Tuesday, September 2, 2014

AFD Labor (intensive) Day Weekend

AFD Engine 1

In spite of four additional  professional firefighters funded by UMass over the long weekend allowing for five ambulances to be staffed, we still needed mutual aid assist from Northampton FD for an emergency call at Amherst College in the Sunday overnight.

While UMass still has far too many ETOH (overly intoxicated) runs, the percentages seem to be improving. Last spring oftentimes the majority of EMS runs to our flagship University were alcohol related.

Although I suspect some of those trauma via falls with head injury could have been somewhat alcohol related.

And So It Begins ...

This Frathouse sign raised a few eyebrows from parents (and generated a few calls to APD)

Yeah, I know a bit of a cliched headline.  But the two most common refrains to my live tweeting and Facebooking the festivities over this l-o-n-g weekend was that line along with, "They're baaaaaaack."

Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan was in Court this morning.  Message to students:  "Respect your neighbors, respect yourself."

I even heard both those comments in the halls of Eastern Hampshire District Court this morning, where proceedings were delayed by 20 minutes in order to properly process the paperwork from 20 Amherst police arrests.

Yes, almost all of the arrests were alcohol related and almost all of those involved Umass students.

As usual the District Court used the "diversion" program (converting infractions from criminal to civil) to more efficiently handle the caseload.  For "open container" infractions the perps will pay $300 town bylaw fine, $100 in court costs, take the Brains at Risk alcohol education program at UMass, and be on probation for four months.

For the "minor in possession:" $100 court costs, Brains at Risk program and four months probation.

 Junior Meach stands before Judge Payne for DUI.  Case continued to 10/23

Surprisingly there was only one Driving Under the Influence arrest, Junior Meech, but that doesn't include the driver in the somewhat spectacular accident on South East Street last night, because he has not yet been processed.

 DUI incident 706 South East Street last night. PD arrested Ailton Correia, 22

UMPD had only one arrest compared to APDs twenty, so maybe UMass/Amherst scientists have developed a good behavior force field that encapsulates the sprawling campus.

Phillips Street was almost impassable Sunday night around midnight

Monday, September 1, 2014

Things That Go Bump In The Night

The car driven by Ailton N. Correia, age 22, was traveling at a good clip down a hill on scenic South East Street and careened off the road hitting a tree immediately in front of a solid brick house.

Many emergency vehicles were on scene

Both occupants were ejected from the vehicle and both were transported to Baystate Critical Care unit in Springfield (rather than a routine transport to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton).

 Officers take measurements for accident investigation

An Amherst Police unit followed the ambulances to Bay State and the driver of the car, Ailton N. Correia, 22 was arrested for driving under the influence.

Car cut a swath through bushes, across lawn, into tree near house
706 South East Street  Still debris on lawn morning after

A Really BIG Clambake

 Hot time on the Haigis Mall

Thousands of students descended on the Haigis Mall late this afternoon, turning it into the area's largest food court.   For the 5th year in a row, UMass/Amherst has set a world record for food consumption.

Well, the world according to Guinness (no not the beer company).

This year it was an old fashioned New England Clambake: clams, steamers and lobster.  3,003 servings to be exact.  And it took less than two hours to serve them up under the watchful eye of a Guinness "adjudicator."

 UMass Chancellor Subbaswamy readies the starting horn

UMass Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy stoked the hungry crowd with a spirited speech and of course even more uplifting, tunes from the UMass Marching Band.

Professor Amilcar Shabazz (center) SGA President Vinayak  Rao (right) SGA VP Jacob Schissel (left) doing their civic duty

A Day To Remember

Downtown Amherst Labor Day morn

Considering how arduous was the struggle to bring about sane regulations to protect the rights, health and safety of everyday workers, Labor Day is indeed something to remember.   And to celebrate, even though it should be tinged with reverence and respect for those who died in the endeavor.

Labor Day is one of only six days the Amherst Select Board allowed on the list of holidays worth remembering with commemorative flags in the downtown, at their infamous September 10, 2001 run-of-the-mill Monday night meeting.

