Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hidden, catastrophic cost of golf

Cherry Hill's K-Mart quality golf clubhouse

Last night Leisure Services director Linda Chalfant presented the FY13 upcoming budget to the four-out-of-seven members of the recreation commission who bothered to show up, and dubbed Cherry Hill squandering $40,000 last year as, "effectively a break even year." Easy to say when that money is not coming out of her $80,000 annual salary.

And this current year, according to the numbers generated at the half-way point, Cherry Hill is on target to lose another $60,000. And the following year--hold on to your golf caps--well over $100,000!

Because unlike a household or small business, in the wonderful world of municipal accounting little things like employee benefits, insurance and expensive new commercial equipment do not count towards your "operation budget." Last year those three expenses amounted to $40,000--all of it paid for by taxpayers, not a dime from golfers.

Wouldn't it be great if you could buy a new car or truck out of a secret account nobody was watching?

At seasonal closing, the beleaguered golf business has totaled only $82,779, $17,284 under last year, and the lowest amount in six years. Expenses are identical--especially those hidden ones nobody likes to admit.

For instance, capital expenses this year include a $14,154 "fairway mower", next year another $14,154 fairway mower plus a $12,000 rough mower for a total of $26,654.

But what the Hell, since nobody cares about capital items why not go on a whirlwind shopping spree--all of it taxpayer funded? In FY14, two years from now, capital improvements will include yet another fairway ($14,154) and rough mower ($12,500) fence replacement ($24,000) and parking lot resurfacing ($24,000) for a whopping grand total of $135,654 .

If the diffident School Committee can bite the bullet to save money by closing down Mark's Meadow, a beloved elementary school, Town Manager John Musante needs to step up and make the call that should have been made ten years ago: board up the money pit.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Not so instant replay

So when we cut to the video replay of the November 22 (Amherst Media incorrectly stamped the date) Amherst Regional School Committee meeting, clearly Kristen Luschen did not "second" the motion to go into executive session.

When specifically asked by Chair Rick Hood if she was seconding the motion she responds "No, I was asking about..." and then they go off on a brief tangent never to return to the proper parliamentary procedure for using an executive session--something that should never be taken lightly.
The Amherst Select Board, only 24 hours earlier, demonstrated the proper way to go into executive session. Note Alisa Brewer say under her breath, "All those lovely details." Indeed.

What say you now Mr. Hood?

Monday, November 28, 2011

A fitting tribute

"We need you" indeed

Tragically, townie and long time DPW employee Timothy Banks passed away--as sudden as it was surprising--on Thanksgiving Day.

Timmy meticulously parked his car in a certain spot at the DPW.

Nobody parked there today.

Timothy H. Banks, Jr.
Obit on right.

UPDATE: Wednesday morning 10:30 AM. The normally overflowing DPW parking lot is all but abandoned as fellow workers attend the funeral.
DPW parking lot. Missing man formation.

Party Apartment of the weekend

Puffton Village apartments

As a testament to how tight a ship Puffton Village manager Steve Walczak operates, this is the first time a Puffton Village resident has achieved this dubious honor--although in this particular case more than well deserved.

Police were first called early THIS morning to #236 Puffton Village and immediately noticed "Loud thumping music could be heard upon arrival. The individual was slightly argumentative." But the town noise bylaw was thoroughly explained to her--and the consequences for violating it. She was issued a written warning, and the police went on their way.

Ten minutes later police are called back to the scene for--you guessed it--loud noise coming from apartment #236. According to APD narrative:

Moments after clearing the scene, music was turned back on. The arrestee was very uncooperative. The remaining guests were cleared out. A second roommate was found sleeping and explained the town noise by law.

Arrested for violating town noise bylaw:
Xxxx, Lunenburg, MA, age 20

Update 2/7/12. As per our agreement I deleted her name after she paid the fine (and I'm convinced I will not see her name again in the Amherst Police report.)

Puffton Village is owned by town patriarch Steve Puffer.

