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Pittsfield Council To Cast Final Vote On CPA Allocations

By Andy McKeeveriBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council will vote on allocating $575,919 on a dozen projects through the Community Preservation Act on Tuesday.
 
The total will leave about $40,000 to roll over into next year's allocation. The total budget was $619,701 which consisted of about $440,000 raised from local surcharges and about an $80,000 match from the state.
 
Funding was sought for a total of 14 projects asking for more nearly $1 million and the Community Preservation Act Committee opted to fund 12 of those 14, but many of them at a lesser amount then the request.
 
The largest allocation is $100,000 for the Zion Lutheran Church to make repairs to its roof. 
 
The most controversial project -- to install pickleball courts at Springside Park -- got little more than 50 percent of its ask. The city, backed by the Berkshire Mountain Pickleball Club, already had money allocated for a study to choose a location and the Parks Commission voted in favor of having the courts be placed next to the Doyle Softball Complex in Springside. 
 
But that project also planned to have funding from the city's capital budget, which was shot down by the council. The council pulled the funding for the pickleball courts from that budget after fierce opposition to the location. The city doesn't have enough set aside now to match the state grant that would have covered 70 percent of the cost.
 
"The funding strategy for a $350,000 pickleball facility is in question right now because the capital funds have been eliminated, the CPC recommendation has been reduced," Parks and Open Spaces Manager Jim McGrath said. "For intents and purposes, we are not moving forward with the grant application because we don't have a commitment to the local share."
 
The Finance Committee, however, opted to recommend moving forward with the $35,271.60 recommended allocation anyway. The council can always bring back another capital request during the year but the CPA funds are only done yearly. The councilors felt it was better to keep the funds available in case an agreement can be reached to move forward with it.
 
The funding isn't dependent on that location so talks could be had to use another site that was looked at instead. If it doesn't move forward, the funds will eventually be returned to the Community Preservation Act Committee to spend on other parks and open space projects elsewhere.
 
"There is still room for a compromise so I don't want to see us cut this," Finance Committee Chairman Peter Marchetti said.
 
Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity had requested two housing projects -- $90,000 for the Gordon Deming Project and $50,000 toward the purchase of a home on the West Side for a future project. The recommendation is to only fund the $90,000 for Gordon Deming.
 
"The committee felt this was a worthwhile project but the final location of what the funds would be directed to was still up in the air so the committee welcomes another application in the future but without a specific site in mind didn't want to allocate the resources at this time," Hoss said of the reason why the $50,00 toward a purchase of a home was denied.
 
The Colonial Theater is recommended to get $62,000 for its roof. The group had asked for more but since the project is being done in phases, the Community Preservation Act Committee opted to just fund the first phase this year.
 
The largest request and the top-ranked request was for the Berkshire Family YMCA to completely renovate its North Street center. The money was eyed to restore the historical facade back to what it had been in the past. The organization requested $200,000 for the work.
 
But the CPA committee is recommending that it be cut to $75,000 and encouraging the organization to return the following year.
 
That project somewhat straddles two fiscal years with work hoped to be completed by the end of 2020. But, the facade could have been done completely in this upcoming fiscal year since the year runs from July to July. Either way, the committee cut its funding to $75,000.
 
"This is definitely one of the ones they'd welcomed a future application to provide additional funding," said City Planner CJ Hoss at the council's Finance Committee meeting.
 
A total of $37,500 is eyed to go to CT Management to preserve the historic terracotta roof and tower at the former St. Mary's Morningstar Church, which is being turned into housing.
 
The Pittsfield Girls Softball League is recommended to receive $17,000 to make upgrades to the Doyle Softball Complex particularly the dugouts and fencing.
 
Arrowhead is recommended to receive $25,000 to repair the barn. St. Josephs Church is recommended to receive $15,000 to continue restoring the iron fence that borders North Street.
 
"That work has stopped at this point and a request was put forth for $50,000 that would allow that work to be completed," Hoss said.
 
The Berkshire Athenaeum is recommended to receive its full request of $9,148 to replace the UV filtering film on its windows and upgrade the heating and ventilation system to better protect historic material kept there.
 
Another $50,000 is eyed to continue the renovations of the Springside House.
 
A request to work on historic cemeteries - east part and west part - at $25,000 was denied.
 
"This project definitely had merits but given some of the constraints in funding and some of the other important projects, they did not include this project," Hoss said.
 
The Samuel Harrison House is expected to receive $60,000 for renovations to the workshop area.
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Innovation Center on Schedule For January Opening

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Berkshire Innovation Center is still on schedule to open sometime in January.
 
The center's Executive Director Ben Sosne gave a brief update to the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority last week and said board should expect a grand opening in the first half of January.  
 
"I was just through the building and it looks fantastic," he said on Tuesday. "I am really excited to get this thing open and welcome everybody in."
 
He said in the next few months they will be moving in tenants and figuring out final specs.
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