Saturday, December 3, 2016

A Sporting Gesture

The Rally heard round the world

The veterans who rallied around the flag at Hampshire College -- both figurative and literally -- have canceled tomorrow's Raise The Flag event, which was originally scheduled as another demonstration to pressure Hampshire College into doing the right thing, but then became sort of a victory celebration after they indeed DID THE RIGHT THING.

 Click to enlarge/read

Probably because they don't want folks to think they are gloating.

So no ticker tape parades through Times Square as we saw over 70 years ago on V-E and V-J Day, but still a major victory to be savored ... until the need arises once again. 

Freedom requires eternal vigilance.

B2 however is dissappointed

High Stakes Gamble

Amherst could apply to MSBA for Fort River Mega-School as soon as next month

The town already heard back from the Mass School Building Authority and as expected they rejected the idea of twin grades K-6 schools vs the just defeated concept of twin grades 2-6 schools as being a slight enough tweak to keep the current overall $67 million Mega School building plan in play.

For the past six months we've heard nothing but how extraordinarily bureaucratic the MSBA is, and that every i must be double dotted and every t double crossed.

Of course the only thing town/school officials really wanted is the extension from February 2 until March 31st to have another attempt at brow beating Amherst Town Meeting into giving it the two-thirds super majority it requires to pass.

 Town Meeting voted down Mega School 108-106

Considering it failed to even garner a simple majority last month, a Herculean task indeed no matter how much time the state gives them to lobby.

But that will not stop the Select Board from trying one last time to ram it through.

Considering how often they played the role of General Custer this past session with ALL of their unanimously supported major articles being shot down by Town Meeting, they better wear arrow proof shirts at that Special Town Meeting.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Half Full Or Half Empty?

Atkins Reservoir December 1st water level 6'7"  down from full

Atkins Reservoir 9/21 water level down 9'4"

Atkins Reservoir, after the 2.8" of recent rain, is now at 50% of its 200 million gallon capacity, or half full.

But for those of us still a little nervous about the drought and our town still relying only on wells for our vital water supply, it's half empty.

Either way it's not now in use as it was shut down on September 21st when water levels hit an almost historic low, down 9'4" with only 70 million gallons of water remaining.

Normally around this time the time we fire up Centennial Treatment Plant which processes water from our other two Pelham reservoirs, Hills and Hawley.

Click photos to enlarge/read
 Water usage in November averaged 2.9 Mgd, a tad below average

While the recent rain was a very good thing overall, it did stir up the water in all three reservoirs but DPW Chief Mooring reports the Pelham Reservoirs will be tapped "soon."

 Current drought map does not yet show impact of recent rains

Growth of drought since July
And as long as we get plenty of snow this winter the current drought could become just a bad memory.  Although a doubled-edged sword, since the DPW is also charged with keeping our roads free from snow and ice.

 Atkins sandbar 10/7
Atkins sandbar 12/1

And Our Flag Was Still There

Hampshire College main flag this morning
Flag Rally Peaceful Demonstration Sunday

Our flag may be many things to many people but almost everyone would agree it's a powerful symbol never to be taken lightly.

 Jonathan Lash (General Robert E. Lee) greets Victor Nunez Ortiz (General Ulysses S. Grant)

For the second time in 15 years the town of Amherst or one its major institutions found that out ... the hard way.

God bless America -- warts and all!

“Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.” 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Just Say No

East Pleasant/Triangle intersection, gateway to UMass

The Amherst Select Board responded Monday to Town Meeting's in your face 95-77 passage of an "advisory article" undoing five years worth of work by DPW staff and hard-working volunteer committees:

Drop dead!  (Or something like that).

 Vince O'Connor led the charge on the advisory petition to sabotage roundabout

After an hour of discussion including DPW Director Guilford Mooring and Public Works Committee Chair Christine Gray-Mullen the Select Board unanimously decided to stay with the roundabout concept rather than take the advice of Town Meeting and simply tweak the current traffic signals.

Mr. Mooring pointed out in order to see any improvement in the traffic lights phasing a new electrical cabinet and poles would need to be installed at a cost of between $140,000 - $200,000.

Ms. Mullen added that a roundabout is far safer than a traditional lighted intersection reducing fatalities by 90% and collisions with pedestrians by 40%.

 Christine Gray-Mullen and Guilford Mooring present to Amherst Select Board

Since work has been ongoing since Spring and all the concrete for the roundabout ordered and paid for the completion of the roundabout itself will only be another $250,000-$300,000.  That will come out of Ch 90 money which does not require Town Meeting approval.

Last year Town Meeting overwhelmingly supported an easement from Bank of America to assist with the roundabout and the town already cut down five trees at the corner of Kendrick Park.

A state $1.5 million Massworks grant is paying for the undergrounding of utility lines and pole removal near this intersection and the DPW did much of the work in-house to save money that will be applied to the roundabout.

Eversource is expected to be done with pole removal by March and the DPW will work full-time through the spring and summer, but take a brief break during graduations.  The overall roundabout should be completely by September 1st.

 The north end of downtown is being revitalized

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Pressure Grows: Raise That Flag

Amherst Select Board will stick heads in sand and hope flag controversy goes away

So as usual I crossed that line between journalist and activist -- which, after 30 years I do pretty well -- and asked the Amherst Select Board during their 6:30 Public Comment segment to get involved with the Hampshire College flag fiasco by pressuring Jonathan Lash to do the right thing.

Since it was public comment their policy is not to discuss or engage with the speaker but I notice a few hours later just before they adjourned Chair Alisa Brewer brought it up because she wanted to give some "direction" to Town Manager Paul Bockelman, a Hampshire College graduate.

Ms. Brewer found the appearance at the rally of Springfield Mayor Sarno "weird" since he has no connection to Amherst in general or Hampshire College in particular.  She struggled with the idea of attending because she is after all Amherst's highest elected official but decided it would be "awkward."

Andy Steinberg pointed out each of the five Select Board members are kind of like one fifth of a Mayor so it's hard to act like an actual mayor aka  Mayor Domenic Sarno.

None of the five Select Board members expressed interest in now getting involved in the dispute since Hampshire College is a private tax exempt facility.

Although that would be some leverage since unlike Amherst College who pays the town $120,000 Payment In Lieu Of Taxes for Amherst Fire Department services Hampshire College pays the town nothing.

Thus this internationally embarrassing flag flap is now only going to get worse.  I told the Select Board another rally was planned for December 10th but now I see from my Facebook feed that one will also be held this Sunday as well.

Maybe this time Chair Alisa Brewer will attend to experience the power of people rising up in defense of the America way.   Even in Amherst.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Awash In Red White & Blue

Large crowd was orderly and respectful

If Hampshire College is trying to forget what our flag looks like, well over 500+ folks from all walks of life showed up Sunday at their front gate to remind them.  Let's hope that even institutes of higher education can benefit by a teachable moment (or in this case a teachable hour).

Video taken 12:30 PM
 The crowd started gathering before noon for the 1:00 PM rally

Video taken 1:50 PM
B2 briefly put a flag back up on Hampshire College main flagpole

 Only their main flag in campus center was banned
Hampshire College Police Department and Alumni Relations flags still fly
Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno
Northwestern District Attorney Dave Sullivan

VFW Post 754 main sponsor of the demonstration  getting ready at 11:30 AM