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Northampton DPW to plow private ways for one more season

  • <br/>Bridge Street school students  work on painting a Northampton DPW snow plow l as part of an art project in the elementary schools Thursday morning. <br/><br/><br/>
  • Massasoit Ave., a private way in Northampton.<br/><br/>CAROL LOLLIS

Department of Public Works Director Ned Huntley recently told the City Council that his department intends to plow the streets — just like it has done for years — while the Board of Public Works seeks to clear up their status.

The initiative comes after officials discovered that plowing and maintaining private ways with public money is prohibited by state law. Many of the streets were never accepted as public ways for unexplained reasons, and many homeowners only discovered a few months ago that they lived on private ways.

The board has already determined that six of those streets — Massasoit Avenue, Bottums Road, Park Avenue, Meadow Avenue, Taylor Street and a single residence at 7 Water St. — don’t meet the criteria necessary to become public ways, though because the decision came late in the year, those streets will be plowed this year. But homeowners there might want to begin working up a plowing plan for next year.

There is an appeal process. The board’s determination means the streets will stay private unless owners convince the City Council to accept them as public ways through a petition process. Homeowners who live on private ways are responsible for snow plowing and maintenance.

Board members intend to visit another six streets in January, and hope to visit all of the streets by next summer or fall, Huntley said. In some cases, the board will recommended accepting streets as public ways. Homeowners on several streets have already submitted petitions to the council.

•••

New painting in City Hall

The mayor’s office will receive a painting of former Northampton Mayor James Cahillane with President John F. Kennedy at a presentation this afternoon.

The painting was commissioned by James Flavin, the father of Nancy Flavin, a former state representative from Easthampton. He had been an employee of Cahillane Motors.

Mayor David J. Narkewicz said the painting will go up in the main entryway of his office.

“This is a unique, historical photo of a former mayor,” he said. “It’s a cool painting and has an interesting story behind it.”

The 1958 photo that inspired the painting by an unknown artist is in a new book by James F. Cahillane, “The Irish Legacy: A History of the Irish in Western Mass.”

The presentation will be held at 2 p.m. in mayor’s second-floor office in City Hall.

•••

In the black

Turns out a little belt-tightening can go a long way.

Buoyed in part by a spending limit policy implemented by Mayor David J. Narkewicz a year ago, the city announced last week that it has a balance of $2.8 million in “free cash.” This represents a $1.7 million increase from the city’s free cash balance last fiscal year.

Free cash is unrestricted funds left over from the previous year. The money is used for a variety of things, including to offset overruns in snow and ice removal and services for veterans. As recently as fiscal 2009, the fund had a mere 16 cents in it.

A majority of the recent increase, about $1.1 million, came from city departments who “turned back” unspent money in fiscal 2012. That’s $484,000 more than was turned back in fiscal 2011.

The remaining balance includes one-time revenues from premiums generated from the $20 million bond for the new police station, fund closures, higher than estimated local receipts such as meals and hotel taxes and unused free cash from last fiscal year. Narkewicz said in a statement that his administration’s strategy of building a budget without the use of reserves is yielding success, though he said the city’s reserves remain low relative to the size of the budget.

•••

Police digs open house

If you’ve been curious what the city’s new police station looks like inside, you’re in luck.

The Police Department will open its doors for three hours Saturday to give residents a first-hand look — without the handcuffs, of course — at what their tax dollars bought.

The grand opening celebration is scheduled for 11 a.m. at the station, 29 Center St., followed by an open house and tours until 2 p.m.

•••

Holiday hours

The city’s landfill on Glendale Road and recycling center on Locust Street will open from 7 a.m. to noon on Christmas Eve.

The Department of Public Works typically keeps its recycling centers open for a half-day on Dec. 24 and closed on six major holidays including Christmas and New Year’s Day.

City offices, meanwhile, will be closed Monday and Tuesday for the Christmas holiday.

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