Friday, January 30, 2009

Boats against the current


The Amherst Athletic Club turns 27 today and I, twice that. We originally opened in what long-time locals still occasionally call Hadley’s “Dead Mall”—now very much alive with Wal Mart as the ultimate anchor.

And ironically enough new home to Planet Fitness, the low-cost—some would argue predatory pricing—franchise that thrives on high-volume memberships, where they hope the majority of members never actually show.

And since the rent has skyrocketed with the Mall’s revival, Planet Fitness will need a continuous flow of customers cascading through the door.

The three AAC owners huddled last night at the Irish bar out front to contemplate a strategy: do we continue limping along, or commit suicide (advertise the business for sale.) Or go for it, via a “surge.”

We chose to surge. Never surrender!

My 7-year-old daughter said she used the "cursive Y" to mimic the logo for Big-Y Supermarkets, our favorite grocery store.

Last year’s reflection

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Close the loophole!

Since the state--after blindsiding local cities and towns with a mid-year retroactive Local Aid cut of sizable proportions--is now talking about local option meals taxes, and increases in the hotel/motel tax to raise additional millions to soften next Fiscal year's even more devastating Local Aid cuts, could we finally do what ‘Special Committee to Recommend Mitigation for Local Aid Cuts’, chaired by Amherst resident State Senator Stan Rosenberg (an indefatigable Umass supporter) clearly stated W-A-Y back in 2003:

“Eliminate UMASS Amherst Campus Center's exemption from hotel motel tax (that tax doesn't cost the state anything, doesn't cost the university anything, shouldn't be an edge in competition against local hotels / motels). This could be a significant ($70,000+) help to Amherst.”

And those were of course 2003 dollars at the old tax rate. So if the increase does go into effect and factoring in inflation this could easily provide Amherst with an addition $100-K annually.

If the Campus Center Hotel, after a $9.2 million renovation (at taxpayer expense) wants to compete with private sector, taxpaying operations in the Valley (mostly run by Amherst native Curt Shumway) let them compete on a level playing field.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The wheels on the bus...

UPDATE: FRIDAY 1/30/09

Alison,
Yes, the bus does take an Amherst child to the Pelham school and we appreciate your stated desire to not infringe on this child's privacy. Having him ride a regular bus is a cost-saving measure; van runs for individual students are far more costly than adding a short distance to a bus route. Bus routes do occasionally change during the course of a year to adjust to changing needs. We will look into updating the description of the routes on the website.

Our bus insurance covers our buses whether they are in Amherst or Pelham. All of our drivers carry walkie-talkies and can be reached in case of an emergency.

Helen
Dr. Helen Vivian
Interim Co-Superintendent of Schools
Amherst-Pelham Regional Schools
170 Chestnut Street
Amherst, MA 01002
413-362-1823

Sent: Friday, January 30, 2009 9:28 AM
Subject: Re: problem with bus

Helen...
I appreciate your reply. I would like to request a copy of the current bus route for Bus #8, as I would like to know where my own child is on his way to and from school. I am also requesting that you send a copy of the updated bus route to Ray Sharick and to Lianne Suarez-Werlein at Fort River (whom I have cc'd here so they will know to be on the lookout for the updated schedule) since they are in charge of the children on Bus #8. I am hoping that either they or, more appropriately, you inform ALL the parents whose children ride Bus #8 of the change in route.
I also cannot imagine why the updated bus route cannot also be posted immediately on the ARPS web site. In fact, none of the Fort River bus routes are currently posted on the ARPS transportation web site http://www.arps.org/node/79 which I find unusual and potentially distressing to any parent who might want to look up their child's bus route.
Additionally, I look forward to the answers to the other questions in my original email:
--Are there more children who are not attending school in our district that we are busing elsewhere?
--How many kids (not counting the ELL kids) do we bus to schools that are not their district-assigned schools?
--How much time does it add to the time of bus route 8 to make a detour to the Pelham School? (You have now told me that it is a cost-saving measure to drive one child to Pelham, but what does it add to the time the other kids spend in the bus?)
--Why isn't this route to Pelham School published?
My final question is: "since my neighborhood bus already goes to Pelham for one child, would the rest of us on the bus route now have the option of choicing into Pelham and having our children bused to and from school daily as well?" I realize that this is not likely to occur this school year but next year, would that be an option for any of us on Bus #8? Given space availability in Pelham School, of course.
Looking forward to learning more.
...Alison
###############################################################

Original Post (Wednesday)

This morning my son, a sixth grader at Fort River, complained to me that
his bus was now "always late" since they "changed routes." When
questioned, he said, "yeah, now that we have to drop that kid off atPelham
School, we are late."

Since Pelham School is NOT in our elementary
district and according to the published bus routes, his bus does NOT go to
Pelham School, I did some investigating. First of all, I double-checked
his bus route which can be found at: http://www.arps.org/Busroute/FR4.htm (route
also copied below in case the link mysteriously disappears). This was the
bus route I am familiar with. It does not list a stop at Pelham
Road.

Next, I spoke with our vice-principal who was very helpful and assured me
that the kids were not late but didn't seem to know whether or not they went to
Pelham School. She directed me to the ARPS transportation office.

