Around Amherst: Bockelman could form sustainability committee

Staff Writer
Saturday, February 17, 2018

AMHERST — A sustainability committee that would make Amherst more resilient to climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and promoting energy efficiency projects could soon be formed.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman told the Select Board this week that he takes seriously its goal to improve municipal efforts aimed at making the community more green.

“We’ve done a lot, that’s the message here, but I think we can do more,” Bockelman said.

Bockelman said he sees the committee as being an overarching group that will establish objectives as to what needs to be achieved, with smaller subcommittees focused on specific projects.

These actions could include electricity aggregation, addressing solid waste issues and supporting zero-energy buildings, which Town Meeting is mandating with a recently adopted bylaw.

“We need an organized set of goals that we want to reach for,” Bockelman said.

Having the committee can also mean folding in work that is taking place on the University of Massachusetts, Amherst College and Hampshire College campuses, with a “cross-fertilization” of ideas.

Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello said she supports having the committee put in place, observing that her focus is often on town operations and buildings.

“We’re at a point where we need to make a broader, holistic townwide effort,” Ciccarello said.

Legal bills low

A recent report from Bockelman to the Select Board shows that the town had a light litigation load in 2017, with most centered on labor matters.

The most expensive case was $10,421 related to contract negotiations with the Police Patrol Officer’s Union. An arbitrator’s decision is expected Feb. 21.

Another $4,218 was spent connected to Amherst Police League, a case that was resolved when an arbitrator found that the town violated a collective bargaining agreement by not paying overtime for officers who worked to keep the peace in March 2016 for the former “Blarney Blowout” event.

An arbitrator on Feb. 21 will also hear a demand from the Amherst Firefighters Local 1764 related to an issue of working out of grade. That cost $2,040 last year.

Other legal matters that cost over $1,000 include $3,706 for a Hampshire Superior Court case in which a resident was denied the right to house greyhounds by the Zoning Board of Appeals, $2,448 for a lawsuit filed by the United States to collect federal tax liens against two property owners in Amherst, with the town having tax liens on those properties; $2,402 for the town to have intervenor status in the Berkshire Gas long-range forecast and supply plan; and $1,156 for the appeal of a comprehensive permit for the North Square at the Mill District mixed-use project.

Bridge of flowers idea

An Amherst resident wants to spruce up the north end of downtown and mitigate what he sees as the “awfulness” of the area where development of the One East Pleasant mixed-use building is ongoing.

Bill Elsasser of Ann Whalen Apartments informed the Select Board this week that he envisions a bridge of flowers, with this lush aesthetic a counter to the building’s gray appearance.

In 2007, Elssaser spearheaded an effort that raised $1,200, including $300 he donated from a personal trust, to place more than a dozen large flowerpots downtown.

Cuppa Joe with Paul

Bockelman will hold his next Cuppa Joe with Paul event at Share Coffee, 17 Kellogg Ave. Friday from 7:30-9 a.m.

Anyone is welcome to drop by to talk about town affairs, offer compliments, ask questions or bring concerns and complaints.

Charter opponents event

Opponents of the charter will hold “The Rally for Real Democracy in Amherst” from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday at the Harp, 163 Sunderland Road.

Sponsored by Vote No on the Charter, the concert will feature Interplay Jazz Band, The Doug Hewitt Group and Riley Godleski.


WEDNESDAY: Planning Board, 7 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.

THURSDAY: Board of Registrars, 5:30 p.m., town clerk’s office, Town Hall; Zoning Board of Appeals, 6 p.m., Town Room, Town Hall.