PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, FRIDAY, JULY 20, 2012) — THE PLANET has obtained a copy of the following e-mail, from Alfred “Alf” Barbalunga, school committee chair, to members of his committee, council-committee liason Kevin Sherman, and Dupere, the committee’s $3,000-a-month law firm. The e-mail is actually the “forward” of a message sent to Barbalunga from Kristen Behnke, school department administrator, who has a purchasing role.

The subject is the controversial pulling of the school department’s lease from a building owned by Phil Massery on Lyman Street. The committee voted not to renew the lease with Massery, getting what it judged to be a far better lease arrangement on North Street, saving taxpayers many thousands of dollars in the process. It looked like Mary Jane and Joe Kapanski, the bedraggled Pittsfield taxpayers, might finally win one. God forbid.

On July 2, THE PLANET had this story:

LEARNING ABOUT DOLLARS — When the city decided to pull the Adult Learning Center out of its long-standing address on Lyman Street in a building owned by Phil Massery, it did so to save some bucks. Massery  charged the city $52,800 a year. The five-year lease at 141 North Street, just across the street from THE PLANET’s home of 25 years in theShipton Building, will cost $45,800 a year — $7,000 a year and a savings of $35,000 over the term of the lease. Not so fast. As reported in The Pittsfield Gazette, councilors who voted for the switch noted “the pact would save the city $21,000 per year when the rent increases hit for the Lyman Street [location].” Woah. If those figures are accurate, that amounts to $105,000 a year in savings. The council approved the move, 7-4. No brainer, with such a steep increase in rent. Opponents argued that prime downtown real estate should be reserved for retail and not for more social services. They got a point, but that was an argument that was needed years ago, before the horses left the barn and downtown Pittsfield got Ad-Lib, the bus station, Juvenile Courts, and other social-service “black holes.”

So the city would save $105,000 over the course of the lease. Great deal, eh?

“Hold on, thar,” yelled an activist judge, who overturned the lease at Massery’s request. Massery had problems with the reqeust-for-proposal process (RFP), as outlined in the memo from Behnke to Barbalunga:

—– 00 —–

Sent: Saturday, July 14, 2012 7:24 PM
Subject: Adult Learning Center lease update from School Business Administrator Behnke
All:I want to update you on the situation with the Adult Learning Center lease.As you know, the School Committee and City Council approved a contract for 5,000 square feet of lease space for the Adult Learning Center with GDL Associates, located at 141 North Street in Pittsfield.  Our former landlord, Mr. Massery, was $21,000 per year more expensive than the proposal offered at 141 North Street but he was unhappy with the outcome of the Request for Proposal (RFP) process.  Any proposer has two remedies if he is dissatisfied: (1) the proposer can protest the RFP process through the Massachusetts State Inspector General’s Office; and (2) the proposer can file a lawsuit through the courts.Mr. Massery first protested the outcome through the Inspector General’s Office.  The IG’s office oversees public procurement in the state and provides training to school business administrators, city procurement agents, and others who are responsible for public procurement.  I am a designated Massachusetts Certified Public Purchasing Official  which means I have taken multiple courses and passed a number of tests in public procurement law.  The IG’s office investigated the bid protest and determined that the Pittsfield Public Schools acted in accordance with the state procurement law, Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 30B.  This determination was actually made twice as the attorney who investigated the first claim went on vacation and Mr. Massery called again, opening a second investigation by a more senior attorney which yielded the same result.Mr. Massery then filed for preliminary injunction through the courts on July 3 to stop Pittsfield Public Schools from contracting with GDL Associates.  At the advice of the city solicitor, Kathy Degnan, I waited for the outcome of the Inspector General’s office investigation in June before executing the contract with GDL Associates.  When both investigations came back positive, I was advised by the city solicitor to proceed with the contract.  By June 29th we had fully enacted the new contract, relocated all books, furniture, equipment, etc. from Mr. Massery’s property at10 Lyman Street to the new space at 141 North Street, and returned the key to Mr. Massery through the city solicitor’s office.The preliminary injunction hearing was held in court today and although we are already in the new space Judge Agostini allowed the preliminary injunction and ordered the lease with GDL Associates to be declared void.  According to the city solicitor Judge Agostini found no fault with the process that was followed but he was “uncomfortable” with the RFP specifications in regards to two areas: ADA compliance and the parking requirement.  In drafting the RFP specifications I used language for parking and ADA compliance that was included in the two previous bids for the Adult Learning Center space which were awarded to Mr. Massery in 2001 and again in 2006.  I learned in June that the city building inspectors enforce Massachusetts Architectural Access Board (AAB) Compliance, not ADA compliance.  As this was a specification included by the city but not a statutory requirement, it was waived for both proposers which is allowed under the law.  The Inspector General’s office was not concerned that we had waived this requirement as they consider AAB compliance to be similar to ADA, and AAB compliance was evaluated as part of the building inspection process.  Judge Agostini stated that he was concerned with this aspect of the RFP specifications because some landlords may not have submitted a proposal as they thought they were not ADA compliant and therefore understood that they were not qualified to bid.The RFP required that the proposed building space be located near available parking for 20 vehicles, including a minimum of two handicap spaces.  According to the city solicitor, Judge Agostini was uncomfortable with the language in this part of the RFP specifications because public parking could possibly be unavailable, on a Third Thursday, for example.  I had informed the city solicitor that we were assured that twenty spaces were available for permit parking in either the McKay or Columbus Street Garages.  Reportedly this argument did not hold sway with the Judge.

