Sunday, August 28, 2016

Get The Lead Out!


Crocker Farm School, built 1974 but renovated 2002 to a total of 90,800 square feet

As if our public schools were not already in enough chaos with classes scheduled to start only days from now, Crocker Farm, our South Amherst neighborhood elementary school, tested positive for lead in the water.

When it rains it pours.


Click to enlarge/read

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A BOLD Evening Indeed

President Obama, Katherine Appy, Laura Kent

Well at least Amherst School Committee Chair Katherine Appy will be able to write off the wine as a campaign contribution (cheese as well).  And considering the current chaos the public schools find themselves in, it's gonna take a LOT of wine to sell this $67 million dollar Mega School.

As a private individual Ms. Appy has every right to advocate for the November 8th Override question, but if a quorum of School Committee members (only two more) or three Select Board members attend the party, then it is a violation of Open Meeting Law since it has not been publicly posted.  And no, this article does not count.

And you also have to wonder if tax dollars are being expended to bring in lead architect Jim LaPosta to "give us updates and answer questions." 

 Click to enlarge/read


UPDATE:  As mentioned by Ms. Appy in comments this is a private gathering for like minded individuals, which rules out the vast majority of my readers.  Especially the beer guzzling or wine-from-a-box crowd.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cable Contract Comeuppance

Paul Bockelman (left) attending Cable Advisory Committee meeting yesterday

New Town Manager Paul Bockelman parachuted into a hot LZ with two critical concerns coming up at the routine Monday night Select Board meeting:  The impasse with Comcast over their ten year franchise renewal and the steadily worsening water situation.

At their Thursday morning meeting Bockelman asked the Cable Advisory Committee for a "little leeway" in getting up to speed.  The CAC convinced the Select Board to reject the current offer which includes a one time payment of $950,000 for new equipment and the standard 5% cut of cable revenues (around $300K per year).

The Select Board has until September 26 to formally accept or reject the offer but Comcast would then appeal the decision and would continue to operate under the old contract.

If Comcast agrees to return to the bargaining table the CAC, in addition to their two members, demand a member of Amherst Media also be present to "increase the efficiency and accuracy of the discussion."

Amherst Media also funded a 5-year audit of Comcast and although the official report is not yet concluded enough irregularities have been found to warrant a conference call with the entire Cable Advisory Committee, Amherst Media and the town hired consultant/attorney Peter Epstein.

All things combines -- Internet, Telephone, TV and Advertising sales -- the ten year contract is estimated to generate $80 million in total revenues to Comcast. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Deception?

"Dysfunctional" Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee

So when a lawyer uses the term "deception" in writing we should all sit up and take notice.


 Click to enlarge/read

Especially when she is talking about something not related to ensuring a paying client gets a good legal outcome.

Although in this case her client is really the entire town of Leverett  and they will end up being the saps who have to help cover the $309,000 payout over this regrettable matter.  Along with Amherst, Pelham, and Shutesbury.

When I first heard a few days ago that she had resigned my initial response was hardly one of surprise.  In fact I'm a little surprised a few more have not resigned.  Because obviously some of them are in w-a-y over their heads.

The official minutes of the exceedingly long four executive sessions were supposed to be released a week ago.

And if rookie Chair Laura Kent is withholding them even after her committee voted to release them and after publication by the Daily Hampshire Gazette of the "draft" minutes,  the chances are astronomically good that she will also refuse to release the original five page email from Maria Geryk to her buddy, attorney Giny Tate, outlining her initial demands for a $600K payout.

Apparently in that deleterious document, which attorney Tom Columb -- an associate of Giny Tate -- repossessed, Geryk trashed the reputations of RSC members Baptiste, Cage and Robb.

Coincidentally enough the same three members who were critical of her stewardship as Superintendent in the annual evaluations that have yet to be officially released by the Regional School Committee.

Which seems to indicate someone gave those evaluations to Maria Geryk in advance.  Probably the same ones who happily voted for her $309K payout.

Deception indeed!




Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Transparency?

Laura Kent has her hands full as rookie Regional School Committee Chair


Sorry I just don't buy the "poor-little-us-we're-just-volunteers" routine.

If you enter a race up Mt. Washington it doesn't matter if you are in the professional or amateur division, as that mountain is going to do its best to kill you.

So half way up do not lament that you are only a "volunteer".

Deal with it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Take Me Out Coach!

Austin Whipple, age 22, stands before Judge Tom Estes this morning in Eastern Hampshire District Court

Only a week after our Select Board publicly discussed hosting a recognition/celebration for the steller performance of Amherst native Michael Hixon at the Rio Olympics another college aged student athlete was arraigned in Eastern Hampshire District Court on a charge of drunk driving.

Austin Whipple, son of UMass football coach Mark Whipple, had a Blood Alcohol Concentration of .24, which is THREE TIMES the legal limit.  And yes it was the legally admissable chemical test taken back at APD headquarters.

 Click photo to enlarge/read

So rather then hiring a high priced DUI attorney his family should save their money and take the 24D plea deal because with evidence like that his chance of beating the rap is less than zero.

And as a means of restoring his public reputation perhaps Coach Whipple should have him speak to area high schools and the incoming UMass freshman class about the dangers of alcohol.

Especially now that UMass is initiating a Party Registration program that could use some widespread publicity.

 UMass starts September 6




First Day

 Paul Bockelman, Amherst Town Hall

Paul Bockelman started his first day on the job as the new permanent Town Manager replacing Temporary Town Manager Pete Hechenbleikner who replaced acting Town Manager Dave Ziomek who replaced John Musante when he died unexpectedly almost one year ago.

While Mr. Bockelman was heading back up the stairs to his new office the Amherst Cable Advisory Committee was meeting in the room next door, fomenting revolution.

The CAC is very unhappy with the final offer from Comcast on a ten year cable license renewal with a drop dead deadline of September 26.

Temporary Town Manager Hechenbleikner was happy enough with it to recommend it to the Select Board on his final day in office, August 1st.

But at their meeting last week the Select Board unanimously passed a motion underscoring their unhappiness with the proposed contract as well:

"Voted that the Town Manager communicate to our counsel that the Select Board is not satisfied with the proposed contract with Comcast because of the need for a more specific understanding about the availability of high definition and electronic program guide for PEG channels and our conclusion that the proposed capital budget does not meet our community's needs and expectations as expressed through the ascertainment process and our knowledge of community needs."
In addition the town is currently in a water crisis just as our #1 demographic -- college aged youth -- start returning to our institutes of higher education as Amherst is a three company town: UMass, Amherst & Hampshire Colleges.

Well, mainly UMass -- our states flagship of higher education.

And our public schools, once a source of civic pride, are in chaos after the sudden sour departure of Superintendent Maria Geryk, the highest paid town employee.  With first day of school only a week away.

Perhaps Mr. Bockelman should be wearing something more comfortable on his first day, as he most certainly will need to hit the ground running.