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Re: HRI & Peter Arlos
Knee-jerks at The Berkshire Eagle

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:-

Peter Arlos' recent proposal for use of the Allen House and the Housatonic River Initiative's request to intervene in the proposed PCB settlement are strange bedfellows indeed.  Neither has any connection to the other except that The Eagle's knee-jerk opposition to each illustrates the negative approach the newspaper takes when someone takes a stance contrary to the entrenched politicians or attempts to dislodge the inertia of the status quo.

The HRI is simply exercising its legal right to put forth its position. The Eagle should be lauding the intervention because what HRI has to say will be tested in the marketplace of ideas. If their ideas and presentments are not conducive to inclusion in the settlement because they are not in the public interest, then they will be cast aside. If the proposed settlement collapses because HRI or anyone else exercises their freedom of speech by exposing errors in the settlement, then the settlement was deficient to start with. 

Each of the foregoing is certainly possible.  After all, General Electric is a world-class economic power which surely employed the very best negotiators money could buy, Pittsfield had Doyle and Hickey (who had a conflict of interest because he headed PEDA which economically benefited from the settlement), the EPA's DeVillars landed himself an excellent job in the private sector, and the state was concerned with minimizing legal work and expenses while advancing the political illusion of victory over General Electric.

A similar situation exists with Arlos' ideas concerning the Allen House.  While The Eagle does not have to agree with Peter Arlos on the proposed use of the Allen House, it should applaud the fact that he has made a suggestion to save a structure which not only has a long history but also is architecturally unique.

As I remember it, when the state purchased Madonna Hall and the Allen House, it wanted to tear the buildings down, It was only through the intervention of state Representative Joseph Scesi that the buildings were saved.

Unfortunately, the Allen House has suffered neglect by the state for over 20 years.  Where have the city, the county, the state, the preservationists, the concerned citizens, and The Eagle been during those intervening years?  Certainly not formulating viable plans for the Allen House.

I have a somewhat vague recollection that Mr. Arlos also offered a couple of different plans to save the Allen House some years back.  One had to do with using the edifice as the district attorney's office; the other had something to do with using it as a type of mental health facility.  Apparently neither worked out due to lack of intergovernmental cooperation.

Arlos' latest proposal may be the last chance for the Allen House.  There are probably better uses for that venerable structure, but until The Eagle or some other concerned party suggests a different workable plan or idea, let us think about, discuss, and analyze the current Arlos plan.  Will it survive in the marketplace of ideas?  Only if it surpasses other plans in serving the public good.

It is hard for me to believe that the general public or The Eagle would rather see the deterioration of the Allen House to continue beyond the point of no return rather than entertain Mr. Arlos' idea to preserve the building and make it a useful part of the community once again. Likewise for Pittsfield and the surrounding area to be stuck with a PCB settlement without it first having been picked apart, poked, prodded, analyzed, discussed, criticized, lauded, and finally determined to be in the public interest for the widest practicable citizen base. 

Pittsfield, Feb. 28, 2000

© 2000 by MediaNews Group, Inc. and New England Newspapers, Inc.
The letter above was originally published in The Berkshire Eagle and is reproduced here without permission.

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