I called and spoke with Peter Crouse who confirmed that this bus was not
late but did tell me that the bus did go to Pelham School. I wanted to
know why. His answer was "to drop off a child who goes there." He
further explained that the bus "had to turn around near Pelham School anyway, on
Amherst Road." According the map I consulted, the published bus route does
not actually take the bus onto Amherst Road since it leaves Harkness Road at
Stony Hill. I then asked if this child was an Amherst child or a Pelham
child. He told me it was an Amherst child. So my question to him
was, "so we are paying to bus a child who is choicing out of our
district?" He replied that "it wasn't really a choice child...more like
open enrollment...kind of special needs." He said it was "a long
story," and not wanting to infringe upon this particular child's privacy, I
didn't push the issue. (Let me be clear, my issue is NOT with this child
or what is best for that child but instead what is best for our
financially-strapped school district.)

So, my questions for you, as my elected officials are:


--Why are we busing an Amhest child to Pelham?


--Are there more children who are not attending school in our district that
we are busing elsewhere?


--How many kids (not counting the ELL kids) do we bus to schools that are
not their district-assigned schools?


--How much time does it add to the time of bus route 8 to make a detour to
the Pelham School?


--Why isn't this route to Pelham School published? Don't I, as a
parent, have the right to know the route my child is taking to get to
school? What if there were an emergency in our family and I had to track
down my son and tried to catch up with the bus on its route? I understand
that temporary detours might be required due to weather, road closings,
etc. But to permanently change the route (Peter Crouse told me that this
child had been doing this all year) and not publish it doesn't seem right.

What are the liability issues for our town? We must carry insurance
on those buses and be required to file routes. What would happen if Bus #8
got into an accident in Pelham? Would our insurance cover that since the
bus wasn't in town as it was supposed to be?

This seems to me to be another sign of lack of fiscal responsibility,
accountability, communication, and leadership on the part of our school
administration. I elected you to represent me and to make the best
decisions possible not only for my children but all children in town. As
such, I would not only like some answers but also see some action taken on this
matter.

I have cc'd the Regional School Committee members on this because I realize
that transportation is coordinated regionally and also because the same interim
superintendents are in charge of both districts. If this problem exists
for one bus, it is highly likely that similar problems exist for other bus
routes. Given the tragic accident earlier this year involving an ARPS bus,
I think a thorough investigation into this department is called for. If
nothing else, I would like the EXACT bus routes for ALL buses updated (and
published) to reflect the true routes that the buses take when transporting our
most precious cargo every day.

Alison Donta-Venman, 1 Dwight Circle

From: Alison Donta
To: andersonk@arps.org; brightye@arps.org; churchilla@arps.org; popes@arps.org; sandersonc@arps.org
Cc: farnhamt@arps.org; hussinm@arps.org; jorgensenm@arps.org; katzm@arps.org
Sent: Tue, 27 Jan 2009 3:42 pm
Subject: problem with bus

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

I am the God of Hellfire!

That is until he runs into the Goddess of Good: Queen Stephanie, the new--and vastly improved-- Amherst Select Board Chair. Just watch how she sorts out Larry Shaffer, the appointed Town Manager at the end of the rather brief discussion of this 'Only in Amherst' July 4'th Parade controversy.

And she was smart enough at the outset to announce that this was an internal discussion so NO comments/discussion from the general public. Two parade Committee members and two members of the League of Women Voters attended, looking 'locked-and-loaded'.

Key points: The private group who revived the Parade in 2002 (less than 10 months after the Twin Towers came down) WILL get their permit--and for the optimal time parameters, without being bullied into allowing war protesters or the KKK to march.

Don't worry about the Town Mangler babbling something about the Police Chief having concerns. In a Club for patriotic, law-and-order, stand up guys Chief Charlie Scherpa would be President.

In fact, he actually worked in uniform this past 4'th of July, and we know the Town Manager (with a much higher salary) certainly did not.

Of course Shaffer now has only two bargaining chips: use of town equipment (police cruisers, firetrucks and ambulances--you know, the kind of equipment that many other towns have unconditionally provided) and the threat from rogue elements of the League of Women Voters promoting an "ancillary" Protest Parade (with help from the Town Mangler of course).

The Select Board backed him up on the former but not the latter.

Alisa Brewer jumped in and suggested Shaffer could not deem either event the official "town parade," as to show favoritism (and we know which group he would try to anoint with officialdom).

Interestingly one of the members of the League of Woman Voters present, Robert Romer, also attended that 'Eve of Destruction' September 10, 2001 Select Board meeting where he spoke for less display of the American flag.

As a long-time, card-carrying member of the ACLU, he dubbed the original letter to the Town Manager and Select Board six months ago as "one ACLU lawyer's opinion, and is not representative of all ACLU members." Hmmm, that would be the award-winning lawyer Bill Newman, who has been Director of the Western Massachusetts ACLU forever?

And that letter had to be approved by a bevy of other ACLU attorneys before it was ever sent.

The most recent strongly worded, eyeball-to-eyeball, follow-up letter (see yesterday's upload) demanding the Town Manger stand down and issue the permit immediately--otherwise go to war--was never even directly mentioned last night; the proverbial 1,000 pound gorilla in the room that everybody tried to ignore...but whose influence was undeniable.

