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The City Council on Monday spent 4 1/2 hours reviewing sections of the fiscal 2021 budget. Most of that time was on the police budget that was cut by $100,000.

Pittsfield Council Trims Police Budget, Puts Money Toward Mental Health

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Monday night cut $100,000 out of the Police Department budget and earmarked $85,000 for additional mental health clinicians. 
 
The action comes after a stalled vote on the school budget last week and council and community concerns over putting more money into police spending while anticipating significant cuts to education that could cost 140 positions. 
 
This fourth in a series of budget hearings saw the council preliminary approve the emergency services budget and, after 4 1/2 hours of discussion, narrowly approve a reduced Police Department budget of $11,324,229 with a 6-5 vote.
 
Councilors Helen Moon, Patrick Kavey, Kevin Morandi, Christopher Connell, and Anthony Maffuccio voted against the budget that originally was $11,424,229 and represented a 4.8 percent increase.
 
During last week's school budget hearing, some councilors felt there was more the city could do and Moon specifically pointed out the increased police budget that she felt could be reduced.
 
The first half hour of the meeting was taken up by public comment and all callers asked to level fund the police budget and instead put the money toward education or other social services. Others called for a more complete review of the department and its policies and procedures.
 
The City Council did not make these massive swipes to the budget but did reduce it by the $100,000.
 
Councilor at Large Earl Persip focused on the police personnel budget of $10,283,029 that increased by $333,649 and, while going through each line item, asked Police Chief Michael Wynn about the  partnership with the Brien Center for Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services
 
Wynn said the partnership has been very successful.
 
"It is working amazingly. I wish we had more availability," he said. "It has gotten to the point where officers and dispatchers ask for his response before we even take a call ... there all kinds of positive benefits."  
 
Persip saw this as an area for expansion and asked the council to consider removing $85,000 from the patrol officers line item of $4,272,207 and use it to bring on more clinicians. This would be in place of two patrol positions that are currently open but allocated for.
 
Moon, of Ward 1, said she liked the idea of having more clinicians out in the field but would prefer it if they weren't hired by the Police Department. She added that she would support this as a temporary agreement but had concerns about clinicians responding to mental health crises with officers.
 
Councilor at Large Peter White supported this transfer and said he thought this was a step in the right direction in terms of making the changes in the department some of the callers during public comment asked for
 
"We are looking at things differently and to look at things differently the budget needs to have flexibility," he said. "The ability to hire these different positions so we can try them to see what effect they will have on what is going on in our community now."
 
Wynn said the clinicians are not only beneficial in the field but improve the officers who work alongside them. He said officers incorporate new skills and are getting "better by association." 
 
As for the department itself, he said officers are overworked and are often stressed. He said they all benefit from talking to the clinician in house.  
 
Morandi of Ward 2, Maffuccio of Ward 7, and Connell of Ward 4 all said they could not support this motion and wanted to focus instead on hiring more officers and bringing the count from 85 closer to 100. 
 
"We need law and order in the city ... we need 110 or 100 officers," Morandi said. "We are going backwards."
 
Wynn said although he supported working with more clinicians he did not want to deviate from their hiring plan because low staffing issues remain a constant issue.
 
The motion passed to shift the funds 8-3, with Connell, Morandi, and Maffucio voting no. 
 
There were some questions on how to actually do this. Mayor Linda Tyer said a new line item could be included in the final budget document. She said it would still be a partnership with the Brien Center and they can figure out the finer details later.
 
The council continued to go through the budget and Persip pointed to the $165,600 in the expenses budget of $1,141,200 that increased by $190,948. He said this line item, that supports officers in the academy, did not equal the number of officers there. 
 
Wynn said this was budgeted before the pandemic and currently there are four officers in the academy and 13 on deck. He said there are not going to be any more candidates off this requisition. 
 
Persip motioned to knock this budget down by $50,000 and the council unanimously approved.
 
The council also voted to decrease the event's overtime budget of $120,000 by $50,000. Persip made this motion because many of the summer events have been canceled.
 
Persip first asked to place the money into community outreach overtime, however, this motion failed 3-8 with some councilors noting they preferred to reduce the budget where possible.
 
