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Bids for the riverway park have come in too and the project will have to be rebid.

Westside Riverway Park to Go Back Out to Bid

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The Parks Commission discussed drones and field usage on Tuesday.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Westside Riverway Park project bids have come in too high and the city will have to put the project back out to bid.
 
Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath told the Parks Commission on Tuesday that they will take another look at the proposed park design and put it back out to bid in a few weeks.
 
"It is not surprising because a lot of projects we have put out have ... been coming in high," he said. "So we have been trying to go back and retool some of the elements and trim it down.
 
Blighted homes once sat on the Dewey Avenue parcel now slated to become a park for which the city has received grant funds to remediate and develop.
 
McGrath attributed the high cost to a few things. He said contractors are less likely to take on these public projects because there are higher standards in terms of certifications.
 
He added there aren't a lot of contractors that can do this sort of work in the area. 
 
"We have a small pool of professionals," he said. "Right off the bat I think there is a lot of work and not enough people to do the work."
 
He said they may consider having a third party review the designer's cost estimates.
 
McGrath said he is frustrated and noted a lot of these grants have sunset dates. He said these delays only bring the city closer to deadlines which could result in losing grant funds.
 
Conversely, McGrath said the Clapp Park project is moving along at a good pace.
 
"Things are going well with the project ... we will see the bathroom building start rising out of the earth pretty soon," he said.
 
He said the hope is to have the park completed by the end of September. He said optimally they would be able to turn on the splash pad for a week or two in October.
 
As for the proposed skate park, McGrath said the city received a $20,000 Community Development Block Grant to enter into phase II of the design.
 
"We are going to smack the room full of kids and give them an opportunity to share their vision of what the park will look like," he said. "This is something we want them to own."
 
In other business, the commission may look at developing some drone regulations in the future but at the moment drone flying in the city’s parks does not seem to be an issue.
 
"It is not something that is a problem for us but let's not lose sight of it," McGrath said. "It is something I think we need to talk about and it will be raised by someone at this table or staff but maybe we should just put that on the burner for now." 
 
McGrath did note that currently the commission only allows drones in designated areas in the parks, however the commissioners have yet to designate any areas -- essentially banning drone flying in city parks. 
 
He brought up drones because The Berkshire Eagle asked to fly its drone in the city parks. The commission felt because it was a request from the media and as long as the pilot was registered with the Federal Aviation Administration and followed federal protocols, this shouldn't be an issue. 
 
McGrath said the only drone-related issue had came some two years ago in Clapp Park. Someone was training with their drone for some sort of competition and people thought they were being filmed.
 
The commission did approve all field usage requests but member Clifford Nilan had questions about equity in the Pittsfield Soccer Club.
 
Commissioner Anthony DeMartino said the club does charge but does not pay the city a fee for field usage. The agreement was they help maintain and make improvements to the field.
 
Nilan said it would seem as though the club is making money and he wanted to make sure all young athletes were given the chance to play. Specifically, he was concerned about the availability of scholarships. 
 
"They are offered online and a lot of kids do not have access to a computer," he said. "So I would like the soccer folks to print some applications for the schools so everyone has an opportunity to get a scholarship."
 
McGrath said no athlete has been turned away, in his experience, and his department is listed as a contact source that can help families navigate the online system.
 
He said handing over applications to the schools also poses a problem because soccer registration takes place before school starts.  
 
Commissioner Simon Muil added that it wouldn't be fair to just force soccer to print out applications. He said they would have to extend this policy to all leagues. 
 
McGrath said he would get in touch with the soccer club organizers to gather all of the information.
 
"We will find out that information and we will circle back around but we have heard loud and clear from the commission that there is a desire to make certain that any young boy or girl can play," he said. "We will figure out exactly what is going on and report back."

Tags: drones,   parks commission,   public parks,   

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Brien Center Honors Two at Annual UNICO Dinner

By Jeff SnoonianiBerkshires Correspondent

Ed Sutton spent years struggling with addiction but now is a counselor at the Brien Center, helping others dealing with substance abuse. Seen here with his wife, Karen, he spoke at the Brien Center's annual fundraising dinner. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — When Ed Sutton celebrated his 17th birthday in lockup, he knew something had to change. Like many addicts it took him several more years and realizations, and another stint behind bars to finally make that change permanent. 
 
At Thursday night's annual Brien Center/UNICO dinner at Berkshire Hills Country Club, he got to tell his story.
 
"I've used and abused substances for as long as I can remember. I went to my first detox when I was 16 years old. I turned 17 years old in a locked unit for people with mental health and substance abuse issues," he said. "It seemed everyone around me knew I had a problem except for me."
 
Sutton led an itinerant childhood under the thumb of his alcoholic, abusive biological father. After shuttling between Massachusetts and the state of Florida, he was barely able to make it to the 11th grade before quitting in the first week. If he blames his circumstances for his substance abuse, he didn't let on when addressing the crowd.
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