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MORE REVELATIONS ABOUT THE DUMPED ‘SWEETHEART’ DEAL BETWEEN CITY AND 1644 EAST ST., SPRINGSIDE NURSING HOME IN DEFAULT, and HILLCREST SCHOOL HAS IT RIGHT ON BULLYING

BY DAN VALENTI

Welcome back from Super Sunday, and greetings from Day 1 of the rest of your week.

Today we present an assortment of news and views culled from confabs with our various spies, agents, confreres, and partners in truth, justice, and The Planetary way. The Planet has a “community newsroom,” with news hounds on the streets and so close to the seats of power with eyes and ears open that, if you know the details, you would evaporate.

More 1644 East St. Land Deal

The property the City of Pittsfield was so hot to buy is, for now, off the table. We hear it will go to the deserving fate of slow death. The owners will have to find some other trusting soul willing to overpay for PCB-infected property. Anything will sale if the price is right. For that property, the right price is $1 and no assumed liability.

Which leads to this not-so-incidental question: Why is the mayor requesting the city council to approve transferring $800,000 in “unexpected borrowed money” (from the council agenda) that would have gone into 1644 East St. to the $3 dollar bill airport project.

1644 EAST: More details emerge on the "mystery meat"

The Planet has learned that owner healthcare mogul Patrick J. Sheehan initially had at least four partners in the property: Tony Mazzeo, Rick Johansen, Don Davis, and Jim Salve. The syndicate spent money on the cleanup due to poisoning from PCBs. According to a former truck driver for GE, the property is “so contaminated that it probably glows in the dark.”

The 1644 LLC syndicate paid 777,000 in September 2007. It had the property listed with Berkshire Country Realty for $1.3 million. Buyers evidently didn’t flock to buy at that price. Then the City of Pittsfield came walking down the turnip path …

Apparently, Sheehan’s partners sold their interests prior to the city looking at a purchase. Mazzeo is brother-in-law of at-large councilor Melissa Mazzeo. It appears that when Mazzeo’s

MAZZEO's" 1644 East a no-go for the restaurant expansion.

husband was looking to expand their restaurant, he looked at 1644 East St. as the site of its catering business. The initial plan was to keep the restaurant at Fourth Street-Brown Street oxbow. One version of the story has it that Mazzeo pulled out when the extent of the pollution was revealed in testing. That’s when the restaurant looked at the former Yellow Aster/Brannigan’s property, Asters.

* Alternate Sites: The Planet had mentioned three alternate sights for a new DPW building: PEDA, the Grossman building, and the current location on West Housatonic Street.  A city hall source with DPW connections noted the city’s objection to each:

PEDA: The city says the DPW operation is too messy (oil, grease, chemicals, sand, salt) to locate at PEDA. The Planet Responds: So if it were that dirty an operation, why would the city want to locate it adjacent to a protected, 75-acre wetland (1644 East) and add to an already probative clean-up cost?

GROSSMAN: The city says the building has two main drawbacks: it’s condemned and the asking price is too high (listed at $285,000). The Planet Responds: The 44,000-sq.ft. site could be cut in half (half demolished, half redeveloped) and could be seized for legal costs through eminent domain.

CURRENT DPW SITE: The city says the West Housy site will not meet management needs once the DPW and Water Department are merged. The Planet Responds: City will pay nothing for property acquisition at this location. If the second floor is fixed, there is room for an executive row. There are also no issues of “messy,” since the site has been in operation for that purpose for decades.

Another Indication Sheehan May Need $$

Springside Nursing Home

According to the Massachusetts Secretary of State’s website, the listing of Patrick J. Sheehan’s corporate interests, as we have seen in earlier posts, is lengthy. Many of the listed limited corporations (LLCs) are in the field of healthcare.

Last week, Sheehan’s Springside nursing home in Pittsfield, along with Quabog nursing home, defaulted on $13 million worth of municipal bonds. According to the Boston Business Journal, the owners of the bonds were not willing renegotiate terms.