The Town Manager most definitely blinked.
video

Monday, January 26, 2009

Don't mess with Texas, Israel or the ACLU

Click image to read

So with temperatures in the single digits it’s kind of hard to get all excited about a July 4’th Parade. But tonight’s Select Board discussion (7:40 PM during Town Manager’s Report) should be interesting, if only because of a new—way more respectful of the flag—Chair replacing His Lordship Gerry Weiss and his mentor for flag rejection Anne Awad, is no longer a Select Board member (even though her term did not expire until this spring).

Look for a 3-2 vote against doing anything really ridiculous—like refusing to issue the private committee a permit (for their 8'th consecutive year), or even supporting the idea to have the Leisure Services Empire run a competing July 4 Parade.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Behold the power...


So about now perky Catherine Sanderson probably wishes her chosen exercise regime was Martial Arts rather than Aerobics. Because she’s taking some serious fire for daring to have an opinion in the overly-opinionated People’s Republic of Amherst (where only the 'H' is silent).

Yes, she’s an elected public official, but on her blog clearly states she is not speaking for the School Committee or anyone else for that matter, only herself. And based on her uploads over the past 8 months she’s a real numbers wonk.

In a Letter to the ultra-crusty Amherst Bulletin, a Marks Meadow teacher (that the clueless Bully forgot to mention his status), with obviously nothing to gain (keeping his 'Language Arts Teacher position') whines that Ms. Sanderson’s blog is “out of line” for daring to discuss something Nancy Gordon was booed for on the floor of Amherst Town Meeting last spring: close Marks Meadow, the smallest of our 4 elementary schools (only serving 180 kids at a cost of $1, 654,000)) and the only school where we don’t own the tired, old building (Umass does).

Blogs are a two-way street. You don’t like what I or Catherine writes, feel free to comment (you can even do it anonymously). Or better yet, get your own damn blog --it’s free and even a tech idiot like me picked it up very quickly.

Even the Town Manager has a blog hosted on the town website but still using blogger. Although he’s smart enough to post only sickeningly sweet puff pieces (if I want that type of fluff I’ll read the Amherst Bulletin, thank you)

One of the--admittedly many--reasons Amherst is in dire financial straits is because “new growth” revenues are down. And why is that? Because NIMBY”s do everything in their power to kill new projects anywhere in town.

Commander Spock’s dying words: “The needs of the many out weight the needs of the few.” (Although miraculously he later comes back to life)

What the fuss is all about

Well at least his Letter appears last
##############################################################
And just for the record: this blog is the private property of Larry J. Kelley private citizen (sort of), life-long Amherst resident--as were four generations of Kelley's before me. I do not speak for Amherst Town Meeting (15 years experience) or the Amherst Redevelopment Authority (10 years experience) or Amherst Bulletin Columnists (14 years experience) or the Amherst Athletic Club (27 years experience).

I do, however, speak for God and Country.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

God bless America (but then, this is Amherst)


How embarrassing is this: the ACLU is at odds with the People's Republic of Amherst. Yikes!

So let's hope Town Manager Shaffer has bigger and better things on his plate rather than costing the taxpayers over $10,000 to launch a competing July 4'th Parade so war protesters can march.

And last I looked the War in Iraq is pretty much over and guess what? We won! (and they hate that).

The Republican Reports Link is not perfect so click "Amherst" after clicking this hyperlink

Only in China and...

Original Post 10:00 AM

Yeah, when I was in China recently for a couple weeks I was amazed by their ability to control the Internet. In addition to censoring President Obama's inaugural speech reference to communism they also put a blogger in jail for "inciting state subversion" by exposing lousy school building construction that killed so many children in that awful earthquake in the Sichuan Province in May.

Of course the stark contrast between school buildings that pancaked like the Trade Towers compared to other government buildings nearby that withstood the quake was hard for even the highly-skilled Chinese censors to cover up.

The People's Republic of Amherst simply threatens pesky bloggers with arrest, and then has a "Trespass Notice" hand delivered by a Sheriff. But hey, at least the difference between the Schools and the other town buildings is only in hot water provided (off the charts at the Bangs Center and Town Hall) and not in sturdy construction...I hope.
#################################################################
10:25 AM UPDATE

Ironically I was checking my open public sitemeter and found someone who arrived here a few moments ago from a search engine called "Onekey—the kid safe search engine,” and of course across the top appeared the names of Amherst schools. They also hit “search the web” rather than “search arps.org”.

According to their ‘About Us’ link: “OneKey partnered with Google.com provides the largest database of kid safe sites”. So I guess we do censor the Net even here in America. But still, a big difference between porn and politics.

Nice to know the Amherst schools have not banned my blog.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Freedom of the blog? Not in The People's Republic!



UPDATE: 4:15 PM Super Sprague responds...finally.

-----Original Message-----
From: Al Sprague
To: amherstac@aol.com
Cc: Helen Vivian
Sent: Wed, 21 Jan 2009 3:09 pm
Subject: Re: Permission to use the 1'st Amendment

Dear Mr. Kelley:

I’m sorry I was not able to respond to the request you sent at 3:17
p.m. yesterday asking to attend the school committee meeting last night.
Unfortunately, we were in budget planning meetings for the entire
afternoon and did not have an opportunity to check email until this
morning. If you wish to attend public meetings on school property in
the future, please call 362-1810 with as much advance notice as
possible. That is the best way to ensure we will receive your request
in time to consider it.

