**EXCLUSIVE** HINES TO LEAVE PEDA, plus, GUEST COLUMNIST TELLS YOU HOW TO COMMIT TO PERFECT $3.1 MILLION ROBBERY. It’s a “FORTUNE”
BY DAN VALENTI
According to sources, William Hines, interim head of the Pittsfield Ecocomic Development Corporationand former founder/CEO of Interprint, has announced his retirement, effective April 29, 2011. Hines announced his intention “to return to retirement mode” at the last PEDA meeting.
Pittsfield-based Interprint, founded by Hines in the mid-80s and now owned and operated by a German company, recently made news — broken at this website — when the EPA fined it $385,000 for operating without proper permits required by the federal Clean Air act and other environmental safeguards. The EPA also ordered Interprint to remove 20 tons of emissions from materials released into the air.
We advance the story by welcoming Nathaniel “Nat” Fortune, a professor at Smith College. Many of our readers will remember Fortune for his impressive candidacy for state auditor in the 2010 election. Fortune ran on the Green-Rainbow Party. His showing won the party “major party” status as it qualified for matching funds. In an exclusive to THE PLANET, Fortune address the Interprint situation.
HOW TO COMMIT A PERFECT 3.1 MILLION HEIST
BY NAT FORTUNE
Step 1: Hand over $3.1 million in state funds + untold amounts in local taxes (and unspecified millions in federal funds for the sewer expansion) to Interprint.
Step 2: Fine them $385 thousand.
Step 3: ask who really paid that fine! And what will they do with the change?
Oh, I forgot, we pretended they used that to add 84 jobs, at a cost of $37,000/job. So now interprint will have to cut 10 – 11 jobs? Or did they never really need the money in the first place, and just took $3.1 million in public funds because we were gullible/complicit/dumb enough to give it to them?
Here’s the math:
* $2.6 million in state tax credits
* $276K + $246K in workforce development grants (as of 2006) =$ 0.522 million and counting unspecified TIF tax breaks from Pittsfield
* 84 additional employees, for a business that had already decided to locate and expand in Pittsfield, according to the founder: “Some of the benefits of a Pittsfield location are the relative low cost of living, the availability of affordable housing, and the quality of life in the Berkshires. Hines believes that towns like Pittsfield might attract spin-off from R&D firms in the Boston Metro area when companies have the desire to move manufacturing components to lower cost areas. Hines chose to expand in Pittsfield because of the need to retain the experienced and trained workforce, the city and state financial incentives, and the high quality of the labor pool.”
Even if you believe the 84 employees wouldn’t have been added without the $3.1 million in state funds + ??? in local tax breaks, that’s at least $37,000 in state grants and credits for each additional employee, plus local tax breaks. And more likely just a $3.1 million robbery of public funds. And this is the “success story.”
THE PLANET thanks Prof. Fortune for his article.
Aren’t you amazed that other than councilors Mike Ward, Kevin Sherman, and Peter White, the other eight councilors have chosen not to reply to this story. Ward gave thanks that we have Clean Air protections in place. Sherman basically chose not to make a judgment. White said that the company has been fined and has accepted the penalty, in effect making amends.
Christine Yon, Paul Captanio, Jonathan Lothrop, John Krol, Joe Nichols, Gerry Lee, and Melissa Mazzeo have not responded to our requests. Neither has Pittsfield Mayor Jimmy Ruberto.
The Berkshire Eagle, the fast-becoming irrelevant Boring Broadsheet, is forced by THE PLANET’s coverage to run a third-day “news” piece on the fine and has not seen fit to follow up with the rest of the story, which consists of the outstanding questions that remain. Some of these include:
* Regarding the public comment period, an interesting question begs to be asked. THE PLANET at this website, with our wits, a computer, and little else, dug up this story. Where was the Berkshire Eagle or any of the other mainstream media outlets? Did they know of the EPA consent decree? If not, why not? If yes, why didn’t they run the story? They know about it now, and yet, three days after the EPA action, there was still not a line of ink in the paper. This is important because the 30-day window on the public comment period was allowed to tick down to 27 days. Essentially, because the local mainstream media didn’t do their jobs, the public got robbed of three days of input. How do we restore that lost time? Who will come to the public’s rescue here?
* Another question: How are we to understand that Interprint, which was sophisticated enough to navigate its way through the maze of regulations when it worked with the city of Pittsfield to apply for generous tax credits to build the new plant, did not know enough to apply for the proper permits from the EPA? How can that be? It knows its business cannot be done without processes that, if left unattended, damage the environment. Was there selective sophistication being practiced by the company, that is, being savvy as super-agent Scott Boras when it came to applying for taxpayer money but dumb as Gomer Pyle when it came to compliance with the federal Clean Air Act and other environmental law?
* As for the state and city, was there proper oversight and monitoring of Interprint’s application for tax credits? Aren’t there safeguards built to guarantee compliance before tax breaks are handed out? Isn’t there an oversight process to assure the public that any company or outfit receiving taxpayer generosity has complied with existing law? That clearly was not done. Why not? Who fell asleep at the wheel? The company? The city? The state? Everybody? Was this an innocent oversight or a deliberate Sgt. Schultz (“I know nothing!”)? What is the liability of the commonwealth and the city of Pittsfield, if any? Who will determine this? In plain English, how could the state and city assist Interprint to break the law in building the new facility on Rt. 41?
* A question of history comes to mind. Prior to Interprint building on the site, the land on Rt. 41 had been use by the Nash steel fabricating company. Filkens Transport, a trucking company, at one point after Nash Steel closed, looked into the property because of its proximity to the Route 90 interstate. They couldn’t get a clean bill of health for the site. THE PLANET doesn’t know the particulars of why, but we do know that steel work requires lots of unsavory chemicals, oils, greases, fluids, and other substances that are not good for the environment. Nash operated in the days when companies could freely dump hazardous waste pretty much anywhere (remember what GE did to Pittsfield). So the question is: How did Interprint get a “certificate of occupancy” of the site? Did they have to clean it up first? Did it satisfy the environmental requirements or not before the first shovel of dirt was turned? If not, why not? Was that, too, done illegally? THE PLANET is careful to state that we don’t know. We are just asking the question.
* In the five years or so that Interprint has been running out of compliance with federal Clean Air requirements and other environmental law, what, if any, pollutants did it release into the environment? Citizens have the right to know. For example, think of the proximity of the Richmond Shores enclave and Camp Russell. What was in the air for five years? What is the company spewing into the environment at this moment? What are residents breathing? Have there been any unusual spikes in asthma, lung ailments, cancer, or any other condition? Again, just a question that need to be answered for people’s peace of mind.
* History again. Back when the EPA issued its consent decree involving General Electric in Pittsfield, Interprint sent a document (#NA-31 on page 94 of the decree) signed by then company chief William Hines. Hines thanks the government for its due diligence and positions Interprint as a steward of the environment, because a clean Berkshires is so important to the region’s economic health. Question: What happened to Interprint’s environmental conscience in the years between 1998 (roughly the time of the GE consent decree) and 2004, when it set about building the new plant? Did it go on vacation in Honduras?
Who will investigate these questions? The Berkshire Eagle. An ad hoc committee of the Pittsfield Council? An executive “white paper” team assembled by Mayor Ruberto?
Yes, and it’s also going to be 80 degrees and sunny in the Berkshires tomorrow.
The point is this: We the People need to DEMAND accountability to those who act in and against our interests. The day of the free ride has to end.