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Selectmen Bruce Cullett, Verne Leach, Town Administrator Caleb Mitchell, Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito, and Selectman Ed Munch gave Polito a coffee mug with the town's logo as a gift.

Polito Signs Community Compact With Peru

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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Town officials, representatives from Rep. Paul Mark and Sen. Adam Hinds' office, and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito gathered at town hall on Thursday to sign the agreement.
PERU, Mass. — For the second time this week, small-town officials have stressed the need for relief from a mandate requiring two EMTs on every ambulance call to Lt. Gov. Polito.
 
After hearing it from Peru Selectman Ed Munch, she immediately turned to her staff to find out where in the process a bill to allow first responders to be the driver on a run and vowed to work with the legislature on the matter.
 
"You should have the flexibility. If there are communities that want to have two, that's their choice. But you need flexibility," Polito said.
 
"If you don't have that second EMT that is the difference between the vehicle getting to the response or not. That to me is a public safety issue."
 
Volunteer ambulance services have been struggling to keep volunteer emergency medical technicians. The requirement is that two certified EMTs are on every call has led to small towns not being able to get two and missing the call. That's led to longer wait times and the services losing revenue.
 
"We've been waiting long periods of time when Hinsdale, which is our ambulance that covers the two towns, wasn't able to staff the ambulance. We had to wait for people from Pittsfield to come. It took 40 minutes to get an ambulance," Munch told the lieutenant governor.
 
The issue is similar to what Stockbridge Fire Chief Chuck Cardillo. Cardillo said there has been a lack of paramedics because the training and certifications are costly and time-consuming. 
 
"As far as EMTs and paramedics go, there isn't a big pool of them," Cardillo told Polito on Tuesday.
 
But Polito's visit to Peru on Thursday wasn't intended to discuss the ambulance issue. That had come about during a general conversation Polito had with the Board of Selectmen and town administrator.
 
Polito said by the end of the day on Thursday she will have met with officials from every single community in the Commonwealth to get a grasp on the various issues towns are facing.
 
"We are intentional about making sure our rural communities are representable. One of the things we did in the economic development bill, for example, is to carve out an allotment of funds for rural communities through the MassWorks program. MassWorks is the major infrastructure program that the state runs," Polito told Peru officials.
 
"These dollars can easily be taken up by cities and larger communities so we have a carve out just for rural communities."
 
The main purpose of Polito's visit was to sign a community compact. The program launched by Gov. Charlie Baker's administration crafts agreements between municipalities and the state to work on "best practices" with the state funding. 
 
In Peru, the town is looking to upgrade its buildings to become handicapped accessible.
 
"We will assist you with an assessment of how to make your places accessible. And then we have a grant program that will help pay for the construction needed," Polito said.
 
And, the town is looking to get a green communities designation. That will make the town eligible for grant funding to do energy efficiency projects.
 
"We will help you get the designation. It does take effort and coordination and you don't have a lot of resources on your side. We will help you get that designation and once you have that designation we will provide you with the grants to do LED lighting, update boilers, modernize windows with property protections for reducing draft, those kinds of things," Polito said.
 
But while she was there, the Selectmen took the time to tell her about some other struggles. Selectman Bruce Cullett said two big issues facing the town financially is funding the public school system while enrollment is declining and a large amount of state-owned land in town. The amount of state-owned land limits the space for new developments and pushes more of the tax burden onto the few residents who live there.
 
Cullett said the state's payment in lieu of taxes payments just doesn't do enough to help the town's tax rate.
 
Munch added that the state support for roads is not enough. He said it costs $1 million per mile and there is not enough of a tax base to keep up with the repairs.
 
"The road is coming apart so bad that you have to drive in the other lane. It is going to happen, there is going to be a head-on collision. I know it is going to happen on one of these roads. It is not only that road, it is the secondary roads. People swerve to avoid the potholes. One of these days someone is going to hit head-on," Munch said of Main Road.
 
He also said that when the town repaved North Road, it didn't have the funds to do the bridges and culverts. Polito pointed the officials in the direction of the state's small bridge program as something that could help and said she'd be looking to increase Chapter 90 allocations.
 
"This winter there has been a lot of deterioration given the severity of the winter, the warm and cold temperatures, we're looking at that," Polito said.
 
Another fairly unique issue to small towns like Peru is that a town official has to wear many hats.
 
"We have to get the assistant town clerk to vote the other night on a subject concerning the animal control officer," Munch said.
 
At one point Munch took on the role of plumbing inspector because the town couldn't find one. With two members of the Fire Department on the Board of Selectmen, the board has to have the town administrator sign off on the bills for that department. He's hoping the state can do something to ease the laws around such conflicts so the town can more easily conduct business.

Tags: community compact,   polito,   state officials,   

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Pittsfield Preparing Morningside Fire Station RFP

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city plans to reissue another request for proposals for the Morningside fire station with developers' interest ramping up.
 
The City Council on Tuesday heard from Paula Messena during public comment who said she and her partner Scott Graves were interested in developing the long vacant fire station.
 
"I stand before you today publicly announcing our interest in the Morningside fire station," she said. "Scott Graves and I have shown on numerous occasions interest in the building but have never officially been acknowledged by the city."
 
Graves purchased the YMCA boathouse on Pontoosuc Lake and renovated it as the Rusty Anchor. He recently ran in the preliminary election for mayor on a platform focused on the red tape he says makes it difficult for developers to save old buildings and start businesses. 
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