Sunday, September 30, 2012

Let's get Physical

Student rowdyism escalated yet another notch late last night as Amherst Police officers had to physically defend themselves against combative college aged youth jet-fueled by alcohol, a danger to innocent bystanders, first responders and themselves.

Last week two drunk students unabashedly fighting in a downtown restaurant got physical with a female Amherst police officer who was attempting to break it up, and early this morning the violent response to APD officers continued unabated.

Around 12:30 AM an officer noticed a disturbance at 45 Phillips Street with about 20-30 males on the front porch yelling and throwing punches at each other.  In trying to break up the melee one of the perps "attempted to free his friend" from the cops hold and had to be pinned against a fence and placed under arrest.:

Officers later cited the house, owned by Stephan Gharabegian, with a $300 ticket for violation of the town's Nuisance House Bylaw.

Arrested for Disorderly Conduct and possession of liquor under age 21:

Kevin John Defusco, 5 Depot Road, Westford, MA, age 19  (UMass student)

 Around 2:00 AM police were called to Hobart Lane apartment #26 Gilreath Manor for reports of a fight involving ten individuals.  In breaking up the disturbance an officer was hit with pepper spray and required a response from AFD to rinse his eyes.

Arrested for Assault & Battery on a police officer, A&B with a dangerous weapon (pepper spray), Resisting Arrest, and Disorderly Conduct:

James M Robinson, 10 Truman Circle, Springfield, MA, age 19   (UMass student)

Around 2:45 AM police responded to 15/17 Fearing Street for reports of a "highly ETOH" (drunk) individual "throwing bottles at people."

The responding officer was greeted by a dozen young men on the front porch who stated Jonathan Jacobs was "going crazy," throwing bottles and other items at them.  Due to his violent behavior they had evacuated the house.  Jacobs was located in his upstairs room but immediately became combative, assaulting one officer with his shoulder and knocking over another.  At APD headquarters he refused to identify himself and was held on $2,500 bail.

Arrested for Assault with a Dangerous Weapon (bottles), Disorderly Conduct, Resisting Arrest, A & B on a police officer:

Jonathan Daniel Jacobs, 225 Maryann Way, North Attleborough, MA, age 22  (UMass student)


Meanwhile around 1:15 AM police responded to a report of a motor vehicle crash on Mattoon Street near Amherst Regional High School.  The driver reported swerving to avoid a pedestrian and lost control because of the "wet roads", but an eyewitness had another different version not involving a pedestrian.  The driver was given a field sobriety test and failed. 

Arrested for OUI Liquor and Marked Lanes Violation:
Daniel T. Kearney, 21 Wing Rd, Lynnfield, MA, age 21  (UMass student)

Sadly, at 1:43 AM, UMass police, APD and AFD responded to a male who fell and hit his head near the Newman Center, UMass.  The first officer on the scene reported the male was on the ground surrounded by friends who confirmed he "had been drinking" and suddenly collapsed, hitting his head.  

AFD transported the unconscious young man to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, where he is reported to be on a breathing machine in the Critical Care Unit.

UPDATE (Monday afternoon): The young man was released from the hospital Sunday at 2:30 PM.  Let's hope he learned a lesson.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

License To Fail

 No, the UMass license plate was not issued in June

After today's fail at Gillette Stadium in front of a sparse crowd -- making it five losses in a row -- it's unlikely the UMass Alumni Association will suddenly see an urgently needed surge in orders for the UMass license plate, now seriously stalled two-thirds of the way to the goal line.

After all, a license plate is the kind of thing serious sports minded fan boys savor more so than your average academic high achiever, who was probably too busy studying to attend tailgate parties and all the other fun things built around sports.

 Fourth loss in a row equals "strong showing."  Gotta love PR flaks

On August 3rd I received an email from the Alumni Association with the headline "UMass license plate is a go!" that certainly gave the impression 1,500 orders required by the Registry of Motor Vehicles had been attained.

Of course what they meant was the "overwhelming interest" had generated 1,500 pledges to buy the plate, but when it came time for the $40 down payment, over a third of those pledges went MIA.  And even though the original pitch set an order deadline of September 7 their Facebook page (with only 139 likes) is still passively soliciting buyers.

Interestingly the Alumni email uses the term "UMass Amherst License Plate" but the actual plate does not contain the name of our beloved town, Amherst.  Hmm ...

