Wednesday, August 31, 2016

DUI Dishonor Roll

MADD:  2014 drivers between ages 21-24 had highest percentage fatal crashes (30%)

Unfortunately it's a safe bet this coming weekend will have many times over the number of impaired drivers on the road, not only because our beloved students are back but also because it's a major holiday with one extra night to party hardy.

Jake Nolan, age 24, arrested by APD
 Click to enlarge/read
Alec Grater Cafiero, age 22, arrested by UMPD

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Changing Of The Guard

Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek does the honors

Even before sitting down to his first official Select Board meeting as Town Manager Paul Bockelman posed with his bosses for a photo that will hang in Town Hall and be used on the town website.

But former Town Manager John Musante is far from forgotten.

Water Worries

Atkins Reservoir (8/28/16):  Currently down 7'10" with 87 million gallons remaining of 200 million
Pelham Reservoir currently unusable until Oct/Nov

In a presentation to the Select Board last night Assistant Town Manager Dave Ziomek gave a somewhat optimistic update about the slowly worsening water supply situation, citing the impact of mandatory water restrictions that went into effect August 19th.

 Town website main page
Click to enlarge
 Last year peak was 4.1 mgd on September 6th but this year's target is 3.5 mgd

Of course the BIG test has yet to come.  Last year September 6th, with a consumption of 4.1 million gallons, was peak day due to the return of our bread and butter college aged youth.

And suddenly everyone seems to remember the chaotic 1980 incident where the water system failed and UMass students had to be sent home.

The BIG difference this time around is Well 4 with a an output of 1.74 million gallons per day is online.  Back in 1980 the treatment plant known as "Baby Carriage" adjoining Well 4 -- which has high levels of iron and manganese -- was still under construction.

Scenic Baby Carriage Treatment Plant, South East Street

Atkins Reservoir is dropping about an inch a day so by this time next month -- unless we get significant rainfall -- it will need to be shut down.  

Without use of Reservoirs the Wells alone can pump out 4.72 million gallons
Town water quality report 2016

The key question is will this vital public water system, operating under stressful conditions and with our population about to almost double, hold?


Atkins Reservoir expanding sandbar:

August 21st
August 28th

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Get The Lead Out!

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

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

When it rains it pours.

Click to enlarge/read

Note worst result came from a drinking water bubbler

Saturday, August 27, 2016

A BOLD Evening Indeed

President Obama, Katherine Appy, Laura Kent

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

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

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

 Click to enlarge/read

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

Friday, August 26, 2016

Cable Contract Comeuppance

Paul Bockelman (left) attending Cable Advisory Committee meeting yesterday

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, August 25, 2016


"Dysfunctional" Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee

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

 Click to enlarge/read

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Deception indeed!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


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

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

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

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

Deal with it.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Take Me Out Coach!

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

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

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

 Click photo to enlarge/read

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

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

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

 UMass starts September 6

First Day

 Paul Bockelman, Amherst Town Hall

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Wet Your Whistle

Atkins Reservoir this morning 8/21
Atkins Reservoir last Sunday 8/14 (down 7 feet or 50% total volume)
Unless today turns into a torrential downpour it's not looking good for our water crisis to be over with anytime soon, especially with our population about to almost double.

 Atkins sandbar this morning 8/21 (ignore that guy in the treeline)

 Atkins sandbar last week 8/14
Let's hope our beloved college aged youth don't use the water emergency as an excuse to drink more beer.

Most recent drought monitor 8/16 

Drought monitor 7/19

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Secret Meetings Continue

Former Superintendent Maria Geryk getting a $309,000 buyout
Region and Union 26

Once again Pelham school committee representative Trevor Baptiste put up a stink about proceedings, this time concerning Union 26 taking a revote/do over on Maria Geryk's $309,000 buyout package, after he questioned if Union 26 is even a legal entity.

 Trevor Baptiste, former Chair of the Region 

Union 26 (Amherst & Pelham SC members) revote Maria Geryk $309K buyout

Last week they voted in favor of the contract but did not have a legal quorum.  

So after 10 minutes of bickering they came to a 4-1 affirmative vote (one member, Chair Tara Luce, had recused herself).  Last week the Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee voted 4-3 in favor of the buyout.

So now, theoretically, it's a done deal.

Except RSC member Vira Douangmany Cage is asking the Attorney General to investigate the matter.  And/or it only takes 10 teed-off taxpayers to file a class action lawsuit in Hampshire Superior Court

 Mike Morris appointed acting Superintendent

The Amherst Pelham Regional School Committee then went into executive session to negotiate a contract with Mike Morris to become Acting Superintendent, and to approve the executive session minutes over the past four sessions amounting to just over 11 hours of secret meetings.

Chair Laura Kent said it would be 45 minutes.  The Committee finally came back into public session around 9:15 PM -- after THREE HOURS -- but said they would not release the executive session minutes tonight.

   Audience at 6:15 when RSC went into executive session

That Didn't Take Long

Atkins Reservoir is down 50%

On Monday night the Amherst Select Board voted to give the Town Manager authority to escalate the "voluntary" water restrictions to "mandatory".  And today he did just that, starting Friday August 19.

My drone will be working overtime on enforcement.

 Click to enlarge/read

Don't Drink & Drive

MADD:  About one-third of all drunk driving arrests are repeat offenders

The two APD routine arrests over the weekend for Driving Under the Influence illustrate perfectly why the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court on Monday reaffirmed the common sense notion that perps who have been detained for DUI have no right of counsel prior to administration of the Breathalyzer.

In Massachusetts, an "implied consent" state, you do have the right to say "No" but that will result in a loss of license for six months.  And you do have the right to a phone call within one hour of being escorted into the police station.

Since the Breathalzyer test is time sensitive and DUI attorneys are not always available in the dead of night, requiring police departments to forgo this invaluable tool would result in far too many guilty parties going free.

With any one of them potentially going on to change forever the lives of an innocent family.

 Rafael Garcia, age 21 (APD intake photo)
Click to enlarge/read (note time of stop)
 Joshua Silver, age 27
Another late night incident

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

A Shining Example

During the Town Manager's report last night Dave Ziomek extolled the recent stand out performance of native son Michael Hixon who won an olympic silver medal, and the hearts and minds of many townies.

Amherst has the lowest median age in the state

Select Board Chair Alisa Brewer said the board had received a request to have a good old fashioned parade to congratulate Hixon, but she was concerned about such an undertaking -- especially at this time of year when the entire world seems to be on vacation.

Connie Kruger suggested a proclamation at least, with some sort of ceremony.  Mr. Ziomek said he would contact Hixon's parents to see when he may be back from Rio and available.

 Click to enlarge/read

Its been a tough year in our little college town.  Beloved Town Manager John Musante passed away suddenly on September 20, and our other top employee, School Superintendent Maria Geryk, is leaving under a toxic cloud of secrecy and suspicion.

Amherst, in spite of its independent spirit, is a company town and that company is higher education.

Michael Hixon represents everything that is right with our college aged youth.  And even more, what is righteous about our country.