Cyber Monday

Some things, however, are priceless.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

A tax free Christmas

Amherst Pelham Boy Scouts return to Kendrick Park

President Obama could/should have learned a lesson from former Town Manager Larry Shaffer about not disparaging Christmas by instituting a tax on Christmas trees--something that makes you look heartless and indifferent to public opinion.

Amherst/Pelham Boy Scouts selling Christmas trees as a fundraiser is a much anticipated yuletide tradition dating back to when Rockwell was in his prime. And as one of my commenters previously pointed out, their sign is probably as old as the tradition.

Now all we need is a blanket of snow.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Santa drops in

Live long and prosper

A huge throng of people--almost all with kids in tow--migrated to Yankee Candle in South Deerfield this morning to welcome the jolly big guy dressed in red and white who hitched a ride on a helicopter, since the weather was a tad too warm for his reindeer.

After a very brief speech and a couple of "Ho, ho, ho's" he was off, and the crowd dutifully moved indoors to shop. If you are the claustrophobic type this was not the place for you. I only hope downtown Amherst is lucky enough to see one-quarter the number of shoppers for "Small Business Saturday."

By Select Board decree, parking is free throughout the downtown, but since nobody took the time to advertise/promote it, a lot of potential shoppers are probably left unaware.

Speaking of Christmas, downtown Amherst will once host once again the lighting of the Merry Maple--Christmas Tree to you outsiders--on December 2. For the first time in memory George N. Parks will not be leading the UMass marching band as one of the main attractions...with Santa riding the AFD ladder truck and the ignition of the Merry Maple.

(Since my new camera does well in low light conditions, I may be able to get a good Merry Maple photo this year.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Juggernaut strikes back

AFD's $635,000 Quint

So apparently Bernette A. Daly, director of UMass Health Services, reads the local newspapers as today's Gazette contains a reply to concerns from Amherst Fire Department chief Tim Nelson that his already overburdened department will pick up the slack created by the cost cutting hours reduction UHS will institute in January.

Of course the Chief will be too nice to respond to the response, so I'll do it for him: poppycock!

First off, the $346,000 Ms. Daly cites as payments to the town from UMass for ambulance services seems like a lot...until you factor in the $4 million operation cost of AFD with 25% of their time spent servicing UMass.

And the amount looks downright stingy when you compare the $1,100,000 Payment In Lieu Of Taxes Burlington, with the same population as Amherst, receives from the University of Vermont (9,000 undergrads, 1,350 grad students)--three times what the significantly larger University of Massachusetts (20,000 undergrads, 5,000 grad students) pays Amherst!

That $1.1 million is for fire services only as the University of Vermont has its own ambulance service--which it provides to the town.

Ms Daley freely admits, "The clinic treats an average of just four to seven patients after 8 p.m. weeknights, and about half that many on weekends." So what are those folks going to do when UHS is closed during their time of need? Certainly many of them--since the Cooley Dickinson Hospital is such a long walk--are going to call AFD.

On the night before the great Halloween weekend storm, at one point all five Amherst ambulances were engaged (dealing with passed out drunk students), so just one extra call that night would have overtaxed the system.

While it may indeed make economic sense to reduce the hours at UHC, it is still irresponsible for the University to reap those savings by passing the problem along to somebody else.

Director of UHS response to Chief Nelson

AFD Chief Tim Nelson

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Strike two!

From: Larry Kelley
To: Gerykm ; hoodr ; westmorelandD ; mazurk ; BurgessS ; avbrewer
Sent: Wed, Nov 23, 2011 4:53 pm
Subject: Open Meeting Law complaint (using AG's form)

According to the somewhat newly revised Open Meeting Law I am supposed to file my complaint with the Regional School Committee and the Town Clerk over the incident last night where the Regional School Committee went into executive session without clearly stating the reason for doing so and without a proper second to the motion.

Please excuse the somewhat weird formatting as I downloaded the PDF complaint form from the AG website.

