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Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath gets ready to lead a tour through Springside House on Tuesday. The city was notified in December it would receive a $500,000 federal grant for the property's renovation.
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Pittsfield Gets $500K Matching Grant to Resurrect Springside House Interior

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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Parks manager James McGrath and Mayor Linda Tyer, right, speak on the federal grant that the city is receiving for Springside House. Tyer says she will ask the City Council for $500,000 in matching funds. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — If the walls of the Springside House could talk, they would tell tales of prominent local families, city business, and plenty of recreational activities.  Officials want to ensure that future generations are a part of this story.
Pittsfield has received a $500,000 Save America's Treasures grant for interior renovations to the property that was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008. Mayor Linda Tyer said she will be requesting the City Council next week appropriate the match from the city's free cash account. 
About $1.5 million in exterior renovations were completed a few years ago after restoration efforts were launched in 2013. If all goes smoothly, construction on the home's nooks and crannies will begin this year.
"The next phase of our project is to bring a real renovation of the interior of the house because there are so many potential uses that we're looking at but it is really important that we understand that there really needs to be an alignment with a great public purpose to justify the expense," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said on Tuesday. 
"It's the front door of a park. It's where you'll begin your visits, it's where you may attend some community meetings, and it's really an opportunity to see this city celebrate an important historic asset that is set in just an amazing, wonderful ecosystem that is Springside Park."
This is the second time the city's received funding through the Save America's Treasures program. It was started by then first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, who traveled to Pittsfield in 1998 to bring $400,000 for the Colonial Theatre.
The Italianate mansion formerly known has Elmhurst has sat vacant over the last 15 years. McGrath speaks fondly about the place, as it headquartered the city's Parks and Recreation Department from the 1950s to 2007 and welcomed him to his first day on the job.
"Next steps are to get inside and make those interior renovations which would include things like really important building codes and safety codes, creating space that can be used for community events, the possibility of a potential tenant that might be in alignment with our vision for Springside Park," the mayor said.
"So there's a lot of opportunity if we properly design and plan for the interior and this $1 million is going to go a long way in getting us down that road."
With the grant, the city has until the fall of 2025 to complete the project.
The estimate for full interior renovations total $3.5 million and the plans were submitted to U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey. While the source of the remaining $2.5 million has not been identified, Tyer is confident that it can be raised.
Next week, the City Council will vote on the $500,000 free cash allocation.
"I think the argument that can be made for the use of free cash is that first of all, this is a significant honor to receive a grant from the Save America's Treasures Fund. We believe that by using free cash we will not have to borrow for the match, which ultimately is a benefit to the community in the long run in that we don't incur any future debt," Tyer said.
"So that's really the argument that we're making for why it's an appropriate use for free cash. It's also an important capital investment and you've heard me talk about how free cash should be used for these important capital investments that have a long lifespan and so we really do believe that this is the right fund for this request. Now if they reject that request, we'll have to go back to the drawing board."
The Springside House was built between 1856 and 1860 by Abraham Burbank, occupied by the Davol family from 1872 to 1904, and then as a summer residence for Clarence and Hannah Stevens until the mid-1930s and was later donated to the city by the Miller family. 
The original "Springside" was built at the corner of what is now Abbott Street and North Street and was demolished in the early 2000s.
"This is a historic home," said Tyer. "It is a gem in the massive park's property that we manage here in the city of Pittsfield.
"There is great potential for that house to be the cornerstone for Springside Park so I would say that this is something of great value, historically to the community and for the future use of the house and Springside Park. So there is a lot of value in this request."
Prior to the restoration efforts being launched, the building suffered from a lack of maintenance until the city offices were removed from it.  The sprawling, three-story layout included a residential portion that was once occupied by former Pittsfield Parks Superintendent Vincent "Vin" Hebert and his family and a number of eclectic additions.
A walk through the home revealed peeling wallpaper, torn-down drop ceilings, and signs of age but McGrath assured the group that it has strong bones and just needs some TLC. He pointed to the intricate parquet floors and the tin ceilings as unique elements of the buildings. 
Exterior improvements included vital work on the foundation, drainage, porch, windows, and roof.
The city will work with the Massachusetts Historical Commission, which awarded the initial $30,000 for a feasibility study 10 years ago, on interior design choices that preserve important parts of the home while updating it to current standards.
McGrath said it will be a mixture of restoration, modernization, and renovation.
"The Springside House is everyone's house and we want to make sure there is equal access and opportunity," he explained.

Tags: federal grants,   springside house,   

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Dalton Planning Board Works to Update Special Permit Fees

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — The Planning Board is navigating how to update its special permit fees to bring them up to date with the current costs of services. 
During the board meeting last week, Town Planner Janko Tomasic said the cost of completing the services is higher than what it costs to take action on the application.
The current application fee charged by the Board of Appeals and the Planning Board is $375. 
This fee is intended to cover the cost of labor, time, materials, postage for the certified abutters list for abutter notification, postage for the certified mail for the notice of the decision, and two Berkshire Eagle legal advertisements for the public hearing.
"According to the data, the base cost for a permit application is barely enough to cover the cost of the application process," according to Tomasic's special-permit costs breakdown. 
Based on the last six permits, the least expensive permit is $414 to complete because of the increase in cost for the steps in the permit process.   
The flat certified mail fee for eight letters is $69.52, which covers the cost of certified mail to abutting towns, the applicant, and notice of the decision to the applicant
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