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SPRINGSIDE HOUSE: HAUNTED BY THE PAST’S PRESTIGE, HAUNTED BY THE PRESENT’S POLITICS

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BY DAN VALENTI

PLANET VALENTI NEWS AND COMMENTARY

First of Two Parts

(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, TUESDAY, OCT. 20, 2015) — It sits on a hill. It’s haunted.

The ghosts inhabit vaults containing the surviving fraction of the past’s clutter — a sign from 1958 advertising dog-sled racing on Pontoosuc Lake; a target with arrow holes bearing the torture of their lost equilibrium; forlorn ice-fishing tip-ups, whose tattered, red flags are long past tipping. The ghosts are restless and lonely.

A Lengthy Past, Long Past Today

THE PLANET has a long history with the Springside House. We were driven there in various classics — a ’55 blue Pontiac, a ’58 candy-stripe Ford Fairlane, an alabaster ’60 Catalina Safari, a ’64 Tempest — to sign up for city-sponsored tournaments, lessons, outings, and teams. We remember the rooms teeming with kids and parents waiting to enroll in activities loaded with the perfect hope of youth. Today, those same floors bear the dull, indiscriminate dust that forms the simulacrum of all life’s neglected.

In 1970, THE PLANET got a job at the Springside House, hired at $5 a game as Official Scorer of the Pittsfield Babe Ruth League. In ’74, we received a park directorship for the summer: Dewey, a tucked  green blossom on the city’s poor and turgid West Side. That summer Nixon resigned, and THE PLANET was ceremoniously made an “honorary black.”

Last week, we reported on doings at the Springside House, whose upkeep has blossomed into a full-blown campaign issue. A longtime advocate of the Springside House, Joe Durwin, took issue with our information on Mayor Dan Bianchi’s stewardship of the house, specifically, the use of inmates from the county jail.

Point and Counterpoint: The Poor House Gets Caught In Politics

Durwin wrote:

Hi Dan- please direct me to the “facts” you referenced that demonstrate that Mayor Bianchi’s statement was accurate, or how mine was not.  The power washing was NOT performed by inmates.  We *spoke*  to the workers who did the work.  We were again told this by Peter Sondrini in the presence of Jim McGrath and the ward 1 councilor. … Your claim that the online posting came in any way in coordination with Linda Tyer’s campaign, and let me state this unequivocally, is pure conjectural fantasy.  The only persons privy to that statement prior to it being posted for mass viewing was by other Springside committee members. … My independent statement as a longtime advocate of Springside is completely factual to the very best of my knowledge, and you have not put forth one single piece of actual evidence that disproves any part of it.

——– 000 ——–

THE PLANET thanked Durwin for “the clarification.” Our sources included staffers at the sheriff’s department. City Hall sources verified the factual content. We then credited Durwin for his “activism.”

Durwin replied:

Fair enough.  In my opinion there is a fair amount of CYA going on between the Mayor and Sheriff’s dept to cover his misstatement.

As I understand it, those inmates did receive the training Bianchi states, as I acknowledged, and that their *plan* was to bring them in to do work there after the maintenance department did the power washing (which by the way is explicitly a no-no outlined in the restoration plan) but this did not occur.  No concrete reason for why was provided to the SPC or councilor Tully on subsequent questioning- I imagine it had to do with the fact that the work they were doing was not in communicatio[n]  with MHC and therefore violated the preservation restriction on the house and was probably stopped.  In any case, the mayor’s entire commentary revolved around the point that this initiative of inmates working on the house was his continued diligence on the project- and this never occurred. …

Candidate: ‘Bianchi Had No Idea What Was Going On’

Kathy Lloyd, who is challenging incumbent Tony Simonelli for a Ward 7 council seat, shared her Springside House perspective with THE PLANET:

