Two Pittsfield department heads fired, sources say

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PITTSFIELD — Two city employees, including longtime public utilities Director Bruce Collingwood, have been terminated by Mayor Linda M. Tyer, according to multiple sources.

It was unclear why Collingwood and Community Development Director Janis Akerstrom were let go on Friday.

City Councilors were notified of the changes via email. One source said the email informed councilors that the mayor met with Akerstrom and Collingwood to thank them for their work and tell them "their services were no longer required." 

The email also said the mayor would be advising the council of her future plans for the positions. 

Tyer's spokeswoman, Roberta McCulloch-Dews, declined to elaborate on what those plans might be. 

Citing personnel matters, McCulloch-Dews declined to confirm whether the two were fired.

"They are no longer with the city," she said. 

Neither Collingwood nor Akerstrom could be reached for comment. 

Ward 6 City Councilor John Krol Jr., also council vice president, said he supports the mayor's decision. With fiscal 2018 budget planning underway, he said the mayor may be eyeing efficiencies. 

"I look forward to seeing what this means for the upcoming budget and adjustments that Mayor Tyer may be making for the upcoming fiscal year," he said. 

Ward 4 Councilor Christopher J. Connell said Tyer's decision to terminate Collingwood "may have been overdue." At times Connell said he found Collingwood unresponsive. 

"Sometimes getting numbers for capital improvements was a challenge," Connell said. 

Under former Mayor Daniel Bianchi, Connell formed and led a work group that studied options of a public/private partnership for city water and wastewater treatment, the management of which was a primary responsibility of Collingwood's.

"At times I felt we were spinning our wheels," waiting for a response from Collingwood, Connell said. "Some information only he could provide." 

Last year, the work group voted in favor of further exploration of a public/private partnership. Connell said he forwarded a recommendation to Tyer, which he said he has not received a response to. 

"It may not have been the best path, but given the potential expense going forward it was good to look at all options," Connell said of the work group's recommendation. 

The DPU director oversees city water, sewer, wastewater treatment systems and administrative divisions of the department. The director also oversees the collection and disposal of trash and recycling, according to a job description provided by the city. Given Collingwood's lengthy tenure, city Personnel Director Michael Taylor said the utilities job description would likely be updated.

"We will be working on a new job description for this position prior to doing any kind of search," he said in an email. 

The director of Community Development oversees the city's Community Development Block Grant, a $1.2 million grant from the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. The director also is responsible for a number of programs related to neighborhoods, housing, conservation and economic development and oversees a number of boards and commissions. Taylor said that description was updated in recent years. 

Collingwood, a near 15-year employee, was hired in April 2002. His salary in fiscal 2017 was $89,522, according to Taylor. Prior to joining the city, Collingwood was Great Barrington's town engineer.

Hired in August 2015, Akerstrom was set to earn $81,389 in fiscal 2017, Taylor said. She was formerly a housing and community development manager in Orlando, Fla.

Bonnie Galant, community development and housing program manager, will serve as interim head of community development, McCulloch-Dews said, and David Turocy, commissioner of public services, will lead public utilities in the interim. 

"Operations of both departments will continue to run effectively under the appointed leadership," she said. 

Reach staff writer Carrie Saldo at 413-496-6221 or @carriesaldo.


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