PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council is in favor of the proposed $8.8 million capital budget for the city. But, the required supermajority wasn't in favor of a $4 million capital budget for the enterprise accounts.
The enterprise capital plan, which is for sewer, wastewater, and water, was shot down by four city councilors. Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo questioned a $675,000 item for upgrades to the wastewater treatment center and $2.4 million for sewer pipe repairs prior to the start of the $74 million upgrades to the plan.
Commissioner of Public Services David Turocy said the sewer pipes aren't part of the plant project and are intended to close up places in sewer pipes that are letting stormwater into the system. He said the more flowing to the plant, the more chemicals the city has to use to treat the water -- thus increasing costs.
Mazzeo, however, feels that with the city already poised to borrow $74 million, which is paid back through increased sewer bills, now isn't the time to be borrowing even more.
"We will have a state of the art $74 million facility, what difference does it make to have a little extra flow?" Mazzeo said.
She was backed by Ward Councilors Christopher Connell, Kevin Morandi, and Anthony Simonelli. Those four made enough to reject the $4 million plan. However, that budget will return to the City Council next week for final approval and could change.
Meanwhile, the council did give its preliminary approval to the $8.8 million capital budget for the general fund -- the debt for those projects will be paid through future city budgets. The City Council did, however, cut out a $65,000 project to replace carpeting at Pittsfield High School.
"I don't think it is needed. It might be something we and Pittsfield High wants but I don't think it is needed," Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Simonelli said.
His motion to cut that from the capital plan was approved by a 6-5 margin.
The council questioned a number of other authorizations but ultimately no changes were made. Mazzeo, Connell, Morandi, and Simonelli all sought to cut $50,000 from the $150,000 eyed to upgrade the bathrooms at Clapp Park but did not get enough votes.
Connell believes much of that work could be done in-house instead of being borrowed and contracted.
"We'd all like to have that new car or new bathroom. I'm looking for ways to possibly reduce our long-term principal and interest going forward," Connell said.
Director of Building Maintenance Brian Filiault said his department is always open to help but there is only so much staff and time available. Further, Filiault has not been part of the planning of the project and isn't sure if his department would be able to handle. For those reasons, he wouldn't commit to doing it.
The Buddy Pellerin Field Committee and the Rotary Club have teamed up with a large project to renovate the entire park. Council Vice President John Krol said renovating the bathrooms was the least the city could do to support that private investment into public lands.
"It is really a slap in the face of all of the individuals who raised money for the Buddy Pellerin Field," Krol said of the possible rejection of the authorization.
Simonelli understands the bathrooms are in "terrible shape" but he felt that the authorization could have been reduced by $50,000 through labor. He said the city could borrow for the materials and then have the Maintenance Department do the work.
Simonelli then turned his attention to a $200,000 request to redesign the intersection of Woodlawn and Tyler -- the odd triangular section connecting Tyler Street and Woodlawn and Dalton avenues. Simonelli said he didn't want to support it without more details of when the work will start and conclude and how the actual construction will be funded.
Director of Public Services David Turocy said the construction is planned for 2020 and the city will be looking for grant funds to do it. If no grants are available, the city could look to borrow the money in the future.
A $400,000 authorization to finish the exterior of the Springside House also came under question. Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jim McGrath said the work will complete the exterior including windows and painting. The city had authorized a $500,000 request a few years back for the first phase. The Massachusetts Historical Commission contributed another $83,000 toward the project.
So far, some $214,000 was put into roof repairs, drainage, and foundation work. Another $244,000 was spent on rebuilding the porch. McGrath said there is about $42,000 remaining from the original capital authorization which will be added to the new $400,000 authorization to continue the work. Anything left over at that point will be directed toward the interior.
The council also agreed to the $2 million project to raze the Columbus Avenue garage and create a surface parking lot.
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