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On Walmart Wages; Theater in the Works; Home Run for Orange

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Tuesday, December 10, 2013
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On Walmart Wages

Some marked the start of the holiday season by camping out in big-box parking lots for bargains; others marked it by drawing attention to the low wages and spotty benefits granted to the people who work in those stores. The day after Thanksgiving—aka Black Friday—about 150 people (including, pictured, former Northampton Mayor Mary Ford) gathered outside the Hadley WalMart to protest the company’s poor labor practices and to show solidarity with its employees.

 

Theater in the Works

Perpetually exquisite, perpetually struggling: Northampton’s historic Academy of Music has embarked on a capital campaign that will restore it to such a state of polished elegance that if the luminaries who performed there long ago—Sarah Bernhardt, Boris Karloff, Jeanette MacDonald, Harry Houdini and others—were to return to their old venue, it would meet with their approval.

A new insulated stage roof; new seats; refinished floors; repairs to the ornate plaster work, and aisle lighting to make it easier for patrons to reach their seats are on the program, with fall, 2014 as the projected completion date. The estimated cost of the work is $600,000, but before the Academy appealed to the public, it got the project off to a fast start with $500,000 in state grants and Community Preservation Act funding. So on October 30, its officials put out a call for $100,000.

Now, less than two months later, $30,000 has already come in, all from the Northampton area, according to Academy executive director Debra J’Anthony. “We’re off to a good start,” J’Anthony told the Advocate, adding that most contributions to date have been between $250 and $500—enough to get the donors a name plate on a new seat—but there have been gifts of $1,000 and even $5,000. The drive was scheduled to end June 30, 2014, but the goal may be reached well before that if the early momentum doesn’t flag. To learn more about the project or to donate, check www.academyofmusictheatre.com.

 

By the Numbers

1,206: That’s the number of certified signatures collected from Longmeadow voters to put a question seeking to repeal Massachusetts’ casino law on the 2014 ballot. That number represents slightly more than 10 percent of the town’s registered voters.

The signature totals in other communities: Springfield, 1,490; West Springfield, 760; Northampton, 667; Amherst, 797.

Organizers of the Repeal the Casino Deal effort report that they’ve gathered enough signatures to move the question forward in the ballot process. Their next step is to appeal a ruling by Attorney General Martha Coakley that the question is unconstitutional. See related story on page 19.

 

Home Run for Orange

It’s not always business development that adds vitality to a town. A jewel of a recreational facility can attract people from outside as well as enriching recreational life for local residents. Orange’s Butterfield Park just received $300,000 from the state for improvements that could make it an amateur baseball player’s dream. But the town must come up with $128,570 to match the state grant.

The park already has a grandstand and bandstand that will be refurbished with the money, and it has an unusual clay infield. The idea is to attract adult amateur baseball leagues. There are several such leagues in Western Massachusetts, as well as between the Valley and Worcester; based within shot of Orange are Quabbin Valley Over-Thirty Baseball and Pioneer Valley Over-Thirty Baseball. The park, with its grass, trees and old-fashioned feel, could also become a well-adapted venue for vintage baseball, in which the game is played by rules dating from the period between the 1850s and 1880s.

The state grant will also pay for two practice ballfields, two picnic areas, and the expansion of a basketball court that could be flooded to make an ice rink. And there are plans for a track around the perimeter for cyclists and joggers.

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