Wednesday July 18, 2012

When you've decided to step down after four decades of keeping the peace, a party seems in order.

That's why town officials in Sheffield are hosting a party to celebrate retiring Police Chief James M. McGarry. The party will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 29, at the Sheffield Town Park on Frederick Lane. Snacks and drinks will be available.

"It's not very often you have a chief in a town for 40-some years," said Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard. "I'm sure he's helped and served a lot of people, so if they want to come out and say thanks, I think that would be a great thing."

McGarry, believed to be the longest tenured police chief in the state, is retiring at the end of the month after 41 years as chief and 45 years with the department. He's a popular figure in town, having been granted a special exemption by voters in 2010 to stay in his post past the state-mandated retirement age.

The overwhelming approval at the special town meeting allowed McGarry to stay on until 2015, but the outgoing chief is following through on his statement to voters that night by opting to retire at 67.

Cash for your donation? What's shaping up to be one of the worst-kept secrets in town, Berkshire Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. and Berkshire Money Management have teamed up for its "Paws for Dignity" fundraiser to benefit the organization dedicated to humanely reducing the population of feral cats in the community.

The rumor is that Berkshire Money Management's president, Allen Harris, will literally be handing out large cash bills to those who donate to Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. at its office at 441 North St. during Third Thursday this week. Harris has been known for unconventional publicity stunts in the past, and his unorthodox style is only matched by the passion he and his wife, Stacey, have for animals who are down on their luck. Their advocacy for basset hounds and investments in the Sonsini Animal Shelter have been well documented.

As for the fundraiser for Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. at Third Thursday, the official word keeps the secret twist, "good karma" incentive under wraps.

"You'll just have to donate to find out what we have in store," said Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. founder and director Yvonne Borsody.

The Paws for Dignity campaign will raise funds for the operations of Animal D.R.E.A.M.S., which includes the cost of neutering and other health care services, operations of the headquarters, specialized equipment and more. In addition to striving to stabilize the feral cat population, Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. works through advocacy, education and action to raise awareness and activism among citizens, animal care professionals, local government and the business community.

While many of the cats that are trapped, neutered and stabilized are returned to the community, some felines are appropriate for adoption.

To learn more about the organization, contact Animal D.R.E.A.M.S. at (413) 997-2287 or stop in at the headquarters from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays at 441 North St.

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Chickens cooperate to fight hunger: Forty chickens in Pittsfield are helping to stem hunger in the Berkshires. Housed at Brattle Farm on Williams Street and managed by Unitarian Universalist Church of Pittsfield, the hens are currently churning out about 16 dozen eggs a week. The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts distributes the nutritional foodstuffs to local food pantries and meal sites.

Project coordinator Eddie O'Toole, who helped the church secure a $16,000 grant to work on food security in the Berkshires, was inspired to create the coop when he learned that pantries and meal sites are always clamoring for perishable proteins like eggs.

The chickens, which are free range and eat organic feed, live in an old plumber's trailer that the church converted into a coop and painted green.

"They're producing eggs like crazy," O'Toole said. "When we're up at full-fledge, the chickens should be doing 20 dozen a week."

The project, dubbed "UUGS and Eggs," also includes the Unitarian Universalist Garden School (UUGS), which consists of several sites around Pittsfield that cultivate produce for food pantries and teach people how to garden.

Anyone interested in getting involved can contact Eddie O'Toole at eddie56@gmail.com or (413) 645-2003.

What's in a place name? Plenty, according to Stock bridge author and local historian Carole Owens, who takes great umbrage at the designation of Lenox as the home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra's Tanglewood summer festival.

She points out that maps, as well as the original property deed that turned over the former Tappan estate to the BSO, clearly define most of the site as being in Stockbridge, including the Shed and Ozawa Hall.

But, for many decades, The Eagle, all other media and the BSO itself have placed Tanglewood in Lenox.

Does that bother Nancy Fitzpatrick, prominent Stockbridgian and owner of the Red Lion Inn and Country Curtains?

No, she told County Fare over the weekend, but acknowledged "it would be nice to mention Stockbridge in long articles" about the summer festival.

The BSO has come up with a solution in its brochures and other publicity materials. It refers to Tanglewood as located "between Lenox and Stockbridge." A novel approach, befitting what many concertgoers experience as a state of mind, and ideally, a state of bliss when they spend a few hours at the bucolic campus overlooking, yes, Stockbridge Bowl.

Town meeting could take center stage: If the marquee of the Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center reads "Town Meeting" next May, it won't be because there's a new one-act play recreating the unique, small-town New England tradition.

The Great Barrington Select Board is considering moving the annual town meeting from Monument Mountain Regional High School to the Castle Street theater as a means to curb the tide of declining participation.

Selectman Andrew Blech man said it would be a unique and convenient setting.

"Nobody can walk to school, but some people can definitely walk downtown," said Blechman.

Blechman said he had talked representatives from the Mahaiwe who would be amenable to hosting the session for a nominal fee.

Not everyone is sold on the move. Selectman Stephen Bannon said there is a lack of parking downtown, which could dissuade seniors who make up the majority of meeting attendees. He also said he disagrees with Blechman, noting that he doesn't believe "hundreds of people are going to walk down the hill like lemmings to this meeting."

At the annual town meeting in May, 251, or 8.15 percent, of the town's 4,305 registered voters attended. That was down slightly from the two previous years. The Mahaiwe sits 690 patrons, a number town meeting hasn't hit in some time.

The Select Board is looking at a variety of options to attract more people to the meeting, including changing the night, holding it on two nights and doing more to advertise child care.

Moderator Edward McCor mick was invited to share his thoughts on the possible changes. He called the idea of a two-night session "disastrous" and said moving it from Monday would be a mistake.

Though McCormick had concerns about parking, he was generally supportive of the Mahaiwe move.

"It would be a great venue to do it," said McCormick.

Sean Stanton, board chairman, asked Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell to look further into the possibility of relocating the meeting and the associated cost. The matter will be addressed again at a future meeting.

Camp Taconic lending a hand: Thirty campers from Camp Taconic in Hinsdale are volunteering this week with the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, assisting in the construction of a new home located at 47 Prospect St. in Pittsfield, as well as leading a community development effort to restore Dorothy Amos Park.

The campers, along with their counselors and area residents, also are assisting the Berkshire Environmental Action Team (BEAT) and the Housatonic Valley Association in the cleanup of a portion of the west branch of the Housatonic River, between Linden and Taylor streets, with the vision of creating easy access to the Housatonic from the west side of the city.

The river cleanup efforts is a part of the West Side Neigh bor hood Revitalization Initiative.

Anyone interested in contributing to the mission of the Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity through financial support or volunteer efforts is encouraged to call their office at (413) 442-3181.

Those interested in the Housatonic River cleanup can contact Jane Winn of the Berkshire Environ mental Action Team at (413) 230-7321 or jane@thebeatnews.org.

County Fare, a weekly column featuring "tales from throughout the Berkshires," is compiled by Eagle staffers. Visit the County Fare blog at www.berkshireeagleblogs.com/countyfare.