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Pittsfield received a $10,000 grant from the MIIA to inspect all playgrounds and provide inspection trainings.

Pittsfield Receives Insurance Grant to Inspect Parks

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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City Council accepted a number of grants and referred several matters to the Finance Subcommittee. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city received a $10,000 grant from the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association to inspect all playgrounds and provide inspection trainings.
 
The City Council accepted the $10,000 grant Tuesday. Superintendent of Parks Chris Evangelisto told the council that it will allow the city to inspect its own parks instead of outsourcing the service.
 
"Previously MIIA had a risk assessor they would send out. They haven't done it in three-plus years but that is why we went after this grant," Evangelisto said. "To get an unbiased inspection by a third party and have the ability to do that in house."    
 
The initial inspection would allow for a comprehensive safety inspection of all playgrounds and playground equipment.
 
Upon completion, the city will use the survey to determine what improvements need to be made. This survey will inform a long term maintenance plan.
 
Director of Finance Matthew Kerwood said the funding would also allow for the training of two employees who will become certified playground inspectors. 
 
"The grant covers the inspection services but going forward we will be doing that in house," he said. "It would be done on our time at the cost of our labor."
 
Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi asked if the city would have to kick in any more money for this training over the years and Kerwood responded that this would really be a one-time cost. He said the city may need to add another $500 to $1,000 to fully fund the training.
 
The item did cause some discussion and Councilor at Large Earl Persip had questions about how the process works now -- specifically if a problem at a playground is reported.
 
Evangelisto said complaints typically go through his department but these new trained employees would have the knowledge and certification to address the issues to code.
 
Persip noted that currently there are issues at the parks and they don't meet state standards. He said most notably the parks don't have the needed 9 inches of mulch base.
 
"I think this is great and it is great that we are getting certified and we can get all of the people certified we want but we need to address these issues," he said. "We know they are not safe, a state person is telling us they are not safe."
 
In other business, the City Council sent a new recycling contract to the Public Works Subcommittee.
 
"It is important to recycle and it is really good for the environment ... and I would like to further  encourage our community to continue to recycle," Mary Stuckler of the Resource Recovery Committee said during public comment. "This is just a hurdle. This is not the end and we have a lot of work to do."   
 
The proposed 10-year contract with the state Department of Environmental Protection and WM Recycle America LLC would designate the Springfield Materials Recycling Facility as the city's recycling processing facility as it has been in the past.
 
DEP's contract with the operator will expire in June. This prompted the search for a new operator for the facility. This process began in 2019 and DEP came to an agreement with WM Recycle America.
 
This required new contracts for participating communities. 
 
A letter from the director of finance and the chairman of the Resource Recovery Committee noted that the city will be obligated to pay a "tipping fee" of $93.50 per ton. 
 
This rate could be reduced based on the Average Market Rate of the material brought to the facility. The fee is typical in the eastern part of the state but fairly new in the western part of the state.
 
Stuckler reiterated that prices will go up and said there may be a case of "sticker shock."
 
"With this new contract comes the reality of the recycling market not being what it was for the past few decades," she said. "Central and eastern Mass have been grappling with the consequences with the drop in the recycling market over the past few years."
 
The council referred the appropriation of $168,382 to fund repairs and modifications to the elevator in the McKay Street Parking Garage to the Finance Subcommittee 
 
This money would come from the parking fund established to make such repairs.
 
Director of Building and Maintenance Brain Filiault stated in a letter provided to the council that the elevator is 32 years old and original to the building. He wrote the normal lifespan for an outdoor elevator is 15 to 20 years because of its exposure to the elements.
 
Repairs were made in 2014, 2015, and 2016, however, since 2017, the city has been dealing with a laundry list of malfunctions and fixes.
 
The elevator has failed inspection in the last two years and needs to be brought up to code.
 
Kerwood added in his letter that this project would tap most of the funds in the account but because revenue is generated daily and he expects to end the fiscal year with a surplus in the account.
 
The City Council also: 
 
Voted to accept a $16,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security's Highway Division.
 
• Accepted a $34,000 grant from the state to be used for accessibility upgrades at the Berkshire Athenaeum and a $5,000 grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council to fund marketing and promotional initiatives for the Upstreet Cultural District.
 
• Accepted a gift of funds of $25,000 from East Acres Solar NG LLC.
 
• Acted on an order submitted by the mayor to pay the previous year expenses of $7,045.98 in the Department of Public Services and Utilities' water treatment budget. Of this, $6,295.87 will be paid to Holland Company Inc. for sodium aluminate and $750 of this will be paid to Wright-Pierce for services rendered in the repair of the water treatment plant's SCADA system.
 
• Referred a second order from the mayor to the finance subcommittee. The order was to rescind $2,437,022.08 of authorized but unissued debt. 

Tags: McKay Garage,   public parks,   recycling,   

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Pittsfield Officials Pick Taconic Grad for Empty School Committee Seat

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — In a joint meeting of the School Committee and the City Council, Nyanna Slaughter was unanimously voted to serve the rest of former member School Committee member Dennis Powell's term expiring at the end of December.

Powell abruptly resigned last month over committee's choice for superintendent. 

Slaughter is the Central Massachusetts regional director for U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and as a Pittsfield native has "strong relationships with several children, families, elected officials, and community leaders in the city."

"I am a Black educated woman who is a confident, passionate, determined, organized leader and team player," she wrote in her letter of interest. "Joining the Pittsfield School Committee will allow me to continue to serve and engage our students in our community."

Also indicating interest was Karen Kaveney-Murray, who has worked in Pittsfield Public Schools as a translator, and Randy Farmer, who feels strongly about ensuring success for all students by implementing policies that focus on student achievement. Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell nominated Farmer but the motion was not seconded.

Applicants Kathy Amuso, Avi Dresner, and Karen Lauzon withdrew and Farmer was a new addition, as his application through Google on May 3 was misplaced in the system.

Mayor Linda Tyer made the first motion to nominate Slaughter for the seat.

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