Trustees met Tuesday to determine the scope of the library renovation (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com / Dan Gigliotti)
Designs for the Adams Free Library renovation are being completed and will soon require public approval for the project to move forward. Iberkshires.com reports that town officials met with the architect and library trustees this week to present a scope of work and cost estimate for repairs. Preliminary cost estimates for the project are $862,824. According to Town Administrator Jonathan Butler, the town will recommend blanket approval for the cost at its special town meeting in March.
Berkshire Delegation Members Send Letter Of Protest To Federal Lawmakers
All four Berkshire County State Representatives and State Senator Ben Downing have signed a letter of complaint about Time-Warner Cable’s decision to discontinue New England Cable News from the county’s channel lineup. The letter was sent to U.S. Senator’s Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and First District U.S. Congressman Richard Neal. In a copy of the letter sent to the Berkshire News Network, the complaint was made that cutting Boston-based NECN from the channel lineup was unconscionable. Rep. Pignatelli said in a statement that the Berkshires deserve to know how our Senators and Congressman feel about this issue. Pignatelli, speaking for the Berkshire delegation, said he hopes that Time Warner will reconsider this ill-conceived decision.
Savoy Student Receives McCann Superintendent's Award
Makenna Arnold was presented the Superintendent's Award by Superintendent James Brosnan. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
The McCann School Committee applauded a "shining star" of the technical school on Thursday night. Senior Makenna Arnold is so dedicated to her classwork that after injuring both her ankles and missing more than a week of classes, she stayed after school to complete a lengthy lab assignment from her wheelchair to catch up.
It was that drive and her stellar academics that made her this year's recipient of the Superintendent's Award.
Pittsfield Poised To Pick Architect For High School Design
The Pittsfield School Department is nearly ready to submit a plan to the Massachusetts School Building Authority for either a renovation or replacement of the 44-year-old Taconic High School. School Superintendent “Jake” McCandless said that if the plan is approved by the MSBA, the city will be reimbursed up to 78 percent. This includes $1.3 million already set aside by the city to undergo the upcoming feasibility study. McCandless, Mayor Dan Bianchi and School Building Needs Commission co-Chairwoman, Kathleen Amuso, will visit the MSBA next week to present the city's progress with the selection of a design firm for the study.
Three PittsfieldDPW Workers Suspended
3 Pittsfield DPW workers have been suspended from their jobs amid an ongoing investigation into missing diesel fuel and other material. The Berkshire Eagle reports that Mayor Dan Bianchi said yesterday that the three people, who were not identified, were suspended following a period of monitoring and investigation by a management team. Police are also conducting their own investigation into the alleged missing fuel and materials.
Downing Collects Two Boxes For Toys For Tots
State Sen. Benjamin Downing at his office during an open house to collect donations for Toys for Tots. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
State Sen. Benjamin Downing believes he may have collected the most gifts for Toys For Tots than he has in the last three years. But, will it be enough to top Mayor Daniel Bianchi's office? The senator held an open house-type collection at his office Thursday night and as the end approached, two boxes were overflowing with gifts.
But, just around the corner, Bianchi's office got a jump start earlier this year with the donation of a bicycle. Who will collect more donations? We don't know yet. But does it really matter? Maybe not for the two officials but it will definitely brighten Christmas Day for some needy local kids.
Dalton Police Get Grant To Add K-9 Unit
The Dalton police department has been awarded a $26,000 grant for the support and creation of a trained dog and K-9 officer. Iberkshires.com reports that the Stanton Foundation, a program supporting human/dog relationships, awarded the grant to the town that will be used for initial acquisition, training and maintenance costs of the new K-9 unit. Total startup costs are estimated at $17,700 per dog, including conversion of a cruiser for K-9 use and an outdoor kennel.
Tyringham Road In Lee Scheduled For Makeover
It looks like reconstruction of Tyringham Road in Lee will get underway early next year. MassDOT officials said recently that the $5.5 million dollar project has been awarded to a Ludlow contractor. While MassDOT officials expect the actual construction to get underway in early spring and be finished by 2015 but if the work begins earlier than planned, the road work could be completed ahead of schedule. MassDOT officials said rebuilding Tyringham Road includes repaving nearly 2 miles of it, widening the road to 22 feet and improved drainage.
