Pittsfield City Council weighs options for upgrading unaccepted streets

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PITTSFIELD — The city is considering options for improving some unaccepted streets to meet standards for officially accepted ways — along with a proposal to do minor maintenance work on other unaccepted streets.

Following a request last month from city councilors Christopher Connell and Anthony Simonelli, Commissioner of Public Services David Turocy presented a report to the council Tuesday on options for some 25 miles of unaccepted streets in Pittsfield, located throughout the city.

Unlike with the 181 miles of accepted streets, the city does plowing and sanding and provides other routine services but not paving or other maintenance work, Turocy said.

The commissioner noted that state Chapter 90 aid for highway maintenance can't be used for paving or reconstruction work on a street not formally accepted and built to specifications, and city ordinance changes also might be required to allow the city to do maintenance work on an unaccepted street.

Connell said his thought was to determine whether some of the unaccepted streets are close to meeting width, sidewalk and other requirements and could be inexpensively improved enough to become accepted city streets. "Are some less costly to bring into compliance?" he asked.

Connell estimated that if about 10 miles of unaccepted streets were brought into compliance, the city would receive appreciably more in annual Chapter 90 payments, which are based by the total street miles within a community.

Turocy said he believes about three miles of unaccepted streets are close to being in compliance, adding, "I'm not sure we can get to 10 miles."

Simonelli asked whether at least some work, such as pothole filling, might be done on other streets. He said unaccepted streets are numerous in Ward 7, which he represents. He said he wasn't asking for the streets to be brought up to the full standard of an accepted street, but enough "so people feel like they are getting something for their tax money."

The councilor added, "I think a lot of roads could be brought up to being acceptable to the people who live on them."

Turocy said he would put together a report identifying streets that are close to acceptable standards and information on other streets. Another option he has seen, he said, is to ask residents of an unaccepted street to pay a percentage or all of the cost of maintenance work.

The issue was referred by the council to the Public Works Committee for review and a recommendation.

Both Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi and Ward 5 Councilor Donna Todd Rivers raised concerns about the city paying for work on unaccepted streets when many accepted streets are in need of paving or other work. "We need to focus first on those" Morandi said.

The council on Tuesday also continued to March 22 consideration of a special permit for a Dunkin' Donuts drive-thru on a portion of the former St. Mary the Morning Star Church campus on Tyler Street.

Cafua Management has submitted a proposal for a restaurant there adjacent the former church building, and a special permit from the council is required for the drive-thru portion of the project.

The council continued the matter for a second time since the fall, after Community Development Director Janis Akerstrom said the developer had not yet agreed to a request for funds to cover city expenses in reviewing the restaurant plan during the permitting process. She said the city has been in talks with the developer, but no agreement has been reached.

The city has requested $12,000 from the developer, according to paperwork submitted to the council.

Also Tuesday, the council referred to Director of Maintenance Denis Guyer a petition from Councilor at large Kathleen Amuso for a report on the condition and maintenance needs of all city buildings as a guide toward allocating funding for that purpose in annual budgets.

Amuso said there are about 80 city- or school-owned buildings and proposed keeping a "living document" that could be updated annually on the condition of the structures and needed maintenance.

Contact Jim Therrien at 413-496-6247.


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