Pittsfield Kayak Kiosk Proposal Withdrawn After Pushback

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — It is the "end of the road" for a kayak kiosk proposal after pushback from community members and the City Council.

Whenever Watersports has withdrawn its proposal for a kayak rental program at Onota Lake. Safety concerns arose around the company's self-serve model though it was stipulated that users sign liabilities away with a waiver as part of the process.  

"It's unfortunate. I had hoped the outcome would be different and I think (Recreation and Special Events Coordinator Maddy Brown) and you as well thought this was an opportunity to provide an additional level of services, recreation opportunity to folks at the park through a modern-app-based system," Park, Open Space, and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath said to the Parks Commission on Tuesday.

"It would have cost the city nothing to have this sited. We wouldn't be responsible for any maintenance but there would be maintenance to the units and to the boats, etc. Everyone was going to get life preservers and there are instructions through the app so we thought it was it was safe and secure and a good fit for the park."

In December, the commission granted a request for the pilot program and City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta had been reviewing and revising a proposed contract that had not yet been approved. Last week during City Council, residents Daniel Miraglia and Gene Nadeau submitted a petition requesting a legal opinion on the proposal from the solicitor.

Miraglia expressed concerns about the lack of a bidding process, safety hazards, and the impact on a local business that rents kayaks on the lake. Onota Boat Livery owner Caryn Wendling was upset to hear that an out-of-town company would be allowed to operate the kiosk on the same lake as her business and also cited safety concerns.

Councilors asked that Pagnotta look into items such as the commission's authority with entering into contracts and if a bidding process would be needed for this.

Later that week, a request to the Conservation Commission for determination for the kiosk at Burbank Park located within the buffer zone associated with the inland bank was withdrawn. According to the application, it was proposed to be located before the beach area coming from the main parking lot.

Brown had been working closely with the Whenever Watersports to develop a memorandum of understanding for a yearlong pilot program before the pushback.

"There seemed to be agreement and excitement around that so we were moving forward with an MOU that would govern how this would all work," McGrath explained.

"There was some conversation around the the MOU and Whenever Watersports at the last council meeting and following that meeting, Whenever Watersports called up the city and indicated they were pulling back. They were withdrawing their requests to site the kayak kiosk at Burbank Park."

Brown explained that it wasn't a "never situation."

"They were very open to exploring this in the future if it's something we want to come back to," she said. "So it's a pause for now and hopefully we can revisit in the future and at a different time."

McGrath added, "For now they have withdrawn so that's the end of the road."

At the late 2023 commission meeting, Brown reported that a Connecticut branch of the company came to the city looking to establish a kiosk with no startup costs, which would also mean that there are no revenue shares.

Liability is signed away through a waiver on the rental app and the contract would be for a yearlong trial period with the possibility to have a revenue split in a future contract.  

According to the company website, Whenever Watersports partners with cities, parks, waterfront businesses, and other organizations to "help improve access to outdoor recreation in their communities." All renters must agree to a "comprehensive waiver" before using the equipment and this is said to release the company and any partners from all liability.

"Our general liability insurance policy also automatically covers all organizations we enter into agreements with. Organizations can be added as additional named insureds on the policy upon request," the website states.

Tags: boating,   onota,   parks commission,   

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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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