Slim Majority on Amherst Charter Commission Approves Preliminary New Town Government Plan

The nine-member Charter Commission (https://www.amherstma.gov/2248/Charter-Commission) voted last night to approve a preliminary version of a new town charter, which will dramatically alter local government if passed by Amherst voters next winter. Although commission members are divided about Amherst's future, with a majority favoring a small, potentially more "efficient" government, and others defending the public participation … Continue reading Slim Majority on Amherst Charter Commission Approves Preliminary New Town Government Plan

Amherst’s Jones Library Not Among Nine to Win State Construction Grants; Project Put On Waiting List for “At Least A Few Years” (INCLUDES UPDATES)

The Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners announced yesterday (July 13) that it was awarding $67 million in provisional construction grants to nine communities, a  list that included libraries in Hadley and Springfield, but not Amherst's Jones Library. The Baker-Polito administration placed the Jones Library 9th on a "waiting list" of 24 libraries statewide that "will … Continue reading Amherst’s Jones Library Not Among Nine to Win State Construction Grants; Project Put On Waiting List for “At Least A Few Years” (INCLUDES UPDATES)

Press Release: PVTA May Reduce Bus Routes, Public Hearing Dates Set

The Advisory Board of the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (PVTA) will hold official public hearings to receive comments on potential cutbacks or changes to 16 bus routes, including the M40 Minuteman Express, which travels between Amherst, Hadley, and Northampton. The PVTA has said it faces an operating budget deficit of up to $1.2 million, because … Continue reading Press Release: PVTA May Reduce Bus Routes, Public Hearing Dates Set

Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee Adopts Debt Policy Designed to Prevent “Lunch-Shaming” (UPDATED)

The Amherst-Pelham and Union 26 Regional School Committees adopted a new policy on overdue school cafeteria balances last night, to prevent children from being punished for debts, and to hold parents or guardians accountable instead. The policy for public schools in Amherst, Pelham, Leverett and Shutesbury replaces one that was approved in 2015, but not … Continue reading Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee Adopts Debt Policy Designed to Prevent “Lunch-Shaming” (UPDATED)

Amherst Fire Department Swears In Christopher Bascomb As Latest Captain: Chief Tim Nelson Is Grooming New Leaders

Longtime Amherst firefighter Christopher Bascomb, 42, was sworn in as the department's latest captain yesterday, in a ceremony at Town Hall attended by many of the town's 45 full-time firefighters. Fire Chief W. Tim Nelson said that about five years ago, he realized that several pending retirements would require him to groom younger firefighters for … Continue reading Amherst Fire Department Swears In Christopher Bascomb As Latest Captain: Chief Tim Nelson Is Grooming New Leaders

Guest Opinion Column By Molly Turner: Jones Library Expansion, other Capital Projects, Will Negatively Effect the Environment

By MOLLY TURNER In Amherst, we celebrate the earth, science and sustainability. We recently marched for science, and celebrated Earth Day.  We have a sustainability office, and Amherst has won "Green Community" status from the Massachusetts Department of Energy and Environment. To do so we had to meet certain criteria, including setting requirements to minimize life-cycle costs … Continue reading Guest Opinion Column By Molly Turner: Jones Library Expansion, other Capital Projects, Will Negatively Effect the Environment

Monument Dedicated to Amherst Black Civil War Veteran Christopher Thompson, Brothers & Son Who Fought for Union Army

About 20 descendants of Christopher Thompson, a Black farmer who fought in the Civil War with the 5th Massachusetts Cavalry, gathered yesterday at Amherst's West Cemetery for the dedication of a monument on Thompson's long-unmarked grave. The monument identifies the section of the West Cemetery where African-Americans were buried, and names Thompson's three brothers, John, … Continue reading Monument Dedicated to Amherst Black Civil War Veteran Christopher Thompson, Brothers & Son Who Fought for Union Army

Amherst Town Meeting Narrowly Gives Green Light to Jones Library Renovation Project, and Calls for Investigation of President Donald J. Trump (INCLUDES UPDATES & PHOTOS)

