State of the City: North Adams mayor touts planned investments, acknowledges challenges
NORTH ADAMS — In his seventh annual State of the City address, Mayor Richard Alcombright touted millions in planned private investment in North Adams while reflecting on the difficulties it still faces.
In the speech before City Council on Tuesday, Alcombright's positive outlook mirrored the arguments he made for his re-election to a fourth term in office last fall.
"This is a wonderful time to be an elected official in the city of North Adams," Alcombright said. "And while things are far from perfect, I am very pleased to say that we are gaining on it."
Recent proposals for nearly $20 million of development at the former Cariddi Mill, a multi-million dollar renovation of the Redwood Motel and new ownership of the Blackinton Mill, a model railroad and architecture museum at Western Gateway Heritage State Park by Thomas Krens, and the revival of the Hoosic River all were highlighted by Alcombright as having the potential to grow the local economy.
"We have seen more private and public sector investment over the past two years than we have seen in decades," Alcombright said.
Altogether, the mayor estimates that there is about $150 million in public and private investment either planned or in development right now.
But this development will come at a cost. Alcombright predicted that he will be bringing land and tax agreements to city council to support the projects — a special tax agreement for the developer of the Greylock Mill on State Road is already in the works — and "support private investment."
"I am hoping that the council and constituents will see these as opportunities, as I do," Alcombright said, later adding "growth is our savior; we can not wait for growth, we must court it."
Despite the challenges that still face the city, Alcombright said it has made progress. He pointed out that unemployment has dropped from 9.8 percent in 2010 to 6.6 percent today; a $2.3 million budget deficit in 2010 to a balanced budget in 2016; and a growth in reserves from $160,000 in 2010 to $1.5 million today.
Alcombright addressed the closure of North Adams Regional Hospital, but said he "could not be more pleased with the growth and re-establishment of services" brought into the city by Berkshire Health Systems.
Alcombright opened his speech by welcoming new Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts President James "Jamie" Birge to the city. The mayor plans to re-establish communication between the city and college to craft a partnership that could result in a revitalized Mohawk Theater on Main Street.
The speech closed with a plea to the city's youth to become engaged in their community.
"I both invite and challenge our younger folks to get involved in leadership roles, elected and appointed," Alcombright said. "Bottom line: this is your city."
Contact Adam Shanks at 413-496-6376