Council Subcommittee OKs Pittsfield's CDBG Annual Plan

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city expects to receive an allocation of about $1.3 million in Community Development Block Grant funds this year with the bulk of allocations going to housing rehabilitation and demolitions.

The Community and Economic Development subcommittee on Thursday approved CDBG Annual Plan for the program year 2022-2023. 

"We anticipate the allocation this year to be about equal to what the allocation was last year, we actually haven't gotten the announcement yet but we'll probably get it tomorrow, the estimated budget is $1.3 million," Community Development & Housing Program Manager Nate Joyner said.

"We're focusing on the typical programs that the program is focused on traditionally over the last few years, primarily housing rehab, human services programs, economic development, addressing slum and blight through demolitions, providing accessibility improvements for businesses and residences as well as improving sidewalks in our underserved neighborhoods, including improving the accessibility ramps."

The estimated 2022 revenue sources are $1,359,376 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD,) which administers the program, $140,000 in program income, $285,051 of reprogrammed income, and $262,000 of carryover CDBG funds.

The allocations break down into 43 percent for housing rehab and demolition, 23 percent for public facilities, 19 percent for economic development, and 15 percent for public services.

Joyner reported that the city is capped at 15 percent for public services. Within that allocation, nearly half is being spent on homeless services and another large portion is being spent on youth services.

Nationally, CDBG activities must address priority needs identified in the city's 5-year consolidated plan, which is in year three. They must benefit a minimum of 70 percent low and moderate-income people, prevent or eliminate conditions of slum and blight at a minimum of 30 percent, and meet an urgent community need that threatens health or welfare.

The city's annual Action Plan reports that based on the allocation of funds for projects, 100 percent of CDBG funds are estimated to meet HUD's national objective of benefiting low and moderate-income persons and households and for activities serving low-to-moderate income persons or households, some qualify based on the area served while others qualify based on the clientele served or the actual income of the person or household.

The goal of a CDBG program is to provide decent safe and sanitary housing, a suitable living environment, and expand economic development opportunities for primarily low to moderate-income people, Joyner explained.

In a February public hearing for the funds, housing was consistently identified as an area of need and residents flagged areas in the West Side as requiring attention.

The top priorities based on public input are sidewalks and curb cuts, playground and park improvements, demolition of condemned buildings, human service funding, housing rehabilitation and lead paint removal, neighborhood cleanups, and the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) improvements.

Councilor at Large Karen Kalinowsky had several queries including which sidewalks will be fixed. Based on program eligibility, Joyner reported that the work will typically be done in the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods but that the Department of Public Works maintains the full list.

Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Sherman asked for a refresher on how the city's allocation is determined, as he returned to the council for this term after taking some time off.

"This allocation is subject to federal legislation, federal budget, so every year depending on the current Congress, they will arrive at a number so it does depend on what number Congress approves," Joyner explained.

He added that Pittsfield is designated an entitlement community based on its size, meaning it is given a direct allocation from HUD.

Councilor at Large Pete White thanked Joyner for all of the work that is put into the CDBG process, observing from his time on the Human Services Advisory Council that it is not easy to determine what social service agencies get funding.

Tags: CDBG,   housing,   

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Pittsfield Police Advisory Board Wants Voice in Use of Body Cameras

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Following the City Council's endorsement of dashboard and body cameras on Pittsfield Police, the Police Advisory Review Board would like to review the equipment's policy before anything is implemented.

Chair Ellen Maxon this week asked the board members if they would like to take a vote to support body cameras but some were unsure of their stance. Instead, the panel motioned Tuesday to request that in the event that the Police Department adopts such a program, PARB reviews the governing policies before implementation.

The conversation is in response to the death of Miguel Estrella at the hands of a police officer in late March, which has sparked a significant community response along with conversations about police accountability and the lack of mental health support.

"I still have a pretty mixed opinion because I feel like something like body cameras, people think that's going to be the end all, be all and we don't have to do any more work," board member Erin Sullivan said, adding that there is a bigger problem beyond video surveillance.

Board member Dennis Powell, who is also president of the Berkshire NAACP, wished not to share his thoughts on body cameras at the moment.  

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