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Around Amherst: Town to celebrate MLK Day virtually Monday

  • GAZETTE FILE PHOTO GAZETTE FILE PHOTO



Staff Writer
Monday, January 17, 2022

AMHERST — Events to commemorate the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and to celebrate civil rights, are planned for this weekend in Amherst.

But with the region still in the grip of the COVID-19 pandemic, the activities, like they were in 2021, will again go virtual.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Committee of Amherst, which annually has put on a breakfast and awarded scholarships to local high school seniors, is postponing its live and possible in-person celebrations until the spring.

Instead, on Saturday morning it is encouraging people to tune in for a retrospective of King’s life that will be broadcast on Amherst Media. 

Committee member Hala Lord said a virtual moment in February will honor the breakfasts and two of the committee members who died last year, Martha Faison, a long-time school teacher, and James Wyatt, the son of breakfast founder Mary Pittman Wyatt. And sometime in the spring the committee will be hosting a ceremonial moment for the scholarship winners, Lord said.

Monday at 2 p.m. is the virtual community event put on by the Human Rights Commission, with all welcome to join.  

Called “Libation Ceremony, Community Reading, Discussion, and Song,” people can join by phone or laptop at 253-215-8782 or 346-248-7799, with webinar ID 821 9407 2586. Participants can also connect at https://amherstma.zoom.us/j/82194072586.

School visioning workshops

The Amherst Elementary School Educational Visioning Group, made up of administrators, teachers, School Building Committee members, parents and community partners, is holding two educational visioning workshops as planning for a new elementary school continues.

New Vista Design and DiNisco Design are running the virtual sessions, this Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and again Jan. 26 at 6 p.m., that will provide information about the elementary school feasibility study awarded by the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

Each session will include a step-by-step visioning process to discuss Amherst elementary schools’ current and future educational goals and priorities, as well as exploring best practices and possibilities in innovative school facility design.

The design team will go over priorities for the renovated or new building, which will replace Fort River ad Wildwood schools, 21st century learning goals prioritized by the public schools, and a “Strengths, Challenges, Opportunities and Goals,” or SCOG, analysis.

The Zoom meeting can be joined at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86385133436, with the meeting ID 863 8513 3436.

The meetings will be recorded and posted to the Elementary School Building Committee website at https://www.amherst-school-project.com.

New ambulance

One of the first hybrid-powered ambulances in the state is now part of the Amherst Fire Department’s five-vehicle fleet that serves Amherst, Pelham, Leverett, Shutesbury and the college campuses.

The custom Horton ambulance, built on a 2021 Ford 4WD chassis, replaces a 2011 International ambulance and will respond from the Central Fire Station. 

Unlike the town’s other ambulances, it uses an idle mitigation system, manufactured by “ZeroRPM,” that turns off the diesel engine when the vehicle is idling at emergency scenes. Instead, the ambulance uses the battery power system to keep running essential systems, such as the emergency lights and radios.

In addition to reducing emissions, the ambulance, purchased for $300,000, will pay back its initial cost within five years of operation, based on savings for fuel and engine maintenance. 

The idle mitigation system was added for $25,000, covered through a state Department of Energy Resources Green Communities grant that was received through an application made by Sustainability Coordinator Stephanie Ciccarello.   

Community Resources Committee

At-Large Councilor Mandi Jo Hanneke will remain chairwoman of the Community Resources Committee following a 3-2 vote this week.

After being nominated, Hanneke said she would like to maintain the role she has held for two years, coordinating discussion and public input on zoning changes and other matters. District 2 Councilor Pat DeAngelis and District 5 Councilor Shalini Bahl-Milne supported her nomination.

District 4 Councilor Pamela Rooney, who previously served as chairwoman of the Planning Board, was nominated by District 3 Councilor Jennifer Taub to be the committee chairwoman.