A project to renovate and expand the Jones Library narrowly won approval from Amherst Town Meeting last night (May 10), after two hours of vigorous debate. Town Meeting voted 105 to 94, with 2 abstentions, to approve a preliminary design for the historic library, and authorize library trustees to apply for a Massachusetts Public Library … Continue reading Amherst Town Meeting Narrowly Gives Green Light to Jones Library Renovation Project, and Calls for Investigation of President Donald J. Trump (INCLUDES UPDATES & PHOTOS)

Amherst Town Meeting Approves Sanctuary Bylaw, Puts Permanent Public Art Funding in Place (INCLUDES UPDATES)

As the administration of President Donald J. Trump calls for a crackdown on undocumented immigrants and cuts to arts funding,  The Town of Amherst moved in its own direction last night (May 8.) Town Meeting put in place a bylaw to protect immigrants from discrimination and certain deportation measures, and voted for ongoing public art … Continue reading Amherst Town Meeting Approves Sanctuary Bylaw, Puts Permanent Public Art Funding in Place (INCLUDES UPDATES)

Attorney General’s Office: Amherst Regional School Committee Violated Opening Meeting Law Last Summer (INCLUDES UPDATES)

The Massachusetts Attorney General's Office has determined that the Amherst-Pelham Regional School Committee violated the state's open meeting law last year, in deliberating on committee business by email, and failing to follow proper procedures in announcing executive sessions, among other errors. The May 2 letter from Assistant Attorney General Hanne Rush, to the school committee's … Continue reading Attorney General’s Office: Amherst Regional School Committee Violated Opening Meeting Law Last Summer (INCLUDES UPDATES)

Wildwood School Boiler, Fort River Feasibility Study Win Resounding Approval at Amherst Town Meeting (UPDATED)

Smaller steps toward improving the infrastructure of two Amherst elementary schools easily won two-thirds majorities at Town Meeting last night (May 3). Town Meeting unanimously approved borrowing of $500,000 to replace the boiler system at Wildwood, which dates to the 1970s. Later, with only a few audible "nay" votes, Town Meeting also agreed to a … Continue reading Wildwood School Boiler, Fort River Feasibility Study Win Resounding Approval at Amherst Town Meeting (UPDATED)

April Press Release from Amherst Firefighters Local 1764: Staffing Study Incomplete & Overdue

Joseph Lagasse President Amherst Firefighters Local 1764 IAFF PO Box 1234 Amherst, Ma. 01002 Press Release Fire Department staffing remains a concern Staffing study results yet to be produced Amherst, Ma. April 25, 2017: The Amherst Firefighters Union has understood the Department's staffing shortages for over two decades, and has seen little improvement in that … Continue reading April Press Release from Amherst Firefighters Local 1764: Staffing Study Incomplete & Overdue

Amherst School Officials Seek $500,000 for Wildwood Boiler, $250,000 for Fort River Feasibility Study, As Interim Superintendent Launches New Ideas in PGO Presentations (UPDATED)

Next Wednesday, Amherst Town Meeting will be asked to approve $250,000 for a feasibility study  on the Fort River Elementary School site to determine its suitability for construction, and $500,000 to replace an old boiler system at Wildwood Elementary School.  If those items pass, Town Meeting will also be asked to approve an additional $20,000 … Continue reading Amherst School Officials Seek $500,000 for Wildwood Boiler, $250,000 for Fort River Feasibility Study, As Interim Superintendent Launches New Ideas in PGO Presentations (UPDATED)

Historic Steeple Atop the Jewish Community of Amherst Building to be Restored with Preservation Funds (UPDATED)

Amherst Town Meeting voted last night to approve spending of about $862,000 in Community Preservation Act funds, including $245,000 to repair the historic steeple on a building that now houses the Jewish Community of Amherst. The building at 742 Main St. that was once the Second Congregational Church dates to 1839. The Jewish Community of … Continue reading Historic Steeple Atop the Jewish Community of Amherst Building to be Restored with Preservation Funds (UPDATED)

Copycat Facebook Site “Amherst4All” Posting Photos Of Town Meeting Members & Comments: But Not To Be Confused With “Amherst For All”

