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Pittsfield Disputing Responsibility Of 5-year-old Electric Bill

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city is contesting a 5-year-old electric bill of $1,700 for the softball complex on East Street.
 
The City Council was asked to pay Eversource $1,701.28 from a final portion of Berkshire County Softball Complex, Inc.'s 2012 bill. The non-profit had left the premise after 30 years that October and was unable to pay the remainder of the electric bill.
 
Eversource has since apparently taken that balance and transferred it to an account of the city's and is asking for payment. 
 
"When some leases that property from us, the utilities are in their name just like a resident account. When he walked away he didn't pay part of the months before that," said Building Maintenance Department office manager Michael Dean.
 
Jim Bridges headed the complex for years and, in May 2012, signed a one-year lease. The utilities were in the non-profit's name. When he left that October, the utilities for the park shifted back to the city.
 
In November 2012, the city signed a five-year lease on the property with Mark Montemagni. He continued the softball leagues operating there and opened utility accounts in his name. Montemagni has been responsible for the bills related to his operation since taking over.
 
However, when the utilities for the complex were switched from Bridges and the non-profit to the city, the unpaid balance went with it.
 
"The meters got turned back into the city's name and the bill followed the meters," said interim Director of Maintenance Brian Filiault.
 
Dean said he's been in conversation with Eversource regarding the bill since. The company later transferred the balance to a city account for a completely different park. 
 
City Solicitor Richard Dohoney wrote to Bridges about the bill, for which Bridges said he wasn't liable.
 
"For 29 of the 30 years the non-profit corporation was in business, the cred rating was outstanding. I do not remember paying any funds to the City of Pittsfield for electrical expenses, we always paid Western Mass Electric. The not-for-profit corporation was dissolved in 2012 and unfortunately there was insufficient funds to pay our creditors," Bridges wrote.
 
"We were sued for outstanding debts but the court agreed that the officers of the corporation could not be held personally liable for the debts of the corporation."
 
With Bridges unable to pay, Eversource is now going after the city for the debts. That the utility company would transfer that balance to not only a completely different account but a completely different entity isn't right, Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said. 
 
"I just find it very odd that they can take an account and switch it to another account," she said.
 
Ward 4 City Councilor Christopher Connell has been a landlord for years and had never seen that happen. He said when somebody vacates a property, the utility debt remains on them and not transferred to the landlord.
 
"That usage is for the tenant, not the tenant. I've never heard anything like this," Connell said. "I don't think we should be paying this. I think we should dispute it." 
 
Connell said the responsibility to collect should be on Eversource's part. The company would have to take Bridges to court over that debt and the city shouldn't be involved, he said.
 
The city solicitor will now be reviewing the documentation and rendering an opinion.

Tags: electricity,   

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