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Pittsfield Subcommittee OKs $230K for Excess Asphalt Costs
By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff
12:31PM / Saturday, November 26, 2022
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The finance subcommittee on Tuesday authorized the transfer of $230,000 from the Public Works Stabilization Account to the Department of Public Services for inflated costs of liquid asphalt.

"This year was a little crazy in terms of costs, expenses, as we have seen over and over," Commissioner of Public Services and Utilities Ricardo Morales said.  "And liquid asphalt is not shielded from all the changes in price."

He said the state Department of Transportation issues a monthly update on the price of liquid asphalt and under the contracts municipalities have for work being funded by Chapter 90, they are required to adjust the price if the value changes more than 5 percent from the original month when it was bid.

In this case, it was bid in March. The price was was under the threshold in April and above 5 percent in May, kicking in the law.  

Morales added that the rule says contractors are entitled to the entire increase rather than the difference beyond 5 percent, which he said is not favorable.

The $230,000 converts to around 3 miles of roads.

Councilor zt Large Karen Kalinowsky pointed out that the bid was about $4.4 million and the city has paid about $5.4 million and queried Morales on the difference.

He explained that his department estimates the cost as best as possible but that there are a number of factors that can change it.

When the bid is sent out, the contractors come in and sometimes find miscalculations in road measurements or finds that the pavement has to be thicker, which can raise the cost.

The discrepancy is reportedly common.

The panel also discussed Ward 1 Councilor Kenneth Warren's petition requesting to establish a procedure for the award of independent auditors. It was tabled and referred to City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta.

Warren said he understands it will not be a short process. 

The conversation was started in October when Scanlon and Associates was recommended for auditing services by a three-person committee including the city's finance director, Council President Peter Marchetti, and an accountant after an request for proposals was issued.

Warren said the city charter needs to be more fleshed out to better the process.

The city code states that:

"The city council shall annually provide for an outside audit of the books and accounts of the city to be conducted by a certified public accountant or a firm of certified public accountants, which has no personal interest, direct or indirect, in the fiscal affairs of the city or any of its officers. The mayor shall annually provide to the city council a sum of money sufficient to satisfy the estimated cost of conducting the audit as presented to the mayor, in writing, by the city council."

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