Al Sprague
Co-Superintendent
##############################################################
Of course my reliable sources tell me the school administration was having a BIG party while watching the inauguration and everybody had to bring in food
either from Hawaii or Kenya (at least they did not send out for pizza at taxpayer expense)
##############################################################
UPDATE: 9:25 AM (Wednesday)
So the local media, swept up in Obama fever, had nothing to offer in their morning edition's of the Regional School Committee meeting last night where if indeed a FY2010 budget was presented makes it an important meeting.

And since I have live blogged a few Select Board meetings in the past or usually if covering a meeting on school property—such as Town Meeting—where there is no free wireless (that costs Ed $30/month) I get my posts up within the hour.

Soooooooo, if I had attended that critical meeting last night you would now be reading my impressions. And yes, I took 'Journalism 101' and watched 'Dragnet', so I know how to relate the facts.

Even if colored with my sometimes (okay, oftentimes) snarky observations, at least you would now be better informed. That is, if I were given permission to attend the meeting.
###################################################################################

Original Post Tuesday 8:00 PM
So I was reminded by email from a blog reader that the Regional School Committee was meeting at 7:00 PM tonight and Acting –Co-Superintendents planned to unveil the FY10 budget, a huge component of Amherst’s $60+ million operation (with some slightly strange ideas for cost savings.)

At 3:17 PM (what we in the private sector refer to as normal business hours) in order to avoid arrest I emailed for permission to attend. It’s now 7:55 PM and no response. Hmm….



-----Original Message-----
From: amherstac@aol.com
To: spraguea@arps.org
Sent: Tue, 20 Jan 2009 3:17 pm
Subject: Permission to use the 1'st Amendment

Alton Sprague, Co-Superintendent Amherst Schools


Please consider this a formal written request for permission to set
foot on Amherst School property--specifically the Amherst Pelham
Regional High School--to attend the Regional School Committee meeting
this evening January 20 at 7:00 PM.

Larry Kelley

Not ready for prime time


So according to the Town Mangler’s only upload thus far this year on his ‘Amherst Town Manager’s blog’ (1/16/09): “The skating rink has been created at Kendrick Park and is ready for use. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than to see people skating in Kendrick Park.”

I had a variety of business uptown today--including parking in town center with my laptop to use the free wireless and catch President Obama’s speech (as I have no TV at home) and every time I passed by the “skating rink” it was empty. The “ice” does not look overly inviting.

The torch has been passed...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Now you see them...


So the Town Manager released his gloom and doom budget, up 3.2% over this year’s and tad over the Finance Committee’s recommendation to keep increases to only 2%. Four full-time positions will be eliminated…sort of.

His administrative assistant Gail Weston is getting the ax but will relocate to another position in the Leisure Services Recreation Empire. And the “human resources consultant” position currently occupied by Kay Zlogar who took early retirement a few years back and then returned as a “consultant” is also history. Last year she consulted $43,000 worth (on top of her retirement benefits).

But don’t play the violin for Ms.Zlogar, as she too is merely being reassigned: now she will consult/oversee the Health Claims Trust Fund--probably to the tune of $43,000.

I believe my Irish mother would describe these maneuvers as “robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

Saturday, January 17, 2009

What took them so long?

So, "I'm-here-to-help-you" Government can snatch private land by eminent domain for Schools, Fire Stations or Sewer Treatment Plants and the Supreme Court recently decided they could also take a man’s or woman’s Castle simply to promote economic development (“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”)

But the Feds had to waste three years negotiating with a quarry company over the sacred ground where Flight 93--at an unheard of speed for a Boeing 757--came to its final resting place?

Only in America!

The AP reports

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Take this "shard" and shove it!

Click photo to enlarge

Springfield Republican Reports (The only thing I wish the reporter included was the clearly established scientific facts regarding water temperature and scalding and at 110 it would be near impossible to scald hands in a lavatory setting)

ORIGINAL POST (Thursday early afternoon)
So the venerable crusty Gazette editors did not even deem this (Only In Amherst) school safety issue important enough to reprint in this week’s ultra-crusty Amherst Bulletin. Probably a good thing. Maybe journalistic integrity strikes them every now and then--like the dead clock that’s correct twice a day.

Here’s my reaction:

I’m disappointed—but not surprised—at the cold water (board) torture I received in the Gazette after they, finally, got around to covering the lack of hot water in the Wildwood Elementary School bathrooms.

First off, uncorroborated allegation that I left a “broken shard” in the boy’s room. The entire thermometer is made of “high impact resin” (both the tubular part containing the non-mercury red dye and the plastic backing it is housed in). I took one apart and dropped the tubular section three times from a height of five feet and it did not break.

Then I whacked it with a hammer, and the two pieces were far from sharp.

So yes, something very small was accidentally left behind (after searching I assumed it went down the drain) but it was completely harmless. Use of the word “shard” gives the impression it was one of those Viet Cong punji stick booby traps waiting to impale some innocent child--although I assume kids wear shoes in the lavatory.