With a potential client base of over 110,000 UMass graduates living in Massachusetts you have to wonder why the organizers of this drive can't seem to motivate 1.4% of them to "Ride with UMass pride."

First off, the plate really costs $110, not $40.

A vanity plate requires a  $50 "special fee" on top of the  $40 "regular fee", plus an initial $20 swap fee or $110 total.  Then, every two years renewal is $90 -- more than twice the amount as a "regular" plate.

Then there's the matter of where the "profits" actually go.  The Alumni Association pitch  originally pulled at the heartstrings by suggesting all the money raised would fund scholarships for deserving in state students.

But the Alumni Association website leaves a lot of wiggle room:  "Proceeds from the special plate fee will support scholarships and programs provided by the Alumni Association that advance UMass Amherst." 

When the Alumni Association suddenly dropped annual dues in 2010 and automatically made every UMass graduate a member.  At the time the Vice Chancellor of alumni relations was claiming about 5,000 dues paying members at $40 each.

Although an alumni program still exists for "investors" at $50 each annually, the number of takers comprises less than half the former dues paying membership.

So it must be awful tempting to dip into a new source of funds (if they ever materialize).

Even if the Alumni Association does get 1,500 fans to pony up all associated costs, there's still a catch:  The RMV requires the sponsoring body post a $100,000 performance bond to guarantee an additional 1,500 plates will be sold in the second year or else forfeit some of the insurance bond money.

And if the Alumni Association is having this much trouble with the initial 1,500 sales, the second batch will be an even steeper hill to climb.  

Perhaps it's time for the Alumni Association to punt.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

When the People Lead ...

 Amherst Select Board Chair Stephanie O'Keeffe needs a better script

Sick of town officials lip service over the serious problem of rowdy student party houses springing up all over Amherst -- no longer just the areas contiguous with our #1 employer, UMass -- neighbors in and around the traditionally impacted areas (Lincoln Avenue and Fearing Street) have taken matters into their own hands by collecting the 150 signatures necessary to get tougher warrant articles before Amherst Town Meeting next month. 

If enacted the bylaw tweaks would force town officials to address the real culprits in this sad affair: slumlords and high volume management companies who specialize in enabling slumlords. 

UMass seems to specialize in token, feel good strategies to address this serious problem, like a child trying to befriend a swarm of angry bees swirling around their downed nest.

Last year Umass, town officials and DA Dave Sullivan handed out oatmeal cookies in the southern campus while the northern sector burned.  I'm surprised none of them played a violin.

Two weeks ago on "Umass Umake a Difference Day" day 200 mature, helpful students donated their time to cleaning up the town, while 2,000 students congregated on the quad area of Townhouse apartments making a mess.  When police responded they were greeted with a barrage of cans and bottles.

Last March APD Chief Scott Livingstone appeared before the Amherst Select Board to update them, starting with this brief history, on arrests and the number of party house tickets police had handed out so far that year.  Since then the problem has only worsened.

Six months ago I asked the University for the number of sanctions handed out to fraternities and sororities the previous year.  They stonewalled my request.  Recently the town asked for information on the number of students disciplined for bad behavior.  UMass is hemming and hawing.

Simply put, only a small minority of students get rowdy -- but  a very tiny minority of them are serial partiers, who need to be shown the door.  Now!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Loud and Clear

The first of 22 new WiFi emitters is (way) up and running on top of the Bangs Community Center, installed and tested by our daring DPW and IT departments earlier this week.

The new Cisco units, costing $75,000 total,  have three antennas instead of the two on 14 older units they are replacing, so users should notice a stronger more consistent signal throughout the downtown.

The entire installation is expected to be completed by Halloween, the one year anniversary of the mother of all storms than knocked out the WiFi system and emergency 911 phone lines when the power went out due to catastrophic failure in our urban tree canopy.

Amazingly in this digital day and age, Amherst is one of the very few communities to provide free WiFi throughout town center.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Better Never Than Late

FitWomen Amherst. Stock, generic website = Metaphorical

A full year after I first warned the world about the impending return of the fitness zombie, Peter Earle, his humble storefront has finally opened for business.  They must have an overly understanding landlord.

