Around Amherst: Subdued inauguration planned for Monday

Staff Writer
Monday, January 03, 2022

AMHERST — Members of Amherst’s second Town Council will be sworn into office at a brief in-person ceremony Monday evening.

While the oath of office and the special meeting will be at Town Hall, public access will only be virtual due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Town Manager Paul Bockelman said a limited number of guests have been invited by councilors.

Six new councilors, Ana Devlin Gauthier, Anika Lopes, Michele Miller, Pamela Rooney, Jennifer Taub and Ellisha Walker, are joining seven returning councilors on the 13-member panel.

The event will be far different from the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration in December 2018, when an afternoon ceremony was held in the Amherst Regional High School auditorium and included music, speeches and a community reception.

Members of the public will have access to the meeting via Zoom, phone and Amherst Media broadcast.

During the meeting, there will be no public comment and most business will be related to internal policies, including electing a president and vice president to serve until Jan. 9, 2023, adopting council rules of procedure, appointments of councilors to committees and the future meeting schedule and format.

Athena O’Keeffe, clerk to the council, recommends in a memo that the council either retain the remote meetings through April 1, when the state’s special legislation allowing remote meetings expires, or to meet in person with continued virtual public access.

Fire chief’s new role

Amherst Fire Chief Walter “Tim” Nelson is the new commander of the Massachusetts Wing, succeeding Col. John S. Flaherty.

Nelson, also a colonel, has been a member of the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the United States Air Force, since joining the Westover Composite Squadron in September 1991. Previously he served as the wing’s director of safety, and has been director of operations since November 2013.

Nelson is a senior incident commander, a command pilot with more than 6,000 flight hours, a mission pilot, a mission check pilot and a cadet orientation pilot. For three years, he was a mission pilot providing escorts for MQ-9 Reapers from Syracuse, New York, to the Fort Drum training area, receiving the tactical call sign “Sade” from the New York Air National Guard’s 108th Attack Squadron. He flew 56 weeks during that mission.

Sunderland farm grant

Thomas Farm in Sunderland will add fences to their fields so they can rotate pasture and control parasites in the goat herd.

The farm recently got a grant from the Massachusetts Farm Bureau Agricultural Preservation Foundation, using a bequest from the late John and Liolia Schipper.

It was one of three grants awarded statewide to assist farmers in becoming more economically viable and sustainable.

Massachusetts Farm Bureau Federation President Warren Shaw said the grants help farms overcome the high cost of production. “These grants allow our organization to assist farmers in their creative projects to diversify their on-farm income,” Shaw said.

Grant to measure snowpack

A multi-institutional team led by University of Massachusetts professor Paul Siqueira is receiving a three-year, $4.5 million contract from NASA to create a device that will calculate the depth and density of the snowpack in North America.

Siqueira, a professor of electrical and computer engineering, is developing the airborne microwave sensing instrument.

As co-director of the Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory, Siqueira will join Russell Tessier, its associate dean, and colleagues at the University of Michigan, Boise State University, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Capella Space satellite maker to create the instrument called the Snow Water-equivalent Wide Swath Interferometer and Scatterometer, or SNOWWI.

Meetings, all virtual

MONDAY: Public Art Commission, 4 p.m., and Town Council, 6:30 p.m.

WEDNESDAY: Elementary School Building Committee, 8 a.m.