Pittsfield Council Approves $4.9M In Capital Expenses

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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City Councilors John Krol and Nicholas Caccamo both spoke in favor of the downtown parking management system proposal.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council approved just short of $5 million in capital projects Tuesday night.
After failing to pass a capital budget earlier in the year, Mayor Daniel Bianchi returned to the council with some of the larger items — a total of $4.9 million.
The proposal included $3 million for road paving projects, $1.2 million for airport projects, $500,000 to begin implementing the downtown parking recommendations and $200,000 to start designing the next phase of the North Street reconstruction.
Those items had come before the committee in part of a $10.8 million capital budget that the City Council shot down. Four council members voted against that budget, keeping it one vote shy of passing with the needed two-third majority. The linchpin was the lack of a fire truck in the proposal.
"None of this is new and the prices haven't increased," said Council President Melissa Mazzeo.
However, the councilors still spent about an hour discussing the projects — particularly the implementation of the parking recommendation. The $500,000 breezed through the first vetting but on Tuesday some concerns were raised about exactly what the money would do.
Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan Lothrop said he didn't know until Saturday that the plan was to have paid parking on North Street. He said employees will be upset and the city needs to do more to make them aware of the new fees.
"There doesn't seem to be an understanding," he said. "They don't understand what is going to happen. If we don't get that out beforehand, this will fail."
A consultant spent a year developing the plan, which was presented to the public in May. It calls for metered parking in the downtown area in a way that creates higher prices for spots with more demand, additional signage and then new functions for ticketing and use of the revenue.
Director of Community Development Douglas Clark said about $300,000 of the capital request will go to meters, about $100,000 for license plate readers for the ticketing system and about $100,000 for signage. Some engineering and contingencies will be built into the budget, he said.
Downtown Pittsfield Inc. board member Jesse Cook-Dubin spoke during the open microphone period in favor of the plan.
"There is a perception that there is not enough parking in downtown Pittsfield and that people don't want to shop and dine in downtown Pittsfield because of that perception. But, that is not true," he said, adding that the plan will solve that problem.
As for Lothrop's concerns that the public doesn't know, Clark listed an array of meetings, input sessions, online surveys and news articles that occurred throughout the process.
"There are going to be people caught asleep at the switch. Shame on them for not paying attention," Clark said. "I don't know what the magic trick is to get people to pay attention."
Lothrop hoped to send the request to the committee level. However, Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, one of the four who voted down the larger capital budget, said the council had vetted this enough.
"I think we've had ample time. These four items are not strangers to us. They were on the capital budget in June," he said.
Ward 6 Councilor John Krol added that the parking management system is something he has wanted for years.
Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully asked for the Community Development Department to take another look at the consultant's suggestions for the courthouse area. Tully went to the May meeting and felt the .25 cent per hour charge for the 16 spots closest to the courthouse wasn't fitting. She hopes the city could find a place for workers to park so those spots aren't filled all winter.
Clark responded, "we are not just going to adopt the rates presented by the consultant ... You try to price it so that there is turnover." 
Ward 1 Councilor Lisa Tully voiced concern with the plan around the courthouse, where she says it is the most difficult to find parking.
As for the $3 million for road improvements, Bianchi is combining that borrowing with about $1 million in Chapter 90 funds to create a bid for road improvements next spring.
"I would like to get the RFP out for the street work early," he said, adding that the city will be first in line to award contracts and should get better rates.
While a couple councilors suggested holding off on approving the roads, streetscape and parking so a subcommittee could review them, Councilor at Large Kathleen Amuso said she didn't want to see the roads pushed back yet again.
"I know they are expensive but we have to do them," she said.
At the airport, the $1.2 million is to replace hazard beacons and the city will be reimbursed some from the Federal Aviation Authority.
The improvements are required as part of the massive renovation the city had just completed there.
"I knew it was imminent and spoke to the mayor to put this on the agenda," said Airport Manager Mark Germanowski. "It went through the capital request project when we went through this."
Meanwhile, Bianchi is proposing streetscape engineering to get the next phase "shovel ready."
"I would like to have that designed and ready to go so we'd be ready to go," the mayor said.

Tags: capital spending,   parking meters,   parking tickets,   

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Pittsfield Nationals Edged in 8/10 Little League State Semis

Community submission
SALEM, Mass. -- Despite the scorching 90-plus degree temperatures, the Pittsfield National and Mansfield 8-10 Year Old All-Star teams played their hearts out on Saturday at O’Grady Field.
Mansfield came out on top with a 3-1 win, advancing to Sunday's state championship game.
"It’s sad that our adventure has come to an end, but I couldn’t be more proud of the teamwork and heart these 12 boys showed in the month and a half we had them together," Pittsfield Nats coach Mark Socie said.
Mansfield struck early scoring a pair of unearned runs in the bottom of the first inning.
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