Larry Kelley



Organization or Media Affiliation (if any):

Are you filing the complaint in your capacity as an individual, representative of an organization, or media? Media

(For statistical purposes only) Individual Organization Media x

Public Body that is the subject of this complaint: Amherst Regional School Committee

City/Town Amherst County Hampshire Regional/District State Mass

Name of Public Body (including city/ town, county or region, if applicable):Amherst Regional School Committee, 170 Chestnut Street, Amherst, Ma

Specific person(s), if any, you allege committed the violation: Rick Hood, Chair of the Regional Committee and Irv Rhodes Chair Amherst School Committee
Date of alleged violation:11/22/11

Description of alleged violation: Irv Rhodes made a motion to go into Executive Session "never to return" but with no explanation/reason for the action, and Mr Hood allowed it without having a proper second from another member.

Describe the alleged violation that this complaint is about. If you believe the alleged violation was intentional, please say so and include the reasons supporting your belief. No, not intentional--just careless.

What action do you want the public body to take in response to your complaint? Apologize, promise it will never happen again. After school detention.

Review, sign, and submit your complaint
Read this important notice and sign your complaint.
Under most circumstances your complaint will be considered a public record and be available to any member of the public upon request.
I understand that when I submit this complaint the Attorney General's Office cannot give me legal advice and cannot act as my personal lawyer.

I certify that the information contained on this form is true to the best of my knowledge.

Signed: Larry Kelley Date: 1

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A fitting tribute indeed

W.D. Cowls Building Supply

My Facebook and corporeal buddy Cinda Jones emailed yesterday to inquire if anyone would take offense if she lowered the huge flag in front of the business her dad built with the blood of his bare hands, to a position of mourning.

"No, lower away," I instantly replied. Because there's a b-i-g difference between, say, Amherst College lowering their majestic flag on the hill for former employees who pass away and a dutiful daughter doing so over the sudden passing of a beloved father, friend, mentor and by all accounts icon in our town's rarest of breeds: entrepreneur.

If America was built on anything, it was family values. So when a family's respect for their father bends the unenforceable rules of flag protocol, safe bet the Founding Fathers would have no complaints.

Paul Jones obit

Bad news travels fast

From the archives: (Yeah, scary to think I now have archives) The first shot rang out at 12:30 PM, the first bulletin made national news at 12:31 PM, and by the time Walter Cronkite announced to a mesmerized nation an hour later that their leader was dead, 68% of Americans had heard about the shooting, not a single one via the Internet.

The ornate condolence certificate, autographed by the President, arrived two months after the sudden death of my father—a combat veteran who helped overthrow the Japanese in the Philippines but never discussed it with any of his four inquisitive children.

That letter brought radiance into our home on an otherwise dreary late November day.

So, suddenly transformed into a proud 8-year-old, I pestered my mother for the honor of bringing the document to school the following day. My pragmatic Irish mother denied the request--worried I could lose or damage the precious parchment.

Friday began as unremarkable as a hundred before: Morning prayers chanted effortlessly, the Pledge of Allegiance parroted as we stood with our right hands over our hearts facing an American flag.

I was having trouble concentrating on the curriculum, typical for a Friday when the weekend beckoned. But this time all I could think about was a letter that had arrived just yesterday from a revered man who could have met my father less than a generation ago.

With only an hour of captivity remaining, a high-school boy suddenly entered from the right door bearing a message. Snatching the note from his hand the nun appeared almost angry at the interruption. I could, however, see her face suddenly turn white—matching the mask-like habit all ‘Sisters of St. Joseph’ wore.

She crumpled the memo with one hand while reaching back to grab her desk with the other, slumping as though absorbing a blow from a heavyweight boxer. With a trembling voice she said, “Please stand.” Although puzzled, we responded immediately.

“Now extend your arms sideway, shoulder high, and hold them there,” she said still struggling to gain control. So there we stood, 26 of us, rooted near our desks like cemetery crosses wondering, as our shoulders started to ache, what could possible cause such a break in routine?

She regained the commanding voice of authority to announce, “President Kennedy has just been shot” Tears trickled down her cheeks as she concluded, “He needs our prayers.”

