'This was an isolated incident': Director discusses safety and security measures after fatal beating at YMCA building
PITTSFIELD — Browsing through Facebook in the wee hours of Monday morning, Aimee Knysh was shocked to find a link to a TV news brief claiming there was a homicide Sunday at the Pittsfield Family YMCA — which is where she sends her 8-year-old son for after-school care.
She looked on the YMCA's website for more information, but nothing was posted there.
"This is a place that my child frequents, and nobody had any information on it," she said.
In fact, a resident had been assaulted early Sunday in his apartment, one of 44 studios for single individuals on the third and fourth floors of the YMCA building.
Joseph Wirtes, 44, was transported to Berkshire Medical Center, where he later died of his injuries. The man accused of assaulting him, Brian Signor, 27, was later arrested. He currently is charged with aggravated assault and battery, pending the results of an autopsy.
YMCA staff members were not made aware of the death before news reports came out, said Randy Kinnas, CEO and executive director of the Pittsfield Family YMCA.
"It was originally very upsetting to have it come out like that without any additional information," he said. "We knew there was a fight, and that was it, and one person got hurt and went to the hospital."
Pittsfield YMCA staff members sent out an email on Monday afternoon to parents of children in YMCA programs regarding the incident, Kinnas said.
"This incident has no reflection on our commitment to safety and safety of our YMCA during operation hours," the letter states. "This was an isolated incident between two people who knew each other and were enjoying each other's company that evening until something went wrong."
In an interview with The Eagle, Kinnas laid out a number of safety precautions taken at the facility.
The YMCA has approximately 16 security cameras in the building and a person on staff 24 hours as a day, he said.
Guests must be accompanied by their host and signed in at the welcome center with their name, address and emergency contact, Kinnas said. All residents have a key card that enables them to access only the resident floors and the lobby via the elevator.
The lobby, which houses the only non-emergency exit, can be accessed from any floor, he said.
The building entrance is locked at about 11 p.m., Kinnas said. After that, key cards are needed to enter.
Potential residents must submit to state CORI and SORI checks — Criminal Offender Records Information and Sexual Offender Records Information, respectively — before renting apartments, according to the YMCA's website, but fair housing laws prohibit screening guests of residents, Kinnas said.
Other policies are outlined in an addendum to the one-year lease that all residents sign with Berkshire Housing Services, which manages the apartments, said Elton Ogden, president of Berkshire Housing Development Corp. and Berkshire Housing Services.
These policies limit the number of guests and outline rules relative to behavior, he said.
In the wake of Sunday's incident, Ogden said Berkshire Housing Services plans to revisit the incident with its counterparts at the YMCA.
And the YMCA leadership plans to review and evaluate its policies, Kinnas said.
"This type of incident can happen anywhere at any time," he said.
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