Ricardo Morales

Ricardo Morales, pictured, commissioner of public services and utilities for the city of Pittsfield, works with Ryan Grennan, the city’s GIS expert, to run the municipality’s COVID-19 dashboard.

PITTSFIELD — Ricardo Morales has been running the city's Public Services and Utlities Department since October, but now he's got the job.

The City Council this week approved the appointment of Morales by Mayor Linda Tyer. He will earn a salary of $92,500.

Morales, who was hired in 2018 as the city engineer, had been serving on an interim basis in the public services post since Dave Turocy, the former commissioner, retired in October.

The city searched extensively for a successor to Turocy after he announced his retirement last spring, Tyer said. It even hired a consultant to help find a suitable replacement for the important position.

"However, none of the candidates met the criteria and qualifications," Tyer said, "nor did they fit into the culture of our organization."

The Public Services Department is responsible maintaining and repairing public infrastructure in the city, including roads, parking and water and sewer. according to the city's website. Morales will oversee a staff of 85 full-time employees across nine divisions.

Morales worked for a decade in engineering and construction management for private industry before the city hired him.

He agreed to take on the public services role temporarily, and Tyer said it became clear that he was a good fit.

"Ricardo proved himself to be highly skilled in the technical aspects of the position," she said. "More importantly, he exhibited outstanding leadership qualities."

Morales said he's eager, now, to fill the city engineer's position that he has vacated. The city has also struggled in the past to keep that position filled.

He hadn't intended on pursuing the commissioner post, but said his feelings changed once he began doing the job. After five months, he said, "it just felt like the right move."

He said he came to enjoy the level of control he could wield over important city projects, like parking and street improvement.

To that point, he said he's busy working with consultants to evaluate the city's parking plan, and he is working with the state's Department of Transportation on the next phase of downtown's redevelopment — the Tyler Street streetscape. Designs underway include a roundabout for the intersection of Tyler Street and Woodlawn Avenue.

Bid documents will be ready by the end of the month for projects covered under the state's Complete Streets program, he said.

He also takes charge of the department while the city tackles a $61.4 million overhaul underway at the wastewater treatment facility on Holmes Road, and at a time of upheaval for the city's solid waste programs.

And he's excited to see the city participate in a bike share feasibility study in partnership with the Berkshire Regional Planning Commission, which received a $60,000 state grant this week for that project.

He's confident the study will lay the groundwork for an eventual bike share program in Pittsfield.

"This will provide a connection between employees and their workplaces," he said. "That's the important part."

Amanda Drane can be contacted at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.