Tuesday, July 26, 2016

What The Hell Is Going On?

For the 2nd time this month the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee has cancelled at the last moment a meeting with an executive session to discuss "contract negotiations with nonunion personnel (Superintendent Maria Geryk)."

And yes, the first three times they posted the executive session agenda (with the 3rd one cancelled at the last minute) the postings did not disclose that it was Maria Geryk they were going to be talking about.

 RSC meeting 6/14: Only meeting all summer Maria Geryk attended

So far those secret talks in two executive sessions already held came to SIX HOURS!

Superintendent Maria Geryk, the highest paid town employee, has two years remaining on her lucrative contract, so why all the discussion now about her contract?

Yes, there's a provision in that contract for an additional year that automatically trips unless given 120 days notice, but it seems far fetched this ongoing mystery is simply about nixing a one year extension.

By Any Other Name

AFD Chief Tim Nelson and DPW Chief Guilford Mooring at Charter Commission last night

For DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring and AFD Chief Tim Nelson a change in government would not necessarily be a game changer for how they run their operations. 

Mooring pointed out the DPW is not "sexy" to which Chief Nelson quickly responded "And we are?"

Although both quickly agreed AFD has better looking uniforms.

In response to a question from Charter Commissioner Nick Grabbe about how long the town has been talking about a new Fire Station and new DPW building Mooring responded, "We could work out of a Keebler elf oak tree for all the public cares" (as long as the roads and water supply still work).

Chief Nelson pointed out that is exactly why the town formed the DPW/Fire Station Advisory Committee: to help educated the general public of the need of these two new buildings and act as champions for both departments.

The Fire Chief went on to say:

"The challenge we face long term is the town wants us to do something and we have limited resources to do that. But at what cost? Injury rates go up, response time increases, sick leave escalates. We don’t like to say No. Town still wants all this done. We usually find a way, but it causes burnout. Government needs to figure out what it wants at what service level. We’re being asked to do a lot of things. Hard for us to keep up with day-to-day operations. We're keeping our head above water but with burnout. We need someone with the will to make a commitment (new station/increased staffing) and stick with it."
Mooring also had a comment that resonated with the Commissioners: it really doesn't matter what structure of government you have if the people who occupy the roles don't get along, then nothing positive will happen.

Both department heads stated they are "operational departments" where day to day duties and responsibilities can be very fluid, so  it's not always easy to take the time to provide needed communications to the general public.

And those communications should be a two way thing, otherwise frustration grows.

They also both agreed Town Meeting preparation takes up a lot of their time although fortunately they manage to get their annual budgets approved with little controversy, but those budgets are always a tad too lean.

Mooring closed his presentation to the Commission with the candid observation that he would not want to be in their shoes but they are "doing something important."

Chief Nelson agreed, urging them on: "Don't quit. Keep in mind you are doing the right thing and it will be very good for the town.  In the end it will all work out fine. "

Let's hope.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Hold Your Water

Community Field
Sweetser Park
In response to the recent hot weather, which has already pushed July to the highest consumption rate for that month in five years, Amherst will institute water restrictions to deal with the current drought starting tomorrow morning at 8:00 am.

The town has already fired up Well 4 which normally does not occur for another month in preparation for the return of our college aged youth which spikes demand for the month of September.

 Click to enlarge/read

Phase 1 for now is "voluntary":  watering of lawns are now on an every other day odd/even schedule according to house numbers but only before 9 am after 6 pm.

Cars also can be washed but only with those same time restrictions. And no filling of swimming pools.  Farms are exempt as are the municipal pools.

Phase 2 would be "mandatory" restrictions and could come via a state mandate.

Smoke Gets In Your Eyes

Pelham brush fire Saturday 4:45 PM
Pelham brush fire Sunday morning 6:00 AM

 UPDATE:  Monday noon FIRE IS OUT
What a forest should look like (from 300 feet)

For the 3rd hot day in a row fire crews from a bevy of area local and state departments will go toe to toe with a stubborn brush fire in the woods of Pelham.  Crews have managed to encircle it with a fire line, so hopefully today they can close in for the kill.

Brutal today

 Pelham brush fire Sunday 3:00 PM

Pelham Brush fire Monday morning 6:00 AM

The blaze was first reported on Saturday and since then over 30 firefighters have traipsed into the Pelham woods each day for the past three days just off Old Pratt Corner Road, a rocky dirt road that had me singing John Denver's "Country Road" every time I was headed back out to paved Buffam Road.
Early Saturday morning meet up at Pelham Fire Station
Staging area off Old Pratt Farm Road 
Pelham Engine 1
Large 3,500 gallon tanker left refills Hadley 1,000 gallon tanker on right
Water is vital to fight fire and stay hydrated
 AFD treated one female firefighter for dehydration/heat exhaustion

Monday morning 6:00 AM

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Rescue Me!

Descending into a sewer to rescue Nani, age 10

After spending nearly an hour barking plaintively from deep inside a dark scary storm drain AFD and APD combined forces to free the little guy and the DPW will make sure her entry point is sealed.  With a side benefit of also keeping out the raccoons.

Now you know why AFD carries so much equipment
All's well that ends well:

Dog speak for "Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
Nani an hour later (fully recovered)
And yes I though about using Birdie  to scare Nani back out the way she came but it would have been a tight fit

Friday, July 22, 2016

No Fun For You!

Groff Park Wading Pool is closed due to technical difficulties

I knew something was wrong this afternoon as I approached the pool and three families were heading back towards their car with the children looking bone dry. And they looked pretty disappointed.

No wonder.

The Groff Park Wading Pool -- one of only two in town -- only opened last week and was getting plenty of usage from both parents and young children.  Plus this weekend will probably be the hottest one so far this summer.

Maybe it's time to break out the sprinklers on the town common.

UPDATE:  Pool reopened on Sunday morning.  Yea!

A Shining Light

Umass  three solar parking canopies will save $45K annually

Senate President Stan Rosenberg, a tireless workhorse for Western Mass in general and UMass/Amherst in particular, joined forces with Chancellor Kumble Subbaswamy, outgoing State Rep Ellen Story and Judith Judson, commissioner of the state Department of Energy Resources (DOER), to officially welcome/unveil the first parking canopy solar arrays to our area.

 Good crowd on hand for the 10:30 AM ceremony

Over the next year the University will install two more of these parking lot canopy solar arrays as well as placing arrays on six buildings, a total of 15,576 panels, which will provide 5.5 megawatts of energy and save $6.2 million over the next 20 years.

 Vira Douangmany Cage, Amilcar Shabazz and Stan Rosenberg
Ellen Story:  "This is great advertising for UMass"
Stan Rosenberg:  "Emblematic installation highlighting the green future we desperately need"
Judith Judson:"Partners like UMass help us establish our goal of clean energy"

Chancellor Subbaswamy