper stores in Saratoga County's Clifton Park and Wilton and a third in Pittsfield. A second round will begin over the next 18 months at 10 to 15 stores. More than half of the company's stores will be converted within five years.

JUDGE DENIES MOTION TO DISMISS CHARGES AGAINST FORMER PITTSFIELD COUNCILMAN

The criminal case against a former Pittsfield city councilor accused of warning a drug dealer about a police raid is moving ahead after a judge denied a motion to dismiss the charges. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Paul Capitanio's attorney, Timothy Shugrue, had argued that the charges against his client - conspiracy to possess oxycodone and accessory after the fact to distribute oxycodone - should be dismissed because the grand jury hadn't been given enough information to indict the former city councilman of those crimes. In a written decision, Berkshire Superior Court Judge John Agostini said there was enough evidence presented to the grand jury to indict Capitanio of the charges.

NEW LEADER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION TO BE ELECTED

The city's Human Rights Commission, reconstituted in April after being dormant since the late 1990s, is losing two of its members, faces a high-profile complaint and has struggled to adopt policies on how to conduct its investigations. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Chairman Josh Cutler is resigning from the nine-member commission, citing time constraints, and the Rev. Alfred Johnson has resigned because he is leaving the area. The commission, which will meet tomorrow for first time since a raucous, truncated session in July, is expected to elect a new leader and discuss a formal set of operating procedures.

SHEFFIELD MAN PARDONED BY GOVERNOR PATRICK

A Sheffield man who served time on a marijuana charge during the 1990s is among those issued pardons this week by Gov. Deval Patrick. Jeffrey Snyder, then 18, was a student at Monument Mountain High School in 1990 when he and a 20-year-old man were charged with distributing marijuana at the school. According to Berkshire Eagle files, the charges carried a mandatory jail sentence of up to two years because the distribution was within 1,000 feet of a school - a provision added the year before by the Legislature. Patrick made his first four pardons as he prepares to leave office in January, and he commuted a prison sentence for a nonviolent drug offender - the first commutation by a governor in 17 years.

BAKER SELECTS HOUSING AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT CHIEF

Republican Massachusetts Governor-elect Charlie Baker has reached across party lines to tap Chelsea city manager Jay Ash as his pick to lead the housing and economic development agency. The agency says its goal is to help create homes and jobs in the state in part by making sure Massachusetts maintains its global competitive edge. Baker takes office in January.

BERKSHIRE CO-OP MARKET DOING ITS PART

Berkshire Co-op Market owners have voted and the results will help 12 local organizations with their work towards a stronger, healthier and more sustainable community. The Berkshire Eagle reports that the Co-op, located on Bridge Street in Great Barrington, donates 1 percent of its Wednesday sales to a different local community organization each month. The recipients are selected as part of the Co-op's annual Board of Directors election which concluded on Saturday, November 1st. The program was started last year and has generated more than $10,000 to-date. Last month's beneficiary, The People's Pantry, received $1,120.41. The Pantry provides emergency groceries for community members in need. November's recipient will be Community Health Programs which aims to improve the health of Berkshire County residents.



Tuesday, November 11, 2014

    
Rep. Gailanne Cariddi, left, Sen. Benjamin B. downing, Hoosic River Revival's Judith Grinnell, Fish & Game Commissioner Mary Griffin, Director of the Division of Ecological Restoration Tim Purinton, and Mayor Richard Alcombright. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)

HOOSIC RIVER REVIVAL GETS $500K TO BEGIN SOUTH BRANCH WORK

The Hoosic River Revival has secured $500,000 to move forward with planning the revitalization of the South Branch of the Hoosic River. IBerkshires.com reports that the funding is part of an $8.7 million earmark in a state environmental bond for the organization's ambitious plans to restore and capitalize on the natural look of the river that cuts through the city while maintaining its flood control attributes. The long simmering project is expected to have an economic impact of nearly $14 million, the bulk of that in North Adams its surrounding communities, and create more than 100 jobs.

CONSTRUCTION WORKER INJURED IN FALL AT MCLA CAMPUS

A construction worker was seriously injured yesterday when he fell from the third floor of a building on the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts campus. The Berkshire Eagle is reporting that an unidentified male worker fell between 20 and 25 feet from the Bowman Hall construction site just after 1pm. MCLA Public Safety, the agency in charge, had requested medical transport and the victim was to be taken to an urgent care hospital by helicopter. The man's identity or the extent of his injuries could not be learned. Bowman Hall, one of the campus's main academic buildings, is currently undergoing a $15 million renovation slated to be completed by June 2015.



    The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District is hoping to explain the the difficult budget process to the community. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Jack Guerino)

ADAMS-CHESHIRE LOOKING AT TOUGH BUDGET YEAR

The Adams-Cheshire Regional School District is preparing for another tough budget year. IBerkshires reports that business manager David Hinkell told the School Committee last night that he anticipates another difficult budget cycle. Hinkell has been working through preliminary fiscal 2016 budget and, at the moment, there is an anticipated 4.7 percent increase. This includes the foundation budget and transportation budget. Although this is an increase, he said it is below other school districts.

