Senior Center volunteers log $330,500 in work, new fire escapes coming to Academy of Music

Last modified: Monday, May 12, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — They obviously don’t do it for the money, but just what are those 140 volunteers worth to the Northampton Senior Center each year?

How about $330,494, according to a fake check presented to Mayor David J. Narkewicz at a recent volunteer recognition ceremony by Patricia Shaughnessy, director of the Council on Aging.

Shaughnessy said the agency’s volunteers worked a total of 12,490.47 hours at the Senior Center last year, helping the center in a variety of capacities from answering phones at reception, staffing the gift and coffee shops and teaching programs.

The estimated value of those hours is calculated by using a state formula that says a volunteer in Massachusetts is worth $27.43 per hour.

“We rely on our volunteers a lot,” Shaughnessy said. “We wouldn’t be able to do a lot of what we do or we wouldn’t be able to do it as successfully without them.”

One volunteer stood out for her time in 2013. Resident Mary Lastowski logged 668 hours and 20 minutes last year, or the equivalent of $18,238. She was recognized for her contributions at the May 1 City Council meeting.

“I enjoy volunteering,” Lastowski said. “I hope I make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t know if I do. I think sometimes I get more out of it that I give.”


Academy fire escapes

The city is moving ahead with plans to replace four deteriorating fire escapes on both sides of the Academy of Music Theatre this summer, some 18 months after they were deemed unsafe and underwent emergency repairs.

City crews removed one of the escapes in 2012 and made temporary fixes to the other three, but the original units are not going to hold out much longer, David Pomerantz, director of the city’s Central Services Department, told the City Council at its May 1 meeting. “The building commissioner and our department has been monitoring the status of those repairs and the overall status of the fire escapes,” Pomerantz said. “They need to be removed and replaced.”

The council approved a request to appropriate $117,200 in free cash to pay for part of the $202,200 project, which came in higher than the council’s previous appropriation of $85,000 in fiscal 2012.

Pomerantz said the work on the fire escapes is scheduled to take place in July and August, the same time that the Academy will be shut down for extensive interior renovations.


New assessor joins city

A certified assessor who has worked for three local municipalities in recent years has been hired as assistant assessor, replacing longtime veteran assessor Joseph Cross, who retired this spring.

David Zagorski, an Easthampton resident who currently works as chief assessor for the town of Becket, will replace Cross as Principal Assessor Joan Sarafin’s right-hand man starting next Monday. He will make $46,755 in the next fiscal year, which starts July 1.

In addition to Becket, Zagorski worked for two years as an administrative assistant for the town of Hatfield from 2008 to 2010, and as director of assessments for the town of Granby for a year and a half. He also is an appointed member of the Board of Assessors for Easthampton.

Cross, a lifelong Northampton resident, served as a city assessor for 17 years. Over a career that spanned more than 40 years, he also served as head administrator at the Hampshire County Registry of Deeds from 1971 to 1990, as head administrative assistant at the Hampshire County Probate and Family Court from 1980 to 1990 and as a licensed real estate appraiser from 1990 to 1997.


Water Department among tops in state

The city’s Water Department has been honored with a statewide award for being among the best stewards of a public water supply in the state last year.

The Department of Environmental Protection selected 35 winners — out of 1,733 public water systems — to receive its annual Public Water Systems Awards for “outstanding performance and achievement” in 2013. The Northampton Water Department is one of eight selected in the medium to large community public water system category.

City Engineer James R. Laurila and Water Superintendent Greg Nuttelman accepted the award on behalf of the Department of Public Works at an awards ceremony last week, though department brass said the honor is a reflection of the dedication of the entire Water Department. The department especially acknowledges the efforts of David Sparks, the water superintendent in 2013.

These awards, handed out on the 40th anniversary of the Safe Drinking Water Act and in honor of National Drinking Water Week, are issued to water suppliers that took the initiative to venture above and beyond compliance with the drinking water regulations in 2013.

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David W. Cash said the public water systems honored reached the “top echelon in terms of consistency and foresight in planning for the future.”


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