Editorial: Hoping for resolution to nurses contract talks next year

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Here are some brief thoughts on some of the events making news from around Franklin County and the North Quabbin area:

Before the holidays, after a long impasse, it was reported that negotiations over a new contract between the nurses union and Baystate Franklin Medical Center may have turned a corner.

Following a recent informal meeting between the two sides, both say they have made some progress in the labor dispute that is now more than a year old.

Union leaders said they were “hopeful for the first time.”

We hope the optimism bears fruit in the new year for everyone’s sake: the hospital’s, the nurses’ and their patients’.

Commercial growth

Athol has managed to lower its tax rate by 83 cents, largely due to growth in its tax base — something that other North Quabbin region and Franklin County towns probably envy.

Town Manager Shaun A. Suhoski attributes this to continued commercial growth that includes Wendy’s, Hobby Lobby, Tully Family Medicine and 110 Grill in North Quabbin Commons; the renovation of the McDonald’s near the Athol-Orange town line and ongoing renovations at Athol Savings Bank in the downtown area.

Athol remains “ripe for investment,” Suhoski reported recently.

We hope he’s right and that the good fortune can spread to other communities in the region, as well.

Ever green

A top state energy official toured Franklin County recently to learn what has been true of our region since the first serious stirrings of energy conservation concern in the 1970s: That Greenfield and its hinterland have been working to be green and sustainable before those terms were popularized.

House Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Chairman Thomas A. Golden Jr. got to see many facets of the county’s green culture, including Pioneer Valley Photovoltaics (PV Squared) and developer Mark Zaccheo’s renovated Allen Street schoolhouse, which has become apartments that don’t need the electric grid. He also discussed with officials at Greenfield Community College and Greenfield town hall GCC’s Sustainable Agriculture and Green Energy program and efforts to reduce energy costs, as well as carbon dioxide emissions, in the first state-decreed Green Community. At the town hall, officials outlined the success of the Greenfield Light and Power program, which saved $208,000 in the first half of this year alone, with $35,000 in savings in municipal electricity costs.

Shooting for the stars

Fourteen-year-old Clayre Ames of Orange went to New York City recently for an audition she hopes might change her life.

The young singer tried out for “America’s Got Talent,” a reality competition show that serves as a nationwide talent show on NBC.

“I think it went pretty well,” she said Monday. She sang “I Will Always Love You.” She said she will hear back in February or March if the network is interested in including her in its show. The rounds of auditions the audience sees will be filmed in front of celebrity judges.

As you might expect, Clayre’s father, David Ames, said, whether his daughter advances or not, she is already a winner.

Arts week

The Franklin County Chamber of Commerce has been named a collaborator for the statewide 2018 ArtWeek festival, happening April 27 to May 6.

ArtWeek is an innovative event featuring hundreds of unique and creative experiences that are hands-on, interactive or offer behind-the-scenes access to arts, culture and the creative process. Now an annual statewide festival, ArtWeek was born in Boston in 2013 and recently expanded its footprint across Massachusetts.

Through this partnership, Franklin County Chamber of Commerce will encourage local groups to host ArtWeek events — broadening the exposure of the arts and entertainment community of the upper Pioneer Valley and highlighting its creative economy.

“One of Franklin County’s greatest economic drivers is our creative economy,” noted Natalie Blais, executive director of Franklin County Chamber of Commerce.