North Adams 2021 Year in Review – iBerkshires.com
Gus Jammalo gives Gene Kemp a trim, the last one his well-known barbership. Jammalo says, at 87, it’s time for him to go fishing and spend time with his family.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The year 2021, the second year of the pandemic, saw a return of community events, devastating fires, abrupt departures, a successful vaccination program, major buildings changing hands downtown and the election of a new, more diverse government, including the city’s first woman mayor.
That a woman would finally take the corner office for the first time in North Adams’ 126-year history was already in the cards by the closing of nominations in July. Only women for the first time would vie for mayor: Lynette Bond, Rachel Branch, Aprilynn Carsno and Jennifer Macksey.
The incoming City Council would also be breaking new ground with elections of Michael Obasohan and Ashley Shade. Obasohan is believed to be the first Black person elected to the council and Shade the first transgender person.
While there was a short-lived social media campaign to “oust the incumbents” and calls for write-ins, all six incumbents on the ballot were easily re-elected.
The council’s past two years were rocky: there were three presidents in four months, four councilors stepped down and the panel went two months with seven members. The first to leave was Robert Moulton Jr. in 2020 but three more resigned this past year, two of them council presidents.
Bryan Sapienza would be voted in by the council to replace Hopkins and Harpin (whose name was still on the ballot) would be reseated along with Obasohan after the election. Peter Oleskiewicz had joined the council last year after Moulton left.
The new nine-member council is Jennifer Barbeau, Lisa Blackmer, Keith Bona, Harpin, Obasohan, Oleskiewicz, Sapienza, Shade and Wayne Wilkinson.
The Northern Berkshire regional vaccination center opened on Jan. 11 to a capacity crowd; on June 17, the very last person to be inoculated walked out the door at 7:06 p.m.
In between those five to six months, the collaborative held 40 clinics and administered 24,913 doses of vaccine for the novel coronavirus. The North Berkshire clinic was one of three under the umbrella of the Berkshire Vaccine Collaborative and was run by the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee and Northern Berkshire EMS.
Vaccinations and declining cases (at least until the omicron variant hit in the fall) allowed the resumption of favorite community activities with the lifting of a state of emergency on June 15. There was no Memorial Day Parade but there in-person graduations for Drury and McCann high schools; the Downtown Celebration; a mini Motorama; the Neighborlies, and the Fall Foliage Parade.
The city’s new fire chief found himself dealing with two major fires in a short period. Brent Lefebvre was appointed in March as the new fire chief, replacing Stephen Meranti, who retired after 17 years.
The city had two major fires in one month that required help from dozens of fire departments.
In May, a brush fire on East Mountain spread through Clarksburg State Forest and into Williamstown, burning a 1,000 acres. More than 120 firefighters from 19 different communities and the state worked to contain it.
Not two weeks later, a blaze at George Apkin & Sons was started by a battery …….