The North Adams, Massachusetts city council heard updates Tuesday from Mayor Tom Bernard about the COVID-19 vaccination effort and news of a bank closure.
While Bernard said he was encouraged by news about the rollout of vaccinations, he expressed concerns about generational and technological barriers to city residents.
“The mechanism for signing up to, or registering for your vaccination, is an online form – and I think for some of our older community members, for folks who don’t have internet access, who may not feel comfortable online, we’re trying to figure out what some of the approaches and work-arounds are," he said. "I know Berkshire Health Systems has been on that, and there’s some outreach that has started – I don’t have details – through our Councils on Aging to provide some support for folks who are in that position.”
Bernard also discussed news that TD Bank intends to close its North Adams branch office in April.
“I’m still finding out more information about this," said the mayor. "I have a number of concerns about that – first of all, for the well-being of the employees, who may be able to find positions with other branches, but some who may be looking for other positions – this is a tough time for anyone to be facing that.”
He said he struggled to understand why the bank would close a prominent downtown branch with a drive-up ATM.
“I’m also concerned for the same population that we just talked about with vaccination," said Bernard. "If the message is, well, if you can’t get to Williamstown or a Pittsfield branch for transportation reasons or because public transit doesn’t help you, just bank online. That’s not necessarily the service that everybody’s going to be looking for.”
Bernard suggested that city residents affected by the closure explore local banking options instead.
“Nobody likes the prospect and the process of changing a bank account or a prescription or any kind of paperwork, but hopefully if people choose to do that our institutions will make that as easy as possible for them,” he said.
The mayor also offered an update on the city’s search for a new permanent fire chief. Chief Steve Meranti is set to retire at the end of the month after 33 years with North Adams.
“Search is ongoing, and I’ve asked Chief Meranti to stay on a little longer while that’s happening,” he told the council.
City Council President Paul Hopkins offered his own update on another search for a town employee as Town Clerk Deborah Pedercini prepares to step down in February.
“The city clerk screening committee is still hard at work," said Hopkins. "Literally dozens of candidates.”
WAMC News Intern Jeongyoon Han contributed to this story.