Friday, March 27, 2015

MCLA business student Steve Peltier takes over 44-year Anagnos family business -- Colonial Pizza

Constantine Anagnos, left, and Steve Peltier
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Colonial Pizza -- a 44-year family business has changed hands and the new owner is also a longtime Williamstown resident. 

Constantine and Eleni Anagnos announce they have retired from the Williamstown institution they opened in January 1971. They are pleased to announce that their children: Ted, Sia, and John, as well as all current employees, will remain indefinitely to carry on the tradition under the new operator, long-time family acquaintance and Williamstown resident, Steve Peltier.

"The Anagnos family built this business out of nothing and has run it for 44 years. It literally put food on their table and thousands of other tables," Peltier says. "I am incredibly honored and humbled that they have entrusted me to keep their dream going for at least another 44 years."

The couple traveled from Greece to the U.S. over four decades ago with a handful of cash, two small children, and one on the way. They settled in northern Berkshire County and opened the original Colonial Pizza in the Colonial Shopping Center. After operating in several locations over the years, including many years on Spring Street, they came full circle to the now Colonial Plaza at 234 Main Street (Route 2).

Peltier has worked in the food and beverage/hospitality industry in Williamstown for over 20 years. He holds a BA from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in English / Communications with a concentration in Public Relations and is also a graduate of the Berkshire Enterprises entrepreneurial training program. He is currently a full-time employee at MCLA and is working toward his Master’s degree in Business Administration through MCLA’s Professional MBA program. 

Peltier lives in Williamstown with his daughter Cassie. His son, Sean, now resides in Rhode Island.  He said he was grateful for the opportunity.

"This is a dream come true for me as well and I appreciate the fact that the kids are planning to stay on indefinitely so we can work together to continue the tradition," said Peltier. "I also expect Constantine to visit from time to time, especially since I plan to have Eleni come in and make her family-recipe spanakopita, baklava, meatballs and other items.”

WATCH CONSTANTINE AND STEVE TALK ABOUT THE CHANGE:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

More than 40 Williamstown households interested in community solar project, Nylen says

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Center for Ecological Technology Associate Director Nancy Nylen says more than 40 Williamstown households are interested in possibly becoming co-owners of a "community solar" installation that would allow them to purchase a share of "clean", renewable electricity without having to install equipment on their own property.

Here is Nylen's email today:
Hello and happy Spring!  As the hours of sunlight continue to grow, we are writing to update you on where things are with our Community Solar initiative.

Lots of interest: Approximately 40 households have expressed interest in the project!

How much electricity do we hope to produce?  Thanks to all of you who have forwarded information about your electric usage. To-date we have received information from approximately 25 households. So far it looks like we need about 150 kilowatts of capacity. Please send us your usage if you haven't done that yet.

Where will we build the project(s)? We are working with solar contractors to evaluate a couple potential sites, and are still looking for additional options.  PLEASE let us know if you have any land that might be suitable or if you think your friends/neighbors might be interested in hosting a project. We are also beginning to explore possible parking lot locations -- and the cost of constructing parking canopies that could accommodate solar panels.

Solar bylaw  The Williamstown Planning Board has drafted a solar bylaw that addresses the size and location of ground-mounted solar arrays.  We think this will be a win-win for solar in our community. Let us know if you have any specific questions about the bylaw and we are happy to forward you a copy of the draft.  Residents will vote on the solar bylaw at Town Meeting on Tuesday, May 19th at 7 p.m.

How much will it cost and what are the financial arrangements? We are further refining the numbers (required investment) - and taking next steps to set up an LLC that will be enable us to take advantage of tax benefits. We are also talking with a firm with accounting, solar and tax expertise interested in potentially helping to set up and manage the project long term. Stay tuned...more on that soon.

When will we go on line? Our goal continues to be to break ground in the fall of 2015.

Next steps?  As soon as we have more details about the costs and requirements for participating in a community solar LLC we will be back in touch regarding terms for making a financial commitment to the project.

Thanks so much for your continued interest.  We continue to be encouraged and excited!  And, please let us know if you have any questions.

all best,
Nancy
Charley, Jason, Stephanie and Wendy



Nancy Nylen | Associate Director
Center for EcoTechnology | 413-458-5688 | 413-884-4561 (cell)
www.cetonline.org | Sign up for EcoUpdates!