Now I'm told by way of a attempted comment this morning on my original 9/30/11 post that the operation is actually run by his wife (makes sense, since it is a "women only" operation) and they currently have only 90 members.

Well that ought to pay the rent, maybe, this month. But those members may not want to make the mistake of paying for an entire year up front.  At least a third of all businesses fail in their start up year, obviously an even higher percentage for those businesses opened by someone who already failed three times at the same concept.

Fitness centers are like newspapers, in that credibility is everything.  And when you have gone out of business like Mr. and Mrs. Earle --without reimbursing members -- your credibility is close to zero. 

Safe Routes to Schools?

 Strong Street, just before Wildwood Elementary School

The $280,000  state funded "Safe Routes To Schools" project in and around Wildwood Elementary and Amherst Regional Middle School that will "include upgraded wheelchair ramps, new pavement markings, new traffic and pedestrian warning signs, and some minor drainage modifications" use thermoplastic for line markings.

You can tell because the markings are a tad brighter, and will last a lot longer than the paint the town uses, but is, apparently, more slippery than paint when wet. 

Of course these hieroglyphics have been in since late July and thus far no reports of downed cyclist.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

33 Phillips Street

 33 Phillips Street, Amherst
UPDATE: October 3
So poor Paul Markham must be feeling the heat, as he took his silly ode to UMass party culture, "Welcome to the Zoo" down after garnering 90,000 hits on YouTube.  Maybe his roomies were unhappy with him shouting out this address. 

UPDATE 5:15 PM original day of publication
This post just became my #1 of all time for single day reads.

On Monday morning at 6:45 AM, APD did a follow up visit to 33 Phillips Street, owned by Knight Properties LLC,  to hand deliver a nuisance house ticket for rowdy behavior that occurred late Saturday early Sunday morning.

Apparently it's one of those upstairs/downstairs problems where one floor does not wish to party as hardy as the other, but since the living arrangements are so, umm, close quarters that can make things a tad  difficult.  Especially at 1:45 AM.

The previous weekend APD responded to the same address, called  by a first floor neighbor concerned about hoards of kids -- like something out of the zombie apocalypse -- trying to get to the upstairs apartment, even if by climbing over railings and trying to break in via windows.  

Some of you younger hipsters may recognize the address, 33 Phillips Street (yes, one of my Party House of the Weekend frequent mentions).   Besides being the half-way party house in a row of party houses, 33 Phillips is also home to infamous white rapper Paul Markham.

So proud of the address that he immortalize it in his forgettable video "Welcome to the Zoo (UMass Amherst)" last year with a shout out (unfortunately you have to watch most of the video to hear it). 

Well if these $300 tickets keep accumulating, maybe Mr. Markham will drop his floundering rap career and start singing the blues.

 ETOH = Alcohol overdose

AFD Runs Late Sept:12

Monday, September 24, 2012

Frat Party of the Weekend

Sigma Phi Epsilon 57 Olympia Drive 

While maybe not up there with Moses parting the Red Sea, the deluge that suddenly fell from the skies Saturday night around 11:00 PM -- peak time for parties to start humming -- put a refreshing damper on large out-of-control affairs like the ones broken up late Friday night on both sides of the UMass campus.

Around 11:40 PM Friday, APD responded to a huge party at Sigma Phi Epsilon that the President and Vice President described as "a social," arresting those two officers of the frat and writing up 14 more "college aged youth" for both noise and nuisance house violations ($600 each times 14 or $8,400).

Plus another two party goers were ticketed for open container violations (at $300 each).

One responding officer said the noise could be heard all the way up to East Pleasant Street, about a quarter mile away from the frat that's located at the very end of a dead end road.

It took seven officers twenty minutes to disperse the crowd, estimated at just over 1,000; and perhaps more tickets would have been issued except APD responded to a call from Hadley police for help quelling a large boisterous party on North Maple Street, dispatching two units to assist.

Arrested for Noise/nuisance:

Dustin Crawford, 57 Olympia Drive, Amherst, MA, age 22  (UMass student and Frat President)
Alessandro Raffa, 18 Payson Rd, Belmont, MA, age 20  (UMass student and Frat VP)

Monday Morning

You showed up fine

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Blood Evidence

 Murdered Ambassador Chris Stevens

Even though prior to my appearance on Fox News, hate mail had already started pouring in over town officials catastrophic decision to ground the 25 commemorative flags on 9/11, the national news network did screw up the flashy graphics overlayed on my live interview, thus allowing Town Hall to paint this as an intentional right wing conservative vs left wing liberal issue (rather than a right vs wrong) best exemplified in the national media by Fox News and their counterpart CNN.

