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The Personnel Review Board took 15 minutes on Tuesday to recommend a new position to oversee the federal COVID-19 relief funds coming into the city.

Pittsfield Creates Special Projects Manager Position for ARPA Funds

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city will be hiring a staff member to manage the nearly $40 million in American Rescue Plan Act funding it will be receiving.

The Personnel Review Board on Tuesday approved a request to create a special projects manager position to will lead the development of a multi-year spending plan for the federal funds.

The position will likely only be in place over the next five years, until the spending deadline in 2026, and will be paid in full through the ARPA funds.

In March, it was announced that Pittsfield is receiving a $32.4 million allocation and a county allocation of $8.4 million that is distributed to communities on a per-capita basis because Berkshire County no longer has a county administrative structure.

Obligations for the spending must be made by the end of 2024 and the funds must be spent by 2026.
Mayor Linda Tyer said the city thought it would have a good amount of freedom with the monies but then received 150 pages of guidelines for implementation. This was a "big learning curve" for the administration, she said.

"Having in an employee with a very specific set of skills and experience to manage the American Rescue Plan will be vital over the next five years, and I would envision this position being filled sometime in October or November," she said. "Because we're at a point now where we really need to set up the structures for how this significant once-in-a-generation investment will be managed here in the city of Pittsfield."

The city four public input hearings for different approved categories for spending of the funds and is assessing the community feedback. Tyer is in the process of establishing an advisory council to narrow the focus of ARPA use.

Duties of the special projects manager will include working in coordination with the advisory team and city staff to identify applicable programs or projects for funding, monitor state and federal guidelines associated with ARPA, and engaging with community stakeholders for input.

The position also requires communication with the public, city staff, elected officials, and other stakeholders and the Special Projects Manager serves as the point of contact for inquiries associated with ARPA funds.

Data collection, analysis, and presentation will be required in the process as well.

A bachelor's degree in public administration, public policy, planning, finance, or a similar field and five years of related experience or equivalent combination of education and experience is required for consideration.

Director of Human Resources Michael Taylor analyzed some other communities in the state that have adopted a similar position including Barnstable, Beverly, Lowell, New Bedford, and Somerville.

The average salary range of the communities was around $90,000 minimum and $99,000 maximum.

Tyer pointed out that this position will begin as full time and then likely drop down to as little as 21 hours a week. Because of that, it would be paid at an hourly rate.

"I think that, at least in the beginning, for all of us for all of our benefits, I would envision it being full time," she said. "But as we get under way, and things get organized and we get rolling along here, we might not need a full time, the person in the position may not need to work full time."

Though the meeting was only about 15 minutes long, there was some discussion over concerns with the inconsistent work schedule.

Board member Kelly Reagan said that from a recruitment standpoint, that 21- to 40-hour schedule might not be favorable to applicants.

"We don't envision this position, existing very much more often very much past December of 2026 when the funds have to be completely extended and dispersed," Tyer reiterated. "So to your point, we're going to have to explain to candidates that this is not a position that is going to exist within city government forever and ever."

Finance Director Matthew Kerwood added that the special projects manager position is a standalone function and not really incorporated into others within the city government.

"At this point, I think in terms of OKing the position, I think it makes total sense," board member Bryan House said. "I think that's kind of our purview here today, I think it makes sense and yeah it is kind of a critical window in time if you will."

Tags: federal funds,   

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Pittsfield Seeing Decrease in Average Rate of COVID-19 Cases

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — After a month of sharp COVID-19 increase, the city is seeing a decreasing average case rate.

"With regards to the number of cases we have been seeing, we continue to get high and low case days," Director of Public Health Andy Cambi wrote in an email on Friday. "It is a similar trend we have seen with past spikes. The cases would slowly decrease, usually taking periodic significant drops and then leveling off for a time."

There were 94 new cases on Thursday, 75 on Wednesday, 124 on Tuesday, and 46 on Monday.

The average case rate per 100,000 people is 223.6 after peaking at an all-time high of 283.1 on Jan. 16.  

The positivity rate is now 16.8 percent, down from 18.1 on Jan. 17. That metric was close to the pandemic's highest positivity rate of 19.2 that occurred in early April 2020.

Similarly, the number of estimated actively contagious cases has dropped to 445, whereas there were 790 on Jan. 15.  

There are currently 21 COVID-positive patients on precautions in Berkshire Medical Center. Pittsfield's 14-day hospitalization rate is 1 to 1.94 for vaccinated to unvaccinated patients.

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