Friday, March 20, 2015

Jay Walsh launches website to discuss banning styrofoam and plastic bags in Williamstown

Jay Walsh (jaywalsh@usa.net) has written: 
We had a nice showing on Saturday in Williamstown, including our State Representative Gail Cariddi, who supports our efforts and wants to make her entire district polystyrene-free. For the benefit of those who were not able to come, I have made my powerpoint ("Greening Williamstown") available online on a new website:

http://MassGreen.Org

The website is designed not only to help us decide what to do in WIlliamstown, but also to share resources with activists in other communities.  Included on the site are:
  • Information about the environmental and economic problems created by plastic bags and polystyrene
  • Information on vendors of alternative products, including reusable bags and compostable food service materials.
  • Copies of bylaws and ordinances from other municipalities that we might adapt for Williamstown.
As explained in the Powerpoint, and on MassGreen.Org, there are a number of decision points:
  • Should we seek to ban all polystyrene food containers (as Brookline has) or just foam (as Amherst has)?
  • Should we seek to ban single-use plastic bags outright (as other towns in Mass have) or impose a mandatory charge for each bag (as some towns in other states have)?
  • Should we impose a charge for paper bags too (as have many cities in California)?
If you have an opinion on these matters or would like to be involved in drafting the bylaws for Williamstown, please contact Brad Verter -- brad.verter@gmail.com







Thursday, March 19, 2015

BOOK NOTES: "Sustainable Happiness: Live Simply, Live Well, Make a Difference"

UPDATE: Book author in Williamstown on April 2, 2015

THIS IS A NEWS RELEASE PROVIDED BY YES! MAGAZINE

Sustainable Happiness: Live Simply, Live Well, Make a Difference
·         By Sarah van Gelder and the Staff of YES! Magazine
·         Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2015; paperback 168 pages

Sustainable Happiness: Live Simply, Live Well, Make a Difference is not your usual book on happiness. Nor is it a self-help book, although it includes science-based insights about how to achieve happiness in your own life. Its unique contribution is in showing how our own sense of joy and well-being is enhanced via the well being of others and the health of the planet. Through a series of eloquent voices from different parts of the world and various areas of expertise, Sustainable Happiness investigates the links between social equity, ecological health — and our individual happiness.

The book begins with an introduction by YES! Magazine co-founder and editor in chief, Sarah van Gelder, and features a host of notable contributors including Annie Leonard (“Story of Stuff”); restorative justice author and educator Fania Davis; author and biodiversity activist Vandana Shiva; poet Wendell Berry; and empathy researcher Roman Krznaric, among others.

The staff of YES! Magazine has been exploring the meaning of real happiness for close to 20 years. This volume brings together scientific research, in-depth essays and compelling personal stories. And the message it all leads up to? What makes us truly happy are the depth of our relationships, the quality of our communities, the contribution we make through the work we do, and the renewal we receive from a thriving world.

Author and environmentalist Bill McKibben describes it this way, “Somehow a working planet, a thriving society, and a satisfying personal life are hitched together—and this fine volume offers powerful clues on the search for those connections.”

And the Library Journal adds, "This work offers more depth as to why the gentler, simple way is better for everyone." 

About Sarah van Gelder:

Sarah van Gelder edited Sustainable Happiness and wrote an original introduction to the book. Sarah is cofounder and editor-in-chief of YES! Magazine. She writes articles and op-eds for The Guardian, Huffington Post, and American Forum, and speaks nationally on leading-edge innovations that show that another world is not only possible, it is being created today. Sarah is a regular guest on public radio and has also appeared on the PBS NewsHour program, Thom Hartmann’s Big Picture, Democracy Now!, The Laura Flanders Show, and Free Speech TV. In her recent conference appearances and broadcast interviews, Sarah is regularly invited to speak about solutions journalism, including this TEDx talk, “Is There Inspiration in Your Media Diet?” and a popular panel at the National Media Reform Conference, “Making Change: Journalism That Solves Problems.” Sarah also edited and wrote the introduction for the first substantive book on the Occupy movement, This Changes Everything: Occupy Wall Street and the 99% Movement.

