Thursday, October 8, 2015

Don't Do Drugs

 APD K9 Unit:  Dash (the shorter one) and Officer Clark

Not only do you party hardy types have to get by a pretty savvy crew of front line Amherst police officers on the late night weekends -- especially in neighborhoods near UMass -- but they also have a secret weapon:  Dash.

Click to enlarge/read

Don't mess with Dash.

Patrick O'Malley, age 21, arraigned before Judge John Payne.  Case continued so he could consult a lawyer

Better This Time

 Agawam FD on scene Mullins Center last night enroute to CDH

Thanks to a requirement from Amherst Fire Chief Tim Nelson that the Mullins Center hire outside contractors to be on site (well, close by at North Station anyway) there were no serious problems last night with ambulance supply-and-demand at the Mullins Center.

Agawam and Easthampton FD ambulances were able to handle the medical transports to Cooley Dickinson Hospital, all of them alcohol related.   "About what we expected" according to Chief Nelson.

A good thing of course since we are talking about potentially life and death scenarios for the rest of us living in town, where a quick arriving ambulance can make all the difference in the world.

Although you would be amazed at some of the ambulance calls Dispatch deals with.

Mullins Center Command, staffed by AFD personnel, saw a total of 15 concert goers last night with four of them requiring transport. Nothing compared to last month's concert.

The next test of our Emergency Medical System will come on Halloween: Another Mullins Center show and with the holiday falling on a weekend the college aged zombie hoards will be out in full strength looking to party.

Prime Parking Rehab

Amity Street lot yesterday afternoon, Jones Library top center

Amherst Town Meeting, which starts November 2,  will be asked to spend $200,000 to completely renovate one of the busiest parking lots in town, the 33 space Amity Street surface lot.

The centrally located lot is contiguous with the Amherst Cinema, with the Jones Library directly across the street.  A 2007 parking study found it was 96.5% full between the hours of 11:00 AM until 6:00 PM.

Of course what Amherst really needs to do is increase the supply of parking in the downtown, which doesn't come cheap.

There's been increasing talk about building a parking garage behind the CVS, which was the original preferred location back when the town ended up constructing the tiny Boltwood Walk Garage on the other side of North Pleasant Street.

  CVS parking and town owned lot would require Town Meeting zoning change for a garage

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

A Lasting Legacy

It's fitting the first expenditure out of the $200,000+  Eva Schiffer fund, established when her gifted home on Kendrick Place was sold to benefit Amherst Housing Authority lower income clients, will be a charitable donation in the name of beloved Town Manger John Musante, who died unexpectedly on an otherwise glorious Sunday morning a few weeks back.

 27 Kendrick Place sold for $225,000 netting the AHA $209,000

The home was eventually purchased in an open bidding process by Finance Director Sandy Pooler who was Town Manager Musante's first appointment almost five years ago after he replaced Larry Shaffer.

Connie Kruger, at the Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday, who also worked closely with Mr. Musante in her other role as a Select Board member, liked the idea of a donation to the Amherst Community Center.  That project was one of his last major endeavors.

Since the community health facility will be locating in the nearby Bangs Community Center, chances are many AHA tenants will be using its services.  Kruger deemed that, "resonate with what we do."

But she also suggested the money go towards something tangible like a dental chair that would be long lasting and could hold a plaque attributing the donation in his honor.

The Board did not come up with a final amount, leaving that until their next meeting, but did unanimously pass a motion "to contribute in John Musante's name to the Community Health Center with funds coming from Eva Schiffer account."

AHA Commissioner Peter Jessop confirmed, "I think Eva would approve."

Denise LeDuc Director, Judy Brooks Chair, Laura Quinn, Connie Kruger, Peter Jessop

Regionalization Snoozer

Only a half dozen parents participated in last night's public forum

Last night's public forum in Amherst -- the first of four in our public school Region -- does not bode well for those who champion public involvement in major bureaucratic/governmental decisions.

In this case the expansion of the current grades 7-12 public education empire that combined the little towns of Pelham, Leverett, Shutesbury with the not so little town of Amherst over sixty years ago.

Thirty people came to the Regional High School library for the not overly well advertised event, but the vast majority were town or school officials.  Only six spectators who came to the microphone with questions -- four from Amherst -- identified themselves as parents.

 Town Moderator Jim Pistrang, Sandy Pooler, Katherine Appy, Alisa Brewer

Town Finance Director Sandy Pooler was forthright about the dollar aspect of the decision saying, "There's no significant financial impact one way or the other. Finances shouldn't drive this decision."

 About half the $600K "savings" comes from Amherst medicaid money

And like any good public speaker he closed on the same theme:  "This is not a financial decision for the town of Amherst, it's an educational decision."

The usual theme of unifying education was the pitch promoted by school officials, although some in the audience worried about too much conformity.

And the time saved by only having to file one report with the state for the Region rather than the current three (at about 1,000 pages per year per report).

Select Board Chair Alisa Brewer tried to handle the governance issue but like that Facebook relationship status, "It's complicated."  Amherst would have 7 elected members on the newly expanded 13 member Regional School Committee, with the other three towns each having two representatives.

But all voters in all four towns would get to vote on all 13 members.   One Shutesbury official wondered how it would make a Shutesbury representative feel when he/she were elected with over 90% input from voters outside of Shutesbury.

And town official Marylou Theilman pointed out a town could decide not to join the expanded Region (but as long as they vote yes to reopening the Regional Agreement the expansion can still happen) and therefor their representative would still have a say over elementary schools even though they do not have a financial stake in the matter.

Town Meeting member, parent and Regionalization watch dog Janet McGowan sent an email earlier in the day to the School Committee requesting officials hold another public meeting in November with better advance information distribution. 

Simply put, when education is your product the smarter approach is indeed transparency.

Vince O'Connor:  "It's depressing to go to meetings like this and see how ineffective public officials are at getting parents of color to attend."

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

DUI Dishonor Roll

Ryan West, age 20, stands before Judge John Payne. Case continued to October 19 

Considering he took both the PBT (Portable Breath Test), which is not admissible in Court, AND the chemical Breath Test back at APD headquarters, which is admissible in Court, Mr. West should save himself steep legal fees and simply take the standard state plea deal offer of a 1st time offender 24D disposition.

Click to enlarge/read

Monday, October 5, 2015


Big Y BIG flag in a position of mourning

In case you were wondering why the American flag is in that unmistakable position:

Please be advised that in accordance with the Presidential proclamation and as ordered by Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, the United States flag and the Commonwealth flag shall be flown at half-staff at all state buildings beginning immediately until sunset on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 in honor of the victims of the tragedy in Roseburg, Oregon on October 1, 2015. Additionally, the United States flag and the Commonwealth flag shall be flown at half-staff at all state buildings from sunrise until sunset on Tuesday, October 6, 2015 in honor of Sergeant Christopher Y. Vars, United States Army, of Reading, MA who was listed as Missing in Action while fighting the enemy in North Korea on November 29, 1950. Sgt. Vars was the recipient of many awards including the Purple Heart, the POW & Mia Medals, the Combat Infantryman Badge, the Korean Service Medal, the United Nations Service Medal, the National Defense Service Medal and several others. The Sergeants remains returned to the United States on Wednesday, September 9, 2015 and he will be buried with full military honors on October 6, 2015.