At St. Michael’s school in the year of our Lord 1963, President John F. Kennedy was fourth on the list of most beloved: just under the Holy Trinity and tied with Pope John. And in my home he was tied for second with St. Patrick just under my recently deceased father.

The big yellow bus rumbled back to Amherst with an interior as quiet as a crypt. The astonishing event blurred short-term memory like one too many drinks. I began to question whether the letter from the now martyred leader was actually real, or did I simply imagine it?

Bursting through the front door I quickly spied the prized possession lying on a cluttered kitchen table. With relief and reverence I held it aloft, taking in the brilliant gold calligraphy etched on a pure white background: “It is with deepest sympathy…”

A feeling the entire nation now shared.

Originally published 11/22/07

Monday, November 21, 2011

Can you hear me now?

Trustee Carol Gray peeks in to a Library Trustees meeting last summer from Egypt courtesy of skype on Mary Streeter's mac laptop.

Amherst Select Board Open Meeting Law specialist Alisa Brewer reported this evening--right before they retreated into Executive Session--that Attorney General Martha Coakley has decided in favor of "remote participation" for boards and committees in Massachusetts, meaning you no longer have to be physically present to deliberate or vote on matters before your committee (although you do not count towards a quorum).

Excuses--I mean, permitted reasons--that allow for such a thing include "personal illness, personal disability, emergency, military service, or geographic distance." Of course it's the last one that will be used most often--especially in a town like Amherst where so many people are affiliated with UMass where the workplace is in full session only 7 months out of the year.

The Select Board, acting as chief executive officers have to vote in favor of adopting the regulation overall, before any of the 50 some odd boards, committees, sub committees and task forces can put it to use. Since the SB also appoints a fair amount of the citizenry to all these volunteer positions they may find remote participation to be an effective tool for recruitment.

Besides, anything that gets people to participate in government is a good thing. Even better when government itself starts to embrace the 21st century.

Attorney General's press release on remote participation

Party house of the weekend

260 Grantwood Drive, Amherst (at least the couch blends in)

Located in what appears to be the student rental section of the neighborhood--and managed by, naturally, Eagle Crest Property Management--it's sad to think this single family home was once owned by nationally renowned UMass history professor Stephen B. Oats.

Just goes to show what can happen to a nice neighborhood when owner occupied single family homes are sold off to become rentals managed by Eagle Crest Property Management.

Accord to Amherst Police Department logs 1:00 AM early Sunday morning:

Approximately 30-40 cars observed on both sides of the roadway that blocked passage for emergency vehicles. Dozens of people crowded throughout the roadway while consuming alcoholic beverages. Loud music along with loud yelling observed coming from location. Residents contacted and advised of the issue with little assistance. The house was cleared of guests and all residents were placed under arrest for unlawful noise.

Deanna Helene Docoulos, 226 Rowley Bridge Rd, Topsfield, MA, age 21, Open Container
Four leaseholders arrested for unlawful noise:
Thomas Gilson Jr., 37 Davis St, Mansfield, MA, age 23
Julian Thomas Colarusso, 11 Stanley Circle, Quincy, MA, age 21
Shane Michael Viveiros, 33L Rolling Green Dr, Fall River, MA, age 22
James M Lizotte, 200 Fairbanks St, W. Boylston, MA, age 21

Property Ownership Card for 260 Grantwood Dr

Sunday, November 20, 2011


Roundabout in front of Atkins Country Market

The Atkins Corner Roundabouts are coming into their own and should start seeing traffic by this time next year (although the occasional after dark confused driver has already tread on them).

And the new bypass connecting West Street over to West Bay Road has been in use, without any problems, for a while now.

By pass over to West Bay Road (shortcut to Applewood Retirement Community or Eric Carle Museum)

The scuttling of Form Based Zoning for this part of town will probably have no impact on Atkins as the nifty new infrastructure makes it all the more easy to deliver shoppers directly to their front door. But I'm sure they would loved to have had a clustered development or two spring up nearby where folks could actually live within walking distance.