I am a member of the Springside park conservancy team. We have helped to write a sensible master plan for the entire park. The plan and all of its projects can be done one at a time over years so that the associated costs are easier to write grants for and get funded.Sheriff Bowler paid to have the inmates certified but they did not work on the house. The building and maintenance dept had few days left on a rented lift and in an effort (though misguided) to be proactive they power washed the building. Paint chips were collected with tarps and properly disposed of. The job was approved by the dept of labor and standards.I watched the debate and was amused at how out of touch Bianchi seemed with all the we’s and they’s. He clearly had no idea what was going on with the house or the power washing that happened this summer. Which is fine if you’ve got people managing the job, but what he said wasn’t true. I know because I was in the meetings, I was the one who called Mass Historical Commission to figure out how to save the house once it had been power washed, and I did the footwork (along with a couple of others) to work on a plan for remediation.
Spending tax dollars is a big deal. The plan for the Springside house would make it a revenue generating venue. Is it going to pay for itself right away? No. But it may pay for its upkeep which it’s definitely not doing now. Much of the money is coming from grants, which helps ease the financial blow.

 

In the end, Pittsfield will have to decide what it wants to do about a deteriorating Hill House and an under maintained and utilized park. THE PLANET says, “Bring it back. Find a way.”

———————————————————————————————————–

“Islands in the stream. That is what we are. No one in between. How can we be wrong? Sail away with me to another world.”The Bee Gees, “Islands in the Stream,” (1984).

“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”

LOVE TO ALL.

The views expressed in any comment section are not those of PLANET VALENTI or endorsed in any way by PLANET VALENTI; this website reserves the right to remove any comment which violates its Rules of Conduct, and it is not liable for the consequences of any posted comment as provided in Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act and PLANET VALENTI’s terms of service.


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Corey Ives
Corey Ives
5 years ago

Ward 1 radio interviews on WBEC 1420am ….live at 11:30am

If you have any other questions for Tammy regarding her thoughts on ward 1 or citywide…

Email her at tammyives1@gmail.com or find her on facebook @ Tammy Ives Ward1

Ron Kitterman
Ron Kitterman
5 years ago

Can’t be a whole lot of de-leading left is there ? About time to slap some primmer on there isn’t it.
“There is no limit to the amount of good you can do if you don’t care who gets the credit.” ― Ronald Reagan

acheshirecat
acheshirecat
5 years ago

The bushes near the road need to go. You can’t even see the house from the road. Out of sight, out of mind.

Also, I was 11 in 1974 and went to Dewey Park everyday. Lots of whiffle ball, baseball, volley ball and caroms. I remember the day you became an honorary brother. That was out of love and respect. In retrospect race was insignificant, we were all just kids who loved going to “the park”.

acheshirecat
acheshirecat
Reply to  danvalenti
5 years ago

Tommy and Keith Dowdell. Keith was the man. He joined the army when he turned 18. Sadly he was killed when the transport plane he was in went down in the mountains of Turkey. Two days before he was in Dewey park playing football on Thanksgiving day in one of the last “Turkey Bowls” and last get together before we all went out into the world.

Kathy Lloyd
Kathy Lloyd
Reply to  acheshirecat
5 years ago

I think so too. They also kinda say “keep out!”

dusty
dusty
5 years ago

According to yesterdays paper DA Capeless stated that the gun found at Herberg was “fully loaded” and that he was dismayed that the mayor would release incorrect information to the public.

Two interesting thoughts come to mind.

1. Why did the mayor release false information?

2. Since these high level politicians usually do not rag on each other who is Capeless backing for mayor?

Thomas More
Thomas More
Reply to  dusty
5 years ago

According to todays paper Stockbridge is infested with crime. This will never be reported by the Planet but I suggest if you have need to go to Gt. Barrington take Rt. 41.

spagirl
spagirl
Reply to  dusty
5 years ago

How quickly the Mayor and Acting Police Chief squirm, and point the finger at Sabourin. She said I released the statement, but didn’t write it. This is the bottom line of Pittsfield’s lack of Leadership. It is an atrocity the Salaries we are paying in this Administration.

Sean
Sean
Reply to  danvalenti
5 years ago

Dan

The most striking comment supposedly made by the mayor was (paraphrasing): “He doesen’t see much difference between a loaded gun and an unloaded gun with a clip nearby that could be easily loaded”.