Mass. Gambling Panel To ReviewCasinoLand Deal
BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts Gaming Commission chairman Stephen Crosby will be on the sidelines when the panel takes up questions surrounding a land deal for a proposed casino in Everett.
Crosby recused himself from the review after revealing that a friend and one-time business is a part-owner of the site along the Mystic River in Everett where Wynn Resorts hopes to develop the casino.
Friday's meeting was called after investigators discovered the possibility of hidden investors in the property. The four other commissioners will conduct the meeting and possibly vote on whether Wynn can amend the land deal.
Caesars Entertainment has sued Crosby, claiming he failed to disclose the potential conflict of interest with the Everett land. Caesars had previously partnered with Suffolk Downs on a separate casino proposal but withdraw after issues surfaced during a background check.
Mass. Pushing Adoption Of Electric School Buses
BOSTON (AP) — The Patrick administration is unveiling the launch of an electric school bus pilot program as part of a renewed push to support alternative fuel vehicles in Massachusetts.
As part of the initiative, the administration will provide $1.8 million in grants for eight electric school buses. Districts across the state can apply for one of the buses.
Electric school buses have energy storage capability and can also serve as backup energy resources during natural disasters and similar events.
The administration is also pushing to increase the number of publicly accessible charging stations and to replace or convert more than 200 public and private fleet vehicles currently powered by gasoline and diesel with vehicles fueled by natural gas, propane, electricity, solar electric and hybrid technologies.
The ongoing push for electric cars is intended to help ease reliance on fossil fuels.
Thursday, December 12, 2013
McCann Pins Largest Practical Nursing Class in School History
The 23 graduates chose personal mentors to apply their pin to the shirts. See more photos here. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Andy McKeever)
It required 10 months, 945 hours of classes, 540 clinical experience hours but now 23 graduates of McCann Technical School's Practical Nursing Program are ready for their licensing. The school pinned the largest class in school history on Wednesday.
Program Coordinator Susan Watson said with tears in her eyes at the ceremony,
the students have gone through a lot to get to that point and not just with the rigors of the coursework — and being a graduate of the program, she knows how tough it is.
Many of the graduates were balancing raising children or working while they went through the program.
Two N.A.Residents Arraigned On Animal Cruelty
Two North Adams residents were arraigned in Northern Berkshire District court this week, charged with animal cruelty. The North Adams Transcript reports that Alfred Ostrowski Jr. and Carol Mekdeci appeared in Northern Berkshire District Court on Tuesday and pled not guilty to 31 charges of animal cruelty, 10 charges of failure to license a dog, 10 charges of a rabies vaccine violation and one count of operating an unlicensed dog kennel. The cases were continued to January 7th. Ostrowski and Mekdeci were arrested in October after police received a report from Animal Control Officer Carrie Loholdt, describing the scene she discovered when she first investigated the house on October 23rd.
Public Consensus Is: Don’t Close Psychiatric Unit At N.A.R.H.
Brenda Carpenter and Deborah Sadowy moderated a conversation with 50 or so people in attendance. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)Brenda Carpenter and Deborah Sadowy moderated a conversation with 50 or so people in attendance. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
Tuesday’s community forum held in North Adams concerning the proposed closure of the psychiatric unit at North Adams Regional Hospital came up with one solution: Keep It Open. Iberkshires.com reports that the consensus from those who attended was for hospital officials to keep the unit open at least a way is found to provide critical mental health services in North Berkshire. A long list of service organizations have been critical of a decision by the hospital’s parent company, Northern Berkshire Healthcare, to close Greylock Pavilion, a secure center for mental health patients and the only one in North Berkshire, on January 2.
Pittsfield Man Arraigned In Connection With N.A. Assault
A 20-year-old Pittsfield man was in Berkshire Superior Court yesterday and pled guilty to an assault charge. Steven Sumpter appeared before Judge Daniel Ford and pled guilty to a single count of assault and battery. The charge stems from an incident that took place in North Adams on June 15, 2013 involving a 40-year-old man. Judge Ford continued the charge without a finding for 6 months on the condition he has no contact with the victim.
