|Pittsfield Community Development Board OKs $960K for Bousquet|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff |
02:57AM / Thursday, February 18, 2021
|The money will fund the extension of sewer and water lines along Dan Fox Drive to Bousquet. |
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The city of Pittsfield has high hopes for the Mill Town Capital's redevelopment of Bousquet Ski Area and its impact on the surrounding area.
The Community Development Board unanimously approved a $960,000 allocation of Pittsfield Economic Development Funds for infrastructure improvements on Dan Fox Drive.
These funds will go toward the extension of water and sewer lines along Dan Fox Drive, connecting the lines immediately to Bousquet Mountain. Though Bousquet is an immediate part of the equation, these improvements will make the area capable of handling future growth and is purposed to promote the "much needed" development.
The ski area's new owners Mill Town Capital plan to demolish Bousquet's existing base area because it is "dramatically out of code" and build a $5 million one in its place but are not able to move forward with the project depending on well water and a faulty sewage system.
"Aside from immediate connections to the Bousquet area we're looking for this project to have a future ability for the city to hold more development in this corridor of Dan Fox Drive with potential extensions and developmental parcels in that corridor," Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales said.
An 8-inch water line will be extended 1,600 feet around the ski area, where it needs to be hooked up. The project also includes the installation of a new pump station to catch sewage with a 4-inch main and a new 4,500-foot force main connecting to the existing gravity sewer system.
Morales said project design will start immediately and there should be a final design within four months. The final estimated date for the infrastructure improvements is set to parallel with the completion of Bousquet's new base lodge at the end of this year.
Pittsfield's utility engineering consultant Kleinfelder will design and oversee construction and the project will be publicly bid and owned by the city.
Of the $960,000 allocation for this project, construction will cost around $559, 500; design and construction engineering services about $233,100; and a 30 percent contingency will be $168,000.
Morales noted that the contingency is set higher for this project because of the number of unknowns in the design. As they get closer to the final design, he said, the contingency should be dropping down to a more normal 5 to 10 percent.
Director of Community Development Deanna Ruffer reported that upon conducting a financial review of Mill Town, it was concluded that it is in the position to successfully achieve their vision for Bousquet and the related business cluster that includes the former Berkshire West and former Lakeside Christian Camp.
The project capital investment for Bousquet including the acquisition costs is $11,315,000, which Ruffer added is more than 10 times the projected city investment and close to 17 times the city investment with all three prospective properties included.
"I would note that this is still a very dynamic investment situation," she said. "And one where we would expect to see more investment than originally projected versus less."
Ruffer said the project's request is well within funding guidelines, which range from $1,382,500 and $1,761,667 based on full-time equivalent positions Bousquet will offer.
For the winter ski area, they are proposing the creation of seven full-time jobs and 130 part-time seasonal jobs. To determine the full-time equivalence of the part-time seasonal jobs, Ruffer considered both a 3 to 1 and a 4 to 1 part-to-full-time factor that identified 33 and 43 new full-time jobs, respectively. This amounts to a total full-time equivalent of 40 or 50 jobs created.
"In this case, given the number of part-time jobs being created it's, in my opinion, well justified to calculate a full-time equivalent under this rule," she said. "The retention of this iconic outdoor recreation business has an overriding public benefit for our community and frankly for the region."
For fiscal 2021, the city's tax revenue for personal property and real estate taxes was $107,217. Ruffer estimated the tax revenue for FY22-27, even with taking into consideration the Tax Increment Finance Agreement (TIF) offered to Bousquet earlier this month, is on average $206,788 per year. Water and sewer utility revenue is estimated to be between $57,000 and $150,000 annually.
Ruffer identified the leveraging potential that the project boasts, the first and most definitive leverage being Mill Town's future outdoor recreation trifecta consisting of Bousquet Mountain, Bousquet Sport, and the Camp at Bousquet. Under this, Mill Town will be launching high-caliber food and beverage programs ranging from casual dining to catering, she explained, and the investment group has made acquisition investments of $5,350,00 on Bousquet's sister properties that will yield the creation of even more jobs.
"Bousquet on its own is not a place that historically has attracted multi-day traffic but the point here is a multi-site development that adds amenities on the recreation, food and beverage, dining, and excursion side that brings people to the region," Mill Town CEO & Managing Director Time Burke said. "It's not what Bousquet has historically been, it's what the future is at Bousquet, Berkshire West, at the camp and up and down that corridor."
Ruffer said the development of Bousquet will trigger interest in development on the 50 acres of land surrounding the property that is either underdeveloped or undeveloped. She noted that the city is currently not proposing an investment on the sister properties and has only offered a TIF agreement to Bousquet Ski Area.
"The most important thing we can do is ensure that water and sewer limitations do not impede the redevelopment and growth of this iconic use in our community," Ruffer said
Ward 3 Councilor Nicholas Caccamo voted in favor of the allocation but worried about the money coming from the so-called GE Fund, which will be down to about $2 million.
"I guess I have some reservations, this is a significant investment out of this fund, the fund is sort of waning to its end and this is a large investment," he said. "I guess I'm concerned with the long-term viability of that fund and meeting some of those initial goals of Pittsfield's economic development fund."
Ruffer responded by saying this project is subject to a timing issue and that her office didn't want to burden the city's debt with the funding. She added that once the Rest of the River permit is finalized and issued, Pittsfield will receive a payment of $8 million from General Electric to replenish the fund within 60 days.
As part of the settlement agreement for the Rest of the River project to clean up the Housatonic, General Electric agreed to provide the city with an additional funds to replenish the $10 million paid out as part of the consent decree 20 years ago.
Ruffer said she doesn't know if the city will receive this payment in 60 days or a couple of years, but it is confirmed.
"I'm really encouraged by how diverse this plan is," Ward 6 Councilor Dina Guiel Lampiasi said, adding that she is skier herself. "If we're all realistic about what climate change has done to winter sports when it's working against us, a business with this type of model that's utilizing our year-round assets I think really impressive and is the smart way to go."