In The Arena

In the Arena: Martin & Mass

We may be about to find out exactly what role ideo-logy plays in the Greenfield Town Council’s decision making regarding mayoral appointments.

Greenfield Mayor Bill Martin announced this week that he is appointing former town councilor and Planning Board member Isaac Mass to the planning board seat left vacant by the council’s rejection of the reappointment of long-time board member James Allen.

“A great football coach said ‘when you get the best athlete, you put him in the game,’” Martin said. “And there is no one better for this job than Isaac.”

The appointment is the ultimate win-win for Martin. Not only does he get an appointee with a legal background and an unquestioned record of public service, he gets the opportunity to send the council off on yet another politically motivated jag.

Because, in addition to the rest of an admittedly impressive political resume, Mass was also one of the founding members of the original “Citizens For Growth,” which was formed in 2002 to advocate on behalf of establishment of a big-box retail store in town.

If I were to give Isaac one piece of advice, it would be to show up at the meeting, because these guys are going to have some questions — but not nearly as many as they will be forced to answer if they shoot down what appears to be a no-brainer of an appointment.

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An interesting point was made at this week’s council subcommittee hearing on the proposal to take the Greenfield police and fire chief’s positions out of Civil Service.

The Council’s Community Relations and Education Committee voted 5-0 against recommending the change to the full council, but during the course of the discussion, a committee member commented that the council had the responsibility to consider the “will of the people,” who voted 11 years ago to put the chief’s positions back in Civil Service prior to the change to a mayoral form of government.

I couldn’t help but think of a couple of other votes not too long before that where the residents of Greenfield overwhelmingly supported rezoning land for a discount retail store. And yet, we haven’t heard word one from the members of “not your grandfather’s council” about the need to respect the people’s will on that issue.

I guess timing really is everything.

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There has been rampant speculation recently that, if the town does take the police chief’s position out of Civil Service, the next top cop will be Public Safety Commission Chairman Gary Longley.

But if that is Mayor Martin’s plan, he apparently forgot to clue in Longley.

“That’s the first I’ve heard that,” Longley said this week. “I have heard that I’m supposedly running for mayor, but I’m 62 years old. Why would I want that kind of pressure?”

As for preserving Civil Service, Longley says he believes there is a compromise that can be reached to retain the designation, while making it easier to make hires in a timely fashion.

“We have a lot of new information that we didn’t have when this was first proposed in the spring, and I believe we can find a system that will work,” Longley added.

We can but hope.

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Most meteorologists agree that our changing climate is going to result in storms in this area getting worse, not better. So it makes perfect sense for one of the region’s leading utility companies to close its only service office in Franklin County.

Welcome to the world of corporate logic.

The Western Massachusetts Electric Co. has announced that it will close its Greenfield facility this coming March and consolidate operations in Hadley, which WMECO lineman and I.B.E.W. Local 455 Spokesman Bill Freeman says is going to likely mean some long, dark winter nights for Franklin County residents.

“Closing a building and moving trucks 20 miles south, there is no way we will have the same level of emergency service here,” Freeman said. “We’re going to drive as fast as we can to work, and we’re going to drive as fast as we can to the trouble spots, but no matter what you do, you can’t change the distance.”

Cost-cutting is likely at the heart of this move, which some WMECO officials say will actually save customer’s some money — which Freeman says has an element of truth to it, but not in the way you might think.

“The customers probably are going to save money, because their meters aren’t going to be turning for a longer amount of time,” Freeman said.

“If there’s no power to the meter, no one’s paying, so I guess I can guarantee that if an outage lasts longer, your electric bill will be less.”

Hopefully someone in the home office comes to their senses long before we have to encounter that potentially unpleasant reality.

Chris Collins is a former staff reporter for The Recorder, and is a Greenfield native.

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