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It's been a year since Pittsfield received its initial ARPA money — here's where the money is going

Pittsfield: Free pickleball clinic (copy)

Susan Edwards teaches a pickle ball clinic at the Pittsfield Family YMCA in January 2016. Pittsfield city officials have included a pickleball facility in the list of capital projects they plan to cover with federal coronavirus American Rescue Plan money.

PITTSFIELD — In the year since the first of the federal coronavirus relief money was delivered to Pittsfield’s bank accounts, officials have allocated or earmarked close to $23 million worth of projects — slightly more than half what’s headed to the city.

Most of the money that’s been put under contract has gone to community projects. The city’s special projects co-managers, Gina Armstrong and Deanna Ruffer, say the majority of the early community programs are scheduled to begin this month.

All told, Mayor Linda Tyer’s administration has directed about $9 million to community organizations in two rounds of giving. It has budgeted about $5.5 million for several city-led public health projects, infrastructure upgrades and administrative costs; and committed another $1.9 million for capital improvement projects in the newly started fiscal year.

The remaining $6 million or so of that $23 million figure is “earmarked.” It will flow to projects officials have identified, but not yet funded.

Community awards

Over two proposal cycles, Tyer’s administration selected 37 organizations — 18 in the first round and 19 in the second — to support with ARPA funds.

These projects run the gamut of ARPA spending categories: from the $800,000 going to Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity to expand its housing navigator network, to the $100,000 to Mass MoCA for the creation of a Pittsfield-based Assets for Artists program. A smaller grant will provide $10,000 to Berkshire Nursing Families to expand its lactation and parenting support program for Pittsfield families.

Armstrong said almost all of the first group of recipients has signed contracts with the city and will begin work on funded projects in the coming weeks, on a reimbursement basis.


Habitat for Humanity holds a gathering in 2020 to dedicate two homes in Pittsfield. The Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity received the largest of the Pittsfield ARPA community awards with $800,000 for its housing navigator network.

The contracts — which Ruffer said are similar to the contracts used to administer federal Community Development Block Grant funds — allow organizations with enough liquidity to begin work with their own money and then return to the city with their receipts.

A smaller group of organizations require a partial advance on their awarded ARPA funds. Armstrong said the city is working on finalizing those contracts.

While Ruffer said the Treasury Department has emphasized simplicity in getting money to municipalities and organizations, these funds don’t come without a certain number of strings.

Programs that get money — which account for all but five of the awards — are required to give the city, and then the federal government, information on the demographics of the communities served as well as measurable goals — such as the number of jobs created, homes built or food assistance provided.

“It’s humbling to see the breadth of impact to our community from the pandemic and the breadth of organizations in the community who are working hard to help our residents and small businesses,” Ruffer said.

City projects

Early city-led ARPA projects have focused on coronavirus efforts like additional contact tracing and test kits, pandemic-related heating, ventilation and air-conditioning upgrades to city and school buildings, and administrative costs.

Some of these upgrades, like $4.3 million officials expect will be needed to update the Pittsfield High School’s heating and ventilation system, have yet to make their way onto spending reports, a sign the project is still a ways off.

Others, like a $30,000 upgrade to the steam traps at Crosby Elementary School, are reportedly completed.

The city’s recently published capital improvement plan shows how the city’s use of ARPA money will shift in the coming years. The document offers clues to how the administration has been “earmarking” ARPA dollars and how project costs have shifted.

The administration initially thought it would spend $500,000 on sidewalk upgrades around the Morningside and West Side neighborhoods. But the capital improvement plan now has those costs at $700,0000.

Recreational projects have also begun to pop up on city plans. The capital plan calls for $500,000 to be spent this fiscal year on constructing a pickleball facility and $650,000 to be spent rehabilitating Springside Pond over the course of the next two fiscal years.

The city has committed to spending $360,000 to replace the carpet in the Berkshire Athenaeum and $173,000 to improve the library’s security and inventory controls. Officials also plan major renovations to the city’s fire stations, with $155,000 put towards kitchen improvements, $250,000 for window replacement and $105,000 for air conditioners.

Still looming in the city’s projects is a big overhaul of the Ashley Water Treatment Plant Facility. The city’s financial reports to the Treasury Department show the ARPA portion of that project comes in at $4.5 million, with an initial $530,000 spent as of March. A twin project on the Ashley Lake dam is slotted for $100,000 in ARPA funds.

Meg Britton-Mehlisch can be reached at mbritton@berkshireeagle.com or 413-496-6149.

Pittsfield Reporter

Meg Britton-Mehlisch is the Pittsfield reporter for The Berkshire Eagle. Born and raised in Kansas City, Missouri, she previously worked at the Prior Lake American and its sister publications under the Southwest News Media umbrella in Savage, Minnesota.

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