Why he would say something like this (if he did) is totally bizarre.

dusty
dusty
Reply to  Sean
5 years ago

He is the same guy that said there is no difference between an acting police chief and a permanent one.

Shakes His Head
Shakes His Head
5 years ago

Jim McGrath, in my opinion, is the City’s most prized asset in their executive team.

Pittsfield is blessed with a crown of parks, and Springside is the jewel. There are fewer and fewer people to support and use the diverse and sprawling network of parks in Pittsfield.

dusty
dusty
Reply to  Shakes His Head
5 years ago

When I used to go to the parks in the early sixties each park had two directors. And they would not only supervise activities but teach the kids how to play checkers, soft ball, volleyball and many other games. There were also regular life guards at both Pontusuc and Onota lake. Not sure exactly what happened but I think it was a money issue. But now the city budget is well over a hundred million MORE dollars (that is correct) and I don’t think the parks offer anything near that supervision or concern for the children. It almost seems like the city only cares about “the children” when they need them as leverage for their pork barreled school budget. And most of that goes to people who are not children.

Paul
Paul
Reply to  dusty
5 years ago

Dusty, I remember the same thing about the parks and agee with you about using the children for leverage with the budget.

Kathy Lloyd
Kathy Lloyd
Reply to  Shakes His Head
5 years ago

Jim is consistently one of the most intelligent, hard working, knowledgeable city guys out there. I always get a follow up, a response, an intelligible explanation from him. Even if it’s not the answer I was hoping for. He’s a keeper for sure 🙂

Alz Heimer
Alz Heimer
5 years ago

Ah yes, the Springside House. I remember it well. It is indeed haunted. Staying there even one night, no man’s heart could withstand. The ghosts who occupy that house are capable of stricking great terror in anyone who visits.

The house has a history of being worked on by inmates. The criminal mind is drawn to the Springside House. Bianchi being confused about what took place there is a demonstration of what lurks in those walls.

The evils that exist there also have a rich history of striking politians. Evan Dobelle, Charlie Smith denying the people the mall, tearing down the train station by the city council, the Monteroso deal, even the resignation of President Nixon, can all be connected to the evil spirits that occupy that house.

Those bushes concealing people’s view of the house, serve as a protection for those who might get infected just looking at that house.

MrG8811
MrG8811
5 years ago

Two false, and some cynics would say purposely false and misleading, statements from the mayor in a week. His excuse? Someone else wrote the press releases?!? It is either blatant fraud and lying…or complete disconnection from reality. Take your choice. Neither is good for a politician trying to get re-elected! When I was in 7th grade, I was called into the headmaster’s office for tossing a football in an area of the school, outside classrooms, where such activity was forbidden. Joe Finn (notoriously none too bright) and I faced the intimidating old man behind the desk who looked at me and said, “there are only two reasons why you would be blatantly disregarding the rules; disobedience or stupidity. Which was it?” To which I sheepishly replied, ” disobedience sir.” “Alright,” he said, “1 week detention for you.” Then he turned to Finn and asked him, “Finn, disobedience or stupidity?” Joe smiled a s*** eating grin at me, as if to say watch ME work, and said, boldly, “stupidity sir!” He got a month detention!! Pick your poison Mr. Mayor.

Jaxur
Jaxur
5 years ago

Enjoyed this piece. The Springside house could definitely be an asset if it’s managed correctly.

Kathy Lloyd
Kathy Lloyd
Reply to  Jaxur
5 years ago

Agreed Jaxur! The springside Park community is tireless. There are at least 6 groups working on their corners of the park, and together. It’s inspirational.

Dave
Dave
5 years ago

We missed out bigtime because when Donna Walto was doing her tour with another billionaire Japanese businessman she saw the orange jumpsuits and did a U-turn. We can’t catch a break!