Just another lucrative sunny Sunday at Atkins

My sniper perch

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Amherst...briefly

Agile Gazette photographer Gordon Daniels keep pace with the protesters

About 60 mostly college aged folks descended on the downtown yesterday carrying signs and banners and chanting slogans and only briefly snarling traffic. Amherst Police Department monitored the situation closely but did not interact with the crowd. The marchers retreated from town center, down Rt 9 up Triangle Street and then North Pleasant back to UMass, with a cruiser following closely behind.

Hard to walk and keep the banner taut (must be from Hampshire College)

This was the first Occupy action in Amherst since the clash with Tea Party supporters a month ago, where they seemed a tad intimidated by direct counter confrontation.

A costly legal maneuver

Amherst's Special Ed legal bill first quarter FY2012

Even though Gini Tate's $225/hour contract was terminated by a 5-4 Regional School Committee vote (9/22/10) for Special Education legal services commencing 12/1/2010, with the contract turned over to Dupere & Dupere for a $36,000 total annual cost, taxpayers recently paid the law firm of Murphy, Hesse, Toomey and Lehane (Ms. Tate's firm)$13,646 for special education legal services for only the first quarter of FY2012.

According to Regional School Committee Chair Rick Hood:

"There were three cases carried over from the transition between Dupere and MHLT (Attorney Tate). Two of the cases have reached conclusion and/or are awaiting the BSEA to issue their decision. The third case was a re-filing of a case where MHLT (Attorney Tate) had already worked extensively on it during the FY11 school year prior to Dupere being appointed the new SE attorney. Probably this is the case you are referring to.

Where MHLT was already deeply involved in a case it was thought best (and less expensive) to keep MHLT on it."

Of course that case he claims attorney Tate being "deeply involved in" had only been filed 11/13/10, less than a month after the Regional School Committee vote to terminate Ms. Tate and only two weeks before the 12/1/10 date of implementation. In fact, the case was withdrawn and refiled April 4, 2011 well after Dupere & Dupere took over.

But no, rather than let the new law firm handle it at no extra cost we have town officials opening a spigot--as though taxpayer money springs from an endless well.
Expensive "internal" copy costs

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Trip the light fantastic

Town Moderator Harrison Gregg calls the meeting to order (the usual 10 minutes late)

So in addition to the usually screw ups--PowerPoint snafus and sound system screeches--two hours into Town Meeting, after I had already taken 35 photos (equally divided between pro and con speakers) from my front row seated position which is designated for media, after Mary Streeter trudged to the microphone 40 feet from me, Molly Turner interrupted with a "point of order," claiming I was distracting speakers (of course she meant those on her side who opposed the article) by "flashing" in their faces.

Moderator Harrison Gregg, who I had already photographed three times, seemed confused and asked her what she was talking about. Obviously I was not a distraction to him, even though seated almost directly in front of his podium.

And Ms. Streeter certainly did not seem to notice, as she was juggling papers and asked about removing the microphone. I was taking two photos of every speaker and you can barely notice the first flash (the lighting is lousy in the auditorium and does require a flash for usable photos) and then the second and final one a full 24 seconds later.

He then flippantly bans my flash. Now yeah, I could have done what Luke Gelinas did with the South Hadley School Committee and get arrested and then suit for a First Amendment violation. But I figured a major disruption could cost votes as most people know I favored passage of the Form Based Zoning article.

That night before Town Meeting started, the Moderator announced that a member wished to enact a rule to limit all speakers to no more than five minutes. But he said since town meeting had not formerly adopted such a rule, he could not suddenly try to enforce it now.

Last spring the Town Meeting Coordinating Committee briefly discussed the use of flash photography and photographers moving about on the floor of town meeting potentially distracting or "intimidating" speakers--but nothing ever came of it. No enforceable rule enacted.