It has been a disappointing end to the week but I am making plans to deal with this unexpected outcome.  I spoke briefly with the owner of 141 North Street, Giora Witkowski, to inform him of the situation.  Our next course of legal action through the city solicitor will guide where we go from here, but I am making plans to rebid the lease.  We may win on appeal but it may take months before that concludes, and in the meantime we need to have a place to hold classes in the fall if we have to move out of 141 North Street.  Our plan B at this point is to temporarily relocate to Hibbard School, pending a new lease. Real estate is required to be advertised for at least 30 days in a state publication which next publishes on July 25.  I am already working on revised RFP language taking the Judge’s order into account, but realistically, we are looking at the September 15 to October 1 start date for a new lease due to the 30-day advertising requirement.

I will be checking email periodically while I am away and will keep you informed of any developments.  As it stands now the new RFP will be released on July 25.

Kristen Behnke
School Business Administrator
Pittsfield Public Schools
269 First Street
Pittsfield, MA 01201

Tel: (413)499-9502

Best regards,
  Alfred E. “Alf” Barbalunga
       Gmail account since 2005
—– 00 —–
The memo addresses many points.
(1) The city’s procedures were upheld twice by the IG’s office.
(2) The city’s procedures were under the guidance of a certified public procurement official.
(3) The city solicitor found the procedure lawful.
(4) The contract with the new landlord used the same language for ADA compliance and parking used in the Massery contract.
(5) The IG considers ABA compliance for handicapped equal to or better than ADA.
(6) At least 20 public parking spaces are assured.
It all adds up. Except for whatever reason, Judge Agostini was “uncomfortable” with the arrangement. Perhaps the judge has legitimate concerns. On the other hand, perhaps the judge simply wishes to intervene because he can. Still another possibility: the judge was inclined to favor Massery for reasons other than the facts of the case. All things being equal, THE PLANET will go with the first explanation, that Judge Agostini has gone where the facts have taken him.
We do have this question, though: If Hibbard School will suffice as a temporary Plan B, why wasn’t Hibbard an option in the first place? The city owns Hibbard School. Locating the adult learning center there will come rent-free to taxpayers. There is plenty of parking, and, as far as THE PLANET knows, the building is handicapped accessible. We suggest that as the permanent solution: Keep the center at Hibbard.
We knew the fawning would be sickening sweet for the First Lady‘s upcoming visit to Pittsfield. We knew the bum-kissing would be fast and furious, to coin a phrase. Moreover, we knew the sucking up would reach capital proportions. We didn’t know but suspected the Boring Broadsheet would try to head off the controversy at the pass with another of its “this is really no big deal” approaches.
All of it happened. Thus, the First Lady’s visit to Pittsfield generates the predictable, with an old friend making an appearance.
We didn’t, however, know That Giant Sucking up sound you hear would be this bad. THE PLANET thought there might be a shred of dignity left in some of the worn out hacks who continue to feed off the public trough. C’mon down, Matt Kerwood, a man famously dubbed by the late, great Aging Greek God as “little Eddie Munster” and by THE PLANET as “Kufflinks.”

Kufflinks tells the BB of Michelle Obama’s trip: “I offered any assistance to make sure her trip was pleasurable.” Oh, Lord, won’t you buy me a bottle of ipecac?

Seems that Kufflinks toadied up to the state’s request to have the potholes filled up in Duval‘s “second home” town of Richmond so the First Lady wouldn’t have to worry about bouncing if her limo hit a road dimple.

The Boston Herald broke the story:

Deval Patrick’s office personally asked town officials to dispatch road crews this week to fill potholes near his Berkshires mansion to pave the way for a smooth ride for first lady Michelle Obama when she hits the Bay State for a presidential fundraiser at the governor’s getaway next month.

