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Pittsfield City Council Tackles 11 Agenda Items in Under an Hour
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
11:24AM / Wednesday, January 26, 2022
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The City Council on Tuesday went through 11 agenda items in under an hour, accepting a free cash appropriation for the Pittsfield Municipal Airport and four grants.

An appropriation of about $162,000 from free cash was approved to go towards the airport's highest priority project.

The funds will be used for consultant work from Gale Associates to remove safety hazards on the non-city-owned property around the airport. Obstructions — mostly trees — need to be cut from the defined approach areas extending outward from the airport's runways,  according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

While the city is supplying $162,400 for easement preparations, it will receive 95 percent back in federal and state reimbursements, making the allocation more of a loan. The FAA will reimburse 90 percent of the cost and the state Department of Transportation's Aeronautics Division will reimburse another 5 percent.

The appropriation was passed by the finance subcommittee last week.  Ward 2 Councilor Charles Kronick voted against the appropriation and expressed concerns during the full council meeting.

He originally motioned to table the agenda item because he wanted a plan that "writes the money right back into free cash" but later revoked his motion after receiving clarification from Mayor Linda Tyer.

"Free cash is in a separate account and it gets certified annually and we cannot make deposits into that bank account, it's not a bank account in the traditional sense of a word, you can't make a deposit into it," Tyer explained.

"What happens at the end of the fiscal year, when we close out our books, and all the budgets are balanced, and there are funds leftover from each department, those all get accumulated as on designated balances and then we report that to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue, they certified we have accurately closed our books, and they certify the amount of free cash and that free cash, the number that we have now, free cash that has accumulated over the years."

Kronick also queried Park, Open Space and Natural Resource Program Manager James McGrath about a nearly $14,500 grant from the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs Division of Ecological Restoration.

The funds are for an additional year of post-project monitoring with the removal of the Mill Street Dam.  

"It was in 2004 at the city started investigating with the commonwealth the removal of the Mill Street dam," McGrath explained. "There were a number of studies have been performed between 2004 and 2016, I'd say and it was in approximately 2017 that we started working with the state to secure major grant funding for the removal of the dam."

Kronick was concerned that the project would cost more than the grant amount and the city would have to contribute funds.  McGrath assured him that there are only visual inspections of the plants and restoration work.

The city's Police and Fire departments received funding for different safety matters.

The council accepted about $396,000 in funding from the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, Office of Grants and Research for the fiscal 2022 Senator Charles E. Shannon Jr. Community Safety Initiative. This funding will be used by the Police Department to address youth violence.

Kronick unsuccessfully motioned for this to go to the finance subcommittee.

The Police Department also received funding in the amount of $10,000 for a jiu-jitsu program from the Massachusetts Interlocal Insurance Association, which supports risk management initiatives. Jiu-jitsu is a Japanese form of martial arts that involves unarmed combat and physical training.

For the Fire Department, a grant for about $20,000 was accepted from the Massachusetts Office of Public Safety and Security for the Firefighter Safety Equipment Grant Program. The program provides fire departments with the personal protective and safety equipment needed to be in compliance with the National Fire Protection Agency and with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards.

The panel also heard one councilor's grievances with bike lanes and other traffic changes that have been made to city streets.

This petition from Ward 7 Councilor Anthony Maffuccio was referred to City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta.

In his petition, Maffucio wrote that he wanted North Street returned to the way it was before bike lanes were installed in 2020 and the street was made one way.  

He also called for the Commissioner of Public Utilities Ricardo Morales to "stop making traffic flow changes within the city without the approval of the City Council and Traffic Commission."

Maffuccio said he feels the commissioner has overstepped his boundaries and originally asked that the portion about Morales be referred to an outside legal counsel.

President Peter Marchetti pointed out that the council does not have the budget for an outside legal firm and suggested that Maffuccio refer his petition to Pagnotta.

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