Pittsfield OKs More Funds For McKay Street Garage

By Joe DurwinSpecial to iBerkshires
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council authorized Tuesday the borrowing of $1.5 million to pay additional costs of reconstruction at the ailing McKay Street parking garage.

Comprehensive repairs of the 25-year-old garage, which has suffered severe deterioration, will now cost an estimated $6.5 million in total, of which $3.6 million in state funding has been secured and another $2 million approved by the city last year.

About $560,000 will go into the project's contingency fund and though approved, will not be borrowed unless necessary .

Level by level renovations, conducted by Boston-based Chapman Waterproofing, are expected to commence this spring.

Mayor Daniel Bianchi and Department of Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer spoke in support of the benefits of funding the entire repair project at once rather than postponing phases which would only become more expensive later.

"It's a large project, but it's much less complex, in that we know what we're dealing with here," said Bianchi contrasting it to the recent demolition of the former Grossmans building, the handling of which provoked heavy criticism earlier in the council meeting.  "It's all definable. Everything that has to be worked on we can see. So it's a known entity."

State funding for this project comes with the understanding that the city gravitate toward a fee structure that will create generate the revenue for downtown parking accommodations to be more self-sustaining.

"We began looking at the various components of the financing and structure of fees for downtown parking about three years ago," said Ruffer.  "The state has been aware of that and has not made it as a hard condition, but as a soft condition that they expect the city to continue to move toward a paid parking system downtown and a financially sustainable parking structure."

Ruffer said that her office and other departments would begin "working on the next steps" of paid parking once the garage project was underway.

At a meeting of the council's Finance Committee a week prior, members examined the question of why the structure needed such extensive reconstruction a quarter century after it's initial construction.  At March 27's council meeting, members of the public including former Councilor Joseph Nichols had suggested that the city study the reasons for its deterioration to see if the company that built it should be held accountable. It was determined in the subcommittee that wear and tear, combined with a lack of sufficient maintenance and upkeep by the city, and not faulty construction were to blame.

"If you buy a house brand new from a contractor and they build it, 25 years later do you expect them to put a new roof on, would you expect a new boiler?" said Councilor Barry Clairmont. "Things need maintenance and imagine your roof if you threw salt on it, every winter, day after day."

"We can build things, we can build high schools, buildings, brand new, but we have to maintain them. I think we need to have a better maintenance plan in place, not only for the garage but for anything from now on that we're building," he said.

Ruffer said the city is planning on increasing line items for maintenance on a regular basis, in particular, a rubberized sealant coating should be applied every five years.

Enhanced safety features will also be a feature of the renovated McKay Street garage, according to Superintendent of Building Maintenance Frank Anello, including the brighter LED lights used in the new Berkshire Medical Center parking garage. He also hopes to have security cameras installed by next next year.

The Council also voted on Tuesday to postpone appropriation of $238,636 for unanticipated additional costs of the recent demolition at 1277 East Street, the site of the former Berkshire Scenic Street Railway Co. and Grossman's Lumber. The abandoned building had been a source of frequent controversy in recent years with the city repeatedly citing owner Kevin Pennell for code violations, unpaid taxes and other infractions, and continues to be a point of contention.

Some councilors opined that the contractor responsible for the demolition had disregarded instructions in the demolition and acted disingenuously with the city. The more than two hundred thousand dollars in additional costs were incurred partly because the contractors said they were forced to undertake efforts not in the original bid but doubts remain as to why deviations from the stated demolition plan occurred.

"In my gut, I feel like they knew what they were doing," said Councilor Melissa Mazzeo, asking the council to hold off on authorizing the payment.

"Clearly, they saw an opportunity to make more money," agreed Clairmont.

While City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan counseled that the city's legal case for not paying the bill was not very strong, because of the lack of a proper contract obtained in the job, it was determined that there is no immediately enforced timetable for payment. Given no urgent imperative for appropriating the money, the council unanimously agreed to table the item while more research can be done to see if the city can avoid having to pay the entire amount. 

"I'm still not sure we've done enough due diligence into this entire project to figure out how much are we really liable," said Mazzeo.

Some form of negotiation between the mayor and the Connecticut-based firm is expected. 

"Whether or not you approve this tonight or don't, I intend to have a conversation with the contractor," Bianchi said prior to the vote to table.

