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Around Amherst: Town won’t appeal supply plan

  • Amherst Town Hall



Staff Writer
Thursday, July 20, 2017

AMHERST — Amherst is among communities that continue to be affected by the moratorium on new natural gas connections imposed by Berkshire Gas more than two years ago.

But the recent decision by the state’s Department of Public Utilities accepting the company’s long-range supply plan, and not requiring any timeline for ending the moratorium, will not be appealed.

Though the town has intervenor status and the right to appeal, the Select Board this week decided by a 4-0 vote this week to not challenge the decision.

“I don’t think we should be appealing because the prospects for success are so dim,” Town Manager Paul Bockelman said.

The moratorium has prompted developers to turn to propane, such as with the Olympia Place housing project, though on-site storage tanks can be difficult to use at downtown locations.

Economic Development Director Geoffrey Kravitz said the DPU determined the utility is already doing its best to find a solution to the supply issues. Its decision noted that the moratorium is in the best interest of existing customers because it ensures continued reliable service at the lowest cost.

With that reasoning, Kravitz said an appeal probably can’t win. “I don’t think it’s very likely,” Kravitz said.

Board member Andy Steinberg said he would like officials to find out whether the DPU decision was based on a regulation or a statute, and whether it might make sense to speak to legislators to see if there are other avenues for putting more pressure on Berkshire Gas to lift the moratorium.

Fire Department adds staff

Three new firefighter/ paramedics were publicly sworn into their positions before the Select Board this week.

Kendall Hill, Brian Morris and Dylan Tunnell all recently joined the department. Tunnell moved to the area from Atlanta, Morris previously worked for South Hadley Fire District #1 and Hill has experience as a paramedic.

Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson said the three new employees are all highly intelligent, committed to the town and will work hard.

“They’re going to have great careers here,” Nelson said.

Roundabout

The intersection of East Pleasant and Triangle streets will be closed to traffic around the clock as Warner Brothers of Sunderland begins building a long-anticipated roundabout.

Bockelman said the company hired by the town for the project will be doing more intense work, digging up the street and removing the pavement, as it makes an effort to complete the roundabout before the end of August.

The project was delayed, in part, by Comcast and Verizon taking more time than expected to remove overhead wires and move them to below-ground chambers. The work to put utilities below ground is being paid for through the state’s MassWorks Infrastructure Program.

Despite the intersection being closed, the town is working with businesses along Triangle and East Pleasant streets to ensure customers can continue to access them.

Reducing waste

Amherst intends to hire a waste reduction enforcement officer whose salary will be supported with a state grant from the Department of Environmental Protection.

Bockelman said the full-time employee would help residents and businesses comply with various regulations and encourage apartment complexes to support ways of reducing trash and increasing recycling.

“The person would also work with trucking companies to get organics out of the waste stream,” Bockelman said.

The position has been recommended by the Refuse and Recycling Committee and fits in with its zero-waste philosophy.

Previously, Susan Waite had a similar role, before she left in 2015 to work Northampton. Waite spent more than a decade educating Amherst residents and businesses about reducing waste. Her position was in jeopardy as the solid waste enterprise got depleted and the transfer station produced less income for her salary.

Downtown Beats

Kendrick Park will again be the site of free weekly concerts known as Downtown Beats, sponsored by the Amherst Business Improvement District.

The concerts, which start with Mister G and In the Nick of Time on Thursday, will be held each week through Aug. 10 from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

On July 27, the headliner will be Colorway, with Court Etiquette as the opener. On Aug. 3, Mamma’s Marmalade and Old Flame will perform. The season concludes with opening act The Alchemystics and headliner Shokazoba.

Radio station WRSI/93.9 The River assisted the BID in booking the acts.

Several local businesses will also be set up at the park, with Insomnia Cookies providing free treats each week.

“This is a great way for the business community to directly connect with the audiences and get in on the fun,” Ann Tweedy, marketing director for the BID, said in a statement.

In case of rain, the concerts will move to the Pacific Lodge on Main Street.

Meetings

MONDAY: Select Board, 6:30 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

TUESDAY: Dog Park Task Force Funding Subcommittee, 7 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

THURSDAY: Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.