Shelly Liver
Shelly Liver
5 years ago

What does the Springside House and the taxpayer have in common?…..We are both getting hosed.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
5 years ago

How much money can a small City piss into it’s park’s. Answer : Unlimited, taxpayers have unlimited money. We have almost 30 parks in our City, at what point should we start to down size. I’m not suggesting get rid of our major parks, but its time to down size not expand.

ShirleyKnutz
ShirleyKnutz
Reply to  joetaxpayer
5 years ago

It’s sad but I kind of agree with this statement. If the places aren’t being used why keep them up. Let them go fallow until something turns the fortune of the city around and then the city would have available land to create the parks needed/wanted at that time…or they have plenty of land for new cemeteries.

Pat
Pat
5 years ago

I listened to Tammy Ives on the radio today at 11:30 am. I liked her answers to all of the questions. She was nervous, but that didn’t stop her from letting the public know where she stands on the issues. Great job Tammy. You have two votes from my house.

Thomas More
Thomas More
Reply to  Pat
5 years ago

She was brilliant!

Corey Ives
Corey Ives
Reply to  Thomas More
5 years ago

My wife wants to thank you both. Its very much appreciated
Keep your eye out in the Eagle, on WTBR and next weeks debates to hear more from her.
We need all the support we can get to fight the corruption that is Pittsfield city govt.

CosbiesLadies
CosbiesLadies
5 years ago

Mazzeo Cotton Disantis Nichols

#BelieveinPittsfield
#BelieveinPittsfield
Reply to  CosbiesLadies
5 years ago

Heck no. Melissa Mazzeo is a patsy for the current Mayor and not a bright lightbulb. (Brighter than Nichols, but that’s not saying much.)

Corey Ives
Corey Ives
5 years ago

Joe Nichols should be ashamed of himself…. suggesting to run out low income families… seriously there guy.
We need to embrace them and help however we can. We need to join together to make Pittsfield somewhere businesses want to come, stay and grow. That alone is a much better way than to run them out.

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
5 years ago

Don’t believe Mr. Nichol’s said that. But people who are part of a our problem ( drug dealers, thief’s and low life’s) in Pittsfield should be run out, regardless of income. Maybe they should embrace a real job. Vote Joe Nichols you won’t be disappointed.

Guess what
Guess what
Reply to  joetaxpayer
5 years ago

Joe lost my vote the minute I read the letter that went out from his campaign to the residence of Pittsfield.

Corey Ives
Corey Ives
Reply to  joetaxpayer
5 years ago

Sure sounded that way to me by advocating to get rid of low income housing…of course run off criminals that should go without being said

He did get one thing right though that the school vote should have been on the ballot

joetaxpayer
joetaxpayer
Reply to  Corey Ives
5 years ago

We should not expand our stock of low income housing. We are a shrinking City and have more than enough sec. 8 housing.

Joe Durwin
Joe Durwin
5 years ago

Heartily agree with the commenter on the frontage hedges on North St, definitely a priority that has been identified by the Springside committee volunteers in talks with many residents, and strongly advocated in the recommendations being put forth for the first updated park master plan in 50 years.
Disagree that the park is underutilized however, I believe that is outdated from a close up perspective, even a glance at the Parks Commission agendas in the last few years show an exponential increase in events held there, and attendance at many events I have attended has been high. May to august we have about 6 events for the public in the park per week- not including games at both athletic field areas- but including concerts, yoga classes, mountain biking, pruning and gardening demonstrations, and zumba which I dont know really what it is but seems to be a big hit.
Truth is with the help of passionate neighbors and extended volunteer networks amazing strides have been made at Springside. Enhancements to playgrounds and the Doyle Athletic complex which has hosted really major regional tournaments recently, the installation and care of a cutting edge Chestnut orchard, improvements to the Greenhouse, major progress and a community-led plan for Springside House, major planning and public input gathered for the park overall, doubled attendance and frequency at clean ups and work parties, improved and accessible trail maps, I could go on and on.
The train for restoring Springside Park has been well out of the station for a while now, but we always welcome new folks willing to hop aboard! Email springsidenow@gmail.com for more info