Clarksburg Sets Tax Rates For 2014
The Selectmen set a single tax rate that comes to $13.39 per $1,000. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
The Town of Clarksburg is the latest community to set their 2014 tax rate. Clarksburg Selectmen voted this week for a tax rate of $13.39 per $1,000 property valuation…up 35 cents from this year. Clarksburg Selectmen voted to continue using a single rate for commercial and residential rates. Meanwhile, just a reminder that the Clarksburg Board of Selectmen have placed and overnight parking ban on all town roads and streets that will stay in effect until April 30th. This means NO overnight parking will be allowed between the hours of 10:00 PM - 6:00 AM. Selectmen also emphasized that there will be absolutely no parking on town roads or streets during a snow emergency.
Town Of Dalton Forecasting Downturn In Free Cash
The Town of Dalton may see a significant drop in free cash during the next fiscal year. At least that’s the prediction based on a preliminary budget for the next fiscal year that was presented at this week’s Select Board meeting. Dalton Town Manager, Kenneth Walto, estimates a decrease in free cash of approximately $350,000, which stands to have an impact on the town’s non-union employees.
Pittsfield City Council To Form Ordinance Committee
The Pittsfield City Council has voted to form a 5-member “ordinance committee” to review city ordinances to insure they don’t interfere or conflict with the new Pittsfield charter. The committee needs to have City Clerk Linda Tyer as member but who will comprise the rest of the committee is still unknown. Two City Councilors will be on the committee and the remainder of the committee will be comprised of residents. The new Pittsfield City Charter will take effect in 2015 and beginning that year, anyone elected mayor will serve a 4-year term rather than a 2-year term.
The investigation was conducted by members of the North Adams Police Department and state police detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Office.
Planning Ahead….Berkshire Bridal Expo In January
While just about everyone is planning for the holidays, future brides and grooms are also thinking about wedding plans for 2014 or beyond. If you’re a bride or groom, mark Saturday, January 11 and Sunday, January 12th on your calendar. That’s the weekend when the Berkshire Bridal Expo is scheduled to take place at the Crown Plaza Hotel in Pittsfield. Organizer Jerrid Burdick said Saturday January 11th will be the biggest day of the weekend when brides and grooms get in FREE and all the vendors will be there.
CountyVolunteer Fire Departments Getting Financial Boost
State Senator Ben Downing had some good news for five Berkshire County volunteer fire departments yesterday. Downing was in Great Barrington yesterday to announce that New Ashford, Windsor, Great Barrington, Dalton and New Marlboro will share $68,000 in grant matching funds. Windsor will get $1,973 dollars, Dalton will get $1,348 dollars, New Ashford is getting $1,940 dollars and Great Barrington is getting a $750 in matching grant to purchase items that will assist in fighting brush fires. The matching grants come from the state-run Fire Assistance program that funds small, volunteer fire departments located near state-owned land.
Home Heating Oil Prices Going Up
The price of gasoline is going up and now, so is the price of home heating oil. A check of home heating oil prices by NewEnglandOil.com, shows that prices are 11 to 15 cents higher than around this time last month. Last month, home heating oil prices in the Berkshires ranged from $3.38 to $3.49 a gallon. The latest New England Oil.com survey shows home heating oil prices are now ranging between $3.49 and $3.64 a gallon. Please keep in mind that these prices are subject to change at any time. In the fall, oil dealers were predicting that the price of home heating oil would decrease during the winter.
Experts See Modest Revenue Growth In Mass.
BOSTON (AP) — Experts are telling state budget writers to expect modest revenue growth next year, while cautioning that underlying economic conditions remain uncertain.
Michael Widmer, president of the independent Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation, told a Statehouse hearing that his group was forecasting 4.7 percent growth in tax revenues in the fiscal year starting July 1. But he said most of the growth would be eaten up by non-discretionary costs such as Medicaid and pensions.
State Revenue Commissioner Amy Pitter projected revenue growth of between 4.3 percent and 5.2 percent over the current year.
Lawmakers and administrative officials will use the forecasts to arrive at a consensus revenue estimate for the next state budget.
Massachusetts treasurer Steven Grossman said while the state's overall fiscal picture is brightening, many families still face economic uncertainty.
