PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council agreed to cover the funding gap in the Clapp Park renovation project.
The city had found itself short by about $150,000 for the park's planned restoration. The project entails the installation of a splash pad, improvements to the baseball field, and restoring the bathroom.
It once encompassed more but had been scaled back after bids came in too high in the fall. The latest version of the project was recently bid and the response also came in too high so the council is filling the gap.
"This is not the position we wanted to be in but this project was bid twice and the bids came in higher than anticipated," Parks and Open Space Manager Jim McGrath said. "We are unable to execute a contract with Mountain View Landscape out of Chicopee for this project."
The city had received a $400,000 state grant to undertake a massive restoration of the West Housatonic Street park. That was matched by city funds for bathrooms, Community Preservation Act funding, $180,000 donation from the Rotary Club, and a $5,000 donation from Carr Hardware. However, that was not enough as the project falls $150,000 short.
McGrath said that after design, architectural, legal notices, and a new scoreboard had already been purchased the collective funding for the project stands at about $672,000. That just about matches the total bid but many of the materials were not included in the bid and have to be bought separately. In a cost saving measure, McGrath said the city will be buying much of the material for the project directly from vendors to avoid a contractor mark up.
Additionally, that would leave no room for contingency should something unexpected be found during the construction.
The project is expected to cost $826,125 in all, $153,000 more than the city has on hand. The state grant expires at the end of June and the money either has to be spent by then or the city loses it. That gives little time to scale back the design more and re-bid the project.
"This is the first time we've had an issue where bids are high and timing is a factor," McGrath said, adding that across the region bids for park projects have been coming in higher than anticipated recently.
McGrath thinks a limited number of contractors bidding may have something to do with it. The Chicopee-based Mountain View was the only bidder on the project.
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo pressed McGrath about the possibility of re-negotiating with Mountain View and scaling the scope back without having to go to bid. She suggested the city work with the contractor to pull various aspects of the project out of the scope and settle on an agreement within the current budget.
"I feel like we don't negotiate enough," Mazzeo said.
That, however, is not legal through public procurement laws. If the city scales back the project significantly, other potential contractors would need to see the new design and have an opportunity to bid on that. Procurement laws are in place to prevent behind closed doors negotiations such as that.
McGrath said the project had already been significantly scaled back before it was re-bid. The handicapped accessibility factors in the playground were reduced, the restroom was downsized, the splash pad's location was moved to reduce the amount of water piping needed, the relocation of the basketball court to the rear of the park was taken out, the creation of a new parking lot and renovations to the existing driveway were removed, and new trees to line West Housatonic Street were cut.
"We substantially reduced the project but we stayed within the program we had committed to," McGrath said.
McGrath added that the project is expected to continue in the future so those elements could be handled then. The Buddy Pellerin Field Committee has a multi-year plan to continue with renovations to the ball field.
Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers felt the renovation seems to be missing the target. She said neighbors in that areas are more concerned about the driveway, parking lot, and the condition of the track more than the splash pad and baseball field but none of those elements are being addressed.
The focus on the park started with the formation of a Buddy Pellerin Field Committee. That group organized an effort to rename the baseball field, which is home for the Pittsfield High Generals, after the former coach. From there, they've began raising money and making improvements to the field. The group has a multi-year vision to completely transform the field.
The Rotary Club then joined in. In celebration of its 100th year, the group voted to donate $180,000 to build a splash pad at Clapp Park. The city brought those funding sources together and applied, and received, the state grant. The City Council would later approve another $150,000 to be used to renovate the bathrooms at the park.
Despite lengthy questioning of McGrath Tuesday night, the council was unanimous in its support to fund that gap.
After bids came in too high twice, the City Council is being asked to up the city's contribution toward the renovation of Clapp Park. The city had received a $400,000 state grant to undertake a massive restoration of the West Housatonic Street park. That was matched by city funds for bathrooms, the community preservation act funding, $180,000 donation from the Rotary Club, and a $5,000 donation from Carr Hardware.
A final design for more than a half million dollars worth of improvements to Clapp Park was finalized Monday. The Parks Commission gave its stamp of approval on the design crafted by Berkshire Design Group. The design, however, isn't entirely what parks officials had been hoping for when first crafted.