"I don't think this is honoring the request of the 14 people who called in and the number of people who sent emails," Moon said. "I don't think this is an issue of us having enough officers out there handing out ice cream to the community ... they are concerned about the system of policing."
 
The other larger discussion was Moon's motion to decrease the scheduled overtime budget of $1,275,000 by $275,000. She felt this budget was too high and the city was "paying from both ends." She said they are funding an increased overtime budget while allocating funds to employ 99 officers when they only currently have 85..
 
Wynn reiterated that they are still not up to proper staffing and their reliance on overtime will only increase once officers start taking more time off during the summer. He said if this line item is cut they will likely run a deficit.
 
"I believe that to protect this city for all of the risks and threats my officers are expected to respond to we should be working with about 110 police officers which means to have that number closer to 120," he said. "The nice part is if we get there then we have options and we can do more community engagement work but right now we are chasing calls." 
 
Maffuccio and Morandi were hesitant to cut the overtime budget when the department was not up to full staffing.
 
Connell went further and said he would only support a change in this budget if money was going back toward the patrol line item. He felt cutting further would be dangerous and put residents in danger.
 
"I don't understand what is going on here. We have severe problems here in Pittsfield ... we have gangs, we have drugs," he said. "I don't understand what we are doing. Are we drinking the Kool-Aid because of everything happening in the world? All lives matter but you have to have law and order ... if the police force is a skeleton crew who is going to come save the day?"
 
Moon fired back.
 
"This is not an isolated incident with Minneapolis, this is across the county and I think we are stepping into dangerous waters when we don't think that a national conversation affects us," Moon said  of the weeks of protests against police brutality. "We are not special, we have a police force and we have people of color that live in this community." 
 
White also did not feel comfortable reducing this budget. He said the budget may have increased but the police provide services people demand and need in the community.
 
Wynn said this cut on top of the $100,000 already made would send the budget into disarray but they would find a way to continue to provide the same services. He said call times would most definitely be affected 
 
"I have never received the instruction to reduce services and we would have to find a way to do it and we always find a way to do it," he said. "It is going to lead to increased response times and some call we can't get to right away but we will make it work and provide the safety and security the city needs."
 
The motion failed 2-9 only garnering support from Moon and Kavey
 
Moon continued to look for reductions and motioned to reduce the Contractual Allowances budget line item by $26,148 The motion failed and Moon said she was disappointed in her fellow councilors and felt there was a "lack of courage."
 
"Unless we are following that up with budget appropriations and policy changes I think it is just lip service. I know that I am being challenged in terms of how to approach a budget and what that means for the black and brown community in Pittsfield," she said. "We can go to as many rallies as we want but if we aren't following up ... I don't think we are staying true to our sentiment that black lives matter."
 
Some councilors said they were insulted by this comment.
 
"As a black man I take that insulting," Persip said. "I take these issues seriously and vote from my own experiences with the police. I grew up on the West side of Pittsfield and I have experienced this my whole life so the indication that I don't take this seriously and I don't care about the brown and black community is insulting." 
 
"If we want to effect change that I know we all want to see we have to do that by being intentional," Ward 6 Councilor Dina Guiel Lampiasi said. "We can't just gut one department and think that is going to fix the problem ... we have bigger structural issues and we have to build our way there."
 
The conversation shifted between policy and the specific function of line items. Much discussion was given to the Shot Spotter technology and Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo had questions in regard to its effectiveness in relation to its cost. He said he wanted to continue to review data and did not plan to motion to eliminate the line item.
 
Wynn spoke to the ammunition budget of $30,000 and said the state has increased the amount of training time officers need with various weapons. 
 
"We had to increase the amount we are shooting to meet that minimum requirement," he said. "That is barely enough to cover what we know we will have to shoot. The actual request this year was higher because we wanted to increase our nonlethal capability."
 
He also spoke to the fleet maintenance increase. He said no new cruisers will be purcashased this year so more maintenance will be needed.
 
The rest of the budget review went by quicker and the City Council approved the proposed Fire Department budget of $8,426,958, which is up $37,062.
 
