Friday, October 24, 2014

Mullins Center Mellowing?

Skrillex show was promoted on PVTA buses

Unlike the Fantazia concert last month at the UMass-owned but privately-managed Mullins Center, AFD was able to handle the alcohol induced floodgates that seem to open with certain music acts, not to single out Electronic Dance Music -- but EDM sure seems to do it.

Last night "Mullins Center Command" stationed on site (personnel, but not the ambulances) for the Skrillex show handled 15 patients, with seven requiring ambulance transport to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital vs 11 transports to CDH for Fantazia.

 Easthampton and South Hadley FD staging at AFD North Station for Mullins Center EDM show

AFD Chief Nelson requires the venue to hire two out-of-town ambulances to supplement AFD although they were still not enough to prevent AFD ambulances from joining in the convoy to CDH.

At the Fantazia concert, however, in addition to five AFD ambulances and the two out-of-town ambulances, we still had to call in Northampton FD via mutual aid for a college aged youth with a serious head injury.

 A3 at Mullins Center last night for ETOH college aged female

So yes, last night was a LOT better.  But still unacceptable

UMPD was busy all night as well

"Psychological & Emotional Abuse"

 A benign Calvin Terrell appears before angry parents 10/3/14 at the Middle School

The Special Education Parent Advisory Council, a state mandated organization whose charge is to give advice to the District and advocate for children with special needs, branded Calvin Terrell's 10/2 presentation at Amherst Regional Middle School "psychological and emotional abuse."

At their 10/15  meeting, the advisory group expressed dismay with Amherst Public School officials response to the fiasco saying, "This slow and anemic response is not acceptable."  Indeed!

Interestingly the schools did launch an Internet survey of Middle School parents but refuse to release the actual ANONYMOUS responses, citing privacy concerns.

But their "analysis" shows a majority (54%) had problems with the presentation and only 15.5% thought his work "should continue".

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Show Me The Money!

Aaron Gornstein announces $1.6 million tax credit to a crowd of about 50

For the second time in only two days state officials have come to Amherst bearing gifts. BIG ones:

On Tuesday the Governor announced a $1.5 million MassWorks Grant to relocate utilities underground in the north end of town center, and today Housing Undersecretary Aaron Gornstein announced a $1.6 million tax credit for Beacon Communities Development, the new owner of Rolling Green Apartments.

 Select Board, Housing Sheltering Committee, Housing Authority, Rolling Green residents and town staff on hand

The money will allow the private company that specializes in affordable housing to do much needed "deferred maintenance." Last Spring Amherst Town Meeting approved $1.25 million in Community Preservation Act money to go towards the $30 million deal.

 Representative Ellen Story "This is amazing!" (keeping the units affordable)

With the preservation in perpetuity of 41 units of affordable housing at Rolling Green (but all 204 units will count towards the SHI) the town stands a better chance of staying above the 10% Subsudized Housing Inventory, which inoculates against a developer coming into town doing a Ch40B development.

 Mark Epker President Beacon Communities Investment LLC

Happy campers

Steady As She Goes

Budget Coordinating Group this morning

The budget season for Amherst and affiliated towns now starts to gear up, even though the Governor's budget will probably be a month late since this is an "election year".

This morning the Budget Coordinating Group, made up of members of our Public Schools, Library and Select Board, met for the first time since January.

First order of business was to elect co-Chairs.  Finance Director Sandy Pooler said the usual practice was to elect the Chairs of the Finance Committee and Select Board, but since SB Chair Aaron Hayden was Missing In Action they elected rookie SB member Andy Steinberg and FinCom Chair Kay Moran.

Although Steinberg was recently chair of the Finance Committee, so perhaps a bit of an echo chamber in the making.

Sandy Pooler said he was feeling "pretty good" about the budget process on the town side:  No cuts, employee salary budgets are settled at a rate the town can afford, health insurance will be manageable, and although no additions are expected it would be nice to make some additions, "particularly police."

Library Director Sharon Sharry extolled the benefits of "inter-library loans" which allows her to keep down the "acquisition budget" to state minimum standards, although the Jones Library still circulates more material than Springfield, the third largest city in Massachusetts.

Amherst Public Schools Finance Director Sean Mangano told the advisory group he thought the 2.2% increase allocated to the public schools "should be adequate", although he expressed concerns as to whether this took into consideration the Charter/Choice reimbursements, which Pooler confirmed it did not.

The Regional Schools lose a ton of kids (75) to Charter Schools -- particularly the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School -- and every one costs the equivalent of the high average cost per child of Amherst education, just over $18,000 (vs state average of about $14,000).

Whereas the students who come to Amherst via School Choice only generate $5,000 in revenues from the sending town.

Mangano told the BCG that in the immediate future things are only going to get worse as Smith Vocational is expanding its offerings and the Chinese Charter School is also physically expanding and adding grades 10-12.

Conditions Of The Deal

 North end of town:  Red headed bastard stepchild?

Mary Wentworth, who made her name in a losing battle for Congress 30 years ago, complained last night to the Planning Board about the recently announced $1.5 million grant from the state to bury utility lines in the north end of the downtown.

 Town Manager Musante extolling the virtues of development to Governor Patrick

She told the board, in speaking against a mixed use mega-development (1 East Pleasant Street) immediately adjacent to the proposed improvements,  "No one else had approved the deal, which is a BIG help to those who wish to profit off our town."

So I can imagine this new information -- that the "deal" has a string attached -- is NOT going to go over well with those who are concentrating fire at the 1 East Pleasant Street project and pretty much development of any kind.

Apparently the condition is the town has to "match" the grant by doing improvements at the adjacent  East Pleasant/Triangle Street intersection, which has been targeted for improvements for a quite a while.

Over the summer the Public Works Committee did vote unanimously to approve the idea of a roundabout at that intersection, but "only if it does not cost town money."

Triangle/East Pleasant Intersection (circled in red)

Last spring Amherst Town Meeting (who never met a development it liked)  turned down an easement proposal to take slivers of land to allow for the roundabout. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

DUI Dishonor Roll

On average, 2 out of 3 Americans will be involved in a drunk driving accident in their lifetime

When are people going to realize that a 3,000 pound car is a dangerous weapon?  Would you attempt bomb disposal while drunk?  Or walk a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon?

Probably not, because self preservation would kick in.  So why do people think they can get behind the wheel of a car while under the influence of alcohol, an act that kills 10,000 Americans every year?

Click to enlarge/read

Cindy Drake, age 49, stands before Judge Estes in Eastern Hampshire District Court


And let's hear it for Hadley PD!  Not only did they take an impaired driver, James Duffy, age 47,  off the road -- but they also went to their Facebook page to tell the world about it.  Now if we could only get them to start releasing mug shots ...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Governor Came Calling

 Governor Deval Patrick

In what may be his last visit to Amherst as Governor, Deval Patrick spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of 150 gathered at Kendrick Park, representing a cross section of business, education and political leadership in our little college town.

And since he was announcing a state $1.5 million infrastructure improvement grant for the north end of town center, immediately across the street from where he was speaking, the crowd only got more enthusiastic.  The money will fund relocating ugly utility lines underground. 

 Town Mgr Musante, Governor Patrick, Stan Rosenberg

In his speech future president of the Mass Senate and forever resident of the town, Stan Rosenberg called Deval Patrick, "The best governor for public higher education in more than forty years.  Absolutely ... no question about that!"

Kendrick Place will benefit by the $1.5 million state grant, aesthetically speaking