The lead paragraph also suggests the Health Department checked “boys and girls rooms at Wildwood Elementary School,” when in fact the report clearly shows only one Boy’s room was checked and the temperature came back at 86.7 degrees. Certainly not” hot.”

And school officials did have over 24 hours notice the Health Department was coming so I’m sure they did everything possible to increase the water temperature in that Boy’s room (my findings were 70 degrees one time and 78 the next), and 86.7 was the best they could do?

The “No Trespass” order came after my third and last visit (a full month after accidentally leaving behind a harmless thermometer). I adhered to Superintends Sprague’s telephone demand from the previous visit and announced myself at the Main Office. I was accompanied to the rest room by Principal Matt Behnke and we both made sure no children were present.

He was with me the entire time but, yes, when he asked me not to take a photo of the thermometer readout I declined and took one photo. So I guess the 'Trespass Order' was for insubordination.

The Gazette article extensively quotes Facilities Director Ronald Bohonowitcz claiming the water is kept low to prevent “scalding”. Hmmm. A google search shows the following for scalding to occur:

Temperature Time to Cause
of Water a Bad Burn
-------------------------------------
150°F (66°C) 2 seconds
140°F (60°C) 6 seconds
125°F (52°C) 2 minutes
120°F (49°C) 10 minutes

Notice they don’t even go below 120 because most people—especially children—do not spend that much time washing their hands. And since the jump from 125 down to 120 was pretty dramatic I would guess at 80-95 degrees it would take the entire school day.

And yes, I’m amazed the state has “no minimum” temperature required for rest rooms--meaning we could shut off entirely the hot water. And if Mr. Bohonowicz is correct that the state does mandate a maximum temperature of 110, then he needs to look at the bathrooms in Town Hall and the Bangs Center that I tested yesterday at over 120.

After smashing with a hammer
#############################################################

After complaint, Amherst school water found to be OK
By MARY CAREY
Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 2009

AMHERST - Town health officials found no problem with the water temperature in the boys and girls rooms at Wildwood Elementary School, after investigating an Amherst resident's complaint.

The temperature of the water is in conformance with the state plumbing code for public buildings, Ron Bohonowicz, facilities manager for the town and schools, said Monday.

"There is no legal issue there," he said.

Bohonowicz said the temperature in the restrooms is set between 80 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit, so that children don't scald their hands. The water in the boiler is set at 160 degrees, but it is mixed with colder water before it reaches the restrooms, Bohonowicz said.

"When one of these little kids comes in from the outside and their hands are freezing, they can't tell how hot the water is. We don't want to take any risk whatsoever of burning a child."

Amherst resident Larry Kelley had taken the temperature of the water in the boys room and posted on his blog the opinion that it was too cold and posed a health risk.

He has since received a no-trespassing order requiring him to stay out of the schools, after he left a broken shard of a non-mercury thermometer behind in the restroom while conducting one of his own investigations.

Kitchen water temperature higher

Water used in the kitchen, meanwhile, is set at higher temperatures and the temperature in the dishwashers is even higher, because they are equipped with temperature boosters.

State building code says that water temperature in public buildings should be set at a maximum of 110 degrees Fahrenheit.

It does not specify a minimum temperature.

As it takes some time for the water from the boiler to reach the restrooms, the water that initially comes out of the faucets may sometimes be colder than the desired temperature, Bohonowicz added.

"Our schools are old. The systems are not designed the way today's nice new efficient systems are."

Co-superintendent Alton Sprague said that boiler replacement for the district's schools - which would run to the millions of dollars - has been on a wish list for school maintenance.

The maintenance has been deferred by the School Building Authority, a state entity, Sprague said.

Kelley had filed a written complaint about the temperature of the water with Epi Bodhi, Amherst's health director. She could not be reached for comment.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Some like it hotter

Town Hall 2'nd floor bathroom

So the venerable Amherst Schools –that consume the majority of our $60+ million budget—can’t provide hot water in the bathrooms for our children, but the town side of the budget--that survives on the left over table scraps--can provide employees and citizen visitors with common sense routine water temperatures. Hmmm
Bangs Center bathroom about 10 yards from the Health Department.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Even in Amherst


So yeah, I thought tonight’s School Committee meeting went pretty well.

First off Clint Eastwood wanna-be Alton Sprague, Acting Co-Superintendent did not show up (he’s the one who signed the Trespass order against me) at least during the 45 minutes I was there; and he knew full-well the issue about Wildwood's bathrooms lacking hot water was going to come up and when.

His Acting Co-Superintendent partner Helen Vivian did the honors. That alone is worthy of an hmmm….

School Committee Chair Andy Churchill starts the ball rolling by distributing a short memo from Epi Bodhi, Director of Public Health dated 1/12/09:

On Friday, January 9’th, I received a complaint that the water at Wildwood School was not hot. Health Inspector, Gary Courtemanche investigated the situation and these are his findings:

On Friday 01/01/09 I went to the Wildwood School based on a complaint regarding water temperatures. The temperature for hot water in the boys bathroom was 86.7. Temperature in this case if governed by 248 CMR 10.14 Uniformed State Plumbing Code. The code states that the temperature cannot exceed 110 degrees., no minimum.