The personnel budget of $7,847,958 is up 0.5 percent or $37062 and the expenses budget of $579,000 is level-funded.
 
The council also accepted the Emergency Management budget that  is level at $26,400; $23,000 of the budget goes towards the annual cost of CodeRED, the public alert system.
 

Police Department


 
The Police Department budget of $11,324,229 is up $424,597 from this year, or 4 percent. The City Council reduced the special events overtime and student officer expense lines by $50,000 each and earmarked $85,000 from the patrol officer account for contracted clinician services. This will create a new line item.
 
Account Name 2017 Approval 2018 Approval 2019 Approval 2020 Approval 2021 Approval
Police Chief $115,000 $115,000 $118,476 $123,936 $127,034
Police Captains $251,062 $251,062 $261,055 $333,760 $352,266
Police Lieutenants $398,965 $405,734 $414,243 $661,000 $696,319
Police Sergeants $872,117 $872,117 $910,212 $1,139,536 $1,223,386
Safety Officer $66,414 $66,414 $69,329 $93,530 $67,511
Detectives $516,140 $516,140 $516,140 $596,198 $634,091
Patrol Officers $3,720,166 $3,720,166 $3,618,829 $4,422,120 $4,187,207
*Mental health clinicians*         $85,000
Mechanic $48,100 $49,662 $52,050 $53,893 $56,733
Dispatchers $523,680 $523,680 $523,680 $523,680 $573,049
Animal Control Officer $58,460 $62,542 $64,963 $66,398 $66,398
Special Response Team $15,000 $15,000 $15,000 $15,000 $15,000
Custodian $35,306 $37,818 $39,418 $42,406 $44,526
Finance and Admin Manager      $60,000 $65,607 $68,591
Sr. Clerk Typist/Conf. $116,357 $116,668 $77,782 $77,782 $83,416
Senior Clerk Typist $68,926 $70,256 $72,364 $72,364 $72,837
Animal Control Comm Clerk $2,000 $1,000 $1,000 $1,000 $1,000
Matrons $15,000 $15,000 $15,000 $15,000 $15,000
Temporary Labor $15,000 $15,000 $0 $9,742 $10,000
Auxiliary Police $3,000 $3,000 $0 $0 $0
Special Investigation OT $40,000 $40,000 $42,800 $60,000 $60,000
Special Events OT $150,000 $125,000 $120,000 $120,000 $70,000
Drug Enforcement OT $180,000 $225,000 $225,000 $225,000 $215,000
Scheduled Overtime $900,000 $900,000 $900,000 $1,000,000 $1,275,000
Dispatchers OT $110,000 $110,000 $110,000 $110,000 $110,000
Crime Analyst $49,390 $49,390 $52,689 $53,928 $56,165
Community Outreach OT (New)       $12,500 $12,500
Police Science $1,000,000 $1,000,000 $1,214,413 $0 $0
In Service $70,000 $70,000 $70,000 $70,000 $70,000
Student Officer Expenses     $0 $55,200 $115,600
Shotspotter (New)       $240,000 $240,000
Animal Control Testing Fees $200 $200 $200 $200 $200
Uniforms $60,000 $60,000 $86,600 $30,000 $30,000
Maintenance/Support $185,000 $185,000 $195,000 $213,000 $239,600
Police Education $20,000 $15,000 $15,000 $15,000 $15,000
Shipping/Postage $1,200 $1,200 $500 $500 $500
Printing $3,000 $3,000 $2,000 $2,000 $2,000
K9 Care and Supplies $5,500 $5,500 $5,500 $7,000 $8,000
Office Supplies $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $11,000
Drug Enforcement Expenses $15,000 $15,000 $15,000 $10,000 $16,800
Ammunition $15,000 $15,000 $25,000 $30,000 $30,000
Special Investigation Expenses $4,500 $4,500 $4,000 $6,500 $6,500
Care of Prisoners $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $14,000
Custodial Supplies $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $10,000 $10,000
Equipment $45,000 $45,000 $45,000 $95,000 $95,000
Fleet Maintenance $45,000 $45,000 $45,000 $50,000 $65,000
Contractual Allowances (New)       $150,852 $177,000
Total $9,820,774 $9,800,049 $10,033,243 $10,899,632 $11,324,229

 

Fire Department

The Fire Department budget of $8,426,958 is up $37,062, or 0.4 percent over this year. 
 