US Rep. Tierney Pushing Bill To Rein In Bank Risks
BOSTON (AP) — Congressman John Tierney is co-sponsoring legislation in the U.S. House that he said will help protect retirees, families and consumers from financial institutions that engage in risky investments.
The Massachusetts Democrat is teaming up with North Carolina Republican Walter Jones to introduce a modern version of the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act, approved after the stock market crash of 1929. Many of its core provisions were repealed in 1999.
The new bill would separate traditional banks that have savings and checking accounts and are insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation from riskier financial institutions that offer services such as investment banking, hedge funds and private equity activities.
Tierney said the lack of those regulations helped fuel the nation's most recent financial crisis.
Massachusetts Democrat Elizabeth Warren and Arizona Republican John McCain sponsored a similar bill in the U.S. Senate.
Wednesday, December 11, 2013
North Adams City Council Sets 2014 Tax Rates
City Auditor David Fierro Jr., left, Assessor Ross Vivori and Mayor Richard Alcombright answered questions. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Tammy Daniels)
The North Adams City Council met last night and unanimously approved a series of transfers and cuts totaling $258,000 and set the tax rate. Iberkshires.com reports that North Adams property owners will see a tax rate of $15.93 per $1,000 valuation, up from $15.30 this year. The commercial rate rose from $33.95 to $34.55. Mayor Richard Alcombright told the council that the current budget revenue projections are conservative but he does not feel comfortable with projecting increases in any specific revenue line items at this time. The commercial, industrial and personal property shift was set at 1.71 by a vote of 7-1 with Councilor John Barrett III voting NO. Councilor Jennifer Breen was absent.
Time-Warner Cable To Pull Necn From Channel Lineup
Time-Warner Cable has decided to pull the plug on NECN…the New England Cable News Service out of Boston….and that has State Representative “Smitty” Pignatelli of Lenox very upset. Time-Warner Cable told the Berkshire Eagle yesterday that NECN will be pulled from the cable lineup at the end of the month. That leaves only WCVB-TV in Boston available in the central and southern Berkshires and WBZ-TV in the northern Berkshires. Representative Pignatelli told the publication that he is growing extremely frustrated with Time Warner Cable and that it all comes down to money. He said Time-Warner just don’t want to pay the bill with NECN.
Williamstown Residents OK Purchase Of SprucesMobileHomePark
The members of the Williamstown Selectmen join in the applause for Town Manager Peter Fohlin after the vote.(Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
In a unanimous voice vote last night at a special town meeting, Williamstown residents decided to acquire the Spruces Mobile Home Park and keep the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant process on track. Berkshire News Network media partner, IBerkshies.com reports that the vote essentially did two things. It ensured the closure of the park in early 2016 and would allow the town to make good on a $2.6 million commitment to the Highland Woods senior housing project being developed by “Higher Ground” and three other non-profits. Last night’s vote showed that Williamstown is unified in the belief that the Spruces property is unsafe and the FEMA grant is the town's best opportunity to address its housing needs.
Adams Police Warn Of Lawn Furniture Thefts From Sheds, Garages
Adams police are warning residents to secure their sheds, garages and anywhere else they store outdoor use items. Police said there has been a string of break-ins on storage sheds and garages on the south side of town. Crooks are taking anything that can be sold as scrap metal. One resident told the Berkshire News Network that a number of long extension cords used for holiday decorations were stolen from his shed. Adams Police Chief Richard Tarsa is asking residents to double-check the locks on their garage and shed doors.
WNAW and North Adams Movieplex Food Drive
WNAW and North Adams Movieplex combined to sponsor the best ever annual food drive Tuesday evening at the movieplex. Over 175 movie patrons participated by bringing in a minimum of five non perishable food items in exchange for a free movie. Items were donated to the Berkshire Dream Center Food Pantry.
Greylock Pavilion Discussed Last Night
Northern Berkshire Healthcare is proposing the closing of the Greylock Pavilion and last evening, a forum was planned at the North Adams American Legion. A number of people from the community were expected to talk about the impending closure of the psychiatric services provided by the Greylock Pavilion. North Adams Regional Hospital’s parent organization, Northern Berkshire Healthcare, announced in September, its intentions to end inpatient psychiatric and pediatric services and rely instead on partnerships with other regional hospitals for extended care.