Amazingly 9/11 is still not on the list.  Well at least not on the "annual" list.  The town grudgingly allows the commemorative flags to fly on 9/11 every five years on "milestone anniversaries," with the next one not until 2016.

How many of the almost 3,000 Americans murdered that morning were everyday working folks going about their daily work routine?

Between police, fire and military a day probably does not go by without someone dying in the line of duty.  That awful morning we lost 343 firefighters, 60 police officers, 55 military personnel, 15 EMTs and 3 court officers.

But the vast majority of casualties were just civilian workers both blue and white collar.

Slaughtered in cold blood on a Tuesday morning that deserved to be in the record books, but for a different reason:  A stunningly crystal clear blue sky, one of those majestic dying days of summer, which started off without a care in the world ...

If the town can annually fly the commemorative flags on Labor Day, and even more somber days like Memorial Day,  the worst attack on American soil in our entire history certainly merits the same level of respect.

A deserving protocol paid for in the most pernicious currency possible:  the vaporized blood of thousands of innocent Americans.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Best Laid Plans ...

27 Kendrick Place

I guess the only way to ensure a contract is carried out after you die is to never die, or quickly return as a vengeful ghost.

Eva Schiffer, former Select Board, Finance Committee member and long-time German language professor at UMass, left very specific instructions when she bequeathed her cute little house on Kendrick Place (the street, not the five-story mixed use building currently under construction in the north end of town center) to the Amherst Housing Authority.

After she dies, sell the house for 40% off to a blue collar town employee -- police, fire or DPW -- who would otherwise find it hard to afford the high property values in town combined with the highest property tax rate in the area.

In fact she was so specific she even banned anyone associated with those other branches of Amherst public services, the schools and library.

Thus the buyer, a town employee, would have benefited somewhat greatly via a hefty discount; but not so much the Housing Authority for brokering the deal.

Instead we have a town employee, Sandy Pooler, with a bleached white collar and member of the $100K club benefiting by a reduced price, $225K vs $269,700 assessed value ($307,000 appraised).

And the Housing Authority also greatly benefits by about $200,000 vs zero if the original contract had been followed.

Finance Director Sandy Pooler presenting to Amherst Town Meeting (showing them the money)

A dozen people did make inquiries about the property and they had equal opportunity to place a bid, so no special favors were shown to Mr. Pooler, the sole bidder.   Plus, those that know him would agree he's about as strait laced, goody two-shoes as they come -- so no aspersions on his involvement.

After all, who doesn't like a great deal on a house within walking distance to your office.

But there's also no doubt that the auction could have been better publicized, or the project turned over to a professional real estate agent (of which Amherst has many) who would have been motivated to work tirelessly for the greatest return.   

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Saving Miss Emily

 Sun going down on Emily Dickinson

I'm not a lawyer of course, but I do understand English.

And the wording -- especially "perpetual" -- of the legal easement between Carriage Shops owners/Trustees, the late Dick Johnson and Jerry Gates, and the town clearly indicates in plain English that the wall used to paint the historic mural was guaranteed to remain standing and undisturbed ... forever.

Sure, back ten years ago the owners obviously never thought they would sell the entire complex lock, stock and mural.  But a local developer friend of mine told me 30 years ago, "When you own property everything is for sale ... if the price is right."

 Carriage Shops main building from above (Mural on back wall facing West Cemetery)

But when million of dollars are on the table, it's hard not  to be convinced otherwise.  Problem is the town does not stand to gain an immediate windfall, and they do have a legally binding document that should cause major design considerations, or torpedo the lucrative deal.

"The trustees shall not undertake nor permit any activity which will alter or deface the appearance of the mural."  Like, maybe, a wrecking ball for instance?

From the vantage point of her placement high on the wall, Miss Emily looks out over her final resting place and that of her entire family.  In a town brimming with history, West Cemetery is our most hallowed ground.

So too is the mural. 

Miss Emily (and Lavinia)