Of course I was quick to point out that even the venerable CNN screwed up this sad saga of the commemorative flags eleven years ago when they mistakenly reported the town was restricting the rights of private citizens to fly American flags.  A report that was aired only hours after the Twin Towers crumbled.

Perhaps the best reason (besides the one of righteousness) town officials should have know better this time around. "Those who fail to learn from history..."and all that.

So it comes as no great surprise that CNN would remove evidence from a crime scene, read through it for news tips, and then use that information to tell a story that, indeed, needed to be told:  the lousy security for our murdered ambassador in Libya.

Even though CNN promised the family of Chris Stevens nothing would be reported until his personal journal had been returned to them, the news network went ahead with a story anyway, using the vague attribution "sources familiar with the Ambassador Steven's thinking".

But CNN would not have found those sources if not for his private journal, taken from the scene of a crime.

Fifteen years ago the ABC News program Prime Time Live aired a hidden camera segment exposing poor food handling at Food Lion supermarket chain.  The corporation brought suit for trespass and fraud since the reporters used phony resumes in seeking employment with the target company.  Notice the suit was not for libel/slander, where "truth is the ultimate defense."

But a jury agreed and slapped the premier news outlet with a $5.5 million judgement, which was soon thereafter reduced to $315,000.  On a federal appeal two years later, the jury verdict was thrown out. 

Sure BIG corporations acting badly are a juicy target for investigative watchdog journalists and bloggers, perhaps only eclipsed by exposing BIG government acting badly.  And in the case of murdered Ambassador Stevens, there's more than enough blame to go around.

Like Watergate, the real story is not the original act --a two bit break in -- but the cover up after the fact.  In this case CNN should have come clean in their original report about a serious issue the public certainly had a right to know:  inept security for an ambassador in a volatile region who clearly had security concerns, and probably made them known to someone higher up the ladder.

And just like Dan Rather's botched report on President George W. Bush's service in the Texas Air National Guard eight years ago, the watchdogs who watch the media -- blogs -- continue to beat the drums on CNN's ghoulish lapse in judgement, aptly dubbed "disgusting" by a usually diffident State Department.

Trust is a reporter's most powerful ally.  If CNN did not keep their word to Ambassador's Stevens family, how can any nervous source now trust them when they promise -- in exchange for vital information -- to keep the whistleblower's name secret?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Hadley Hoe Down

Obviously the problem of student party houses is not unique to Amherst -- although the main contributor is of course UMass/Amherst ,who can't seem to house all of its students, or keep the ones they do shelter on campus with interesting activities.

A former one-family house on North Maple Road (that actually once had a family living in it) in Hadley directly across from the UMass horse farm, about a mile from campus, attracted many hundreds of students last night.  Around midnight four cruisers from Hadley PD converged on the scene, and a few minutes later APD sent two cruisers across town lines to assist.

Dispersed party goers either walked back to campus or crammed into cabs ... in search of another party.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Lords Over the Land

290 Lincoln Ave, barn on death row in rear

Just in the past five months using two different LLCs as a cloaking device, KH Amherst PE LLC and GP Amherst LLC, You-Pan Tzeng has purchased a half dozen Amherst houses, three of them on Lincoln Avenue -- one of the oldest streets in overly Democratic Amherst, named after a Republican President before a bullet to the back of the head elevated him to sainthood.

Over the past two years at public meeting after public meeting, residents of Lincoln Avenue have brought to the attention of town officials the persistent problem with unruly party houses, usually single family homes that have been bought up by speculators, subdivided into a" two family homes" and then crammed with eight unrelated, college aged tenants (Amherst zoning legally allows four per unit).

321 Lincoln Ave

The term "tipping point" was used often, meaning the number of owner occupied units was slowly becoming the minority on this historic old street that leads directly to UMass, our largest employer.

The recent purchase of three homes on Lincoln Avenue may very well have tipped the balance ... once and for all.