Some members of Amherst Town Meeting, including yours truly, were surprised last night to find themselves photographed and tagged by name in Facebook posts on a site called "Amherst4All."  Often, confusing remarks accompanied these images of people asking questions of local officials during Town Meeting, which can be seen here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/amherst4all/ At one point, a … Continue reading Copycat Facebook Site “Amherst4All” Posting Photos Of Town Meeting Members & Comments: But Not To Be Confused With “Amherst For All”

Amherst Charter Commission, Still Divided, Reduces Proposed Town Council Size from 60 to 13 People: Adds Mayor & Town Manager (UPDATED)

The Amherst Charter Commission, which is working on proposal for a new form of town government, voted last night (Monday April 24) by a slim majority to drop a "middle ground" proposal for a 60-person town council. The plan came under fire at a recent Charter Commission listening session, and Chairman Andy Churchill and others … Continue reading Amherst Charter Commission, Still Divided, Reduces Proposed Town Council Size from 60 to 13 People: Adds Mayor & Town Manager (UPDATED)

Conflict Runs High at Amherst Charter Commission Meeting (UPDATED)

The growing discord on the Amherst Charter Commission was clear last night, where a few members expressed their unhappiness with the online communications they received from one another, and from the public. Commission member Julia Rueschemeyer said she is concerned that a "special interest group of developers" is trying to control the nine-person commission, and … Continue reading Conflict Runs High at Amherst Charter Commission Meeting (UPDATED)

Guest Column: An Amherst Town Meeting Member’s Letter to the Charter Commission

By JOANNA MORSE. Dear Charter Commission, Thank you for your work on democracy in Amherst.   I write to you in my support of keeping Town Meeting as our legislative branch of our local government.  I have participated in many town meetings through my life, and have now served on Amherst Town Meeting for one … Continue reading Guest Column: An Amherst Town Meeting Member’s Letter to the Charter Commission

Touring the Jones Libary in Amherst: An Old Friend Reveals Secrets

I took a tour of the Jones Library last week, one of several being offered for Amherst Town Meeting members, who will vote May 10 on whether to approve a design for a $36 million expansion and renovation plan. I'd urge anyone on Town Meeting who hasn't yet gone on a library tour yet to … Continue reading Touring the Jones Libary in Amherst: An Old Friend Reveals Secrets

Amherst Police Department Gets New Patrol Pup, Named “Marvin”

The Amherst Police Department is adding a little more bark to its law enforcement bite, with its second officer-and-dog team. Officer Matthew Frydryk has a new K9 partner named Marvin, Police Chief Scott P. Livingstone announced today. Marvin, a 16-month old male German Shepherd, will be a four-legged MacGruff-of-all trades, helping the department find lost … Continue reading Amherst Police Department Gets New Patrol Pup, Named “Marvin”

Guest Column: Amherst Town Meeting Schedule of Three Nights Per Week Will Burden Some Families

By TONI CUNNINGHAM. New members who were motivated to run for Town Meeting this election cycle may think “What have I done?!” when they learn they have committed to attending three evenings each week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 7 to 10 p.m. – until all the items on the warrant are voted upon. … Continue reading Guest Column: Amherst Town Meeting Schedule of Three Nights Per Week Will Burden Some Families

Of Preachers and Poets: Amherst Neighborhood that Was Home to Early Black and Irish Families, Famous Authors May be Preserved Under Historic District Proposal

The poet Robert Frost (1874-1963) lived in Amherst from 1916 to 1938 and taught for many years at Amherst College. This was his home, at 43 Sunset Avenue.

