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Pittsfield CPA Committee Supports Out of Cycle Arrowhead Application

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Community Preservation Committee has voted to fund an out-of-cycle application for Arrowhead chimney repairs.

On Monday, the panel approved a $10,000 allocation of Community Preservation Act monies for Berkshire Historical Society to repair a chimney that is compromising the former home of author Herman Melville.

This is in addition to the nearly $649,000 in projects that the commission voted to fund in March. It will go to the City Council for final approval.

"We are seeking to restore the chimney in the rear ell of Arrowhead. This is the more modern part of Arrowhead so the chimney itself does not date back to the earliest areas of the house," board President Cynthia Farr Brown said.  

"However, it is our working chimney, it is where our boiler vents from, and in performing the historic structures report, commissioning that, and having that researched and written, we realized that the chimney had not been lined when the boiler was installed in 2015."

The lack of liner and general age of the chimney is said to be causing extensive spalling and deterioration of the bricks inside of the house and this project has received a high priority rating from the researchers and authors of the historic structure report.

"Such that we consider it a primary priority project for us to try to fund the needed rebuilding of the chimney, line it correctly, redo the venting," Farr Brown said.

"And that should make it sound and we will also be able to repoint and put in some copper ridge flashing as part of this project which will also help with the roof preservation and the general appearance of the roof and chimney as well."

The Historical Society originally thought to do a project that was not suitable for this round of applications and did not know if they could locate a builder in time to get the work done this season.

After securing a craftsperson and successfully applying for $10,000 in 1772 Foundation funds that require a match, CPA funds were sought. Work is scheduled to begin this month.

Because the total project cost is $34,200, $15,000 in Feigenbaum Foundation funds have also been requested and if it is not secured, the board is prepared to use restricted funds to complete the project before the next heating season.

"It seems to be an application that absolutely fits every criteria that we've had," committee member Anthony DeMartino said. "We've done work with Arrowhead in the past and the fact that it is just slightly out of cycle and really barely slightly out of cycle makes it really not a very difficult thing to consider."

Chair Danielle Steinmann said the securing of additional funds makes the project a stronger case and highlighted Arrowhead's importance to the city.

"In terms of budget and also timeline and feasibility, it sounds like you're moving forward, moving ahead," she said.

"So that and in addition, Arrowhead is a very important part of our historic fabric here in Pittsfield, and having had that historic structures report and having identified those priorities, that also to me makes a stronger case for why this project at this time. So having that background to me makes it again, an easy one to support for this for this cycle now that we have an explanation for why it's out of the timeline."

Member Kamaar Taliaferro asked how this project differs from regular maintenance, which has been a conversation with other funding applications.

It was explained that the chimney was having a ripple effect on the structure, which goes above and beyond maintenance, and that it is not done on a regular basis.

The application states:

Herman Melville's Arrowhead was built in the early 1780s by Captain David Bush, the first City Town Clerk of Pittsfield. Captain Bush likely built the house on the occasion of his son David Jr.'s marriage in 1783 and the tradition is that the family kept the house as an inn or tavern. By 1840, David Jr.'s son Charles oversaw the property, and he built a new barn. In 1850 when Herman Melville bought the property, his goal was to be a gentleman farmer and continue his writing career in the peace of the countryside. The site was the first Berkshire County site listed as a National Historic Landmark in 1962 and has been open to the public as a museum since 1975.

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Pittsfield Looks Forward to New, Improved Streetscape Maintenance

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff

PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The state of disarray in downtown medians stemmed from a problem with a contractor who won the bid and then was terminated twice.

Earlier this month, members of the City Council were outraged at overgrown medians and flowerbeds in the downtown area and referred several petitions on city maintenance to Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales.

The lack of care was attributed to issues with contracted work, being short-staffed, and weather struggles. The overgrowth has since been cleared and a new partnership between the city and local organizations will take the reins.

On Tuesday, Morales reported that EMS, a property maintenance and landscaping company, won the bid twice and both times did not complete the monthly pruning, weeding and prepping outlined in the contract.

"They were not doing it last year. We terminated the contract. We obviously did not pay them for the work they didn't do and we put out the contract to bid again. They were the only ones that bid again," he explained, adding that they were awarded the contract after an extensive meeting that outlined expectations and when they were not met, the contract was terminated again.

EMS was given until the end of June to get the work done.

"I acknowledge it and it's something that we should have done better," Morales said.

To address the issue in the short term, overtime work from the Highway Department has been arranged. This will allow crews to focus on downtown maintenance, working alongside a different local contractor to address overgrowth and weeds, Morales said.

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