Richmond Town Administrator Matthew Kerwood said a staffer from the governor’s State House office called this week and asked him to plug potholes on Cone Hill Road, which leads to Patrick’s Sweet P Farm, where he’s hosting a $20,000-a-seat dinner on Aug. 3 with the first lady for the Obama Victory Fund.

“They just mentioned the condition of the road and requested if it could be addressed,” said Kerwood. “I said, ‘OK, we’ll look at it.’ ”

The stretch of road in question apparently lies in neighboring West Stockbridge, and that town’s administrator, Mark Webber, said he got a call from Kerwood yesterday asking if he would repair the road — and “prior to the visit would be nice.”

“It’s on the list, but it wasn’t a priority,” Webber said of repairs he claims will cost only “couple hundred” dollars. “That’s one of those spots we had planned to fix. Now we’ll just fix it a couple weeks sooner.”

Also in Today’s Boston Herald:

Howie Carr: The Princess and the potholes

Both town administrators insisted the West Stockbridge side of Cone Hill Road would be filled in, but a Herald reporter and photographer found the road in good shape. Neighbors said it was resurfaced last month. But nearby roads, including Furnace Road — which leads to the governor’s manse — contained bumps and holes.

Webber and Kerwood insisted the governor’s request was paved with good intentions.

“It’s not a big deal,” said Webber. “A couple of tons of blacktop, a couple of hundred bucks.”

“To me, he’s a resident,” Kerwood said of the governor. “He has the same rights and privileges as anyone else in town.”

Spokespeople for both Patrick’s administrative and campaign staff did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

But some of Patrick’s neighbors rolled their eyes at the effort to ensure Michelle Obama avoids a bumpy Berkshires ride.

“The roads are fine,” said Jim Sacksteder, 67, who lives on Patrick’s street. “I’m sure (Michelle Obama’s) got shock absorbers. It’s unnecessary.”

“They’re like natural speed bumps,” said neighbor Karen Andrews, 55, who worried about tar fumes. “I’m chemically sensitive. … I don’t want it paved. It makes me ill.”

—– 00 —–

Karen, you’re not the only one made ill by what goes on in the name of We The People.







  1. Levitan
    July 20, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    It’s not a big deal,” said Webber. “A couple of tons of blacktop, a couple of hundred bucks.”

    Hmmm, he says a little too much. Can I get my driveway paved for a $100 or 2?

    • Shaniqua Stone
      July 20, 2012 at 8:45 am #

      Dan Todays Boston Herald shows West Stockbridge workers filling POT HOLES not paving the whole St. Big Deal! [REMAINDER OF EMAIL REDACTED, PER WEBMASTER]

      • danvalenti
        July 20, 2012 at 11:02 am #

        Read more carefully. Who said anything about a road being paved?

        • Levitan
          July 20, 2012 at 11:39 am #

          “It’s not a big deal,” said Webber. “A couple of tons of blacktop, a couple of hundred bucks.”

          Why is Webber talking about blacktop when the Eagle refers to holes being filled. Being a dirt road, I’d expect it to be graded. Otherwise, the problem I have is that it appears to be done for the benefit of an exclusive fund-raiser, not to accommodate a distinguished guest to the area.

          Were I Michelle Obama, I’d be rather distressed.

          • Tim
            July 20, 2012 at 11:44 am #

            Except she wont be because everyone in government is part of the problem

  2. tito
    July 20, 2012 at 8:38 am #

    You can’t make it up!

    • danvalenti
      July 20, 2012 at 11:03 am #

      Nope. The truth is always stranger than fiction when it comes to the politics of Beserkshire County.

  3. tito
    July 20, 2012 at 9:01 am #

    Just another bump in the road.

    • skier1
      July 20, 2012 at 3:30 pm #

      just another pothole in the road of life!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Ron Kitterman
    July 20, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    Does this mean the South Street reconstruction will be finished by the Michelle slips into Pittsfield ?

  5. Richard Arnold
    July 20, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    The school is not a good place. It is not being used as a school because it needs so many repairs. You must remember the learning center was on north st year’s ago.Massery is only interested in how much money he can get out of the city and the tax payer then he will act like a civet minded person.

    • K-Man
      July 21, 2012 at 9:05 am #

      It must be good enough to use as plan B for adult learn. ctr, so with some minor repair/upgrade it could be used on a coninuing basis. At least the option should be seriouslty looked into, for the $$ savings.