This development is hard evidence that Sheehan may be in need of cash, right quick. It would be a possible explanation for his willingness to sell 1644 East St., although it does nothing to explain the city’s eagerness — prior to recent revelations that caused it to back off — to purchase the site. That still remains a most interesting, and fishy, situation. The need for cash might explain the “urgency” early on when this deal was first floated. The Berkshire Eagle, mouthpiece for city hall, came out with a long rah-rah piece on why the city so needed this property.

For more information on the reporting of Springside nursing home, go to:

http://www.bizjournals.com/boston/print-edition/2011/02/04/bond-default-hits-two-rural-mass.html

Cozy Connection Links City Hall, Boring Broadsheet

The city had admitted performing initial testing at 1644 East St. and finding PCBs. The DPW commissioner with a straight face said testing couldn’t be finished because the city ran out of money. That remark slipped by without comment, save for this site.

What does this mean? Does it mean that Pittsfield has defied the state environmental law by not including funding for such testing in its budget? If so, that would put the city in violation of EPA regulations. Is this the case? If so, what: no harm, no foul. Which councilor wants to look into this?

What, you mean the Boring Broadsheet didn’t tell you about any of this? Little wonder, because the Eagle, under publisher Andy Mick and his compliant executive editor Tim Farkas, must puff up and embellish every bit of truth and fiction that comes from the Ruberto Administration about how great everything is in Shire City. Incremental downtown progress, for instance, becomes The Renaissance.

Why, though?

Why would a newspaper, which should be a bastion for independence, sell out so blatantly? Perhaps we should look no further than the Office of Community Development. Does Andy Mick’s wife work for Ruberto appointee Deanna Ruffer? If so, how did she land that job? What does she do? What are her qualifications? Doesn’t that represent a huge conflict of interest for the paper?

Just questions, folks.

Bully for Bullying

Don’t you just love how bullying has become the “flavor of the times,” giving well meaning but clueless adults another reason for hand wringing and avoidance of action that works.

Eagle columnist Ruth Bass, who has been unceremoniously dumped inside on B3 in favor of an absolutely horrid Monday B1 column by a “younger person” (The BBs attempt at relevance? Why else would it give prime B1 real estate to Fluffy the Columnist?), today has a piece worth reading. Bass points out that bullying isn’t new. What’s new is the method, an obvious but underemphasized point. Cyberspace allows bullying to go undetected and unseen.

So, does anyone else need convincing that smart phones should be BANNED from public schools? Too draconian? Too extreme? There’s one Pittsfield school that’s taken this sensible and needed step: Hillcrest Residential Educational Centers.

You can read the story in this link from today’s Boston Herald:

http://www.bostonherald.com/news/regional/view.bg?articleid=1314876

The highlight of the article is this quote from Shaun Cusson, Hillcrest vice president:

“Discipline is missing in schools,” Cusson said. “There should be a tight restraint on cell phones and swift response to bullying. Just talking about this is a huge step.” Banning cell phones — especially smart phones with instant access to Twitter and Facebook — is one idea that could catch on, anti-bullying proponents said.

There’s your answer, Pittsfield and Berkshire County public schools: No (zero, nada) “smart” phones. Discipline won’t be restored, and academics will continue to flounder regardless of how many taxpayer dollars we flush down the educational Kermode, until this step is taken. Now, which “profile in courage” that will run for public office this year want to champion this issue?

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THE PLANET HAS GOTTA GO. UNTIL LATER, LOVE TO ALL.

18 Responses to “MORE REVELATIONS ABOUT THE DUMPED ‘SWEETHEART’ DEAL BETWEEN CITY AND 1644 EAST ST., SPRINGSIDE NURSING HOME IN DEFAULT, and HILLCREST SCHOOL HAS IT RIGHT ON BULLYING”

  1. GMHeller
    February 7, 2011 at 1:51 pm #

    Mr. Valenti, you write:
    “PEDA: The city says the DPW operation is too messy (oil, grease, chemicals, sand, salt) to locate at PEDA. The Planet Responds: So if it were that dirty an operation, why would the city want to locate it adjacent to a protected, 75-acre wetland (1644 East) and add to an already probative clean-up cost?”