 
Account Name 2017 Approval 2018 Approval 2019 Approval 2020 Approval

2021 Approval

Fire Chief $99,340 $99,775 $103,371 $98,500 $114,800
Deputy Fire Chiefs $363,103 $363,235 $396,000 $405,279 $424,663
Fire Captains $1,004,000 $831,669 $897,000 $1,134,882 $1,134,882 $
Fire Lieutenants $980,000 $1,020,000 $1,088,855 $1,266,635 $1,266,635
Firefighters $3,358,000 $3,320,307 $3,716,000 $4,298,751 $4,298,751
Head Clerk $34,575 $32,025 $33,340 $35,288 $35,288
Master Mechanic $68,470 $68,470 $72,975 $73,876 $75,254
Principal Clerk $31,016 $32,350 $32,846 $28,821 $28,821
Office Manager $38,358 $40,203 $42,000 $43,864 $43,864
Emergency Apparatus Staffing $30,000 $50,000 $30,000 $35,000 $30,000
Emergency Manning $700,000 $700,000 $400,000 $375,000 $375,000
Assuming Additional Response $24,200 $30,000 $25,000 $20,000 $20,000
Uniforms $109,000 $139,000 $120,000 $122,000 $122,000
Maintenance General $12,100 $13,000 $13,000 $15,000 $15,000
Vehicle Maintenance $140,000 $140,000 $200,000 $225,000 $225,000
Medical Maintenance $13,000 $13,000 $13,000 $15,000 $15,000
Education and Training $15,000 $25,000 $20,000 $22,000 $22,000
Arson Investigation $4,000 $4,000 $10,000 $0 $0
Supplies $8,000 $8,000 $8,000 $10,000 $10,000
Equipment $30,000 $30,000 $30,000 $40,000 $40,000
Equipment Replacement $35,000 $35,000 $35,000 $45,000 $45,000
CAD License/Maint/Admin Fees $29,000 $31,000 $53,000 $50,000 $50,000
Total $7,126,162  $7,026,034 $7,339,387 $8,389,896 $8,426,958

Emergency Management

The $26,400 budget for emergency management remains unchanged from last year and was approved without discussion.

 

Account Name 2017 Approval 2018 Approval 2019 Approval 2020 Approval 2021 Approval
Deputy Director of Emergency Management $0 $0 $0 $0  
Utilities $0 $0 $0 $0  
Education and Training $500 $500 $500 $500 $500
Code Red $22,500 $23,000 $23,000 $23,000 $23,000
Supplies $100 $100 $100 $100 $100
Emergency Operating Center $2,800 $2,800 $2,800 $2,800 $2,800
Radio Amateur $0 $0 $0 $0  
Radio Citizen $0 $0 $0 $0  
Total $25,900 $26,400 $26,400 $26,400 $26,400

 


Tags: fiscal 2021,   pittsfield_budget,   

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Pittsfield Restaurant Owners Want Dining Suspension Lifted

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

Paul Capitanio of East Side Cafe, left, Craig Benoit and Michael Wendling of O'Laughlin's Pub hope to speak with the mayor tomorrow. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Local restaurateurs feel that Pittsfield's recent indoor-dining ban is unfair to their businesses and a large financial burden.
 
On Monday, Hot Dog Ranch owner Craig Benoit stood outside City Hall with the support of other restaurant owners to ask that Mayor Linda Tyer comes out and have a conversation about the ban enacted on Nov. 12 after a dramatic spike in novel coronavirus cases. 
 
"I want her to know that this is urgent for us," Benoit said. "You shut down one industry in the city, that's all you did."
 
Benoit has spoken about his petition on "It's Pittsfield Tonight" and Channel 10 News in the past couple of days and is trying to start a coalition of Pittsfield restaurants who are on the same page.
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