I guess that makes me and my flash...special.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Form Based Zoning: DOA

Amherst Town Meeting members call for "tally vote" by holding up cards

Despite 80% support from the Select Board and 60% of Town Meeting members, Form Based Zoning in North Amherst village center and Atkins Corner in deep South Amherst failed to clear the high hurdle of a two thirds vote, going down to defeat after 2.5 hours of discussion with 119 yes votes and 79 no.

The majority of the discussion centered on North Amherst where Town Meeting was told by two speakers that over 100 "residents of Montague Road" had signed a petition opposing the article (turns out to be more like a dozen actual residents), but Atkins Corner in South Amherst also drew criticism because the two new roundabouts are not yet functioning and the noise from the Norwottuck Gun Club was portrayed as a major detriment to health and safety.

Unfortunately the cumulative effect of having two large separate areas involved--each with its own set of NIMBYs--doomed the ambitious undertaking. Perhaps if someone had divided the motion and let each village center be voted on separately one of them could have passed.

Overall, like the demise of the Gateway Project, the fear that increased density of development was not family friendly and would bring more student party houses to disrupt neighborhoods with late night noise, traffic, fighting, vandalism, unsightly trash and body fluids caused the defeat.

Maybe now town and UMass officials will get serious about controlling rowdy, alcohol fueled behavior of the tiny minority of students who are having such a detrimental impact on civility at large.

Selectman and North Amherst resident Jim Wald presented the article

Quintessential NIMBY Mary Streeter cited safety and environmental concerns with Atkins Corner

Atkins neighbor Seymour Epstein cited noise and pollution to a trout stream, calling the planning charrette a "charade"

Former Selectman Gerry Weiss was concerned the village centers would compete with downtown businesses

More trees to fall?

Rosemary Street North Amherst

Shade Tree Committee Chair Hope Crolius gamely gave a brief presentation/report on the opening night of Amherst Town Meeting, where she acknowledged that "trees are not everybody's favorite part of the ecosystem about now," but implored the legislative body to "keep your faith in trees, despite any havoc they may have wrought on your cars, houses or lawns."

As she retreated from the podium, Town Meeting, uncharacteristically, applauded.

So as you can imagine, she responded cautiously last night as a homeowner on Rosemary Street, a bucolic subdivision in North Amherst built in the mid-to-late 1990s, made a pitch to whack all the healthy Norway Maple trees because they are an "invasive species," and replace them with a presumably tamer "native species."

Committee member Bob Erwin thought, after the recent devastation to our urban tree canopy, this idea was doubly bad: both the timing of this request and the precedent it may set. The seven member Shade Tree Committee took no position but suggested the homeowner poll his neighbors to ascertain their opinions.

The Shade Tree Committee is a sub-committee of the more powerful Conservation Commission, and either committee can make recommendations to the Tree Warden (Alan Snow) who has state authority to remove trees in the public way. Those who disagree and wish to appeal a decision of the Tree Warden can appeal to the Select Board who has final authority over the public ways.
Tree Warden Alan Snow

The town could charge the homeowner $55/diameter inch to have the trees taken down (most are in the 6" to 10" range) by a private contractor, also at his expense. Or if the town likes the idea of clear cutting and replanting a new species, it could all be done at taxpayer expense.

Unless of course they ask the Lorax for an opinion.

Amherst Shade Tree Committee 11/15/11

Firefighters union, finally, signs contract

AFD Central Station

After more than a year of working without a contract the Amherst Firefighters Local 1764 settled with the town garnering 1% salary increase (retroactive) for last year and January 1, 2012 a 2% salary increase and July 1, 2012 another 2% salary increase. BUT, no increase in staffing!

Currently Amherst is covered 24/7 with a minimum staffing level of 7, half that of our comparable sister city Northampton, which has 14.

The teachers union recently inked a two year contract with a 1.5% pay increase while non union school employees (bus drivers, janitors, secretaries, etc) settled for 0%; and on the town side non union employees (department heads) received 2% and the Town Manager a whopping 10%. SEIU 888 with about 70 municipal members is also being offered 0% but will go into mediation for a contract resolution.

