City mayor taps new conservation agent

Tuesday September 25, 2012

PITTSFIELD -- Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi wants an Albany, N.Y.-area man to help Pittsfield protect its wetlands and other natural resources.

Bianchi has appointed Robert J. Van Der Kar, of Averill Park, N.Y., to replace Caleb Mitchell as the city's conservation agent. Mitchell resigned the post nearly two months ago for personal reasons after 14 years on the job, according to city officials.

Subject to City Council approval, Van Der Kar will assume the position Oct. 8 for an indefinite term, the mayor said. The council is expected to vote on Bianchi's nomination at its regular meeting tonight at 7:30 at City Hall.

Conservation agent currently carries an annual salary of $46,630, but Van Der Kar's pay hasn't been finalized.

Bianchi cited how Van Der Kar, though a resident of New York state, is well versed in Massachusetts wetlands regulations. Since 1999, Van Der Kar has been a wetlands specialist for the Williamstown firm of Guntlow and Associates Inc.

"He is very personable and professional, with a great deal of experience in this field," the mayor said. "He will be a good fit and the kind of person who will be able to work with all of the various stakeholders."

The conservation agent provides professional and administrative support to the seven-member Pittsfield Cons ervation Commission with regard to compliance with the Wetlands Protection Act. Under state regulations, the conservation agent's job includes processing permit applications for those seeking to work in wetlands, investigating alleged wetlands violations and recommending restrictions on projects or activities affecting wetlands.

According to commission chairman James B. Conant, Van Der Kar, among 16 applicants for the job, has the ability to work well with city residents trying to negotiate the wetlands permitting process.

"He has a willingness to work with people which will translate well for us, as the average person who comes into the [conservation] office is usually overwhelmed by the process," Conant said.

Van Der Kar, 37, looks forward to working in municipal government.

"This is something I have always wanted to do," he said. "This gives me more of an opportunity to help people understand [wetlands] regulations and they need permits."


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