PITTSFIELD — Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer and former Health Department Director Gina Armstrong will oversee the use of Pittsfield’s nearly $41 million in federal coronavirus money from the American Rescue Plan.
Both women have been vital parts of the city’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, with Ruffer serving as part of Mayor Linda Tyer’s internal American Rescue Plan Act advisory team and Armstrong as part of the mayor’s COVID Task Force.
The women bring a combined two decades of experience overseeing major grants, a quality that Tyer said made them perfect for the role of co-special projects managers — or as the mayor frequently has called the jobs, “ARPA quarterbacks.”
Officials now know how they'd like to spend $5.6 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act money: Infrastructure projects that improve public health in city buildings, two new public health positions and support for daycare programs, the Fenn Street Shelter and another round of grants for homeowner projects.
“I felt like the combination of their professional experiences matched up really well for the work attached to the American Rescue Plan,” Tyer said. “They were both willing to share the position, which really gives us sort of the best of both worlds.”
The positions, which are a part of the mayor’s office, were not posted on the city’s public job-openings page. Tyer chose instead to select the managers herself, saying that she landed on Ruffer and Armstrong “based on my extensive experience with both Deanna and Gina, and their interest and willingness in serving in this capacity.”
Tyer said the women will split the position’s salary and work part-time hours as they oversee the federal money. In October, the City Council approved a salary range of $84,000 to $109,000 for the role.
The majority of people who took a city survey on how to spend ARPA money coming want the city to use the money for economic assistance and are least interested in backfilling lost city revenue related to the pandemic.
Ruffer has served 12 years at the head of the city’s Community Development Department, overseeing city planning and zoning, conservation, parks and programs like the Community Development Block Grant, which directs grant money toward housing, infrastructure, revitalization, and economic development toward low- and moderate-income communities.
Ruffer was set to resign from the role in February, according to an email sent by Tyer to the City Council on Monday announcing Ruffer and Armstrong’s new job titles.
Tyer said in an interview Wednesday that Ruffer will continue to be paid out of the Community Development budget and Community Development Block Grant for any work with the department until February, and will be paid for any work she does as a special project manager from the ARPA money.
Armstrong resigned from the Health Department in September, after almost nine years as the head of the department. At the time, she cited a need to find “balance with my family life.”