  6. Hilly Billy 2 in Ward 4
    July 20, 2012 at 10:47 am #

    I have a small suspicion that Mr. Kerwood loved all the attention and seeing his name in print contrary to what he has said…

  7. K-Man
    July 20, 2012 at 11:00 am #

    Kufflinks rides again!

  8. Tim
    July 20, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    While it is a little ridiculous to fill the holes ahead of schedule, crying about tar fumes? Ive heard the phrase “wussification of sports” but this is the wussification of people in general.
    And Hibbard is a mess, place should be condemned.

    • Scott
      July 20, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      I think you could get away with “pussification” on here. That is the term Carlin came up with. “The pussification of America is even on facebook if that’s your thing.

  9. Scott
    July 20, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    “Karen, you’re not the only one made ill by what goes on in the name of We The People.”

    I guess if the 20K a plate dinner didn’t do it then paving the roads did the trick.

  10. dusty
    July 20, 2012 at 11:55 am #

    If you recall Mr Massery was a head cheerleader for the Civic Authority. I can’t think of anyone who promoted it more as the salvation of the city. He wanted to tear down Waconah park. He is a good friend of Gerry Doyle and the shadowy Grunin guy who found himself collecting big bucks on the PEDA board. In fact that whole gang seems to have found cherry ways to earn a living with taxpayer money even after they left the city council.

    So now as a result of this money grab the city will be put through another mess probably at the expense of the taxpayer. there seems no end

    • Scott
      July 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm #

      Maybe if we had a way to cheat fellow tax payers we could have went to the dinner.

  11. K-Man
    July 20, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    MAssery was then a GOB soldier. He has milkled the city at an inflated price for his less than adequate building for the learning center. He cashed in not because of the building, the rent or anything other than his inside connections. I was glad to see the city finally recognize the fleecing and pull out.

    • dusty
      July 20, 2012 at 12:13 pm #

      Are you suggesting that he is no long a GOB soldier? I have never heard of anyone leaving that , uh, grouping of individuals.

      • K-Man
        July 21, 2012 at 9:07 am #

        no, dusty, he still is a loyal GOB How do you think he had that lease for so many years on a run-down building at a rent way too overpriced. He ripped off taxpayers and his GOB friends made it possible. I thin Bianchi was behind ending the massery sweetheart deal

  12. Ed
    July 20, 2012 at 12:19 pm #

    This may be slightly off topic however it illustrates how big government interferes and manages the lives of the common man. My wife and I are retired with only our earned social security retirement as income. I maintain a meager household checking account in a local bank. I also have a very small savings account (low 3 figures) at the same bank. I am set up on online banking. This past month with grandchildren graduating and several family birthdays, we ,on occasions would transfer small amounts ($50 range) from our savings to our checking account for gifts. Today,I was blocked from doing so, because I was one day short of the bank’s statement cycle and this transfer of our money exceeded a federal regulation that allows only six online transfers during a bank’s statement cycle, My mistake, I was one day short of the end of the bank’s statement period and I tried to transfer a massive amount ($70.00) of my money from one small account into another. My punishment ? One years prohibition from using an online transfer. One year!!! If I was a multi million ceo who just skimmed off billions, the feds would have given me a bonus and a bail out.

    • Scott
      July 20, 2012 at 1:52 pm #

      Take all your money and go to another bank.

    • Ray Ovac
      July 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm #

      You say there’s a federal regulation which prohibits exceeding six online transfers during a bank’s statement cycle?
      Can you provide a link to that citation?
      It might simply be a bank policy associated with the specific type of account you have and/or based on the amount you have on deposit.

      • dusty
        July 21, 2012 at 2:27 am #

        I actually got a notice from my bank Greylock to this very affect.

        • Scott
          July 21, 2012 at 10:08 am #

          They’ve sucked as far as the interest of it’s members over the last year. I’ve had to move money around and use lines of credit I have and the tellers in my opinion go beyond their scope of work at times and it takes a lot to communicate what you want done with your money as far as payments and withdraws. I’ve had a few times money go into the wrong accounts because of this. If I had a large interest there I’d leave but I owe more then I’ll ever have in there.

    • K-Man
      July 21, 2012 at 9:08 am #

      Get your money out of there and go elsewhere.

  13. tito
    July 20, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    You Need a T I F…

  14. tito
    July 20, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Send Michele up to Hancock road they need reconstruction asap..

  15. Demitrius T. Gladiator
    July 20, 2012 at 4:00 pm #

    Planet Rocks! First Lady can bump and bounce. Kufflinks kisses her feet. Nice.

