Pittsfield Finance Committee Supports Bousquet Sport TIF

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — A majority of the finance subcommittee feels that a $15 million renovation on the former Berkshire West will be a benefit to the city.

On Thursday, the councilors supported a 10-year tax increment financing agreement for Bousquet Sport that will save Mill Town Capital about $215,000 in real estate taxes over the period, starting at 100 percent in fiscal 2025 and decreasing to 10 percent by fiscal 2034.

"What is exciting about this project and what is significant is that it will be the second piece of what we see as two significant community recreational assets that are being redeveloped and expanding to meet a growing future need for outdoor recreation and wellness in Pittsfield," Director of Community Development Justine Dodds said.

"As you are aware, Milltown Capital recently rehabilitated and revamped Bousquet ski resort, which is directly across the road from Bousquet Sport, and invested over $11 million in that property to make some really significant improvements. This is phase two of the vision for Bousquet Sport and it is an estimated capital investment of another $15 million into the property."

The improvements include a new 15,000 square-foot facility, six outdoor pickleball courts, six indoor pickleball courts, five outdoor tennis courts, eight outdoor tennis courts, and two golf simulators. This is in addition to the renovations on the 45,000-square-foot facility including new locker rooms, cardio and fitness equipment, lighting, upgrades for code compliance, and exterior renovations.

It is expected to create three full-time jobs and 15 part-time jobs with a payroll increase of about $630,000.

The property's base value is $1.7 million; upon completion, it will be about $2.7 million, making the TIF tax liability about $998,000.

"Our vision is to basically reinvigorate the place and create the hub of community activity that it once was," Executive Director Eric Cooper said. "But there's a lot of infrastructure needs for that to be a viable community resource for a long time."

He explained that this will be complementary to the ski area, as there are a lot of "synergies" between those who do winter sports and the activities that can be done at Bousquet Sport.

"We firmly believe that health and wellness is an integral part of a thriving community," Copper said.

As with most TIFs, there was some conversation about the necessity of the tax relief and what it meant for residents of Pittsfield. Kalinowsky voted in opposition.

"I think you guys are penalized for being so successful," Councilor at Large Earl Persip III said of the opposition. "I think that's the kind of comments we're hearing. Mill Town has a very successful record of revamping things and redoing things."

Kalinowsky said she heard from constituents who were against the TIF, asking why they cannot get tax relief for their small business. Others pointed out that the investment firm is eligible due to the significant investment and there are programs to assist small businesses.

"We have people that need help in the city that haven't caught up from COVID," she said. "Their businesses are not back to close to being normal. They make half of what they used to prior to COVID.  They were shut down for months and they're struggling."

She later said the city is "backward" because it helps newcomers and not existing people in the city who are struggling.

Mill Town was founded in 2016 and has made several investments in Pittsfield and beyond over the last few years in the areas of recreation, dining and housing.

CEO and Managing Director Tim Burke reported that $5 million was put into the facility prior to this upgrade and, with soft costs, the entire endeavor will probably be about $25 million.

Similarly, he said Bousquet ski area has cost around $20 million.

"I support this project and it seems pretty easy to me to give someone a tax break when they're investing $15 million just with the project, never mind all the money they've already invested in the community," Persip said.

"Mill Town has been dedicated to Pittsfield and the Berkshires so I think we as a city should show our support to them for all the things they've done."

Though he did not vote against the TIF, Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick was on the fence. He wishes Bousquet Sport could provide a specific benefit to Pittsfield residents because of the tax relief such as a reduced rate or free community days.

A local rate is reportedly in conversation.

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DA Clears Trooper in Fatal Hancock Shooting

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

District Attorney Timothy Shugrue says the results of an autopsy by the medical examiner will not change his findings, which are based on the video and witnesses. With him are State Police Lts. Chris Bruno and Ryan Dickinson and First Assistant District Attorney Marianne Shelvey.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — District Attorney Timothy Shugrue has determined that State Police Trooper William Munch acted in compliance during what is being described as a "suicide by cop" earlier this month.
On Sept. 9, 64-year-old Phillip Henault reportedly placed a fictitious 911 call about an ongoing violent assault. Body-camera footage from the trooper shows the man advancing on him with two knives before being shot twice and collapsing in the street in front of his Richmond Road residence.
"Mr. Henault was actively using deadly force against law enforcement. There were no other objectively reasonable means that the trooper could have employed at the time in order to effectively protect himself and anyone that was in the home or the public. By virtue of his duties as a police officer, the trooper did not have the obligation to run away from Mr. Henault," Shugrue said during a press conference on Friday.
"Mr. Henault posed an active threat to the trooper and to the public. The trooper had a duty to arrest Mr. Henault who was engaged in various felonies. His arm was an active threat."
The DA determined that Munch's decision to fire his weapon at Henault under the circumstances was a "lawful and reasonable exercise of self-defense and defense of others" compliance with the policies of the State Police and commonwealth law, clearing the trooper of criminal charges and closing the investigation.
The lethal force was labeled as an "unavoidable last resort."
A preliminary autopsy determined the unofficial cause of death was two gunshot wounds to the torso with contributing factors of wounds to the wrists that were inflicted by Heneault. The final report from the medical examiner has not been issued.
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