Gasoline Prices Creeping Upward
Gasoline prices continue to creep upward and there is no official excuse for it. Industry analyst Trilby Lundberg says gas prices have risen 6 cents a gallon over the past month after nine straight weeks of decline. In the Berkshires….MSN Autos reports that Pittsfield still has the lowest prices for regular gasoline…..$3.39 a gallon. However, Pittsfield ties with Great Barrington and Lee for the highest price for regular gasoline…$3.49 a gallon. Please keep in mind that these prices are subject to change at any time.
PEDA Board Offers Million Dollar Incentive To Rail-Car Maker
The PEDA board on Tuesday voted to offer a $1 million incentive to attract a potential rail-car maker to the William Stanley Business Park. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)
The Pittsfield Economic Development Authority is working with the city's Community Development and “1Berkshire” to make a pitch for hundreds of manufacturing jobs to construct MBTA rail cars. The state wants to spend upward of $800-million dollars on more than 200 new MBTA rail cars…..with the stipulation the cars are manufactured in the state. PEDA is hoping a 1 million dollar incentive will attract companies eyeing the project to build in the William Stanley Business Park. The contract promises around 250 jobs over 10 years and could lead to more permanent rail car manufacturing beyond that.
Questions Still Asked About November Time-Warner Cable Outage.
The Five-Town Cable Advisory Committee was supposed to meet yesterday to continue their investigation into an extensive Time-Warner Cable service outage last month. The outage affected south county subscribers between Sunday November 17 through Tuesday November 19 and committee members what to know WHY it happened and why did it last so long. Until now, Time Warner Cable has only confirmed an outage occurred during that time period. Besides cable TV service, phone and internet service was also affected during the 3-day period.
Mega-Millions Frenzy Hitting The U.S. Again
Did you win the big jackpot in the Mega-Millions lottery last night? Apparently, neither did anyone else. The Mega Millions jackpot grew to an estimated $400 million dollars for the next draw on Friday after nobody won the top prize of $344 million last night. The latest Mega Millions jackpot of an estimated $400 million dollars is the game’s biggest in a year-and-a-half. The last time the Mega Millions was this big was in March 2012 with it rolled over and wound up setting the all-time U.S. jackpot record of $656 million.
Report: Unchecked Development Could Threaten Future Of Massachusetts Forests
BOSTON (AP) — A new study is warning that if left unchecked, the ongoing loss of forests in Massachusetts will undermine land conservation, threaten water quality and limit natural protections from the harsher aspects of climate change.
The two-year study being released Wednesday by researchers at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institution projects how the state's forests could change over a 50-year period under four different scenarios.
The researchers used computers to look at the state acre-by-acre and model changes over time for each of the scenarios.
The study concludes that best scenario for both Massachusetts residents and the natural environment is one where forests are actively managed and protected from encroaching development.
The study's lead author Jonathan Thompson said the study is the first of its kind for an entire state.
Peda Moves Forward With Re-Envisioned LifeSciencesCenter PEDA voted to move forward with funding Phase 2 of a life-sciences complex, envisioned in this artist's rendering. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/Joe Durwin)
The Pittsfield Econonomic Development Authority voted Monday to begin funding the second phase of planning for a long-anticipated life sciences complex at the William Stanley Business Park.
Planning consultant Rod Jane told PEDA's board he will be submitting a report to the city this week on the results of efforts in Phase I, which was launched this summer with $55,000 in grant funding from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center to study feasibility and start developing a working business plan. A $6.5 million dollar earmark was established in 2008 for the hoped-for center.
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
Special Town Meeting Tonight On Spruces
Williamstown decides on Tuesday night whether to acquire the damaged SprucesMobileHomePark and the FEMA grant that goes along with it to be used toward affordable housing. (Story and Photo Courtesy of Media Partner iBerkshires.com/ Stephen Dravis)
A special town meeting tonight in Williamstown will deal with the Spruces Mobile Home Park. Tonight’s meeting will take place at 7pm in the Williamstown Elementary School Gymnasium. Article One asks permission for Selectmen to acquire the property “by gift, purchase or eminent domain.” Article Two would allow Selectmen to enter into a lease agreement with Morgan Management, who currently owns t