Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Governor Came Calling

 Governor Deval Patrick

In what may be his last visit to Amherst as Governor, Deval Patrick spoke to an enthusiastic crowd of 150 gathered at Kendrick Park, representing a cross section of business, education and political leadership in our little college town.

And since he was announcing a state $1.5 million infrastructure improvement grant for the north end of town center, immediately across the street from where he was speaking, the crowd only got more enthusiastic.  The money will fund relocating ugly utility lines underground. 

 Town Mgr Musante, Governor Patrick, Stan Rosenberg

In his speech future president of the Mass Senate and forever resident of the town, Stan Rosenberg called Deval Patrick, "The best governor for public higher education in more than forty years.  Absolutely ... no question about that!"

Kendrick Place will benefit by the $1.5 million state grant, aesthetically speaking 

Third Chances

 Kyle Kielbasa stands before Judge John Payne 12:30 PM today

Judge John Payne did not agree to the prosecution's request to "revoke bail" for Kyle C Kielbasa, arrested on the day of the Blarney Blowout for waiving a handgun around while under the influence of alcohol at the popular Hanger Pub & Grill on University Drive.

On the charges of Driving Under the Influence lodged yesterday after a spectacular accident on Bay Road around 4:40 PM that caused closure of the busy road for the rest of the night, Judge Payne entered a plea of not guilty and continued the case until November 7.

The prosecution pointed out that Mr. Kielbasa was under a "no alcohol" order from the previous incident and that both serious incidents (waiving a gun, crashing a car) indicate that when he drinks he "gets dangerous."

The prosecutor told Judge Payne a 911 caller was following behind Kielbasa and reported him as an erratic operator, and the first police officer on the scene of the wreck reported an "overwhelming smell of alcohol."

His lawyer freely admitted Kielbasa has a problem with alcohol.  He has been going to AA meeting, getting therapy and even had a doctor prescribe medicine that blocks the craving for alcohol.

 Yesterday's accident on Bay Road.  Photo by Michael Seward

But after recent hand surgery the pain medications clashed with the anti-alcohol medicine, so he gave up on the anti-alcohol medicine and started back using alcohol. 

Judge Payne said he would not revoke bail but would, however, "ratchet it up":  Kyle Kielbasa must now report to his probation officer three times per week (with alcohol testing), attend five Alcoholics Anonymous meeting per week, reside with his parents, and maintain an 8:00 PM to 5:00 AM curfew. 

Terminate With Extreme Prejudice

 New sign at Crocker Farm Elementary School

Last night Town Manager John Musante told the Amherst Select Board -- who in addition to being water/sewer and liquor commissioners are also in charge of holding "dog hearings" for dangerous canines -- that the pit bull who attacked two children at Crocker Farm School the 1st day of school has been "euthanized".

The owner never responded to a letter from the Commonwealth giving them seven days to request a dog hearing before the Select Board, thus allowing the board to wash their hands of the mess.

Animal Welfare officer Carol Hepburn could have placed the dog up for adoption but considered it beyond hope of rehabilitation, as in unsafe. 

Since the children had to undergo painful, frightening anti-rabies protocol it's no wonder the owner never came forward to claim the dog.  Not worth the lawsuit from parents I suppose.

And since the owner was irresponsible enough to allow the dog to roam free on a school playground while school was in session, not surprising they were irresponsible enough to allow the dog to be terminated.

Bait & Switch?

Clearly petitioner Vince O'Connor told Amherst Town Meeting that Article #38 was not a vote to increase the Community Preservation Act tax -- I mean "surcharge" -- from 1.5% to 3%. 

It was instead that most cherished of Democratic principals to simply allow the voters of Amherst the God given right to double the tax, err, "surcharge."

But if you read the state "summary" for Question 5 on the November 3 state ballot it clearly gives the impression that Amherst Town Meeting supported the tax increase itself

Kind of like the confusion that takes place every year at Town Meeting when the Finance Committee unanimously supports CPA spending articles.  What they are really supporting is the fact that the appropriation is "an appropriate use of CPA money."  In other words it's not illegal.

But isn't that why we spend $100,000 per year on a Town Attorney?  The Town Attorney does vet Community Preservation Act articles for anything that could be challenged so why do we need the Finance Committee's opinion when they are not legal experts?

Such is the charmed life of all things CPA.

Monday, October 20, 2014

One Car Crash Bay Road

 Live wires!

Amherst Police expect Bay Road to be closed for an "extended period" as Western Mass Electric is dealing with a utility pole snapped in half by an impaired driver who rolled his vehicle into the pole at high speed around 4:40 PM.

Heavy police and FD presence

AFD originally started transport to Cooley Dickinson Hospital but rerouted to Baystate Medical Center in Springfield (25 miles away), which has a critical care unit.

Amherst police have called in Amherst College Police to assist and AFD has toned out for three off duty firefighters to report in for "station coverage."  Belchertown police closed off Bay Road as it enters their town.

 Injured driver being loaded aboard A4, safely staged about 100 yards from scene of the crash

An Amherst police officer is also on board the ambulance  because the driver will be charged with Driving Under the Influence.

Another Unattended Death @ UMass

 At 7:45 PM only two police vehicles were on scene


UPDATE 10:30 AM  NorthWestern District Attorney spokesperson Mary Carey confirms no foul play suspected in last night's unattended death at McNamara Dorm:

 Click to enlarge/read

Original Post midnight last night:

UMPD and State Police are investigating the "unattended death" of a female student at McNamara Dorm in the Sylvan Residential area of UMass that occurred early Sunday night.

The body was first discovered around 7:30 PM. Although AFD was called to the scene, they did not attempt transport to a hospital.

UMPD and the state Crime Prevention And Control (CPAC) unit were on the scene until around midnight.  The family of the deceased was escorted by UMPD to a nearby hotel.

By 9:00 PM another three police vehicles were on scene

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Dance The Night Away

UMass Haigis Mall 10:15 PM Friday

This coming weekend -- and in a "college town" the weekend begins on Thursday -- should be a notable one for our understaffed public safety departments.

 The crowd was exuberant but, fortunately, well behaved

On Friday night UMass PD came very close to calling in the Amherst Police Department for help dealing with a large crowd (700-1,000) of somewhat scantily dressed youth congregated at the Haigis Mall awaiting bus rides to Holyoke for an Electronic Dance Music event, a fundraiser for breast cancer promoted by a local fraternity.

That event was so popular the Fire Marshall shut down entry soon after I took these pictures, and most of the crowd above did not actually board the rented yellow school buses.

 AFD responded to the scene for an over intoxicated student

The UMPD officer in charge told Dispatch to hold off since "APD probably has their hands full about now," and indeed call response at the time was delayed by up to an hour as Amherst police were dealing with the simple routine of weekend in a college town when the weather is still warm.

On Thursday the Mullins Center hosts Skrillex a notable EDM artist, and of course the following weekend is Halloween -- the mother of all excuses to party hardy.

Main ingredients in the making of a not so perfect storm.