328 Lincoln Avenue

While Mr. Tzeng is keeping his cards close to his chest, he has tipped his hand with the filing of a ANR plan (Approval Not Required) before our Planning Board to jury rig a second building lot in a location now occupied by a historic old barn.

Even more ominous, You-Pan Tzeng testified before our Zoning Board of Appeals when he converted a one family house at 290 West Street to a two family operation that he "uses Eagle Crest Management for all aspects of property management ..."  Yikes!

Yes, although Eagle Crest owner Jamie Cherewatti testified before the Zoning Board for one of his conversions at 156 Sunset Ave last April that he did not want to be know as the "slumlord of Amherst", it would appear he doesn't work very hard at it. 

For starters, moving his business office from 73 Main Street Amherst into space above Stackers Bar, a youthful, less-than-elegant tap room in town center Cherewatti recently purchased using one of his front LLC's.  In addition to Stackers Pub Railroad Street Partners owns another half dozen rentals in town.

Nothing like staying on top of the source of your success:  alcohol and partying. 

Now that Cherewatti has partnered with You-Pan Tzeng (or vice versa), no neighborhood in Amherst is safe.  The town needs to call a moratorium on all housing conversions until this spring, so Town Meeting can takes up Planning Board articles that attempt to tame the Wild, Wild West. 
290 Lincoln Subdivide

The rest of You-Pan Tzeng's very recent purchases:

695/697 Main Street (yes, the garage is 695)

42 Shumway Street

300 West Street

From Piggies to Serious Perps

APD on scene of last week's major disturbance Townhouse Apartments 

So no, the Amherst Police Department does not spend all of its time dealing with rowdy students -- er, I mean "college aged youths" -- raising Hell in the dead of night.  Well, maybe on weekends -- especially when the weather is nice.

Although  APD did respond to a noise complaint late last night to 121 Meadow Street, ground zero for last year's most notorious riot, which would get my vote for 'Party House of the Year'.  Fortunately this time around a warning was sufficient (maybe because it was only a Thursday).

Yesterday around 6:30 PM police responded to a call on South East Street/Bay Road for "10 piglets running in the road."  And an hour later for a loose cow.  All of which were "Gone On Arrival."  Although a while later a call came in confirming the farmer had "wrangled them all."

On Monday evening police responded to a farm field off South East Street (not the same one with the lost piggies) for a suspicious vehicle.  Said vehicle, driven by David Brown, age  46, attempted to run down an officer.  

David Brown of 108 Lee Rd, South Deerfield is facing a litany of charges (the last one most astonishing):

Driving with revoked license
Assault with a dangerous weapon (the car)
Alcohol in motor vehicle
Possession of open container (in said vehicle)
O.U.I Liquor 5th offense.  Yes you read that correctly, 5th offense!

UMass needs to get serious about cracking down on serious offenders undermining the quality of life for neighborhoods all over Amherst with their obnoxious behavior, and the court system needs to get deadly serious with drunk drivers.

A common statistic I've heard about DUI is that the person caught has probably driven that way a couple hundred times before finally being nabbed.  Now factor in Mr. Brown's five arrests and be thankful you did not interest with him on the road the 1,000 times he was driving his "dangerous weapon."

And yes, I just checked UMass people finder and the only person cited the night of the notorious riot at 121 Meadow Street last year is still registered as a student.   

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Bridge To Somewhere

Bike Path bridge over Snell Street is now reopened
DCR is so proud they slapped a permanent sign on each side of the new bridge, right about where an oversized truck will intersect with it someday.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Fire in the Hole

28 Hobart Lane on right

On Thursday September 13, just after high noon, Amherst Fire Department responded to a basement fire in apartment unit #28  on Hobart Lane, notorious party street and home of the infamous "Hobart Hoedown".

Fortunately the call came in at the perfect time --if there is such a thing for a structure fire -- as first responders were not overwhelmed with ETOH calls (alcohol poisoning), thus AFD quickly put down the blaze.

Since the "three bedroom" unit shares a large building with five other units, had AFD not caught the fire in time, the results could have been catastrophic -- especially if the blaze had started 12 hours later in the late evening of "Thirsty Thursday" when the building would have been packed with distracted students.

According to Lisa Queenin, UMass Director of Community Relations,  "The Dean of Students office and Residential Life are working with the students to make sure the five students have housing and the support services they need in the wake of the fire."