    July 20, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

    Your right “you can’t make this stuff up” Towns won’t spent money to fix things for their taxpaying citizens, yet Obama is coming to make money for the worst President ever, and they jump hoops for this visit. Maybe she can take a few of this potheads with her to Washington to waste more taxpayers money.

  17. tito
    July 21, 2012 at 6:10 am #

    Peter Marchetti wins this weeks King of the Swamp’ award, congratulations Peter.

  18. tito
    July 21, 2012 at 6:13 am #

    Previous winner is Dan Valenti for his expo see and photo of Gerry Doyle and Jimmy Ruberto at the Pignatelli Register of Deeds of fundraiser.

    • K-Man
      July 21, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      why did marchetti win?

      • skier1
        July 21, 2012 at 10:34 am #

        Maybe for stating the facts in Patsy Harris being in the 4th of July parade and violating longtime parade policy that candidates running for office cannot be in the parade advertising themselves. She’s the ONLY candidate in years that has violated this policy. Then Harris backers SLAM Mr. Marchetti for stating the FACTS!! So much for integrity.

  19. tito
    July 21, 2012 at 10:33 am #

    @K-Man, same reason Obama was elected, it’s unclear.

  20. Demitrius T. Gladiator
    July 21, 2012 at 6:37 pm #

    I recall other candidates politicizing the Fourth of July parade. Just two years ago one of the candidates, forget which one, did it. Besides, why then should politicians of any kind, especially office holders be allowed in there to march and wave. Ridiculous, MArchetti is GOB shilling for GOB Jody and Scott Pigantelli are the GOB candidates in that order. Ms Harris has bee on the job for more than a dozen years. Dpoing hte job!! Shes got my vote.

  21. Jonathan Melle
    July 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Jimmy Ruberto is a Good Old Boy and he represents the worst in Pittsfield politics. I would not want my picture taken with him if I was running for political office. I would say that if you are a Good Old Boy like Jimmy Ruberto, Carmen Massimiano & Angelo Stracuzzi, then please do NOT vote for me. Then I would win the election because the people are sick and tired of the Good Old Boy network.

  22. Jonathan Melle
    July 21, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    Jimmy Ruberto is a Good Old Boy and he represents the worst in Pittsfield politics. I would not want my picture taken with him if I was running for political office. I would say that if you are a Good Old Boy like Jimmy Ruberto, Carmen Massimiano & Angelo Stracuzzi, then please do NOT vote for me. Then I would win the election because the people are sick and tired of the Good Old Boy network.
    Pittsfield politics forever!

    • dusty
      July 22, 2012 at 6:50 am #

      perhaps they feel they have it in the bag???

      and maybe they do…they may have already seen the vote totals for all we know…it is Pittsfield

  23. chuck garivaltis
    July 22, 2012 at 7:40 am #

    So the statue of Joe Paterno is going to taken down. I wonder if the millions Joe gave to Penn State are going to be returned to Joe’s family? I wonder if the Penn State library that was expanded and improved with Joe’s mult-million dollar donations is going to be torn down?

    • Joe blow
      July 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm #

      A stupid game was more important than children being molested to Paterno.

    • Chet Hunter
      July 22, 2012 at 5:31 pm #

      Good point Sir

  24. Shell Game
    July 22, 2012 at 10:27 am #

    It is fitting that Joe Paterno’s statue come down in light of the horrific events perpetuated by Sandusky, whose deviant behavior was enabled by the upper echelon of administrators, most notably Joe “Pa.” Sandusky used Penn State’s Football program as his own “playground” to entice disenfranchised kids to do his bidding. The statue’s removal is symbolic and will start the long process of healing this University has to endure, because the game of college Football was more important than the lives and mental health of CHILDREN. A library houses the accumulated wisdom of the ages, so, why would the university tear it down because Paterno money is involved? Joe Paterno was a man, who let his loyalty to Sandusky trump his moral obligation to nameless children. This library has books on the subject of Moral Ethics in the 170’s section. Perhaps the new era at Penn State will require all members of the Athletic Department to acquaint themselves to the library material on Moral Ethics. I think Joe Pa would like that.

    • Scott
      July 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      Very good.

    • Demitrius T. Gladiator
      July 22, 2012 at 5:13 pm #

      Sounds like what’s been going on in Pittsfield for 25 years, people in power, leaders in the community, above reproach, preying upon disenfranchised kids.

  25. tito
    July 22, 2012 at 2:24 pm #

    joe pah, potholes and cufflinks, illegal campaign signs, crazy driving, good ol boys yucking it up, meth clinics, journalists in court, jaywalkers, arts and brawls, free I pads over budget… ect ect… Only in Palookaville, miss ya Pete!