AFD Chief Tim Nelson Firefighter Union President Stephen Gaughan

Town Website breaks the news

Press release from Firefighters Union (note extra paragraph the town nixed on their post...hmmm)
3:45 PM UPDATE: So apparently between noon when I published this and late this afternoon, the town corrected their posting on the website to include the extra paragraph that had been inadvertently left off.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Say it ain't so Scott

Senator Scott Brown: dressed for a hike

I find it hard to believe that Senator Scott Brown would turn down the opportunity to speak at the annual meeting of the Massachusetts Newspaper Publishers Association, a conglomeration of every daily newspaper and about half the weeklies in the state of Massachusetts where he is now in pretty much a dead heat with a political rookie rock star, Elizabeth Warren--who is going to speak at the old fashioned Fourth Estate luncheon.

I mean, this is the guy who came to the People's Republic of Amherst--ground zero for entrenched liberal ideology dating back to the 1960s. Can a roomful of journalists possibly be any worse?

Sure newspapers are nowhere near what they used to be for providing news and information to the masses--especially those under age 30--but they are still a formidable institution, rock solid with older folks who always vote.

I don't care if your campaign is three times richer than Ms. Warren's, news coverage is priceless--and free!

Henry Street North Amherst this morning (not sure if they are a supporter or not)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Party House(s) of the Weekend

51 North East Street

I guess we should be thankful that Veterans Day fell on a Friday rather than today, because a long weekend with a Monday holiday combined with the warm weather and bright moon last night would only have made for another excuse to rock the neighborhoods of Amherst.

But the Party Boys and Girls needed no such excuse, as Friday into early Saturday seemed to be the party night of choice. Safe bet none of them were veterans.

And this week we have--to no great surprise--repeat offenders:

According to APD narrative (12:51 am)
Loud large party observed upon arrival at 51 North East Street. Residents and guest would not cooperate with officers. Tenants placed under arrest for TBL (Town Bylaw) noise.

Jackson McCabe Barber, 21 Taft St, Marblehead, MA, age 22
Samuel Casey Johnson 37 Pyramid Lane, Scituate, MA, age 22

571 Main Street (Midnight Friday)

571 Main Street (Painted Lady)

Loud large party at listed location. Daniel Morgan was less than cooperative and confrontational. Miles Mulman attempted to clear the house but failed to do so in adequate time. Due to Morgan's lack of cooperation he was placed under arrest for TBL noise violation and Mulman summoned for same offense.

Miles Mulman, 10 Palmer Rd, Marblehead, MA, age 22
Daniel Morgan, 100 Sampson Parkway, Pittsfield, MA, age 21

Property card for 571 Main Street

219 East Pleasant Street 12:37 AM

Loud party at listed address with yelling and screaming

Arrested for unlawful noise:
Hunter Alexander, 67 Cypress Street, Norwood, MA, age 19
Catherine McAuliffe, 219 East Pleasant Street, Amherst, MA, age 19
Suzanne Katherin Metro, 16 Barker Rd, Acton, MA, age 20

Property Card for 219 East Pleasant St

All too typical scary weekend for AFD
Click to view (ETOH is code for passed out drunk)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Amherst Remembers

A healthy Town Manager addresses the sparse crowd

Empty chairs probably outnumbered the veterans or spectators who never put on the uniform, but at least Amherst took the time to remember and say "thank you." I wish I could say the same for our citizenry.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

UMass doubles down on AFD

AFD Central Station

Over the past couple weekends our overstretched emergency services first responders--you know the ones who proudly emblazon "Amherst" on all their vehicles--had to rely on neighboring fire departments to cover calls because all five Amherst ambulances were tied up dealing with inebriated students.

A few years back, UMass, our largest employer, essentially banned alcohol on campus--thus pushing the problem into surrounding neighborhoods and Amherst town center (much to the delight of some bars and slumlords).

