Our Opinion: Funding gap necessitates a BIC rethink

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A funding gap for construction of the Berkshire Innovation Center of as much as $6 million is not cause to ask the state for more money but to revisit the entire project.

BIC Board President Stephen Boyd acknowledged at a Pittsfield Economic Development Authority (PEDA) board meeting Monday that the funding gap for construction of the proposed 20,000-square-foot technology/job training center would be "significantly more" than the $600,000 reported last fall. That constitutes an understatement, and it is difficult to believe that the gap has expanded from crevasse to canyon in only a few months.

It is not entirely clear how the gap expanded so dramatically, but it is apparent that the $6.7 million estimated for the building's construction wasn't enough to cover it as designed. Costs of construction and wages have gone up dramatically, unspecified "add-ons" were made to the original document, and suddenly, or not so suddenly, the construction project was well over budget.

With Sabic in the process of departing Pittsfield, putting BIC in its building or in another site seriously should be explored. Building a new Taconic High School in Pittsfield became necessary because of the deterioration of the current school, but putting up a new building for BIC may not be necessary, or even wise, given the dramatic rise in its cost and the possibility of other options.

This is assuming that the money Pittsfield received from the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center in 2014 to build BIC can be used for renovations as well as new construction. It seems likely, however, that Governor Baker, who is facing a budget crunch, would prefer to use that money to retrofit a building than find new money for a building project that has gone out of control.


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