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Pittsfield Finance Committee Recommends Water System Upgrades
By Jack Guerino, iBerkshires Staff
04:30AM / Monday, September 07, 2020
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The Finance Committee is recommending the city borrow almost $4 million to make needed upgrades to the water system.
 
The committee last week endorsed the request from Mayor Linda Tyer to borrow $2.75 million to fund the new western pressure zone water storage tank.
 
Public Services Commissioner Ricardo Morales said the current Lebanon Avenue water storage tank is in need of maintenance but cannot be shut off to facilitate repairs.
 
"This tank was found about a decade ago to be deficient in a few areas, and it needs to be addressed," Morales said. "However, the Lebanon tank cannot be put offline because that would mean having a large section of the population in that area cut off from water."
 
The solution, he said, is to install a second tank on the airport property that would serve the western pressure zone and allow the city to shut down Lebanon Avenue.
 
Ultimately, both tanks will be running at the same time. Morales noted this is the only city water zone without redundancies built it.
 
"Out of all of our zones, this one has the most problems with pressure," he said. "This is why we need it."
 
Originally, the tank was supposed to be installed on the Berkshire Community College campus, but the college decided against this. Morales said the airport is a better location because it is city-controlled land and will be cheaper.
 
There was some concern among the councilors at the meeting that this project would cause rates to increase.
 
Financial Director Matthew Kerwood said the project was included in past planning but at the BCC location. Although at this point the city cannot indicate how the project will affect rates, the original analysis included the more expensive BCC project.
 
"As we look at going forward with rates we will need to really look at the work that was done and make adjustments accordingly," he said. "Whatever future rate increases we might come forward with will include this project and costs associated with it." 
 
The project is still in the design phase and construction is slated to begin in spring 2021.  
 
The second borrowing authorization was for $950,000 to pay the cost of the Cleveland Brook Reservoir diversion structure maintenance and Cady Brook diversion project.  
 
Morales said the city needs to remove sediment that has been building up behind the dam. This brook feeds the reservoir in Hinsdale, the largest reservoir for the city.
 
"This eliminates the sediment buildup in the area of the water intake that feeds our reservoir," he said. "That further helps with having less turbidity in the reservoir and ultimately the water treatment plant."
 
The city recently went through the same process at Windsor Brook.
 
Morales said the city is behind with this project and hopes to get started sooner than later, especially with the Army Corps of Engineers permit running down. He said they have started some preliminary work and have a contractor ready to begin the project once the City Council approves the funding.
 
The councilors asked why the city was playing catch up, and Kerwood said the delay was really caused by the pandemic. He said the administration made the decision to hold off on all capital projects until there was a better view of the budget.
 
He added that he had been unaware of the expiring permit, but he was confident the city could finish the project in time.
 
"We think that we are on track," he said. "We think that we can do this in the time required."
 
The full City Council will vote on these projects Tuesday, Sept. 8.
 
The committee also recommended the allocation of $223,000 from the fiscal 2021 Community Preservation Act Fund to fund a slate of projects. These projects were selected by the Community Preservation Act Committee.
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