    If the City of Pittsfield is running an operation so pollutive, it is likely in violation of state and federal regulations as well as federal OSHA regs.
    Even if exempt as a governmental entity, one would think that after decades of GE’s playing fast and loose with PCB’s that the brainiacs who run the city would make a supreme effort to make sure that its own DPW was cleaning-up after itself and taking precautions with anyting that could pollute.

    • danvalenti
      February 7, 2011 at 1:56 pm #

      There is reason to believe, though it’s not yet definitive, that the city was well aware that it starved its state-mandated budgeting for toxic cleanup. The question is: Does the EPA know this? We have reason to believe, though again it’s not definitive, that the answer is yes. If so, it would mean not only was the city ignoring its responsibility as environmental stewards but the EPA, for whatever reason, is OK with that. By looking the other way, the state EPA would have one more headache of a thing to do.

  2. GMHeller
    February 7, 2011 at 2:03 pm #

    Mr. Valenti, you further write:
    “The Planet has learned that owner healthcare mogul Patrick J. Sheehan initially had at least four partners in the property: Tony Mazzeo, Rick Johansen, Don Davis, and Jim Salve. The syndicate spent money on the cleanup due to poisoning from PCBs. According to a former truck driver for GE, the property is ‘so contaminated that it probably glows in the dark.’”
    It’s doubtful that this syndicate spent much on cleanup other than to make the property cosmetically acceptable.
    A real clean-up of chemical pollution that extensive would require doing the kind of job GE is supposed to be doing on parcels it turns over to PEDA.
    That kind of cleanup would entail getting various permits from the city and local conservation committee, as well as big bucks to accomplish the task.

  3. rick
    February 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    from the beginning this story reeked of collusion with the city and sheehan, and its stinking more each time dan writes about it. shame on roberto and his boys for even trying to stick us with it………………….untill roberto leaves office the counsil should table any thing he asks for. or have lawyers check it really close. untill roberto leaves office we should delegate him to standing on north street and waving at the millions of people comming thru the town…….speaking of lawyers, has roberto,collingwood,lothrup and others with their knowing of that propertys pollution done anything illegal. or at least immoral. dont they swear some kind of oath to the city or is all that just a show……………………………………………

  4. No Reply
    February 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm #

    More great stuff from the website we are more and more knowing to trust.

  5. Liz Arrington
    February 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    I am recent (in the last year) to Pittsfield. So happy to have discovered this website. I’m from the Midwest, from a city that is not governed the way Pittsfield is. Is corruption a Northeast thing? Anyway, we are now regulars on The Planet. With thanks.

    • GMHeller
      February 8, 2011 at 6:20 am #

      Liz Arrington,
      Where you find one-party rule, you find corruption.
      Cases in point: Detroit; New York City; Boston; Pittsfield, Springfield, MA; Worcerster, MA; Albany, NY; the city of Washington, D.C., etc., etc..

  6. Still wondering
    February 8, 2011 at 6:23 am #

    Totally right on that, Glenn.

  7. rick
    February 8, 2011 at 7:08 am #

    800.000k is a drop in the ocean to diamond jim roberto, its the way he rolls…. follow the money trail?????

  8. Mike
    February 8, 2011 at 7:47 am #

    Has AOL offered to buy The Planet yet?

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-aol-huffington-post-20110207,0,3202185.story

  9. San Simeon
    February 8, 2011 at 10:09 am #

    I was particulated drawn to the final item on bullying. Valenti is correct here, as is Hillcrest Educational Centers, to BAN smart phone. Outright ban is the only way public schools are going to get control of its middle schoolers and to a lesser extent high schools. Middle and on down, ban the darn things.

