Common on First Street renovation gets funding infusion


By Jim Therrien, Berkshire Eagle Staff

PITTSFIELD -- The Common on First Street renovation project received an infusion of state funding that could allow the final two phases of the project to be completed during 2014.

Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi, in asking for City Council approval this week to accept $1,774,000 in state grant funding, said Gov. Deval Patrick helped expedite the four-phase project after a visit to the city this year.

"The governor likes this project," Bianchi said. "He is looking to leave a legacy in the city of Pittsfield."

The last two phases were to be have been spread out over a couple of fiscal years, but Bianchi said the intention now is to finish most of the work this calendar year.

The state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs notified the city of the funding amount in a Jan. 8 letter. "These upgrades represent the culmination of a partnership between the Patrick administration and the City of Pittsfield that goes back to 2009," the letter from Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. states in part.

The grant will help fund a performance pavilion, a gazebo with restrooms, park lighting, basketball courts, perimeter fencing, relocation of a multipurpose court and landscaping improvements, according to the letter.

James McGrath, the city’s parks and open space project manager, told councilors he hopes to put the final two phases of the renovation project out to bid in April, and construction could begin in May and proceed quickly.

The city will be required to provide a $170,000 match for the grant, an amount McGrath said had been allocated in the capital budget. In total, McGrath said the city will provide about $750,000 toward the project.

Councilors also postponed until their next meeting a decision on the final three members of a five-person committee to conduct a review of the city’s ordinances for compliance with the new Pittsfield charter, enacted by voters in the Nov. 5 election.

Six people have been suggested by Council Vice President Christopher Connell: Jody L. Phillips, Victoria Kane, Pam Green, Franz Forester, David Murphy and Robert Cornwell; and one by Councilor at large Kathleen Amuso: Matthew Kerwood.

Council President Melissa Mazzeo indicated she may have other residents under consideration, and she and Connell are expected to submit three names for consideration on Jan. 28. City Clerk Linda Tyer and Councilor at large Barry Clairmont are the other two committee members.

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