No doubt our little college town will made a few "Best in America" lists
Trying to predict what story will captivate readers in the coming year is like trying to predict what the weather will be like in early-to-mid March.
Which would be a valuable skill if only to illuminate the potential recurrence of an obnoxious event that made my top story of 2013 and 2014, The Blarney Blowout.
Blarney is primarily an outdoor event, thus weather dependent. Combine the old maxims "bad weather is a cop's best friend" and "March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb" and there's always a good chance for Mother Nature alone to mitigate the rowdiness.
Last year's Blarney Blowout -- or I should say Blarney Blowover -- still made my top ten list for hits but since nothing really happened that readership was down dramatically from those two years when it was my top story.
And with a mutual aid agreement in place with all surrounding police departments and UMass willing to fund extra boots on the ground that day, I'm confident this year's event will be about as exciting as a Boy Scout Jamboree. Much to the chagrin of ZooMass aficionados.
Major building projects will generate a lot of buzz in the coming year. The controversial Jones Library expansion comes up for a vote at the Town Meeting starting in April to allow the project to apply for state funding and then again at the Fall Town Meeting to set the all important matching amount the town will need to chip in.
The equally controversial new DPW building will need $350,000 at the Spring Town Meeting for "schematic design" phase as will the new far less controversial South Fire Station. The DPW initial cost estimates are three times that of the new Fire Station so it will be a much harder sell.
In fact the town currently has enough money stashed away in savings accounts ($12 million) to cover the entire estimated cost of the new Fire Station.
Zoning issues are ALWAYS controversial especially if they are, gasp, pro development. The Planning Board will also probably bring a recreational marijuana article to Town Meeting and the Select Board will also probably place a referendum question on the election ballot to limit the number of recreational sales permits the town has to allow.
K-12 School issues are ALWAYS a page view magnet and with the need to hire a new Superintendent, the highest paid employee in town, that will generate more buzz than a fleet of quadcopter drones.
And since Amherst is still a bastion of naive liberalism there's always the possibility of one of those "only in Amherst" type scenarios that could go viral at any time, as we witnessed not to long ago with flag controversy at Hampshire College.
For instance if the town refuses to fly the commemorative American flags on Inauguration Day later this month because they don't like who's being inaugurated, that would probably do it.
Death is also one of those unexpected attention grabbers. The tragic death of Town Manager John Musante on an otherwise gorgeous Sunday morning was my top story of 2015 as well as top ten story of all time.
Over the past year there were a number of suicides, heroin overdoses and an accidental gun death that received no media attention at all, but a couple a very high profile incidents that were hard to ignore:
The inexplicable head on crash into a parked Peter Pan bus in town center that took the life of a 22 year old and the horrific truck piloted by a drunk driver trampling to death a man sitting in town center waiting for the bus both made my top ten list.
Oddly enough my top story of all time happened last year but it was routine District Court appearance links from a year earlier that attracted all the eyeballs when the national media linked to those dispatches as background for the infamous "Mac & Cheese kid," aka Luke Gatti.
Ah, the vagaries of the digital age.