About YES! Magazine
YES! Magazine, winner of the 2013 Utne Media Award for General Excellence, reframes the biggest problems of our time in terms of their solutions. Online and in print, YES! outlines a path forward with in-depth analysis, tools for citizen engagement, and stories about real people working for a better world. Project Censored calls YES! “the standard for solutions journalism.” Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman calls YES! a “vital voice of independent journalism.” Treehugger.com named YES! the best green business and politics website of 2011.

About Berrett-Koehler Publishers
Berrett-Koehler Publishers was founded in 1992 by Steve Piersanti in San Francisco, CA. The mission-based publisher believes in “Creating a World That Works for All” and publishes an average of 40 titles per year that reflect that mission in the business, current affairs, and lifestyle categories. Berrett-Koehler Publishers is a Certified B Corporation.

For more information: Susan Gleason, Media & Outreach Manager, Yes! Magazine, 206-931-2613
skype - susan.gleason
twitter - @sgleason, @yesmagazine
 YES! Magazine - www.yesmagazine.org


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

When are we going to access the fiber line that runs right through Williamstown for faster Greylock region internet?

Is the future economic power for the Greylock region buried beneath our past -- fiber optic cable?
Watch President Obama talk about his muncipal broadband initiative: 
Here's some perspective:

He shows on his presidential  iPad that Tokyo and Hong Kong have 1,000 megabitts/second and New YOrk has 500 and San Francisco has 200. 

My standard consumer internet at our house (from Verizon) maxes out at 3 megabits a second. The fast I have ever seen anywhere I've been was at the Clark cafe a couple fo weeks ago -- that was about 50 megabitts/second.   The standard-issue speed that Time Warner sells in this area peaks at about 20 megabitts, and it can be half that or less during the evening when a lot of people are using it. 

So that's have far we have to go.  If Cedar Falls, Iowa, can get 1,000 megabitts, we should be able to in the Greylock Region, shouldn't we?

Years ago, the old MCI Telecommunications (Utlimately MCI became part of either Verizon or ATT, i can't remember which), laid a fiber optic cable all along the Boston & Maine railroad right of way from Boston to Albany -- so it runs right through Williamstown.  If we could accdess that cable, we would have essentially unlimited bandwidth.  That is probably a big challenge economically, becuase to open up the cable and create a "tap" is probably really expensive and we may not have demand to justify it. But the point is that the bandwidth is available -- it's just a matter of cost and will. 

There is tons of "dark fiber" across America -- fiber optic cables for which we are using a fraction of their capacity.  The reason we have crappy Internet speeds is because we have a duopoly of private interests --- the cable and phone companies -- that can ration the capacity and charge as much as they want -- as long as they each follow prices up.  We don't have real competition among the infrastructure owners.  That's why Obama is right that we have to create public, muncipal competition, or we need to regulate the price of Internet connectivity to bring the price down close to their actual cost of providing it. 

If the Internet and a service economy are part of our future, a first priority of Williamstown's economic-development committtee is to push for high-speed broadband so that 21st-century entrepreneurs have the essential tool they need to compete. 

RELATED LINKS:

NPR's coverage of Cedar Falls visit:

White House website background: 

Cable firms object:

Monday, January 12, 2015

North Adams artist Ralph Brill argues for a takeover of the Mohawk Theater by MassMoCA

THE MOHAWK
Guest blog by Ralph Brill 

"Why North Adams needs to urge MassMoCA to take over The Mohawk now and thereby save the city. MassMoCA is located in North Adams, but unfortunatley is not a part of this city."

UPDATE: The Albany Times Union  has done a long piece which addresses this topic. Here's the link.

Mohawk Theater, North Adams
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. -- The Mohawk Theater on Main Street in North Adams, MA opened in November 1938 to great fanfare.  It was designed by Mowll and Rand Architects of Boston.  North Adams had two other theaters – the Richmond and the Paramount.  Thousands of locals were employed at the nearby Sprague Electric Plant (MASS MoCA).  Times were good and looking even better at that moment.

The Mohawk was a 1,200 seat flagship Loew Theater that offered 20-cent movies to full houses.  It was one of the few late Art Deco style theaters still standing in the country in 1991 when it shut its projector and closed its doors.  At that point in time, there was much sadness, as many of the Residents remembered their good times watching movies in The Mohawk.   