Streets in Amherst which hosted one of the region's earliest integrated neighborhoods may be preserved as historic, if  a measure to create a district including 194 homes on Lincoln and Sunset Avenues and several smaller streets passes at Town Meeting later this month. "This is unusual in New England, this is a critical part of … Continue reading Of Preachers and Poets: Amherst Neighborhood that Was Home to Early Black and Irish Families, Famous Authors May be Preserved Under Historic District Proposal

Amherst Town Meeting Candidates Successfully Petition for Recount in Precinct 9

A recount of ballots cast for Amherst Town Meeting members in Precinct 9 will take place on Thursday, Amherst Town Clerk Sandra Burgess said today, (April 11.) Precinct 9 includes the residential neighborhoods north of Amherst center, surrounding Wildwood Elementary, Amherst Regional Middle School, and Amherst-Pelham Regional High School. There were 24 candidates for eight … Continue reading Amherst Town Meeting Candidates Successfully Petition for Recount in Precinct 9

Sixty, Twenty-Three, or Thirteen People: Amherst Charter Commission Debates Councils to Replace Town Meeting & Select Board

Nearly all the chairs were filled last night at the start of an Amherst Charter Commission meeting, where two members, Meg Gage and Nick Grabbe, offered a "middle ground" proposal to replace the historic 254-member Amherst Town Meeting with a "legislative council" of sixty people. There was frequent reference to the failed elementary school building … Continue reading Sixty, Twenty-Three, or Thirteen People: Amherst Charter Commission Debates Councils to Replace Town Meeting & Select Board

Amherst May Become 6th U.S. Town to Call for President Trump’s Impeachment, Amid Nationwide Effort Co-Led by Local Non-Profit

Amherst Town Meeting has not shied away from taking a stand on national issues, and when the body of 254 citizens assembles on April 26, it will consider a resolution to investigate grounds for the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. Amherst lawyer John C. Bonifaz, who is instrumental in an effort to have cities … Continue reading Amherst May Become 6th U.S. Town to Call for President Trump’s Impeachment, Amid Nationwide Effort Co-Led by Local Non-Profit

Amherst’s The Works Bakery Cafe: Giving Back A Little Bit to Women on National Equal Pay Day

What if every restaurant and retailer, all over the United States, gave women a 21% discount on National Equal Pay Day? That would certainly be a nice gesture and would probably lead to a bump in sales in early April. And then just imagine how much business activity - even home sales - would ramp up if we women got that 21 cents we've been waiting for, in every paycheck. Imagine us all, with more jingle in our jeans. Now wouldn't that be an interesting plan for economic growth?

Hotel & Casino Company With Possible Ties To Trump Son Seeks 1,200-acre Site in North Amherst: Conservationists Cite Presence of Heirloom Vegetables

Brookdale-Stein noted that if the plan were to proceed at some point, it would require referendum, approval by a number equal to 7/8 majority of all active registered voters in the Commonwealth in 1839, the year the parcel was purchased by the Koszcaniewski brothers.

Amherst School Superintendent’s Letter to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Ending Consolidation Project

March 31, 2017 Dear MSBA Board of Directors and Executive Director McCarthy: We would like to officially inform you that the Town has been forced to forego the award of a Maximum Facilities Grant of $34.4 million for construction of two co-located elementary schools at the Wildwood School site in the Town of Amherst. We … Continue reading Amherst School Superintendent’s Letter to the Massachusetts School Building Authority, Ending Consolidation Project

Statement from Interim Superintendent on School Building Project’s Failure

March 30, 2017 To:       The Amherst Public School District staff and administration and the Amherst community, From:  Phoebe Hazzard, Amherst School Committee Vice-Chair and Dr. Michael Morris, Interim Superintendent While the proposed new schools building project failed to achieve a two-thirds majority in Tuesday's referendum vote, our district will continue to move forward and plan … Continue reading Statement from Interim Superintendent on School Building Project’s Failure

After Amherst Referendum for School Building Project Falls Short, Town Meeting to Vote on Wildwood Boiler, Fort River Study (UPDATED)

It is unknown whether the district will seek, or if the MSBA would grant any further extensions, and if the community overall has the stomach for any further campaigning or debate. However, Kevin Collins, director of the Red Barn Music School, has launched a petition drive to try and force a third Town Meeting vote on the issue. He posted on his public Facebook this morning that he has "only 148 signatures to go." https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10158371471795545&set=a.10150614132745545.676098.633190544&type=3&theater