The temperature in the food service area were all within regulations based on CMR 59.0 food Code.

No follow up is necessary.
###################################################################################
But when Acting Co-Superintendent Sprague responded to my email (only CC to his wife) requesting permission to attend tonight ‘s meeting he included a memo from Ron Bohonowicz also dated 1/12/09 on Amherst-Pelham Regional School District stationary that also referenced Gary Courtemanche’s brief report (all one paragraph):

Sorry folks this is going to start to resemble a Kurosawa’s Roshomon but pay attention:

Based on a compliant regarding water temps at the Wildwood School I conducted an inspection on Friday afternoon 01/09/09. The water temperature in the boys bathroom was 86.7 degrees, under the domestic water requirements the temperature cannot exceed 105 (no minimum). The temperature in the kitchen which falls under the food code requirements was at 110 degrees at the hand wash sink, the acceptable range is 110-130 degrees. The dish machine temperatures were 154 for wash and 182 for rinse both food under the food code.

###################################################################################
So if you were paying attention the only difference is Ms. Bodhi edits out the fact finding of 110 degrees at the hand wash sink and condenses the dish machine data. Because my theory, as previously posted on this blog, is that if higher temperatures were not more effective at killing germs than why have the temperature at the hand wash sink higher than the bathrooms?

Acting Co-Superintendent Helen Vivian did not distribute the Bohonowicz memo until after I referenced it. Hmmm…

And when I mentioned that according to Bohonowicz or the Health Inspector the schools could shut off the hot water entirely to the restrooms--since there is “no minimum"-- I think at this point SC member Kathleen Anderson kind of shrugged and said there’s no hot water in the High School either. (As though 2 wrongs make a right).

SC Chair Andy Churchill (obviously no relation to Winston) quickly shushed her up.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Freedom of the Blogosphere

UPDATE: 3:00 PM So the Super has granted me permission to attend the School Committee meeting tomorrow night. Gee, that's right up there with "being allowed" to attend a Town Meeting (or root canal).

He attaches a memo from Ronald Bohonowicz explaining that they purposely keep water temperature down in the bathrooms (so I guess they could turn it up if they wanted) and he includes the Uniform State Plumbing Code that restricts temperature to a maximum of 110 but have no minimums.

But the Mass Department of Public Health has the following:

DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH
105 CMR 410.000: MINIMUM STANDARDS OF FITNESS FOR HUMAN HABITATION (STATE SANITARY CODE, CHAPTER II)

410.190: Hot Water

The owner shall provide and maintain in good operating condition the facilities capable of heating water. The owner shall also provide the hot water for use at a temperature of not less than 110°F (43° C) and in a quantity and pressure sufficient to satisfy the ordinary use of all plumbing fixtures which normally need hot water for their proper use and function, unless and to the extent the occupant is required to provide fuel for the operation of the facilities under a written letting agreement. The hot water shall not exceed 130°F (54° C).

The Board of Health agent, Gary Courtemanche visited the school on Friday afternoon (01/09/09) and found the temperature at the Boy's bathroom to be 86.7. At the kitchen sink it was fortunately at 110 and the dish machine washed at 154 and rinsed at 182.




On Jan 12, 2009, at 10:22:27 AM, amherstac@aol.com wrote:

Co-Superintendent Sprague:

Please consider this a formal written request for permission to set
foot on Amherst School property--specifically the Amherst Pelham
Regional High School--to attend the School Committee meeting tomorrow
night January 13 at 7:00 PM where I believe the water temperature issue
at Wildwood Elementary School will be discussed.

Larry Kelley

Sunday, January 11, 2009

No Vaginas for you!



So ahhhhh (that would be a sigh, not an orgasm), NO ‘Vagina Monologues’ at Amherst Regional High School this year! What a shame. Violence against women in Amherst will now get completely out of control.

Last year of course the High School kiddies did an encore performance sanctioned by clueless, spineless PC school officials–although it took four years to get around to it. In 2007 Principal Mark Jackson actually showed some backbone (which he probably does not do all that often) and told the kids no way in Hell. So they went to Northampton Center for the Arts and did it there.

But the following year Mr. Jackson (having attended the NoHo performance with his feminist wife) was so impressed (with all of a month’s preparation) he allowed ARHS sanctioning and use of the public school building. Although the turn out last year was not nearly what it was in 2004, down from a sold out 800 to only 500.

And now this year, ZIP. However will Eve Ensler afford cosmetic surgery?

Of course, Amherst Schools are currently beyond disarray. Four new principals (out of only six) hired in one year. Jackson is the most experienced Amherst Principal with a pathetic five years under his belt (replacing another male principal who apparently made a pass at a 15-year-old male student and has not been heard from since) but Jackson is currently on personal leave for this entire month.

Second in command Marta Guevara--with more experience at ARHS than Principal Jackson--is off for the entire year. She championed the 2004 ‘VM’ performance and later banned the term “freshman” in the High School because it was sexist.

And of course uber-slick Superintendent Jere Hochman left for greener pastures (meaning way more than double salary) giving the Regional School Committee only three weeks notice of his exit. So now we have interim married Co-Superintendents Alton Sprague and Helen Vivian--both W-A-Y beyond retirement age--trying to keep the flotilla of leaky ships from sinking while using prehistoric methodology.

