Amanda Drane | Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Budget battle unfolds Tuesday night

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Keeping tabs on everything happening in Pittsfield is a full-time job. Mine, in fact.

From looming projects like the $74 million wastewater upgrade, to roadway chip sealing, mosquito spray and other important City Council considerations, this city in the woods can keep us all guessing. I like to keep a running notebook packed with Pittsfield issues so that I'm not caught off-guard — or less likely to be, anyway. Here's an inside look at things I have my eye on this week.

Budget battles

The budget is a big one. Approving the final product is arguably the most important municipal decision of the year, and it's happening this week during the City Council meeting, at 7 p.m. in the library of Pittsfield High School.

The budget process to date was wrought with power struggles between councilors and Mayor Linda Tyer, as in tight times, leaders worked to track a line between tightening our belts and holding the line on city services. Last week, the council rejected a $4 million borrowing plan for water and sewer maintenance, and they bucked a request from the mayor to appropriate $1 million in free cash to balance the budget for the coming fiscal year. If the council and the mayor do not resolve their differences on the free cash front, it's possible they will be voting on a deficit budget for the year beginning July 1.

The budget includes funds for a new police station, road resurfacing, and demolition of the Columbus Avenue parking garage.

Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples Day?

During the last City Council meeting, we heard from several members of Italian heritage groups in Pittsfield angered by the School Committee's decision in January to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day in the school calendar. Ward 7 Councilor Tony Simonelli has filed a petition calling on his colleagues to join him and local Italians in opposing the School Committee's decision. That item also appears on Tuesday's meeting agenda.

PPD promotion

In a shift in command staffing at the Pittsfield Police Department, Michael Grady will be promoted to captain this week. He is a 23-year veteran of the department.

Marijuana outreach meeting

More marijuana movement is coming our way this week as another cultivation operation, which has not yet applied for city approvals, will host a community outreach meeting Wednesday at 11 a.m. at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

So far, the city approved four special permits for retail shops — Berkshire Roots on Dalton Avenue, Temescal Wellness on Callahan Drive, Kryppies on East Street and Colonial Cannabis on South Street — and OK'd two cultivation operations — Mass Yield behind the East Street shop and Commonwealth Cultivation on Downing Industrial Parkway. City planners say they've heard from interested parties who could soon apply for permits, including two marijuana manufacturers and a marijuana testing lab.

Utility info in the mail

Residents could also start seeing mailers this week reminding folks about another enrollment period in the residential aggregation program, which City Hall reports saved residents a combined total of $384,000 in utility costs over the first six months of the program.

Through this program, the city's electricity supply is locked in at a fixed rate of 0.09976 cents per kilowatt-hour through December 2020. Residents have until mid-July to opt out.

It's getting Chili's

And those eager for new dining options may be pleased to hear construction of a new Chili's Grill & Bar is scheduled to begin this week in place of the recently demolished Old Country Buffet at Berkshire Crossing, and the new restaurant is expected to open in October.

Keep an eye toward cultural calendars, too, because it's a hot month for downtown happenings. And don't forget to wish all your dads and fatherly figures a happy Fathers Day!

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, or by phone at 413-496-6296. Follow me on Twitter, @amandadrane

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