Note the number:  Five students.  Yes, a violation of Amherst zoning bylaw forbidding more than four unrelated housemates.

On Friday the morning after the fire, according to Amherst Police Department logs:

"Firefighter Mike Roy (Fire Prevention Officer) received information that Lincoln Realty had warned the residents that an inspection was imminent and that they needed to assist in hiding code violations. I assisted with contacting the DA's office and the Clerk of Courts seeking an administrative warrant to enter the apartment for inspection."

On the day  or even evening of the blaze, the fire department could have entered the building for an inspection under MGL 148 Section 4, but because 24 hours had passed they needed the administrative warrant, as the owner (Kathryn Grandonico) was not being overly cooperative.

According to Building Commissioner Rob Morra that inspection was delayed until Monday afternoon. And because of 4th Amendment concerns the "administrative warrant" only applied to the damaged apartment and adjoining units on either side (three total) rather than the entire 14 unit complex.

Evidence suggests an extra bedroom in the basement of those three units inspected on Monday.

The entire 14 unit complex is assessed at $1.5 million or $30,000 in property tax overhead, although it's quite possible those extra 14 tenants (if indeed all the units have an extra tenant) would about cover that.

A good deal for the landlord ... unless of course one of them overburdens an electrical circuit.

Gilreath Manor, built in 1982, does have vertical firewalls between units. Fire however tends to move in an upward direction and would quickly get into the attic above the firewalls to engulf other units.

No Smoking

Original UMass coal fired steam plant built around 1918.  Photo: May, 2010
August 1, 2012
UMass Coal Plant this afternoon:  Sans Smokestacks

No, they did not detonate the smokestacks, probably because the old plant is dead in the center of a very busy campus. They were "dismantled from the top down." Boring.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Just Say NO

UPDATE Wednesday morning:
According to the venerable Daily Hampshire Gazette, the public sentiment expressed at the hearing last night was overwhelmingly in favor of keeping the ban on Happy Hours in place. 

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission is having the final public hearing today in Northampton about whether the state should rescind "Happy Hour" regulations so bars can better compete with casinos.  Yes booze and gambling go together like pizza and beer.

Interesting how lines are drawn between proponents and opponents.  Folks who like to party (usually younger) are in favor because it reduces the cost of "fun" and gets you to start drinking earlier in the day; but the Massachusetts Restaurant Association is opposed because it would keep people in bars rather than restaurants, thus costing them profits. 

And then of course there's the moral opposition from Mothers Against Drunk Driving, those who know the pain of losing innocent loved ones simply because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and crossed paths with "a killer on the road."

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fourth Watch

 Amherst Town Center 1:15 AM  McMurphy's Bar, Antonio's Pizza

Last night -- or I should say early this morning -- all five of our ambulances were busy dealing with ETOH (passed out drunk) students, four police cruisers (probably all the on duty ones we had) were at the scene of a drunk driver who had driven around concrete barricades, up on to active railroad tracts becoming hopelessly stuck ... when a call came in from South Amherst for an "unresponsive baby with difficulty breathing."

 Around Midnight APD dispersed a large crowd of unruly students from Phillips Street

Amherst Fire Department had to send a fire engine from Central Station and wait for one of our ambulances already at the hospital to return back to Amherst, thus causing a delay.  Obviously if our first responders had the personnel and equipment needed they could keep delays to a minimum, increasing both safety and peace of mind.

The last 12 hours should serve as yet another wake up call.  Town officials need to act quickly and decisively.  Our police and fire department's are understaffed.  And somebody is going to die.

Over the past six consecutive years, through sound fiscal management, the town has had an end-of-the-year surplus of just over $1 million.  A quarter of that would go a long way to solving staffing problems with our beleaguered first responders.

Tax exempt UMass, the second largest landowner in town, also needs to step up and help fund the professional providers who react to emergencies their students create.  Ditto Hampshire College.

Alcohol abuse is an epidemic that needs serious attention.  Anyone remember that UMass student motorcyclist  on his way back to campus last April only weeks before he was to graduate, slaughtered by a wrong way drunk driver on Rt 116 in Hadley?  I'm sure his family remembers!

