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The City Council on Tuesday accepted a number of grants and appointed a new commissioner of public services.

Pittsfield Council Appoints New Public Services Commissioner

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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Ricardo Morales, who stepped in as interim public services commissioner in October, was appointed permanent in the post.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. —  The City Council on Tuesday made the city's interim commissioner of public services and utilities permanent.
City Engineer Ricardo Morales had stepped into the post last October when David Turocy retired after four years as commissioner.
"Mr. President and members of the City Council I am very pleased to introduce the city's new Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities," Mayor Linda Tyer said. 
Morales joined the city in 2018 after eight years in project management with Consigli Construction Co. During that time, he had worked on the new $66 million Williams College science center and its new Sawyer Library, the $145 million Clark Art Institute renovation and expansion, and Berkshire Medical Center's Radiation and Oncology Center.
He earned his bachelor of science in civil engineering from the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico in San Juan and has taken courses in construction quality management for contractors from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and in construction management at risk in accordance with Massachusetts law.  
The City Council referred to the Finance Committee two tax increment financing agreements that represent more than $10 million in investment in the city. 
The largest TIF referred on Tuesday is with Somnath LLC, which plans to invest $10 million in the construction of a Holiday Inn Express at 1055 South St.
"Thank you for your consideration of this worthy business development opportunity," Mayor Linda Tyer wrote in a letter to the City Council. "Please refer this to the City Council's Committee on Finance."
This new hotel is anticipated to create between 25 and 30 jobs, 15 of which will be full time.
This is the site of a former hotel that the owners demolished several years ago.
Somnath LLC, whose principals are Mauer and Dilip Desai, also own the Best Western Plus on West Housatonic Street and have been working with the city's Business Development Manager Michael Coakley over the past year exploring various options for this property.
According to the agreement, Somnath would be exempt from paying property taxes for the first year. This percentage would ramp down over the five years. In year two, it would be exempt from paying 80 percent, 60 percent for the third year, 40 percent for the fourth year and 20 percent for fifth year.
In total, it is estimated that $769,933 in taxes will be forgiven that will provide them with more working capital to hire more employees at higher salaries. 
Per the agreement, Somnath would have to create the promised 15 full-time jobs within the five years and invest the promised $10 million in the hotel to be completed by Dec. 31, 2021.
This was the second TIF is an agreement with Johns Building Supply, which wants to construct a 8,000 square foot retail and office space at 850 Crane Ave.
Because of the proposed Ashuwillticook Rail Trail extension into Pittsfield, the 70-year-old building supply company plans to move its office from the north to the south side of Crane Avenue.
William and Sherry Koziara, owners of Johns Building Supply, look to invest between $600,000 and $1 million in the new building that will expand their retail business.
The new construction would allow them to bring in a new tenant and create 12 to 14 new jobs.
The tax exemptions will be on the exact same scale as the new hotel and Johns Building Supply would be on the hook for making its promised investments and creating 10 new full-time jobs in the five years.
Total taxes forgiven is estimated to be $45,069.
A Finance Committee meeting has yet to be scheduled.
In other business:
The council also appointed Stephen Smith to the Board of Health and Amanda McGregor to the Commission on Disabilities.
• The council accepted a $150,000 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. These funds will go toward the removal of the Mill Street Dam.
Parks and Open Spaces Manager James McGrath said the project is currently underway but he is still seeking contingency funding. 
"We are just trying to position ourselves accordingly," he said. "We are still seeking funding and we want to be sure the total cost is covered from other than city funds."
He said he hopes to secure another $250,000 grant.
• The council accepted a $439,421 grant from the state Department of Environmental Protection to purchase three new diesel vehicles under the Volkswagen Settlement Open Solicitation. 
These new vehicles will replace older ones in accordance with Attachment A of the End User Agreement included with this communication. The funds will be used in fiscal 2021 with a 20 percent match from the city in the amount of $109,855.40.
The city plans to purchase a five-ton lift all season truck, a tandem hook lift all season truck, and a one-ton hook lift all season truck.
• The council accepted a $56,317.59 grant and a $8,393 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Public Safety and Security.
• The council accepted a $29,863.40 grant from the Massachusetts Interlocal lnsurance Association. These funds will go toward making video surveillance system upgrades to the highway garage.
• The council accepted a $1,100 grant from the William G. Pomeroy Foundation.These funds will be used to fabricate and install a National Register of Historic Places marker sign at Springside House.

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Staff Member Tests Positive for COVID-19 at ServiceNet Shelter

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A staff member has tested positive for COVID-19 at ServiceNet's winter homeless shelter in the former St. Joseph High School.

On Monday morning, ServiceNet became aware that the shelter employee produced a positive test.

The employee was asymptomatic and had not been to work since Wednesday of last week, Senior Vice President of Shelter & Housing Jay Sacchetti said.

ServiceNet has an emergency protocol that occurs in the case that a visitor or employee tests positive for the virus in any of their group homes or shelters.  

The shelter did not shut down for the night, but went into quarantine and will test all employees and guests Wednesday. Since learning of the positive case, the shelter has been open 24/7, while it is normally only open around the clock on weekends and holidays.

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