Thursday, March 27, 2008

Hear no Evil: Councilors and the Landfill

The Northampton Department of Public Works, backed by Mayor Mary Clare Higgins, wishes to expand the Northampton regional landfill on Glendale Road to add another 21 years to its life. The landfill accepts trash from 44 towns, and is slated to close at the end of 2011. The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has issued a waiver to the city, allowing, for the first time in state history, permission to place a landfill over an underground public water supply--the Barnes Aquifer--which serves Easthampton, Westhampton, Southampton, and Holyoke.

But--the DPW will need a special permit from the city council before the landfill can be expanded. Michael Pill, a land-use lawyer hired to advise the city, says that the council must behave as a "quasi-judicial body" in its deliberations on the landfill permit. Off-the-record communication with constituents must be avoided or made part of the public record, evidence that is not part of the public record should not be considered, and individual councilors are responsible for explaining how they reached their decision.

The Paradise City Forum wishes to hold an open public forum on the subject of the landfill, with a panel of guests that include a hydrogeologist and advocates on both sides of the issue. Traditionally, councilors have been invited and encouraged to attend Paradise City Forum events, and even to co-sponsor them. Can councilors attend a live public forum on the landfill, where useful information may come to light, or should they just stay home?

It depends upon who you ask. Last Sunday I brought veteran activist, blogger, and Paradise City Forum organizer Daryl LaFleur into the studio to shed some light upon these issues of information, democracy, and city government.

Podcast/MP3 link here.
listen on this page using the embedded flash player:

For more info, listen to Kelsey Flynn's ( interview with the mayor on this subject here.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gathering for Nancy Rockland-Miller

Nancy is a great friend, a guitar player, a singer and songwriter, one of the best party hosts around, and just a ton of fun. She was recently hospitalized at Columbia-Presbyterian with an inoperable and rare form of lymphoma. Upon hearing the news, her Northampton friends gathered to keep company for the evening. We all love this woman a lot; if you have any spare good thoughts to send, send them now.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Tours of Water and Sewer Plants

This announcement from the Ward 3 Neighborhood Association recently crossed our desk:

"The Ward Three Neighborhood Association, in cooperation with Ward 3 City Councilor Bob Reckman, has scheduled a public tour of the City's Wastewater Treatment Plant and Flood Control Building on Saturday, March 29 at 10 AM. The plant is located on Hockanum Road. Take the first driveway on the right after you go under the railroad trestle. The tour will be led by Superintendent George Brehm. This facility is well worth seeing, especially the wonderful old flood control building that pumps every year to keep the lowest areas in the City from flooding.

There will be a tour of the City's brand new $24 million Water
Treatment Plant on Saturday, May 3, at 10 AM. This plant was opened in late January and provides the City with water that is carefully filtered and therefore requires far less chlorination. The Water Treatment Plant is located on Mountain St. in Haydenville/Williamsburg. Please take the first driveway on the left once you see the Mountain St. reservoir on your right. This tour will be conducted by Alex Roseweir, the chief operator. Parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged. If you have any questions, please call Councilor Reckman at 413-695-0281."

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The DPW on Water

Northampton Water:
Where Does it Come From,
and Where Does it Go?

Ned Huntley, Head of the Department of Public Works for the City of Northampton, and Dave Sparks, head of the Water Division of the the DPW, answer lots of questions about water filtration ("making water" in the parlance of the profession), delivery, wastewater treatment, and drainage. Why did Northampton have to build a $28 million water filtration plant? How does this plant, which is capable of delivering 6.5 millions of gallons a day, work? Do we have enough water to meet our future needs? How do we protect our supply? Are the delivery pipes in good condition? Is the plant run by City employees, or are we outsourcing its operation?

Is stormwater--a notorious non-point source of pollution to environmental planners--adequately monitored and managed? And wastewater--how exactly is sewerage treated? Does it get dumped into the Connecticut? How clean is it at that point? What do we do with the sludge? Is the entire water delivery and disposal system energy-intensive?

Oh...both Ned Huntley and I want that job where you get to drive around in an orange DPW truck and patrol watershed land in Williamsburg. Too bad; I'll bet he's a bit more qualified than I am.

Watch as a slide show/video, or download the mp3 using the direct link:


Monday, March 10, 2008

Northampton Statuary

This Soldier and this Sailor stand guard outside of Memorial Hall in Northampton. I would like to put together a radio show, or perhaps a series, on 19th Century Downtown Architecture and Monuments. Memorial Hall might make an interesting case study. How were design decisions made, and by whom? What kind of a regulatory structure was in place--how did the public and private realms intersect in the construction of this building? Were there public discussions about the "meaning" of the building in the press? What was the building intended for, originally, and how has its use changed over time? Where did the materials for the building come from, and how were they transported? What is the significance of these two statues? Where were they cast, and by whom?

If anyone has any suggestions for whom I might talk to to get started, please let me know. I'll start by going to the Forbes and speaking with Elise Feeley, and will venture over to Historic Northampton as well. I would like to find somebody knowledgeable and conversant who would be good on the radio. Any Suggestions?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The Local Buzz in Chrysalis Mode--Saulmon Speaks

Greg Saulmon, editor of the Local Buzz, a free newspaper focusing upon politics, civic affairs, and the arts in western Massachusetts, was initially taken aback when his employer, Mass Publishing, an affiliate of the Springfield Republican, announced that the monthly print edition of the Buzz was being discontinued. The Local Buzz Blog would stay as a location on MassLive. Should buzz-meisters Saulmon, Bill Peters, and Josh Thayer be pounding the pavement in their daddies' wingtips? After sleeping on it and suffering the requisite dark night of the soul, Greg realized that he was was actually being granted an amazing opportunity.

When we spoke with Greg Saulmon on March 2, he had already submitted a proposal to the parent company for reinventing the Local Buzz as a cutting-edge, web-based publication. Details? Well, Greg isn't showing his hand right yet. But he suggested that exciting developments are afoot....

That subject being off the table, we proceeded to have a fantastic discussion about the changing face of journalism and what that might mean to the Pioneer Valley. With Bloggers such as The Northamptonist actually walking the beat, attending meetings, and working the community in real time, should the cubicle-based scribes at the dailies be worried? How can collaborative information-gathering deliver niche information to the community--such as, say, the locations of stores that sell live bait for fishing? Do newspapers really need to employ trained reporters to cover "ice cream socials," or can that type of reporting be off-loaded to the greater community, freeing up newsroom resources to cover hard news? Why are certain newspapers having such a hard time understanding that a website can be much, much more than a simple copy-and-paste from the print edition? Can social networking part the "Tofu Curtain" (AKA the Holyoke Range) that separates the upper valley from Holyoke and Springfield?

Well, Extra, Extra; Read All About It. Wanna Meet The Press? Listen in.

Use either these direct links to download or play in quicktime, or use the embedded flash player to listen directly from this webpage.


Sunday, March 2, 2008

You Don't Put a Landfill on Top of an Aquifer

The City of Northampton, Massachusetts is planning to expand its landfill over the recharge area of the Barnes Aquifer, an important source of drinking water for 4 neighboring towns. The existing landfill liner already leaks, polluting nearby Hannum Brook. Bluegrass band Appalachian Still made an appearance at a public forum, and delivered this message to the City Council, the Board of Public Works, and a bevy of consultants--"You don't put a landfill on top of an aquifer."