The closing of The Mohawk was just another symbol of the pain being suffered as a result of the closing of the Sprague Electric plant and the loss of 3,000 jobs, 4,000 people moved away and the unemployment rate climbed to 14% (twice the 2014 rate) in 1985.   So, in my mind there is an historical connection between MASS MoCA and The Mohawk.   

Former Mayor John Barrett III saw The Mohawk as an important symbol of the Life On Main Street and the hstory Of North Adams.  He convinced the WalMart Corp. to help buy The Mohawk for the city and he was successful in securing around $75,000 in 1999 to restore the theater’s Marquee to its earlier glory.  Engineering studies revealed that the theater building was structurally sound, but that most everything else was in need of replacement.  The City was successful in attracting public funds to restore the Main Street façade and gut the theater’s interior as part of Phase I of a several phase restoration project.  

Since that time, nothing too much has happened:  The Marquee is very visible and offers passing pedestrians and drivers the City’s constantly changing public announcements.  (Maybe the most expensive Non-Income Producing Sign on the East Coast and it is owned by We the Taxpayers!)

On 4 January 2012, Mayor Richard Alcombright gave a Main Street tour to U.S. Representative Richard Neal as he wanted Neal to understand his Plan for connecting MCLA’s Performing Arts Department and its Arts Management Program to The Mohawk with plans for Classrooms and Special Events Downtown.  The Mayor wanted Neal’s support in attracting the necessary Millions to follow up with the restoration plans.

On 29 September 2012, there was a successful one night event at The Mohawk.  On the 75th Anniversary of The Mohawk, “The Spirit of Johnny Cash,” fund raising performance took place to a sold out 600 ticket house.  MASS MoCA produced this event.  Tickets were priced from $75 to $12.  MCLA provided the talent for the opening band and volunteers and the proceeds were split between the Mohawk Theater Restoration Project and the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation.  It was a great day in the recent history of North Adams and for Main Street.

MASS MoCA is only 3-blocks away, but it’s Website had this Note:  This show is at the Mohawk Theater on Main Street in downtown North Adams, not at MASS MoCA.  http://youtu.be/VdUZNULLEtY

In 2012, Mayor Richard Alcombright made several announcements about The Mohawk.  Shortly after the one night concert, the Mayor announced again that he was in continued talks with MCLA about a future collaboration and that he had hired consultants to put together a plan.  That was 2+ years ago!    

Here we are in the beginning of 2015 and nothing has happened to advance Next Step Plans for The Mohawk.  MASS MoCA has abandoned any connections to The Mohawk.  Maybe if Main Street changed its name to MASS MoCA Way, the Museum might sense some connections.  MCLA has pretty much abandoned Main Street except for Gallery 51.  The Mayor has dropped any interest in The Mohawk in favor of The Partnership’s pet project:  Greylock Market - The Flavor-of-the-Month.  A poor choice of projects – at this time - in my opinion, to advance the well-being of North Adams.  

Since no one is advancing any ideas, thoughts, dreams, concepts, etc. regarding the future of The Mohawk, I will offer the following:

JAMES TURRELL AT THE MOHAWK?

James Turrell is a 71-year old light artist who has a background in mathematics, perceptual psychology, spirituality and flying airplanes.  Turrell began to construct projections that produce illusionistic geometric shapes.  Turrell uses natural light, tungsten, fluorescent, fibre-optic, LED, etc. to create his art which can be found in museums and private collections around the world.   In recent years, Turrell has had major exhibitions at the Los Angeles County Museum, Houston’s Museum of Fine Arts and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.  In fact, Turrell’s Aten Reign (2013) at the Guggenheim attracted almost 500,000 Visitors – the museum’s highest exhibition attendance ever.  A major retrospective is now underway at the National Gallery of Australia.  For some of the Turrell exhibits, waivers must be signed due to their mind altering and intense experiences.  MASS MoCA’s Joe Thompson recently announced that he has attracted James Turrell to install immersive environments as part of the Museum’s On Campus Phase III Expansion.
 