STRONG SEASON FOR HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY

The hospitality industry posted a banner summer and fall season, with lodging occupancy rates scoring gains over last summer as visitors flocked to the reopened Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, performances and exhibits at Mass MoCA in North Adams, and concerts at Tanglewood. The Berkshire Eagle reports that according to Smith Travel Research, which tracks trends at Berkshire County's 25 larger properties, after a slight decline during a record-breaking rainy June, occupancy was up nearly 12 percent in July, 14 percent in August, and 10 percent in September, compared to last summer. The peak was in August, when 75 percent of the available rooms were rented. Smith Travel says that for the entire year through September, countywide room occupancy gained 8 percent over last year.

AVERAGE MA GAS PRICE FALLS BELOW $3.00

The average cost of a gallon of gas in Massachusetts has fallen below the $3 threshold for the first time in almost four years. AAA Southern New England reports that the price of a gallon of self-serve, regular fell 8 cents in the past week to an average of $2.96. The last time gas was lower than $3 was in December 2010.

VETERANS DAY HISTORICAL AND CLOSINGS

It's Veteran's day today. The federal holiday is to commemorate the service of the nation's military veterans. Veteran's Day was first known as Armistice Day to mark the end of World War I at the 11th hour, on the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. In recognition of the efforts of World War II veterans, President Eisenhower in 1954 signed legislation creating Veterans Day with the goal of honoring all American veterans. Federal, state and local offices are closed today and there will be no mail delivery. Banks are all closed today - as are Public colleges and schools, most private schools, Public libraries - as well as most offices and businesses. Finally, BRTA buses are not running today. Services will resume tomorrow morning.



    The Board of Selectmen will be provide more insight on how to go about hiring a new police chief. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever) 

Lanesborough Looking To Replace Outgoing Police Chief

Lanesborough Police Chief Mark Bashara is retiring and the town is now deciding how to go about replacing him. The Selectmen are considering how to find a new chief - including reaching out to neighboring towns to consider sharing the position. Police Commission member Marvin Michalak asked the Selectmen on Monday for some guidance in crafting another search. Michalak told the Selectmen that the last search focused mostly in Western Massachusetts, with candidates being interviewed from as far away as the Springfield area. The Selectmen, at this point, said one requirement would be that the new chief live or relocate to the Berkshires. The Selectmen added that requirement because of the time factor - the chief needs to be in town during an emergency.

PITTSFIELD EXPERIENCES MOST VIOLENT AUGUST IN YEARS

This August was the most violent August in the last five years in Pittsfield. IBerkshires.com reports that while violent crime is still overall down trending compared to other years, August showed a massive upswing of 27 violent crimes - 69 percent more than the five-year average. The upswing is reversing a trend the Police Department saw with violent crime down and property crime up. Aggravated assault topped the list of the most committed crime in Pittsfield with 20. There were also three arsons, two robberies and two rapes in August. Year to date, there have been 100 violent crimes committed in Pittsfield, which is 27 percent higher than this time last year.

PITTSFIELD MAN ALLEGEDLY CHOKED MOTHER'S BOYFRIEND

A Pittsfield man is facing felony charges for allegedly choking his mother's boyfriend and attempting to pull the man's tongue from his mouth during a heated argument. 31 year old Robert Giroux, of Linden Street, was arrested Saturday after police responded to a report of a disturbance at a home Edward Avenue, where they found a 57-year-old man lying on the ground with a bloody mouth. He was breathing heavily and appeared shaky. Giroux was later arrested at Walmart in Pittsfield. He pleaded not guilty in Central Berkshire District Court yesterday to felony strangulation and misdemeanor assault and battery. He was ordered held at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction on $500 cash or $5,000 surety bail.

DRUNKEN ATTACK ON STRANGERS LEADS TO YEAR SENTENCE FOR PITTSFIELD WOMAN

A Pittsfield woman has been sentenced to a year in jail for drunkenly attacking two strangers, including an 84-year-old woman, after they refused to give her a ride. 29 year old Stacey White pleaded guilty in Central Berkshire District Court last week to five charges, including single counts of felony assault and battery on a person over 60 and misdemeanor resisting arrest, assault and battery and two counts of assault and battery on a police officer. She was ordered to serve a year at the Berkshire County Jail & House of Corrections. A charge of disorderly conduct was continued without a finding of guilt and then dismissed.




    Mayor Daniel Bianchi, seen here at City Council meeting earlier this year, has rejected claims he might profit from Kinder Morgan's pipeline. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)

PITTSFIELD MAYOR DENIES CONFLICT OF INTERE

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