Wednesday, Feb. 10

PITTSFIELD -- Former North Adams Mayor John Barrett III Tuesday night gave the City Council what amounted to a mid-term report of his observations and likely recommendations for improving Pittsfield neighborhoods.

And the councilors liked what they heard.

Barrett, who was hired as a consultant five weeks ago by Mayor James M. Ruberto, outlined how the city can improve snow removal, repair roads, eliminating blighted property, and other areas of public works, utilities and maintenance He has a three-month contract worth $15,000 to make recommendations to Ruberto.

"I will leave a plan that will hopefully work," Barrett said. "It will be short and sweet and not have a lot of reprinted material from other communities."

"My recommendations will fit Pittsfield,"
he added.

One recommendation will be using fewer contractors and rely more on existing city trucks from other departments to assist Public Works and Utilities to plow, salt and sand city roads in the winter. Pittsfield currently has 35 contractors helping with snow removal.

As for paving city streets, Barrett has found hiring private firms is the answer.

"Get the city out of the paving business to save money," Barrett said. "Most public works departments are getting away from major projects because they don't have the staff."

Barrett also will recommend to Ruberto consolidating some departments and realigning the staff under Public Works and Utilities Commissioner Bruce I. Collingwood to improve his department's response to residents' complaints and concerns.

Furthermore, Barrett called for the city to do its own street sweeping, increase downtown street lighting and embarrass owners of blighted property to clean up their act.

"I think owners should be brought before the television cameras during City Council meetings and explain why they are not maintaining their properties," said Barrett.

Keeping neighborhoods well maintained was a staple of Barrett's 26-year administration in North Adams, before he lost his re-election bid for a 14th term in November. He often rode with city workers assessing street conditions and other infrastructure needs.

Barrett has taken the same approach in Pittsfield and has found the employees most cooperative.

"You do have dedicated employees doing work to the best of their ability," he noted.

While Barrett's hiring initially irked several city councilors, his hour-long report was well received by the council.

"Most of what you said has been music to my ears," said Ward 5 Councilor Jonathan N. Lothrop.

Ward 3 Councilor Paul J. Capitanio thanked Barrett for helping him deal with several issues regarding city parks in his ward.

The council's most vocal critic of Barrett's hiring, Ward 7 Councilor Joseph C. Nichols, even appreciated the former mayor's report.

"After hearing you speak, I see you have a wealth of knowledge from years of being in North Adams," said Nichols.

Nevertheless, Nichols feels Barrett's work could have been done in-house.

"I can't understand why people we've already hired can't do the job," he added.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233.