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Pittsfield Subcommittee Makes Changes to Sewer & Drains Amendment
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
01:22AM / Wednesday, June 03, 2020
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Ordinance and Rules Subcommittee recommended a sewer and drains amendment and also to maintain City Council checks and balances from the original ordinance. 
 
The subcommittee voted unanimously Monday to send the amended ordinance to the full council, leaving in some sections that would allow the City Council to request reports and approve fine structures.
 
"I think we can make some small changes to make everyone happy while giving you some more flexibility while still having the council involved in making sure things are kosher," committee member Earl Persip said. 
 
Public Services Commissioner Ricardo Morales said the proposed changes will align the city with the Department of Environmental Protection and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency corrective actions issued in 2011 for the Capacity Management Operation Maintenance (CMOM). Among other changes, acceptance also would reduce the State Revolving Fund loan interest rate to 0 percent.
 
Some of the changes would have eliminated the City Council's ability to set fines and see reporting regularly and committee member Anthony Maffuccio said he would not support an ordinance that eliminated these checks and balances.
 
"The City Council is there because we are basically the checks and balances of the city government," he said. "I am very uncomfortable with this and will not be voting for this. I don't want the City Council taken out of the equation."
 
City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta said the council ordinarily would have to sign off on any proposed changes. This amendment would allow the commissioner to make fine changes independently. He added that some fine structures in the city are approved by the council while others aren't. 
 
Morales said the fines are current and would not need to be changed.
 
Persip said he did not have an issue removing the City Council oversight but wanted some public process instituted. He said he wanted to be sure people knew about the fines if they were to change.
 
"I think there should be a date attached to it or a process attached to it," he said. "I don't think it needs to go to the City Council ... I don't think it is going to change often but I would like to see some process. It just seems like a cleaner way to do it."
 
Chairman Nicholas Caccamo said he too was OK removing the council's responsibility while member Peter White said he would prefer to keep the City Council in the loop.
 
Morales said he was not married to the draft changes and welcomed the council's feedback.
 
"In no way am I expecting this to be approved as is," he said. "This is good input that I am receiving and I understand it is a large document ... these are all good comments and concerns."
 
As for annual reporting, Morales, who is new to the position, said in the past these reports were really never given to the council and the current ordinance asks for antiquated reporting. He said without this demand he would have more flexibility.
 
Caccamo said he was OK forgoing the reporting because it was really never done.
 
"For what it's worth I am not sure retaining something that is not actually being reported in the collective memory of this group," he said. "That seems strange and I am not interpreting this as a power grab."
 
The council compromised and  agreed that they would make changes to this section to make it up to date and reports would not be annual but by request.
 
Morales said they would draft a new document returning the City Council controls to the ordinance for review but the full council in June. He said as long as they can approve the ordinance by the end of June they will meet the "moving" deadline for the 0 percentage interest rate. 
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