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Pittsfield Closing Top Floor of Columbus Ave Parking Garage

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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The upper deck of the Columbia Street Parking Garage is pulling away from the supports.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city has closed off the top level of the Columbus Street Parking Garage.
"The beams are twisting and there are separation issues on the supports," Mayor Daniel Bianchi said Wednesday.
Bianchi said he doesn't want to put any additional strain on the supporting structure, which could hasten the problem on the upper level. The ramp and the upper deck will close Saturday morning while the lower level will remain open. A total of 156 spots on that level will be affected.
The city saw the issues upon the completion of a condition survey by Desman Associates.
"While Desman did not state we had to close the ramp and top level immediately, it is important for us to err on the side of safety rather than expose citizens to undo risk. I appreciate the public's understanding. Desman Associates does support our decision to close the two sections of the garage until a more detailed structural analysis is completed on Monday," Bianchi wrote in a prepared statement released on Tuesday.
The top level is just about at the end of its lifespan, according to the mayor, who said repairs were completed in 2005 intended to expand the life of it by a decade. Meanwhile, the state has $6 million earmarked in a transportation bond bill for work on the garage.
"We might be able to repair it and add to it," said Bianchi.
Bianchi has spoken about the release of those funds with state Sen. Benjamin Downing, who with state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, have written Gov. Deval Patrick asking for money.
"I am working closely with Senator Downing to determine how we can expedite the process to receive the earmarked funding from the [Massachusetts Department of Transportation] sooner than planned. Bringing the matter in front of Governor Patrick and MassDOT Secretary [Richard] Davey will hopefully help in receiving the earmarked funds," Bianchi said.
The state has just recently finished a $6.5 million renovation of the McKay Street garage. 
"Preventative maintenance is important on all structures. Unfortunately, the condition survey completed on the Columbus Street Garage did not go as we hoped. The current successful renovation of the McKay Street Garage will help alleviate the permitted parking strain created by the closure of the Columbus Street ramp and top level permitted parking spots, along with the use of Lot 1 on Melville Street,"  said Peter Sondrini, director of maintenance.
The city issued the following recommendations on alternative parking for permit holders:
Open roof spots in the McKay Street Garage:  those planning to park on the roof of the McKay Street garage must come to the Office of Public Works, located in City Hall, in order to get swipe passes to get into the garage. Permit stickers for the Columbus Garage will be honored on the roof of the McKay street garage. 
Lot 1, Melville Street: Lot 1, across from the Boys and Girls Club on Melville Street, is an alternative parking area for those who normally park on the ramp or top deck.
Bottom Level, Columbus Street Garage: 30 spots on the west side (with the fire station) of public in the Columbus Street Garage will temporarily be turned into permitted parking spaces.

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Pittsfield School Committee Mourns Faculty Losses

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff

The School Committee meets Wednesday night at Pittsfield High School.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Pittsfield School Committee remembered Taconic High School teacher Kevin Harrington on Wednesday night. 
Before opening up its meeting Wednesday, the committee members held their typical moment of silence but made a special mention of Harrington who passed just last week.
"We want to remember the very sudden and tragic loss of Kevin Harrington a special education teacher at Taconic," Chairwoman Katherine Yon said. "He was just that: a special man, a special teacher, a special mentor, and a special friend to many."
Harrington collapsed in a classroom at Taconic last week after a medical incident. He was, a special education teacher, was a former Taconic student and was heavily involved in the athletic program. 
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