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Mayor Linda Tyer proclaimed Sept. 10, 2019, as Berkshire Hills Chorus Day to mark group's 50th anniversary. The singers will be performing Saturday at Barrington Stage.

Pittsfield to Release Morningside Fire Station RFP Again

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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The council is hoping a developer will be interested in the long-closed Morningside firehouse.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council wants to offload the historic Morningside Fire Station, optimally, to a developer.
 
The council had requested that the city conduct a surplus property sale and, Tuesday, it looked at a complete list of city-owned properties. The list spanned hundreds of properties, some available for disposition others still utilized by the city.
 
However, the one property the councilors focused on was the decrepit Morningside firehouse located on 231 Tyler St. The 1906 building has been out of service since 1970.
 
"I have talked to a lot of retired firefighters that are very close to that building ... and it is a historic building, it is right in the area that we want to develop and I don't know what the problem is," Ward 4 Christopher Connell said. "If there is someone out there that wants to develop it or put it up for sale with the other surplus properties." 
 
Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood said the administration has solicited interest through a request for proposals (RFP). He said the city did not want to make a profit and was essentially willing to give the property away to the right developer but there were no submissions.
 
Requests have been put out previously with minimal response; Berkshire Children & Families had evinced some interest about five years ago but nothing came of the plan. 
 
He said there are plans to release another RFP this fall and this will likely be the last.
 
"If that bares no fruits then the decision will have to be made at some point, sooner rather than later depending on the outcome, whether or not that building needs to be demolished," Kerwood said.
 
The building was listed with a value of $111,300 on the property list.
 
Connell said he was under the impression that there was some interest in the building. This was echoed by Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi.
 
Kerwood said there was interest and people had "kicked the tires" but when the RFP deadline came around no one made any submissions. Without official submissions, the city cannot act.
 
The council was hesitant to broach demolishing the structure and Connell suggested at least securing the structure in the interim. 
 
"This is a historical building and I say at least let's get up there and throw some plywood on, well you can't now because you would probably fall through," he said. "If we did that years ago we could have minimized the damage."
 
Connell said it may be worth including the building in the surplus sale if the last-ditch RFP effort does not produce a favorable result.
 
The conversation then turned to other properties and the councilors counted around 40 parcels listed as surplus and agreed they wanted to move these parcels, many of which are vacant plots of land, in the near future.
 
"I want to see this move forward and give the taxpayers a break," Morandi said. "Let's get this property back on the tax rolls ... I hope we can move forward with that."
 
Kerwood said there are some additional properties the city would like to declare as surplus but there is a process to follow. He said the council can expect these properties to come before them soon to be listed for disposition. After the list is complete, the city can look at a surplus property sale.
 
In other business, the council approved temporary access off Downing Four Parkway and 1803 East St. to Eversource in order to allow the electric utility to make upgrades and conduct maintenance of the electric transmission facility.
 
Councilor at Large Melissa Mazzeo asked how the city can be assured that Eversource will repair any damages to the city roads.
 
Pittsfield Public Services Commissioner David Turocy said video of city property will be taken before work commences. After work is complete, the roads and video will be reviewed.
 
He said Eversource has more work it needs to conduct and the city can deny future access if repairs are not made to the correct standard.
 
Council asked that the Industrial Park road also be documented. 
 
The council voted against filing a traffic order from the city solicitor to amend traffic order 958. The amendment would make parking in parking meter zone C 50 cents an hour with the first 30 minutes free except for the Columbus Avenue, and Municipal Lot 7, in which the first 90 minutes will be free. 
 
The only votes in favor were Councilors John Krol, Mazzeo, and Morandi. 
 
• The council filed a petition from Kenneth Warren requesting a ballot question to prohibit establishing any separate fee for residents for any solid waste removal program prior to Jan. 1, 2022.
 
The only votes against were Mazzeo, Morandi, Connell, and Councilor Anthony Simonelli.
 
• During the front end of the meeting, Mayor Linda Tyer read a proclamation naming Sept. 10, 2019, Berkshire Hills Chorus Day. The women.s barbershop group turned 50 and will hold a special concert on Saturday at 7 at Barrington Stage. 

Tags: fire station,   land sales,   municipal property,   RFP,   

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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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