The Guggenheim 2013.  © James Turrell
I’m here to suggest to the Commonwealth, City and to the MASS MoCA Board of Directors that they instruct Joe Thompson to focus James Turrell to The Mohawk.  Turrell should be able to create a world-class Light Installation in The Vacant Mohawk to be in place for a period of twenty years.  

This should be Free and Open to the Public at least 12 p.m. and 12 a.m. During the Single Day A Year that MASS MoCA is Free to the Public, The Mohawk might charge 20 cents.  Besides bringing Many Thousands of Visitors to Main Street and the Revitalized Hoosac River, the shops and restaurants will thrive again as they did in the late 1930s.  

These many thousands who might otherwise not visit North Adams or MASS MoCA will now pay the $23 to enter and experience MASS MoCA’s many great offerings, so MASS MoCA will have Many More Thousands of paying visitors in this scheme.  It is a Win/Win situation.  Will they do the Right Thing?  The James Turrell Watertank Exhibition should still take place a few steps away from the Anselm Kiefer Exhibition on the MASS MoCA Gated Campus.  (Check out the free James Turrell: A Retrospective App for your smart phone or device.) 


In the past, there were several debates about the theater and the various seating and stage layouts for The Mohawk, regional competition and how was this new venue going to be managed and by whom?  In this scheme, those issues don’t arise.  The City should require that MASS MoCA produce and manage this space out of the $25.42 Million Grant they received from the Tax Payers of MA.  In 2035, the City’s and MASS MoCA’s relationships to The Mohawk can be revisited.

Main Street, North Adams, 1935 

The reality is that even with MassMoCA's Phase II, 100,000-square-foot expansion, very little economic spillover to Main Street will occur. it is only with a  free Turrell at the Mohawk with late hours that Main Street and the community at large will be positively re-energized economically and psychologically. 

The Greylock Market and MASS MoCA will be owned effectively by investors and managers living in Williamstown.  They aren’t affected by a deserted Main Street.  The North Adams taxpayers are affected by a deserted Main Street and the Mohawk on empty. 

Got a better plan? Let me know.

RALPH BRILL ASSOCIATES
Ralph Brill, President
Box 786
North Adams, MA 01247-0786
800.294 2811
brill.group@verizon.net

13 January 2015

Friday, January 02, 2015

CET associate director Nancy Nylen urges attendance at Jan. 8 meeting about "community solar" in Williamstown

Solar array in field 
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. -- Nancy Nylen, associated director of the Center for Ecological Technology, has issued an email advisory to remind about the Community Solar Meeting set for Thurs.., Jan. 8 at 6:30 p.m. at the Williamstown Youth Center, 66 School Street. 
"Thank you to all of you who responded with your interest, enthusiasm and information about your electric usage," Nylen writes. "The purpose of the meeting next week is to continue the conversation about community solar and discuss next steps in designing a project that meets your needs. Don't worry if you haven't responded, but are interested in learning more.  We are still in the early planning stage - and welcome your interest and your questions and concerns. If you know someone who is interested but didn't attend the first meeting, that's fine too. Please spread the word."
Nylen is at nancy.nylen@cetonline.org (http://www.cetonline.org) where she can be reached at 413-458-5688, or mobile: 413-884-4561.  She is member of the Community Solar Task Force, which includes Wendy Penner, Charley Stevenson, jason McNair and Stephanie Boyd.
Nylen continues asking potential participants to estimate their annual kWh usage.Example:  approximately 500 kWh/month x 12 months = approximately 6,000 kWh per year.  
She continues:
"You can find this information on your electric bill, by adding up the 12 months of usage shown on the Usage History graph. Or, you can call National Grid's customer service line at 1-800-322-3223 and request an Activity Statement with a year's usage.  If you call and get stuck in the automated system - press "0" - and talk to a representative.      
"We anticipate that participants will purchase a number of shares of the Community Solar project to match their electrical usage. We estimate that each share will be equivalent to about 1000 kWh/year, and that your investment will pay for itself in less than 10 years. 
"We are pleased to let you know that a community member came forward after [an earlier]  meeting to offer a potential site - and we are now taking the next steps to review the property, its potential capacity and feasibility for hosting a community solar array.  We continue to explore other locations as well. If you know of a potential site, of an acre or less that has good south-facing exposure, please let us know.”