DA Sullivan and State Police need to set up yet another high profile DUI roadblock in town before Halloween.  Senator Stan Rosenberg and Representative Ellen Story should file a bill making it a crime (or at least a civil offense) to be in an automobile with a drunk driver and not report it to authorities.
 Car stuck  on railroad tracks near Amtrak Station

I noticed the passenger of the drunk driver who drove his car onto the rail road tracks checking his smart phone while watching his drunk friend being escorted away.

 Jack Thornton. You drink & drive, you go to jail

Maybe somewhat sober people would think twice about getting in a car with a drunk friend if they knew they could be held responsible. Kind of gives new meaning to the slogan, "Friends don't let friends drive drunk."  And as one of my favorite twitterian's pointed out, "Especially on railroad tracks!"

When I told one of the cops I was live tweeting from the scene early this morning he asked, "Is anybody listening?"  God I hope so.

Arrested for DUI and trespassing on RR property:
Jack Thornton, 23 Bennett Rd, Gardner, MA, age 19


AFD member picked up the slack after I went to bed and posted to Facebook photo of all five Amherst ambulances parked at Cooley Dickinson hospital at 3:00 AM:

####Amherst Fourth Watch live tweeted####

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Meadow Street Mayhem

 Debris field Townhouse Apartments Meadow Street North Amherst

It's not even dark and already APD has responded in force to a large unruly gathering of students in the quad area of Townhouse Apartments North Amherst breaking up a crowd of 2,000 around 4:00 PM and then an hour later called back because they party goers returned and set fire to a couch in the middle of the quad.  Officers had to dodge bottles and cans launched in their direction.

The festivities also required an AFD response for the burning couch, thus tying up both branches of our emergency first responders. Townhouse units #48, #51, #44, #104, and #125 were cited for "nuisance house" @ $300 each.

And yes, Saturday was "UMass UMake a difference day," where 200 UMass students volunteered to help clean up around Amherst.  “We are trying to show people what UMass is really like,” said Garrett Gowen, SGA vice president in the Daily Collegian.

Obviously the kids at Townhouse Apartments did not get that text message.

Arrested for Inciting a Riot:
Clyde Odei Nsiah, 72 Outlook Dr, Worcester, MA, age 23 (UMass student)

Tough guy in red hat refused to provide ID
AFD taking no chances. Hosing down nearby dumpster 

A Toast To Survival

Camperdown Elm, Amherst College Pratt Field

Friends, neighbors, Amherst College faculty, Amherst Public Shade Tree Committee members and a couple of long-time columnists for the Daily Hampshire Gazette gathered round the historic Camperdown Elm on Pratt Field Amherst College yesterday and raised a glass of champagne to celebrate a reversal of the pernicious plan to kill the Camperdown. 

Instead, Amherst College will pay -- or I should say an "anonymous benefactor" will cover -- the $100,000 relocation cost to move the iconic beauty out of harm's way:  the $12.5 million major renovation of 122 year old Pratt Field.

A realignment of the track directly intersected with the plot of earth the stately tree has occupied, probably since Pratt Field was founded in 1891, and if not for the great concern of arbor aficionados the Camperdown was destined to become kindling.

Since this photo was taken in late July, Amherst College has enclosed the Camperdown with fencing to protect its roots, trimmed it, and is being extra careful with watering and fertilizer

Friday, September 14, 2012

Homeless Hoedown

 Homeless shelter for one, woods off University Drive

While thankfully there were no arrests last night at the "Celebrate Amherst Block Party" for noise, nuisance or disturbing the peace, one of the usual suspects -- Maurice St Onge -- was arrested for open container violation while consuming "Five O'Clock Vodka" at 7:49 PM on North Pleasant street, in town center, at around peak attendance time for the family oriented block party.

This is precisely why Town Manager John Musante was leaning towards forbidding Craig's Doors, the homeless shelter at the Baptist Church, to increase capacity by 50%, going from 16 beds to 24.

His bosses, the Select Board, have publicly all-but-ordered him to allow the expansion ... not to micromanage of course.  Pretty safe bet Mr. Musante will not wish to jeopardize his $142,100 position over a homeless shelter. 

The B-I-G difference between Amherst's homeless shelter and all other regional facilities is that Craig's Doors is a "wet shelter," meaning folks can still attend even if under the influence of drugs.

Which is kind of like an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting trying to increase attendance by hosting meetings next to a bar.

APD gets calls when the homeless are overly aggressive about occupying benches in town