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