And there’s that little matter of the Middle School Pool closed because bureaucrats can’t handle one year’s notice for a $2,000 retrofit item. And no hot water at Wildwood Elementary School, and God only knows how many safety violations at Marks Meadow.

Rob Okun, who twice over four years wrote touchy-feely drivel editorials supporting the pernicious production on town property by underage teenagers, is no longer director of the 'Amherst Men’s Resource Center For Change' ensconced in a tax-exempt downtown Amherst building (Maybe he had a sex change operation.) And of course last year they were the main recipient of money raised by the kid’s production. Gee, no conflict there.

Sophie Rabinovitz, who was involved in the original production in 2004 (the year Amherst was the only High School in America to sanction the play after nixing 'West Side Story' in 1999 because of racist concerns) but she and the school sat out 05,and 06 then she spearheaded the production in Northampton in 07 and convinced the Big Old Teddy Bear Mark Jackson to allow it at the school in 2008.

Of course now that she has graduated the organization she founded, “Women’s Rights Club” also seems to have floundered [Going from 85 members in 07 down to only 45 this past year.

But hey, she has over 500 “friends” on Facebook. Ahhhhh, the advantage of promoting young girls engaging in public masturbation, or pedophilia (as long as it is women on girl.)
############################################################
On Jan 6, 2009, at 9:45:56 PM, amherstac@aol.com wrote to Jacksonmk@arps.org:

Hey Mark,
So it's that time of the year: Are the kids planning an encore performance?????

Larry

On Jan 7, 2009, at 2:27:45 PM, "MARTA GUEVARA" wrote:
I hope you and your family are well! I'm not working at the HS this year, so I have no idea about the monologues. While Mr. Jackson is away, Ms. Leonard is acting principal, so I'm including her on this reply.
Dr. Marta M. Guevara
Assistant Principal


On Jan 9, 2009, at 8:14:20 AM, "Annie Leonard" wrote:
Larry:

No plans to do the Vagina Monologues at the HS this year.

--Annie
Annie Leonard
Assistant Principal
Amherst Regional High School

Friday, January 9, 2009

I have been served (at taxpayer expense)


So Sheriff Knightly was his usual cordial self. He arrived at my Club a few minutes early to deliver the trespass notice and even agreed to have his photo taken as he performed his public duty. Cost to Amherst taxpayers? $40

Cost to credibility of acting Co-Superintendent Sprague: Priceless!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Kill the messenger!

Click to enlarge photo

UPDATE: 12:45 PM Friday
On Jan 9, 2009, at 11:05:20 AM, "Bodhi, Epi" wrote:

Larry,
Thanks for the information. We will investigate ASAP.

Epi Bodhi
Director of Public Health
Amherst, MA
413 259 3077
413 259 2404


On Jan 9, 2009, at 12:40:32 PM, amherstac@aol.com wrote:

Hey Epi,

Thanks. I can no longer investigate, because the Sheriff’s department
is about to issue me (at 2:00 PM) a "trespass order"

Larry

UPDATE: 11:00 AM Friday
From: amherstac@aol.com
Subject: Formal request for a Health Department investigation
Date: January 9, 2009 10:59:39 AM EST
To: bodhie@amherstma.gov
Dear Ms. Bodhi,

Please consider this a formal complaint and request for a Health Department investigation of the current hot water (or lack thereof) situation at the Amherst Wildwood Elementary School, where over 400 Amherst children spend a significant part of the day.

On three different occasions I have tested the water coming out the tap in a Boy's Bathroom and all three times the temperature was less than 80 degrees. I believe this to be a health hazard (especially if the cafeteria washes dishes at too low a temperature).

Thank you for your consideration and prompt attention to this public safety matter.

Larry Kelley
5’th generation Amherst resident, taxpayer, voter

CC: Mass Department of Education

ORIGINAL POST: Thursday afternoon
So I went to the Wildwood Elementary School this afternoon around 2:00 PM and as agreed with acting co-superintendent Alton Sprague dutifully reported to the business office as a “visitor." The women said, “You’re Larry Kelley!” And I of course responded “yes” (while looking around to see if they had put up ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’ posters with my picture).

A few minutes later the rookie Principal Matt Behnke appears. He wanted to know “my intentions.” I said, “well I have to use the bathroom (and at that point I really did) and when I wash my hands (which my Irish mother taught me to do) I am going to check the water temperature”.

He then requested I return after school lets out. I said the bathroom is only 20 yards away and a moment ago no kids were in there. He again said come back later. I said I had to pee and I’m going to use the bathroom; he followed me in. He even looked around to make sure no children were present (because I said if so, I would leave immediately).

We both peed. I started the hot water (instantly noticing the faucet top plate had been switched from my last visit so now the left one actually had a “H”) and let it run for two minutes with my new, larger $2 Wal-Mart thermometer (twice the cost of the previous smaller one) directly in the stream.

While the water was still running I whipped out my camera. He said, “Please do not take a picture”. I said “Why?” He said, “Because I was told not to let you take a picture”. I said “Not good enough” and I took the picture.

As we exited into the hallway Alton Sprague, acting Co-Superintendent hurries in looking pissed. We retire to a back office for further conversation.

