Thursday, March 22, 2012

Sparks fly over "safety"

Sandy Pooler makes a firm point to Library Trustee Carol Gray.  Comptroller Sonia Aldrich stuck in the middle

Carol Gray pulled out the classic Smothers Brothers "Mom always liked you best!" routine at an animated Joint Capital Planning Committee meeting this morning, complaining that "other departments" were given their top two or three requested items, but the Jones Library just had "six out of seven eliminated."

Finance Director Sandy Pooler had indeed decided not to recommend any of their big ticket funding requests:  $150,000 for fire safety upgrades, because AFD Chief Tim Nelson believes it can wait a year or more (especially since you can hit the Jones Library with a rock from AFD Central Station),  $125,000 for generators to turn the Jones or North Amherst library into an electricity oasis should the power ever go out again, and $30,000 for security cameras (down from the original $60,000 request).

The 16 security cameras are strongly requested because of previous incidents of (homeless) individuals "exposing themselves" and other purported general safety concerns of rank and file staff.  Although original presentation materials from last month included the statement "It has been recommended by both Amherst Police and Trustees that a security system, including cameras be purchased and installed," the Amherst Police Department was never officially asked, nor did they give such an endorsement.

The JCPC only makes recommendations to Amherst Town Meeting, but such items are all but guaranteed approval; items not recommended are guaranteed to be a Sisyphean task to now revive.

As sports fans are fond of saying:  "Wait until next year."


Sammy Jo said...

Who is our other choice besides Carol Gray for the library? I saw a sign for her today while driving around town. Please tell me we have at least one other option at the polls in 2 weeks.

LarryK said...

There are five people running for three seats.

We have three known, highly regarded, commodities: Austin Sarat (incumbent), Tamsin Ely (retired librarian), and Carl
Erickson (library volunteer).

Besides Ms Gray, there's also a mystery woman, Joyce Thatcher--who is probably a recruit of Carol's. Yikes.

Vote against Carol said...

@Larry and Sammy Jo,

There's more evidence that Joyce Thatcher is Carol's recruit. She's been endorsed by Pat Holland, who has never admitted in any way that she and Carol were wrong in trying to oust the director and micromanage the library.

Carol has been largely isolated since her return from Egypt, but now she's trying to rebuild her support within the board.

If you don't like what Carol did, here are your safe votes: Austin Sarat, Tamsin Ely, and Carl Erickson.

--A library watcher

LarryK said...

That was my plan.

I have had more than a few library watchers corroborate that scenario.

Anonymous said...

There have been prayer groups formed in town around the objective of voting Carol Gray out of office.

LarryK said...


Anonymous said...

any idea what the fire safety upgrades were supposed to be?

LarryK said...

The main electronic control panel and sensors are outdated. The strobe warning lights that come in on an emergency are not synchronized and there's no computer voice capability to say, "get the hell out of the building."

Carol kept insisting it's currently not "up to code" but Sandy Pooler responded that unless you built your house in the last year or so everybody has something in their home that is "not up to current code".

Kay Moran, JCPC Chair, is a fire safety aficionado so if she's not concerned, I'm not. She also pointed out AFD inspects the Jones every three months.

Anonymous said...

Homeless persons exposing themselves in the library? Is this something new? How many times has this happened?

LarryK said...

If a tree falls in the forest and the Gazette doesn't cover it, then it does not make a sound.

Like student party houses, it's only a small minority, but some of the homeless in town are causing ongoing problems.

Apparently the Gazette has a policy of not mentioning it, so it's news to you. But it's nothing new.

Anonymous said...

The bigger question you should be asking is, "How many times has this and other things of that ilk happened and not been advertised?" There was an issue not too long ago of stories circulating of teens doing things of a sexual nature in the basement, no?

LarryK said...


Has also been a problem at the Bangs Community Center.

Anonymous said...

This is so creepy. People exposing themselves in the library and at the Bangs? Isn't this something people need to be alerted about so they can protect themselves and their children? More information on this please, Larry, so people can find out what is going on.

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:30

Some people unzip their pants, and pull their dong out so you can see it.

Avoid people unzipping their pants. How much more information do you need?

Anonymous said...

"Apparently the Gazette has a policy of not mentioning it, so it's news to you. But it's nothing new."