Parks and Open Space Manager James McGrath told the Parks Commission on Tuesday that the design currently crafted is estimated to go over the $675,000 budget for the project. He is now working with Berkshire Design on scaling the concept back slightly to make the numbers work
The new splash pad at Clapp Park is eyed to be located where the basketball court currently sits. The basketball court is eyed to move to the rear of the property. A new parking lot, and curbcut onto Route 20, will be built next to the splash bad. The bullpen will be moved. The playground will be renovated. The backstop will be moved back and the track will be repaired.
The state is investing $400,000 to renovate Clapp Park. Gov. Charlie Baker announced on Friday some $6.3 million worth of grants statewide for park improvement projects. Pittsfield received the maximum amount through the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs project for a massive renovation to the West Housatonic Street Park.
On Monday, Carr Hardware did what it said it would do - donate its recent prize winnings toward building a splash pad at Clapp Park. The local company has won the "Indie Award" as small business of the year from the business organization Independent We Stand. The prize includes $5,000 cash, which Carr Hardware opted to go toward a splash pad project in partnership with the city of the Rotary Club.
The first round of improvements to the newly named Buddy Pellerin Field at Clapp Park is set for this summer. The Parks Commission gave the group heading the effort the Okay to order a scoreboard and to continue planning for a number of other additions and changes to the field. The group has already raised $20,000 and has set a goal of a quarter of a million to make four phases worth of improvements to the ballfield.
The committee behind the naming of Buddy Pellerin Baseball Field at Clapp Park has set a goal of raising $250,000 in the next three years to improve the ballfield. The Parks Commission in April unanimously approved renaming the Clapp Park ballfield after longtime baseball coach George "Buddy" Pellerin. The committee for the Clapp Park Project had applied for the naming and presented the commission more than 150 letters of support.
The baseball field at Clapp Park is being named after former coach Buddy Pellerin. The Parks Commission approved the naming on Tuesday after being overwhelmed by support from former players, family and friends of Pellerin. A large crowd filled the meeting room as Ken Ferris gave a presentation on not just why Pellerin deserved the recognition but also plans to upgrade the field.
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Starr Williams: A BCC Success Story
Starr Williams gives the valedictory speech at Berkshire Community College's 2019 commencement.
"I like to be a statistic breaker," says Soncere "Starr" Williams. That's putting it mildly. At age 40, Williams, Berkshire Community College's 2019 valedictorian, has overcome more obstacles than most people would in a lifetime. Once a high school dropout, she is the product of an abusive foster home who entered into a dark world of substance abuse, mental illness, and juvenile crime. Today, she's an outspoken advocate for the underprivileged — and she's headed to Columbia University for a master's degree in social work (MSW).
"I come from poverty. I come from a place where people don't succeed, because there are far too many barriers to climb over. It's one of the reasons I'm in social work," says Starr, who graduated BCC with a perfect 4.0 GPA, earning an associate's degree in human services and an addiction recovery assistant certificate before transferring to Elms College in Chicopee. She will graduate from Elms in a few weeks with a bachelor's degree in social work, once again earning a 4.0 GPA, before beginning classes at Columbia this summer.
Getting accepted into an Ivy League school still has Starr pinching herself. "The fact that I'm going to have an MSW from Columbia University still kind of feels like, no, this isn't happening, this is a dream," she says. "People like me are told, 'You're not going to be anything.' When you grow up in that in that environment, you're pegged as going nowhere for the rest of your life. Now, I'm going to have an Ivy League education, and I did it on my own."
Climbing out of the depths
Starr credits many mentors along the way for helping her succeed. Most recently, she has been working with Celia Clancy, president and CEO of Berkshire Business and Professional Women, who has been cheering her on through the application process and sent her an enthusiastic note of congratulations upon learning of her acceptance to Columbia. At BCC, mentors included Assistant Dean of Students Beth Wallace (now retired), Professor of Human Services Kari Dupuis, Associate Professor of Human Services Pamela Coley McCann, and Professor of Sociology Stacy Evans. "They are amazing individuals who are there to support their students," Starr says, recalling many after-hours conversations with Evans. "We talked about climbing out of the depths of poverty and addiction and how hard that is. She gets it."
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