He accused me of lying about “picking up the pieces” of the broken thermometer from my previous visit and he actually produced from a folded white business envelope the glass tubular part of the thermometer (completely intact with red dye that is NOT mercury still dutifully recording room temperature) and said a child found it.

I responded that it fell against the side of the sink and the glass tubular part broke away from the plastic backing and after a few minutes looking for it I assumed it went down the drain. Again he mentions “mercury” and again I unequivocally state that the company prints on the packaging (and I just purchased another one an hour earlier) that no mercury is used.

He then threatens (yet again) to get a “restraining order’ against me because I failed to adhere to our previous verbal agreement. I responded that my memory is I agreed to announce myself to the front office. He said “No”, you also need to “get permission” to do whatever, and he had that previous phone conversation “on tape.”

Hmmm…last I looked it’s illegal to tape a phone conversation without informing the person on the other end.

And any number of times I tried to get back to the simple results of my temperature test asking if under 80 degree water temperature was okay, neither of them wanted to answer, Mr. Sprague then asked why should I be allowed to enter this public building with a camera? And I responded “freedom of the press”.

He freaked; end of discussion.

Using the exact same methodology at my house five minutes later.

Who ya gonna call?


So apparently one of our newer (if not newest) ambulances, a six-figure budget item, was involved in a serious accident about three weeks ago. I guess that is the downside of the emergency response business in that you are always in a BIG hurry to get to the Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Apparently the rig was totaled. Fortunately the crew was okay and--Thank God--we are insured. A new rig should arrive in a couple of months. Meanwhile an overly stretched Fire Department will make due.

You would think somebody would have mentioned this a tad earlier than this past Monday night Select Board meeting where Town Manager Larry Shaffer disclosed the bad news. Hey, he has a blog, or there is always that old fashioned thing called a press release.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Withering on the vine


So both the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Springfield Republican have announced layoffs in the past two days (and even--GOD FORBID--the Valley Advocate), but they were quick to point out that no editors or reporters were caught in the collateral damage.

Of course, the reporters and editors now have to shovel snow, clean toilets and deliver newspapers on their way to work.

Interestingly they all blame the current economic meltdown as the culprit; but insiders know all too well, the real story is spelled I-N-T-E-R-N-E-T.

Strangely, both the Gazette and Republican were fairly early Web adopters although –more so the Gazette—they used the basic template /business model of paper and ink.

The Gazette, for instance, still charges a subscription fee for news content and Masslive (the Springfield Republican) do not. And Masslive continues to attract tons of eyeballs with all the many varied Forums for folks to freely bitch under cover of anonymity.

Over the past 26 years my tiny health club karate business would spend at least $10,000 annually--and sometimes twice that--in display advertising with these three. Over the past six months I’ve spent zero.

Will our local print professional news purveyors survive? Sure they will! But it’s going to get worse, and with inside information available on the Net 24/7 I’m not so sure the loss of our provincial publications—the Daily Hampshire Gazette and Amherst Bulletin--would be a major setback for controlling corruption in The Happy Valley (or just plain stupidity, which is equally bad.)

I have always believed the watchdog role is job #1 for a newspaper, and the Gazette/Amherst Bulletin lost sight of that a long time ago (or at the very least, lost all of their teeth).

But Springfield would be a disaster without the Republican.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Death bird in a dead tree

Turkey Vulture hanging out in my father-in-law's Florida neighborhood (patiently waiting for something to die.)

If Amherst needs a new mascot for the 250'th celebration...

Monday, January 5, 2009

No Splashing!

UPDATE: Tuesday morning. So the venerable Gazette reports that 40 people packed the Select Board meeting last night, not a bad showing. Hey, it worked for the Lincoln Avenue anti-speed folks (cars not drugs that is) so at the very least pool supporters got their attention.

Of course the next thing I would do is organize a standout in town center with the High School swim team and some senior citizens as well (preferable in wheel chairs) all in swim suits at high noon when the temperature is below zero.


Original Post: Monday morning. A gaggle of concerned citizens will crash the Select Board meeting tonight to lobby for the moribund Middle School Pool. Unfortunately the Select Board and Town Manager have no control over the Pool and little control over the Amherst School Committee who do have jurisdiction.

And since Stephanie, the new Select Board Chair, dislikes trying to solve problems during the the 6:15 Question Period--it's a pretty safe bet she will simply try to postpone the issue to a future agenda.

What's to discuss? The cost to retrofit the pool to come into compliance with federal safety law is fairly negligible and if the other unrelated mechanical problems are really that bad then why did they not close the pool earlier; or--you know--FIX THEM!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Why not Amherst (2)

So progressive South Hadley (Mayor/Council here they come), with our cast off School Superintendent Gus Sayer, decided to ignore Federal Law on pool safety and will keep their school pool open until coming into compliance next week with a year-old law.

Of course you have to wonder if a volunteer rookie skin diver is certified to install the retrofit kit. But since the local Board of Health is not empowered to enforce the law, who the Hell cares.

And in the People's Republic of Amherst the local Board of Health doesn't seem to care that an elementary school with over 400 kids operates without hot water (a violation of state and federal law). So why be overly careful with the pool?

The Republican reports