Now our economic Juggernaut has arrogantly decided to reduce Health Services hours on campus thus shifting even more of the burden onto our already stressed-to-the-breaking-point Fire Department. This is unacceptable. Either UMass should donate enough money to hire a few additional Amherst firefighters or continue to be responsible for their students health needs.

According to their $100,300 annual salary Senior Public Relations Manager Ed Blaguszewski, "The reduction in hours could mean a bump in ambulance service calls to take students to area hospitals. It’s too soon to tell.”

Easy for him say--he lives in Greenfield!

UMass Health Center

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

No dogs at Puffer's Pond

Jake and Jada

Tonight, under a full moon, the Amherst Conservation Commission voted 4 in favor 1 opposed with 1 abstention to nix the off leash policy for dogs at Puffer's Pond North Beach, usually referred to as "Dog Beach," and simply ban dogs from both beaches (and in the water) at the popular North Amherst seasonal destination spot.

The Commission spent the vast majority of the 75 minute discussion period talking about the off leash policy at Amethyst Brook and Mill River Conservation areas.

The first vote on a motion by member Todd Walker (a long distance runner who uses the trails frequently) to enact a leash law at both Mill River and Amethyst Brook--a measure supported by animal control officer Carol Hepburn and Conservation Director David Ziomek--failed with a 3-3 vote.

The compromise motion that overwhelmingly passed 5-1, which Mr Walker considered "no compromise at all", maintains for another six months the ten year old status quo, but restricts the hours for dogs to roam free from dawn until 10:00 AM. New signage will be erected with the off leash hours and rule that dogs must always be under voice control. The commission also strongly encourages the town manager seek to establish a dog park.

With a population in town of around 1,400, it's too bad dogs can't vote.

A kid's best friend

Jada modeling "It's Pooch"

In addition to managing operations at the Amherst Boys and Girls Club in town center, directing the Amherst July 4 Parade & 9/11 Commemoration ceremony, sketching hilarious local political cartoons, former FBI agent and native born 5th generation Amherst resident Kevin Joy is now a fledgling merchandising mogul.

Kevin Joy with "It's Pooch" on the racks at Amherst downtown institution, Hastings.

"It's Pooch" is Joy's answer to "Hello Kitty" and sure to be a hit with folks who prefer dogs over felines. Sketched at the request of his young daughter, the shirts are already a hit with kids (mine for sure) and Joy also reports he sold out of them at the UMass Campus Center to college aged women as well.

Joy plans to place the image on toys, hats, lunch boxes, fridge magnets, etc, and will work with local charitable organizations to help raise contributions via shirt sales.

Maybe dog lovers attending the Conservation Commission meeting this evening at Town Hall should wear them to show support for maintaining the now endangered off leash pooch policy at Amethyst Brook Conservation area.
Hastings: Open every day since 1914 (yes, during recent power outage)

Lights On The Common 9/11/11. Photo by Greg Saulmon, MassLive

Kevin Joy can be reached at (413) 695-1725

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Let the Party House crackdown begin!

Phillips Street

Now that the town has hired a new building inspector for health safety code enforcement lets put him to work--especially now that the our state Appeals Court today upheld (CITY OF WORCESTER vs.COLLEGE HILL PROPERTIES, LLC,) a Superior Court ruling enjoining landlords in Worcester from renting to more than 3 unrelated persons per house without a "lodging house" license, which requires an expensive sprinkler system in the premises.

The sagacious court found, "we have no doubt that four or more unrelated adults, sharing housing while attending college, is not an arrangement that lends itself to the formation of a stable and durable household." Indeed.

Sooooooooo, let's start enforcing Amherst's slightly more generous bylaw banning more than 4 unrelated persons from living under one roof.

And let's start with the slummier neighborhoods, like Phillips Street. We are hitting rowdy students where it hurts--their pocketbooks--with $300 noise, nuisance house and open container fines, why not treat irresponsible landlords the same way by reducing the number of sardines they can squeeze into a single dwelling at a fairly significant cost per head?

City of Worcester vs College Hill Properties. Appeals Court ruling 11/8/11