Tags: capital projects,   McKay Garage,   

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Cultural Pittsfield This Week: Aug. 2-8

Enjoy 18 different art shows featuring work by more than two dozen accomplished regional and student artists in Pittsfield's bustling Upstreet Cultural District during the First Friday Artswalk and all month long! 
In most venues, artists will be present from 5-8 p.m. A free guided tour begins at 5 p.m. at the Intermodal Center @ BRTA, 1 Columbus Ave.
The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts will host HAPPY, an abstract art show by Jesse Tobin McCauley for the month of August. There will be an opening reception during First Fridays Artswalk from 5-8 p.m. The exhibit runs through August 31.
Kids and teens, pick up the August 2nd Scavenger Hunt flyer for a chance to win a prize! Grab yours at the Artswalk table in Crawford Square, 137 North St., during the Artswalk or print one from the website.
Berkshires Jazz brings five of the most popular regional bands to the stage for the 2019 Berkshire Jazz Showcase, on the Pittsfield Common from 12-5 p.m. The wide-ranging lineup for this jazz extravaganza includes Gina Coleman and Misty Blues, Paul Green and Two Worlds, Andy Wrba's Berkshire Jazz Collective,
First Take with Mary Ann Palermo and the Kyle Murray Quintet. FREE.
Hancock Shaker Village welcomes Berkshire Opera Festival as they pay homage to American opera by composers such as Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland and Carlisle Floyd. The recital, "Ain't it a Pretty Night," will feature soprano Caroline Worra, tenor John Riesen and pianist Lynn Baker will explore this essential part of the musical fabric of our country. 7:30 p.m. $18-$25.
FRI WordXWord Festival: Crosstalk at Tyler Street Lab | FRI Grahm Sturz at Hotel on North FRI Blue Light Trio at Rainbow | FRI Anthony Luchi at Rusty Anchor | FRI Sawyer Country at Proprietor's Lodge | FRI Karaoke Night at Friends | SAT WordXWord Festival: Accomplice[d] at Berkshire Museum | SAT Orin Swift Cellars Wine Tasting at Hotel on North | SAT Melissa Brinton at Rusty Anchor | SAT Jason & Trev at J. Allen's | SAT Uncensored Comedy Show at Uncorked | SUN Country Dance w/Spurs USA at Italian American Club | SUN-MON Marilyn Maye at Barrington Stage | MON Jazz Night at Mission | TUE Wintergreen at Springside Park | TUE Open Mic Night at O'Laughlin's | WED Live on the Lake: Generation X at Onota Lake | WED Gruppo Mondo at Rainbow | THU Deja Again at Mazzeo's | THU Abandoned Building Brewery Beer Dinner at Hotel on North | THU The Picky B's at Mission

Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks animated film, Shrek The Musical is a Tony Award-winning fairytale adventure featuring all new songs from Jeanine Tesori (Thoroughly Modern Millie) and a side-splitting book by David Lindsay-Abaire. Shrek brings all the beloved characters you know from the film to the stage and proves there's more to the story than meets the ears. The Colonial Theatre through August 9. $35 and up.
ONGOING Hansel & Gretel at Berkshire Museum FRI WeeMuse: Adventures at Berkshire Museum FRI Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum FRI Yoga for Kids at Berkshire Athenaeum FRI-THU Parenting Classes & Play Groups at 18 Degrees (formerly Berkshire Children & Families) SAT WeeMuse: Art Lab at Berkshire Museum SAT Health & Wellness Fair at 18 Degrees (formerly Berkshire Children & Families) SAT Chow Time at Berkshire Museum SAT Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum SAT Child & Family Yoga at Onota Lake SAT da Vinci After Hours at Berkshire Museum SUN Discovery Tank Program at Berkshire Museum | MON Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum MON Kindergarten Countdown at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Star Lab at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Cones with a Cop on The Common MON Stardust Cafe at Berkshire Athenaeum MON Swan Lake Dance Intensive at Cantarella School of Dance MON Auditions for Magic Tree House Kids at The Colonial MON+ KidsAct! at Barrington Stage TUE WeeMuse: Littlest Learners at Berkshire Museum TUE Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum TUE Princess Songs & Popsicle Party at The Whitney TUE Project SpaceCRAFT: Planet Pinch Pots at Be TUE Screening of Monsters vs Aliens at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Little Gardeners of the Galaxy at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Uncharted Wild Animal Show at Berkshire Athenaeum WED Tie Dye on the Terrace at Berkshire Athenaeum | WED Creative Healing Workshop w/Funky Phoenix at Berkshire Museum THU Farm Friends at Hancock Shaker Village | THU Exploring Our World at Berkshire Museum THU Designing with da Vinci at Berkshire Museum THU Story Time at Berkshire Athenaeum THU Lego Lift Off at Berkshire Athenaeum
SAT Outdoor Yoga & Zumba at Onota Lake
Join Rachael from Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness every 1st and 3rd Saturday (June through August) for outdoor yoga and Zumba classes at Burbank Park on Onota Lake. Yoga begins at 9 a.m. and Zumba at 10:15 a.m. Come to one class or both! $10 suggested donation per class. Rain cancels.
FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Running Center | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Family YMCA | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness FRI-THU Various Classes at Radiance Yoga | FRI-THU Various Classes at Berkshire Salsa FRI-THU Various Classes at Pilates Fit | SAT Sunrise Yoga on the Deck at Rusty Anchor | SUN Guido's Great 8 Road Race | TUE Summer Fit Training at Berkshire Yoga Dance & Fitness | THU Outdoor Yoga at Onota Lake
ONGOING If I Forget at Barrington Stage
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