And how many times have you mentioned it?

LarryK said...

This would make the 3rd.

Obviously I don't have such a policy.

A Library Watcher said...

A note to voters: Sarah McKee has a letter in the Bulletin supporting Austin Sarat. No mention of Carol Gray, one of her co-members on that infamous committee two years ago. At least one of them is no longer a fan of Carol.

Anonymous said...

Carol seems utterly delightful in her interview with Isaac Ben-Ezra on ACTV.

But watch her more carefully over time and a more complete picture emerges.

Ed said...

Larry --

Homeless perps exposing themselves and teenagers fornacating in buidings where small children are often present strikes me as a whole lot more serious than a UM student with a loud stereo.

How many arrests have there been?

If the cops can stake out Liquors 44 for underaged drinking, why can't they stake out the library for this? Isn't this a bit more important????

LarryK said...

Well, I have been unable to corroborate any recent instances of any of the above.

Only two incidents of exposure, one three years ago and one last year that was accidental (drunk forgot to zip up after visiting bathroom and then passed out while unzipped).

Party Houses, on the other hand, are easy to corroborate. Take tomorrow for instance...

Anonymous said...

So not knowing anything more about Joyce Thatcher, other than someone saying she is "probably" a recruit of Carol Gray is enough to vote against her? Wow. I find that a little stupid.

David Rempp said...

Although I have never heard of homeless people, "exposing themselves" in the library. There have been instances of people viewing pornography on the computers. Yet, it was subject only to the homeless. Meanwhile young children, and teens have been seen performing the same actions. Being that Jones is a public library, I am quite disturbed at the negative attention being directed towards the homeless community.

However that's not what I am here for. I have something else of interest and debate. Which concerns the "Amherst Homeless" exhibit being held inside the atrium at The Jones Library.

Entitled to an Opinion

Hello. My name is David Rempp. I have been homeless off and on for up to 4 years. I would like to share my perspective on being homeless. First, and foremost, helping the homeless, and making others aware, on how to help them is an extremely complicated project. Most people in that situation have been hurt, physically or mentally, which compile on top of their daily life. Being reluctant, afraid, or just having no more desire to move forward and work things out in life. Those are just some barriers that happen to make things overwhelming and at times very hard for them.

There are plenty of resources for unfortunate people like myself which undertake these tasks of helping homeless individuals work through these obstacles in life. Such as: Craig's Doors, The Amherst Survival Center, The Interfaith Cot Shelter (Northampton, Ma) Grove Street Inn, (also Northampton, Mass) and numerous free meals around the local area. Yet, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make them drink. Unless the individual asks for help there isn't much you can do.

Making giant signs about the homeless will most likely frighten individuals away. Some homeless individuals are ashamed of being homeless and won't come straight out and say it, on the other side those who are fortunate to have a home, and other life necessities are naive or immature to the fact that not all are drug addicts, alcoholics, criminals, vagrants, or whatever other terms could be used. That is a task for that individual themselves to figure out, if they choose so. Yet, putting giant signs in front of them will often, make them feel pressured and will either scare them away or frustrate them. It is not entirely productive, but everyone is entitled to an opinion.

In my experience, there have been times where I was approached by people passing by who would offer me a "safe place" to rest my head. When the night ended and I took the offer I was often sexually harassed, taken advantage of, or disrespected by these people; which is unfair. Nobody can read minds and predict what a person is going to do. So they take leaps of faith upon first impressions. Then in turn, usually leave more mentally or physically hurt then when they arrived. That is why there are shelters and things of the source.

By creating a homeless awareness program one would make aware to predators, and other manipulators who could be taken advantage of. In my opinion, I do not believe this... campaign is entirely productive, and should be left to those who are trained in handling these situations. Such as therapist, renowned social services workers, or individuals who have worked with the homeless for years with good credit and stability. If someone truly wanted the help, with the technology that is offered, the internet, cell phones, etc. it is not that hard to stumble upon the appropriate resources.

If by chance you would like some more insight on how to help the homeless you can contact me,

By mail at
P.O. Box 9629
138 Sunderland Road,
North Amherst, Mass 01059

By email at

Or by phone at (413)-404-3541

I hope that this is helpful,

David Rempp