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North Adams Council Accepts Library Gift, OKs Arts Commission Ordinance
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
12:26PM / Wednesday, May 15, 2019
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The statue of two children reading will be installed at the North Adams Public Library this summer. The image comes from the Design Toscano catalog here.

NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The City Council accepted a bronze statue as a gift to the North Adams Public Library in memory of Judith Ann "Jody" LaFortune Gottwald.
MaryAnn Abuisi, Gottwald's sister and former city clerk, said she had been considering for some time how to give something back the city. 
"I've given 28 years in my service, my dad was a firefighter from 1941 to 1969," she told the council. "And my sister had such an avid love for the public library."
Abuisi had already approached Library Director Mindy Hackner, who recently retired, and the library trustees, who have accepted the gift. 
"My sister passed away suddenly on March 2 this year. And she was a librarian by profession and had been for 22 years," Abuisi said. "But she actually started reading when she was 4 years old. ... she was a very avid reader. They say that by the time she reach sixth grade, she had read every book on the second floor. So they gave her permission to go down to the first floor, which was the adult section."
Gottwald's career began at the library as a page in high school and she went on to earn a master's degree and work as a librarian at colleges in Maryland and Indiana, finishing her career at the University of Indiana at South Bend after 22 years.
The bronze statue by Design Toscano is called "Read to Me" and is of a boy and a girl sitting on a bench with a book. Abuisi said she had seen the statue in Naples, Fla., about a decade ago and loved it. The statue has already been purchased and is in her garage. 
"I just hope everybody will love it," she said. "To me it's appropriate and it would give children probably the incentive to read and put down the iPads."
The council accepted the gift of $2,560.51 from Abuisi and her husband, Anthony. The couple will work through the Public Arts Commission on getting it installed on the library grounds. 
Councilors Eric Buddington and Marie T. Harpin thanked the Abuisis for the gift. 
"It's a beautiful statue and so appropriate for the library and how it fits in with your family and your sister," Harpin said. "And it's just a lovely gesture. So thank you very much."
The council finally approved new language first introduced in December re-authorizing the Public Arts Commission. 
The ordinance was re-written at the request of Mayor Thomas Bernard who argued that the language did not follow the charter in terms of the approval and signing of contracts. The ordinance has been rewritten several times, beginning with its establishment and a year later in giving the commission more authority. 
Bernard's requested language was also simplified over several months of meetings of the General Government Comittee. This latest ordinance change caused an outcry in the arts community that felt it would give the mayor too much power and prompted the dramatic resignation of the commission's chairman and founding member. 
The final language gives the commission some greater input than Bernard's initial wording by requiring the mayor to present in writing to the commission any decision to reject a contract. However, that only refers to contracts of $2,000 or more (based on value) and the commission recently approved an art project without contract because of its temporary and minimal impact. 
The applications will now be submitted through the Community Development Office, reviewed within 90 days by the PAC and, upon approval, sent to the mayor's office for sign off. The PAC will also advise the administration on the design of municipal structures or private structures protruding on public ways. 
"The Public Arts Commission met a couple weeks ago and we like the current language of the ordinance," said commission member Bryan Sapienza. "We hope that council sees the same tonight and passes it."
Councilor Jason LaForest said there was concern expressed by the most recent commission chairman on the panel having "care and custody" of public art. It had been noted several times over the months-long debate on language that the commission had no assigned administrative support or liaisons like other city boards to support its mission. The panel had struggled in developing applications, processes and contracts largely on its own.
"The city has some incumbency to support this commission that it has created," LaForest reminded the council. 
In other business:
• A recommendation by the Traffic Commission to raise the prices on permitted parking at the Center Street and St. Anthony municipal parking lots was referred to the Finance Committee. Councilors questioned the reasoning behind the price hike other than they had not been raised in a decade. The committee plans to review all public safety and service fees in the coming months. 
• The council approved a transfer from the Parking Meter Reserve Account to purchase a 2019 Ford Super Duty F-350 4WD utility vehicle and accessories for the Fire Department to replace a 25-year-old military surplus truck for $52,663.70.
Fire Chief Stephen Meranti said the current vehicle has rotten floors and can't go into reverse. The new vehicle will be used for hauling equipment and firefighters and other duties and will also be used by the Police Department as needed. Canales said the older vehicle will be grouped in a list of equipment and items to be declared surplus by the council and sold if possible. 
• The council approved secondhand licenses for Mary Ann George for MaryAnn-tiques Gifts, located at 615 Ashland St., and for James Montepare for Empire Antiques at 63 Main St. and at 432 State Road. Council President Keith Bona abstained from all the votes because of having a similar business and because one of Montepare's locations is also his.
• Councilors Rebbecca Cohen, Benjamin Lamb and Wayne Wilkinson were absent. 
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