NORTH ADAMS -- Mayor Richard J. Alcombright promised his continued commitment to growth and urged residents to keep an open mind.
Alcombright, after being sworn in on Wednesday for his third term as mayor during the 2014 Organization of City Government at City Hall, spoke of challenges facing the city in the next few years as well as the positive changes coming soon.
"Let's not spin our wheels in politics, but rather move steadily ahead through policy," he said.
Roughly 50 people filled the City Council Chambers for the ceremony Wednesday morning, where five City Council members were also sworn in. Eric Buddington, Benjamin Lamb, Kate Merrigan, Joshua Moran and Wayne Wilkinson will serve their first two-year terms, while Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, Jennifer Breen and Nancy Bullett all won re-election in November.
Blackmer was elected as City Council president, a position formerly held by Michael Bloom. Bullett was elected as vice president, formerly held by Blackmer.
Also included in the ceremony was the swearing in of North Adams School Committee and Northern Berkshire Vocational Regional School District members.
Alcombright welcomed the new City Council and stated it is collectively a very strong body.
"Some have expressed concern that the number of new councilors might be problematic," he said. "I fail to see the problems but very specifically focus on the many opportunities."
What the council lacked in municipal experience, he said, was made up for with professional experience in fields such as education, management, law, retail and human services.
He expressed a concern about North Adams Regional Hospital, which announced it will close the Greylock Pavilion this month. The department's inpatient psychiatric services and the pediatric unit will be replaced with outpatient services through its emergency department.
Alcombright acknowledged the hospital's parent organization, Northern Berkshire Healthcare, struggled to maintain services amidst financial difficulties.
"I only ask this community stand by [the hospital], knowing that what they are experiencing financial is very real," he said. "And while very difficult, the decision to reduce services for some may reserve services for most."
Alcombright noted the city must prioritize capital projects related to the city's infrastructure, including a public safety building, Americans with Disability Act improvements, and work at the city's airport.
"My administration with this council will be making very difficult decisions over the several cycles as we prioritize projects and determine the best way to fund them," he said. "The reality is much that we need to do, needs to be done sooner rather than later."
In speaking about the city's budget, Alcombright stressed the importance of growth to strengthen the city financially. The city gained jobs along the Route 8 corridor through Crane's stationary division and retail stores Ocean State Job Lot, Tractor Supply and Walmart, he said.
Future initiatives related to growth include the redevelopment of Heritage State Park into Greylock Market and the renovation of the Mohawk Theater, he said.
Alcombright also said he would do more to expand the city's business base through initiatives such as special tax agreements.
The city remains on the right path despite challenges, he said, noting the Conte School renovation will soon be underway and is scheduled to open in September 2015. In addition, the city is set to unveil it's Vision 2030 Master Plan this Winter, and the Partnership for North Adams will unveil its privately funded Visionary Plan.
"Today, right now, I am confident that we are on the right path and that we have and will continue to see great things happen," Alcombright said.
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