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The reconstruction of the 1919 Wahconah Park took its next step with the selection of a designer.

Wahconah Park Committee Recommends Designer

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The reimagining of historic Wahconah Park is one step closer with a designer being put forth to the city. 

The park's restoration committee on Wednesday recommended S3 Design Inc. for the job after the firm scored highest against two competitors.

The recommendation will go to Mayor Linda Tyer and then to the Parks Commission, who will communicate the vote back to the purchasing agent so that they can ask for a scope and price proposal.

The Braintree company proposed a workshop-based process to assist the owner's project manager Skanska USA, the committee, and the city with the project. It includes a feasibility study with four phases of workshops, a schematic design, bidding and the award, and the construction administration.

Last week, a subcommittee interviewed three firms and was most impressed with S3 Design's presentation, though all were seen as good contenders.

"All of them brought substantial experience, they brought multiple team members with extensive experience and proposal plans for floodwater management as well as stadium design and alternate uses, different revenue streams, different park plans and amenities that they have done. They showed projects that were at least of similar scope and size to this," member Anthony DeMartino explained.

"Each of these two did have a plan and articulated a pretty good plan in regards to a building consensus and from the public, listening to public input and, listening to stakeholder input, and being sensitive to the city's situation not just financially but just in the scope of the project,"

"The S3 group did that significantly better."

DeMartino liked that the firm wanted to meet immediate and future needs and its plan to evaluate the importance of all design aspects.

Based on other niche projects that S3 Design has worked on, the ballpark cost is about $10 million to $15 million.

Reportedly most of the firms speculated that rebuilding the facility may be cheaper than renovating but would rely on the feasibility study to determine that.

The city has secured about $5 million for the endeavor so far.

"Currently there's a $2 million capital appropriation from the past fiscal year and the City Council just authorized the acceptance of a $3 million earmark grant," Parks, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath.

"So there's $5 million available right now. We're spending some of that down for expenses associated with the OPM Skanska and of course, we will negotiate a contract with the selected designer and will begin incurring costs there."

The OPM The team anticipates the design being complete by February or March of next year and bidding and work by August of 2024 after the Pittsfield Sun's season. This would result in a new ballpark that is open for use by the summer of 2025.

Four proposals were received in response to an RFP and three including S3 were accepted for interviews: Bargmann Hendrie and Archetype Inc. and Clough, Harbour & Associates.

The panel queried the firms on the costs, options to generate additional revenue at the park, seating, future appearance, flooding issues, and the schedule.  

The recommendation to the mayor was ranked in priority with S3 Design first, CHA second, and BH&A third.

McGrath said a single-topic Parks Commission meeting may be called to endorse the recommendation after it comes back from the mayor so that a contract can be underway.

"We are already a couple of weeks behind schedule and time is of the essence with this," he said. "So we want to proceed swiftly and efficiently but responsibly."

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Dalton on Search for New Fire Chief

By Sabrina DammsiBerkshires Staff
DALTON, Mass. — Chris Cachat will continue as acting fire chief as the Board of Water Commissioners determines its next steps. 
Cachat, the assistant chief, stepped in three weeks ago when James Peltier was placed on administrative leave. Peltier was fired last week for what the commissioners said were personnel complaints and for overspending his budget.
Commission Chair James Driscoll said at Tuesday's meeting it could take the department a couple of weeks to a couple of months to find a replacement. 
Hiring from outside the department search could take longer. 
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