    • GMHeller
      February 8, 2011 at 11:06 am #

      Another good reason to ban ALL types of cell-phones from schools is the danger these phones pose to their users due to RF radiation and the proximity of each phone’s antenna to the brain of the user when in use.
      Think Sen. Ted Kennedy; think columnist Robert Novak, both long-time cell-phone users, both died from relatively rare forms of brain cancer, specifically gliomas, a type of cancer that grows in the part of the brain where radiation emanations from a cell-phone antenna would be most intense.
      If cell-phones can do this to adults, imagine the long-term effects on a young person’s brain which is still growing and developing.

  10. Jim Gleason
    February 8, 2011 at 2:38 pm #

    Dan, watched you on the Krol propaganda hour this AM. Is that guy a one way street or is he not? He won’t admit he was wrong on the garage, still holds out hope for a deal, defended Lothrop for his insane actions in the meeting where the proposal was sent back to the mayor,, defends ruberto for proposing the deal and on and on. I can only hope, along with many in town, that a decent alternative runs in Ward 6 to get him out of office. We need real representatives, not yes men or boys, in office. Thanks for sticking up for the real people of Pittsfield, Dan.

    • danvalenti
      February 8, 2011 at 3:16 pm #

      Thanks, Jimmy.

  11. Dave Martindale
    February 9, 2011 at 6:00 am #

    In reference to PCB and other toxic contamination on the East Street property:

    Environmental law is clear. Poluters are responsible to clean up their mess.

    Prior to any sale, this property like any other property, should have an environmental assessment done to determine if any or to what extent the property is contaminated. The findings of that report should be made public, especially if public funds are intended to be used to purchase the property.

    If an assessment determines that the property is in fact poluted, the city should push GE and the EPA to clean this property of that polution. The fact alone that this property is situated next to the Housatonic River should be enough motivation to get EPA to clean it up in the event it is actually poluted.

    Unfortunately, GE has left behind a toxic leagacy that we do not really know the extent of. I venture that in years to come this same scenario will surface again and again. GE’s careless handling of PCB has left behind a nighmare that we can only guess as to the actual extent. We continue to downplay and cover up the extent that this polution plays on the health of our community.

    If William Stanley Park is actually a safe place to locate a business, then the City of Pittsfield should consider moving the city garage there. If the City operation is as messy as rumored, and the real reason for not relocating to PEDA, they are without doubt in need of cleaning up their operation to comply with the environmental regulations all others are responsible to.

    • danvalenti
      February 9, 2011 at 8:04 am #

      DAVE
      Thanks for your input. You bring up a great point that all should ponder: “Unfortunately, GE has left behind a toxic leagacy that we do not really know the extent of. I venture that in years to come this same scenario will surface again and again. GE’s careless handling of PCB has left behind a nighmare that we can only guess as to the actual extent. We continue to downplay and cover up the extent that this polution plays on the health of our community.”
      Think about this, everyone: The city DOES NOT KNOW the extent of the pollution!! This, apparently, is OK with our politicians?? The Planet will be pushing this as an issue during the upcoming campaign. All candidates are forewarned.

  12. Dave Martindale
    February 9, 2011 at 1:12 pm #

    Dan

    If you also want to push something that I also view as meaningfull, push a comprehensive health study.

    There are hundreds of antidotal stories of health problems in our area that are linked to GE and PCB exposure.

    Until someone pushes the Local, State or Federal Government to do a comprehensive health study, we will never know exactly how living in the midst of a Superfund setting is affecting the health of those that live here.

    Such a health study must take into account the transient nature of our population and the synergistic effect of not only PCB exposure but the other “Nasties” that are always found with PCB.

    Knowledge is power. A comprehensive health study would allow those in the position of making decisions about our health and future, to make informed and intelligent decisions.

    My belief is that those currently in power do not want to know. It seems convenient to buy into the GE company line and downplay the problems.

    • danvalenti
      February 9, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

      DAVE
      Read today’s post. The Planet has begun just such a push. We will need help. The People can force this if We unite. Candidates will HAVE to listen.