Lieutenant Governor Karyn Polito signs 'compacts,' tours Pittsfield sites
PITTSFIELD — Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito and officials from the city and three Berkshire towns gathered Tuesday at City Hall to sign their respective Community Compact agreements.
Polito also visited Taconic High School and took a bus tour Tuesday of the Tyler Street Transformative Development Initiative District, a section of the city's Morningside neighborhood that officials are hoping to revive with help from MassDevelopment.
Mayor Linda M. Tyer said prior to the formal compact signing that she quickly learned upon taking office in January that the Baker administration "has made partnerships with cities and towns a top priority."
In Pittsfield's case, the Community Compact agreement will provide state funding for initiatives to develop a long-range budget capital planning system that can be updated, and to create a more transparent budget format.
The city will receive $25,000 in funding to hire a consultant for the projects.
"This couldn't have come at a better time for Pittsfield," Tyer said, as the city expects to face tough budgetary decisions in creating a fiscal 2017 spending plan.
Also signing compact agreements — in which the communities agree to complete certain best practices initiatives and receive modest state grants — were officials from Cheshire, Hinsdale and Williamstown.
Hinsdale Selectwoman Laurel Scialabba said the money will go toward creating a town master plan and a comprehensive budget plan.
Williamstown Town Manager Jason Hoch said the compact agreement will provide the town with funding to focus on implementing a Complete Streets initiative — increasing pedestrian, bicycle and other enhancements within street projects.
Cheshire Selectwoman Carol Francesconi said the town has talked about creating a master plan and now will have the opportunity with the grant assistance. A goal is to contain some of the rapid growth the town has experienced, she said.
State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, said the Berkshire legislative delegation "understands that you have to have teamwork," telling Polito "we appreciate what you do with communities."
"The funding is just part of this," Polito said, adding that another intent of the program "is to reach all cities and towns" in the state. The four signed compact agreements bring the number to 198 since the Baker administration launched the program a year ago, she said.
"I love the program," she said, because it allows communities to choose the type of best practices effort to tackle, rather than have the state decide which projects to fund with grant support.
Tyer administration department heads and City Council President Peter Marchetti and Vice President John Krol also attended the afternoon session in council chambers.
Accompanied by Tyer and Farley-Bouvier, Polito was shown five different sites during a tour of the city's TDI District. These included the Raymond Crow Playground on Winter Street; the Rice Silk Mill Apartments on Burbank Street; the old Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction on Second Street; the old Tyler Street firehouse that once housed the city's Emergency Services operations, and the vacant St. Mary the Morning Star Church property on Tyler Street.
City Planner C.J. Hoss outlined the district's history and the city's plans for each of those sites.
"This grew up as a neighborhood business district," Hoss said, during the stop at the old firehouse building, built in 1906 but currently vacant. "We'd like it to be again."
Following the bus tour, Polito stopped at the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority's headquarters at 81 Kellogg St., and received a briefing on the William Stanley Business Park of the Berkshires and the yet-to-be-built Berkshire Innovation Center.
"It's very interesting to come and tour a transformative development neighborhood," Polito said.
The Tyler Street TDI is one of 12 in cities across the commonwealth that are being funded and overseen by MassDevelopment. It is also one of the areas where MassDevelopment has assigned an economic development expert.
That specialist, Amewusika "Sika" D. Sedzro, began her three-year assignment in Pittsfield on May 9.
"Now you're at a point in time when the city is planning for the next 40 or 50 years, and the neighborhood that they've identified is one that has great potential of becoming a place of home ownership, a neighborhood connected within itself to parks and open space and a downtown that has seen some revitalization," Polito said.
"So, it's important that we assigned our fellow to this TDI, and this fellow will directly work with the city to see this initiative through over the next three years."
Polito also visited Taconic High School, where construction is underway on a new $120.8 million school adjacent the existing 47-year-old building.
The lieutenant governor visited the school's shop areas and viewed equipment used in advanced manufacturing education programs.
Business Editor Tony Dobrowolski contributed to this report.