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Pittsfield Plastic Bag Ban Remains on Table, Mayor Asked to Repair Streetlights
By Andy McKeever, iBerkshires Staff
02:38AM / Thursday, January 25, 2018
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — At this point, Rinaldo Del Gallo just wants a resolution to the plastic bag ban proposal.
 
The attorney filed a petition back in 2013 for the city to ban single-use plastic bags — especially at grocery stores. And yet, five years later the ban is still making its way through the City Council process.
 
"My goal is to have some final disposition by March or April this year, which will be the five-year mark," Del Gallo said. "I think it would be good if we had an up or down vote or a decision to let the people vote on it."
 
At the time, the city would have become the second Berkshire community to move in that direction. Pittsfield had already passed Del Gallo's 2012 petition to ban polystyrene food containers but this one seemed to languish with the Green Commission since being filed. On Tuesday, the City Council received an ordinance back from the Green Commission and sent that to its ordinance and rules subcommittee. 
 
Since Del Gallo's initial petition a number of towns, including Lee, Adams, and Williamstown, have passed bans on the plastic bags. In nearly all cases, the votes were lopsided in favor.
 
"It has been going on now for five years in Great Barrington with no issues," Del Gallo said.
 
The issue hasn't really been controversial. Supermarkets have been moving in that direction on their own for a number of years. Environmentalist have been pushing against the single-use bags saying they has detrimental effects on the environment.
 
In other business, Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell and at-Large Councilor Melissa Mazzeo are petitioning for the city to use $250,000 in free cash to repair broken streetlights. The City Council had previously approved a capital project to the tune of $3 million to replace the city's street lights with LEDs. But, that wouldn't fix the lights that needed more work than just a bulb.
 
"We have so many that aren't working. Those who are lucky enough to have one are getting a better one and those who don't have a working street light isn't getting anything," Mazzeo said.
 
Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities David Turocy previously said that while the conversion project won't repair those with underground wiring or other issues, the process of identifying those lights with such problems will happen. From there, the city can work on those individual lights. 
 
Connell, however, said he doesn't want to wait that long. He wants the $250,000 use now to get the process going. He said better lighting goes a long way toward making city street safer.
 
"I think we need to do the citizens of the city justice and give them something they really need," Connell said. "Let's get some of these dark streets lit and lit property."
 
On Tuesday, Turocy said since the PittSmart app went live, there have been 625 requests for lights out and 590 of them were fixed. 
 
The city contracts with Pine Ridge Technologies, which is responsible for the basic repairs but the more challenging ones fall to the city. Turocy said the city now has a contractor who can identify underground shorts without having to excavate much.
 
"We are doing over 50 a month," Turocy said.
 
But there are still plenty Turocy said the city likely doesn't even know about. Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi asks residents to report the lights so the city can repair them.
 
"It really gives the city the information they need," Morandi said.
 
The request to use the free cash for repairs was sent to the mayor.
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