PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council is upset that just weeks before school starts, the city's crosswalks have not been repainted. And they probably won't be done this year.
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell filed a petition asking for a schedule for line painting after noticing areas throughout the city where the paint has worn away and the crosswalks are faded. His concern is that the city could be incurring liability should there be an accident or a pedestrian gets run down when trying to cross the road.
"Are we responsible as a city because we haven't properly labeled it?" Connell said. "In my six years as a city councilor, I have never seen line painting going this long into the summer."
Connell specifically cited the intersection of Elm, Fourth, and East streets as an area where the lines had faded. Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi cited the same thing with the intersection of Dalton and Hubbard Avenues.
"I've been around the city, I've seen the crosswalks, and they are disgusting. It is unacceptable," Morandi said. "We pay for services and we expect them to be done ... We've got school in three weeks, those crosswalks have to be done."
Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities David Turocy didn't have an answer that would appease Connell or Morandi. Turocy said the bid for the work won't go out until the spring. He said the department had been backlogged with work this summer and fell behind on preparing the bid.
"We prioritized getting the street improvement bid out," he said, and when one was sent to the purchasing department to go out, it got lost in paperwork and never did.
"We don't have a contractor in place right now so there is nothing we can do."
Turocy is planning on bidding the work out in March, hoping to bring a contractor on early to help ensure the work itself is done in a timely fashion next summer.
"The goal is to put that out in March and we can say we want this part of the project done by July 1, and this part done before school starts," Turocy said.
One factor in the delay is that the city has been without a city engineer all summer after the last one left. The department took longer than expected in crafting a bid, which includes first making an assessment of which roads need it and then including types of paints to write into the contract.
Connell, however, said while he understands determining which side streets require new paint takes some time, he didn't think it should take an engineer to put out a bid for crosswalks and intersections that are routinely repainted. Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo said there has to be a better system to have that kind of information mostly done every spring.
"Every year it seems this is an issue and I'm thinking we have got to figure this out by now. I don't think it is as hard as we are making it," Mazzeo said.
Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers advocated for a program similar to the pavement management system which ranks and schedules roads for work and updated with newer information every year.
Turocy agreed that there needs to be a more efficient system for line painting. At this point, he said he is still in the process of figuring out which types of paints work best for different areas.
"It is not that difficult, we just need the time to do that," Turocy said. "We're still learning and trying these paints to see how long they last. Some of it is the paint, some of it is the traffic on it."
None of that, however, solves what some of the city councilors see is a problem this year. Connell encouraged Turocy to rent or buy a line striper and repaint at least the crosswalks in the next few weeks.
Particularly, the City Council expressed concern over a handicapped spot on North Street, right where East Street turns onto the road. There were two spots there and one was removed — but not the one closest to the corner.
"There are two handicapped parking spaces around that corner, which I call deadman's curve, and the first one is the most dangerous and we took the other one out," Connell said.
Resident William Sturgeon had issued a similar complaint earlier in the night saying he recently helped get a woman's walker out of the back seat of a car and found himself in oncoming traffic.
"It is has been plus two months since this council voted to start the process," he said.
Turocy did have an answer for that though: the week of Aug. 21. That is the week the new handicapped parking spots will go in.
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