Pittsfield City Council Ward 3 debate covers many topics


PITTSFIELD -- Crime, infrastructure needs, economic development and communication were among topics on the minds of the four Ward 3 City Council candidates competing in the Sept. 24 preliminary election.

Richard Latura, Thomas Wells Jr., Nicholas Caccamo and Jeffrey Germann participated in a forum Monday at Berkshire Community College, sponsored by the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television.

The top two vote-getters next Tuesday will secure spots on the Nov. 5 city ballot. Balloting in Ward 3 and Ward 1 only will be from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

In opening remarks, Wells said a councilor "needs to be able to communicate with people," and have the flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances in dealing with city issues. He said his many years in business in the area have prepared him for that.

Latura stressed his commitment to dealing with issues related to crime and traffic and ensuring the quality of life before addressing other needs. "First, we need to make the neighborhoods safe," he said.

Pittsfield needs more police officers and firefighters, Latura said, adding that he would push the administration to add personnel.

Germann said the maintenance and repair of streets and sidewalks and control of speeding and other traffic problems were high on his list of priorities.

Caccamo said: "People want someone to be in touch" with residents and with the workings of city government, and to keep open the lines of communication. That includes always returning phone calls and emails, he said, adding that "this takes organization."

In answer to questions from moderator Daniel Dillon, Wells and Caccamo favored the proposed use of All Souls Mission at 51 Pembroke Ave., off Newell Street, for a day care center. All Souls was closed as a church in 2008 by the Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

Germann and Latura were opposed to the idea.

Wells said that the answers to questions raised by residents about the project are being worked out. He said a day care center would "be a good fit" for the space.

Caccamo termed the day care plan "a quality use" for the structure in that area and said the conversation over issues raised should continue.

"I don't agree with it at all," Germann said, adding that the facility would increase traffic congestion on narrow streets in the area, as well as create noise and parking issues, especially if the center is open until the evening.

Latura said, "They don't want it," referring to residents of the section. He said attempting to exit Parkside Avenue with the added traffic would become a dangerous move.

Addressing possible uses for the space at the William Stanley Business Park on former GE parcels off East Street, Wells said he is disappointed with the pace of redevelopment efforts thus far and said retail uses should be considered in light of the lack of industrial prospects.

Latura said: "I don't think we need more" retail centers. Such a proposal is now before the Pittsfield Economic Development Authority, which oversees the former GE site.

"I think we have to wait it out," Germann said. "We don't need another big box," which he said would lead to a current retail store elsewhere becoming vacant.

Caccamo said the cost of site preparation for an industrial operation and the lack of interest shown by manufacturers means other uses have to be considered.

Asked about ideas they have for improving Pittsfield, Latura said he favors focusing on the businesses along Elm and East streets, similar to attention that has been paid to the downtown area.

Caccamo said creating bicycle lanes on major streets would have an economic benefit, as would an equitable policy on regulation of food trucks.

Wells said he favors an increased emphasis on maintaining city buildings, thereby avoiding crisis situations, such as with the cramped police station, that end up costing millions more to address than would spending each year to maintain structures.

Germann said Goodrich Pond in the ward needs attention, having become weed-infested and "a wasted space" that once was a community resource.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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