In other business, Ryan Scrittorale presented updated plans for the proposed demolition and rebuild of the gas station at First and Tyler streets.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council tapped into multiple sources to pay for a $1.3 million deficit in snow and ice removal.
The Department of Public Service had overspent the $700,000 budget for snow and ice removal supplies (sand) during this last winter.
It is one budget line that is legally allowed to be deficit spent and done so by most communities in the state.
However, covering the $1.3 million amount posed challenges for the finance office as it searched to find funds from more than two dozen other budget lines, used free cash, and tapped into the overlay surplus.
"I'm not happy about it either but I don't have an alternative. This is not a situation where we have the luxury to tap into the reserve because we don't want to do anything else," Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood said, addressing the use of $298,000 of free cash to offset the deficit.
The use of that funds leaves the city with $1 million in free cash remaining, a figure that is at the low-end of Kerwood's "comfort zone" when it comes to fund balances. Nor did it sit well with Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, who ultimately voted against the transfer of free cash.
"We're going down a real dangerous slope using free cash. I understand we have to pay this but on principle, sticking to my guns as with the budget, I won't support this," Morandi said.
Those funds were matched at $300,000 by a transfer from the overlay surplus account, which is a reserve to cover tax abatements and one Kerwood had hoped not to touch.
But, he had already drained what he could from other sources while still retaining some turn back from accounts into free cash next year. He will also be addressing a $80,000 deficit in veterans benefits, which is paid back by the state in the future.
Kerwood pulled $773,811 from more than two dozen other budget lines for the snow and ice deficit. The money is unspent from the fiscal year, which ends in just a few days, and would ultimately roll into a future allotment of free cash.
"I felt this was the most I could get to address this particular matter and still get something for turnbacks," Kerwood said.
Kerwood said there just wasn't a way to come up with $1.3 million in unspent funds from the other budget lines.
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell, however, questioned why the city doesn't budget enough for snow and ice. He said the snow and ice budget has exceeded $1 million for each of the last three years and that the budget is never enough.
"Let's just budget for snow and ice, take a three or five-year average and put it in the budget," Connell said.
Connell was particularly upset with a $36,000 transfer from traffic signals. During budget deliberations, he specifically questioned that line because it was far from being spent. Now, at the end of the year, he says it turned out to be overbudgeted and being spent elsewhere.
"I would have loved to have this during the budget season when we were going through all of these meetings," Connell said.
Connell wants to limit the number line item transfers at the end of the year, calling for lines with excess to be cut closer to the actual and lines, like snow and ice that are habitually in deficit, be funded fulled.
Kerwood, however, says line item transfers are done in every community across the state. The budget had ebbs and flows every year and is based on the best guesses for what would happen over the course of the year.
"A budget is a blueprint. A budget is your best guesstimate at what you will see over the course of the year," Kerwood said. "It changes."
Morandi also had a level of sticker shock over how much was spent this past winter. He said he hears from residents about plowing being done when it isn't needed.
"I know they need to go out and keep the residents safe, but to me, this is really really high considering this was not a tough winter," he said.
Nonetheless, the City Council approved the various transfers.
The permit had been delayed last month after the councilors requested an array of changes to the proposed design — from new lighting to bicycle racks to fencing. Ultimately, the company returned with all of the changes and faced nearly another hour of questions from the council — as detailed as how many trash receptacles will be outside the building for the public to dispose of trash.
The City Council approved the permit, as it shows a significant improvement over the current structure.
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Pou's No-Hitter Lifts Force 12U to Dalton CRA Title
By Rick DuteauiBerkshires.com Sports
DALTON, Mass - Sunday’s performance was exactly the sort of thing that Berkshire Force 12U coach Jess Glebus hoped for, at exactly the right time. Just days ahead of a big trip to Florida to compete in the Babe Ruth World Series, the Force earned the Dalton CRA Softball Tournament title with a 10-0 win over the Saratoga Thunder, at Pine Grove Park.
Amanda Pou threw a no-hitter and every batter in the lineup reached base to contribute in the victory. Only one Thunder player reached base, and she was quickly thrown out by catcher Issabelle Macdonald and she attempted to steal second.
“We played Chatham yesterday and we didn’t play well, but we came out today and we were a totally different team and we were ready to play,” Coach Glebus said. “Our bats were alive, our defense was alive and our pitching was outstanding. I’m not complaining, but for some reason, on Sundays we come out alive. We really did play well today, and that’s when it counts.”
The Force won their Babe Ruth New England Regional earlier this summer to qualify for the World Series. The team heads down to Jensen Beach, Florida, on Thursday, and this tournament served as a nice dress rehearsal for the action ahead.
By 2010, the old YMCA boathouse was just about to fall into the lake because it had fallen into such disrepair.
Scott Graves then had an idea to save it. He'd take the property that wasn't one the tax rolls, renovate it and turn it into a private marina and club. Instead of the city ultimately... click for more
More than two dozen teenagers from Camp Lenox spent Friday cleaning up the west side of Pittsfield.
In partnership with Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity, the campers cleaned up Durant Park, Columbus Avenue, and opened up the staircase at the end of Francis Avenue that had become overgrown... click for more
When Patrick Kavey returned to his hometown he had trouble finding work.
"I started applying to professional jobs. I had an interesting time finding either a job that would compensate me based on what you would see for an area of this size in the region or just finding specific jobs in general,"... click for more
Wetland issues have derailed planned improvements to Pontsoosuc Lake Park.
The Friends of Pontoosuc Lake received $15,000 from the Community Preservation Act with the intent to restore the beach on the Hancock Road side. The city's Parks, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager Jim... click for more
When two men came whipping into the city with police on their tail in March, residents didn't see Pittsfield Police officers hanging out the window shooting their guns off trying to blow out the tires. That only happens in movies.
In fact, residents didn't see Pittsfield Police on the suspect's... click for more