Amherst Town Clerk Prepares for Special Calculations After Today’s Election

Although controversy has abounded in the months leading up to today's election in Amherst, which includes a vote on a $67 million school building plan,  Town Clerk Sandra Burgess said this morning that she fully expects ballot-counting will go smoothly. It is of course unknown how many people will vote today, although the school building … Continue reading Amherst Town Clerk Prepares for Special Calculations After Today’s Election

Getting To Know Your Town Meeting Candidates: Putting It Their Way, But Nicely

Sovann‐Malis Loeung Residency: 22 years "I am a Cambodian refugee and Wildwood parent. I am running for Town Meeting because I want to see, be, and have more diverse representation of immigrants in town governance. As a working class renter and parent, I am interested and particularly concerned about school issues and cost of living."

Amherst Public School District Loses $75,600 in Crocker Farm Preschool Funding

"The state is ending the inclusive preschool grant from which we receive $75,000, calling into question our capacity to maintain current levels of preschool programming, let alone add the preschool seats that would be made possible by the building project," Amherst-Pelham Interim School Superintendent Michael Morris, in an Amherst Bulletin column last week.

Race to the Finish in Amherst: Voter Threshold Set for Tuesday’s $67 Million School Construction Referendum

After a plan for a $67 million school building project twice failed to win a 2/3 majority vote from Amherst Town Meeting, a major petition drive was launched which will lead to a townwide referendum. Next Tuesday every registered Amherst voter - not just the 250-odd people on Town Meeting (and some of us are … Continue reading Race to the Finish in Amherst: Voter Threshold Set for Tuesday’s $67 Million School Construction Referendum

In Case the $67 Million Amherst School Building Plan is Voted Down Next Tuesday: Morris Proposes Fort River Site Study

The study would evaluate Fort River's foundation, among other building and site features. "We'd know a whole lot more about Fort River than we know now. We'd know a whole lot more about renovation schemes," Morris said, adding that the study could also help the district address concerns about environmental health and air quality.

On Neighbors, “Sanctuary” Communities, $1.5 Million in Federal Funds, and Homeland Security Calling Amherst “Uncooperative”

  When we first moved to Amherst nearly 11 years ago, we held an "open house" party and invited our nearby neighbors. More than 10 people came. But hands down, the most welcoming family was from the house to our right - an Iraqi immigrant couple with two teenage daughters. The girls had baked us … Continue reading On Neighbors, “Sanctuary” Communities, $1.5 Million in Federal Funds, and Homeland Security Calling Amherst “Uncooperative”

On Central Hubs, Locked Rooms, Ebooks, and the Jones Library’s Future

In this era of e-books being downloaded to hand-held devices, and books ordered by Internet arriving by mail within a day, it is hard to guess what the future holds for any public library, much less Amherst's historic, stone-fronted Jones Library. Will public libraries be mostly virtual, located primarily on servers that allow people to … Continue reading On Central Hubs, Locked Rooms, Ebooks, and the Jones Library’s Future

School Committee Candidates Forum: The Mega-School, Cracks in the Earth’s Crust, and Information That Should Have Come to Light

At last night's candidates forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters, Robert Greeney, who is running for a two-year seat on the School Committee (along with a Select Board seat) took the cake for the most unusual answers to the moderator's questions. He often used metaphors from nature, apparently harkening back to the days … Continue reading School Committee Candidates Forum: The Mega-School, Cracks in the Earth’s Crust, and Information That Should Have Come to Light

Search for New Amherst School Superintendent Halted, Following Legal Foul-Up

At the moment, it seems unlikely that the Amherst Regional Public Schools will have a new superintendent in place by July 1 as was planned. The Amherst Regional and Union 26 School Committees voted unanimously to suspend the current search for a new school superintendent last night,  after discovering that consultants Ray & Associates asked … Continue reading Search for New Amherst School Superintendent Halted, Following Legal Foul-Up

On Bathrooms: Don’t Do This In My Name

As a woman in my 40s who likes to eat out, and enjoys spending time in places that are not home, like public libraries, I have used more than my fair share of public restrooms.  These have run the spectrum from tiny basement cubicles littered with used paper towels, to the grand expanse of the … Continue reading On Bathrooms: Don’t Do This In My Name