New building commissioner appointed to serve Lee, Lenox

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This story has been modified to include the first name of outgoing Building Commissioner Don Fitzgerald.

LENOX — Lee and Lenox soon will be sharing the services of a new building commissioner, another link in the chain of job changes stemming from the pending shutdown of Sabic Innovative Plastics in Pittsfield.

The Lenox Select Board on Wednesday is set to ratify Town Manager Christopher Ketchen's appointment of Brenda "BJ" Church to the post serving the two towns.

Church, a Northampton resident, already has the backing of the Lee Select Board, which endorsed her appointment last week.

The joint position was created last year by the Tri-Town Administrative Review Committee, which includes Stockbridge, as the first high-level example of the shared services model.

The committee is also continuing its consideration of a possible shared town manager or administrator for two or all three towns.

Ketchen, in a memo to the Lenox Select Board, cited Church's "comprehensive background in code enforcement, housing rehabilitation and general contracting."

The Northampton woman is no stranger to working in multiple municipalities at once; she is currently building commissioner for Clarksburg, Florida, Monson and Monroe. She also serves as rehabilitation specialist for the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission and the Hilltown Community Development Corp.

Her previous positions include building commissioner in South Hadley and building inspector in Northampton.

"I think she has the qualifications and the experience we need," said Lee Selectmen Chairman Thomas Wickham in an Eagle interview on Tuesday.

The commissioner is technically a Lenox employee, with the salary evenly split between Lee and Lenox, with both maintaining building department offices in their respective town halls.

Don Fitzgerald has held the dual position since Jan. 1. Wickham, a self-employed contractor, believes the shared post is working well for both communities.

"I've personally had no problems and everyone who goes online to get permits seem to have no problems," he said. "There have been some issues with people coming into the office and getting permits in person, the process may be a little slower."

Fitzgerald, a former chairman of the Lenox School Committee, plans to follow his wife, Susan, to Houston, where Sabic is moving its headquarters.

He will remain with the department for an undetermined period of time to assist with the transition, Ketchen stated. Church is slated to begin work in the combined Lee and Lenox building department on Aug. 15.

In her resume, Church described herself as "flexible and versatile — able to maintain a sense of humor under pressure. Poised and competent with demonstrated ability to easily transcend cultural differences."

Church, who was not immediately available for an interview, also stated that she "thrives in deadline-driven environment" and has "excellent team-building skills."

Sabic announced last fall that it was closing its Pittsfield operations, which employed as many as 400 people, this year. The company's average wage was $68,466.

Greg Adams, regional vice president for Sabic Americas, said recently that plans are in place to vacate the space on Plastics Avenue, owned by General Electric, by year's end.

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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