Investing in housing
An excellent use of the ARPA funds that Pittsfield receives would be to help upgrade the housing stock of those buildings that are in the worst condition, but still salvageable.
These buildings are energy hogs, thus their occupants spend a disproportionate amount of their income on energy.
By upgrading the housing — switching to energy efficient lighting and appliances, weatherizing, insulating, and providing good ventilation — these homes can become more healthy, more comfortable, and more energy efficient. Not only does this save the occupant money, it decreases the load on the electric grid and decreases the amount of greenhouse gases going into the air.
Adding in roof repair and structural upgrading, many of these buildings could support solar panels, again decreasing energy expense for the owner, and cleaning the air for all.
Jane Winn, Pittsfield
The writer is the executive director of Berkshire Environmental Action Team.
Investing in infrastructure
Instead of closing down a bridge lane (e.g., Holmes Road, Pecks Road) after years of neglect, let’s identify, along with the state, seven bridges that we can repair and maintain to extend their useful lives and reduce commuting times and pollution.
And if there are extra funds, we can do emergency repairs on the 1886 Wahconah Street stone dam before it explodes and floods the Berkshire Medical Center and creates another emergency. I did notice there is another For Sale there.
Paul Gniadek, Pittsfield
Investing in front-line workers
Since this is a “once-in-a-lifetime” opportunity to catapult Pittsfield successfully and solidly into the future, the following ideas should be incorporated into any deliberations:
1. Bonuses of $1,000 for all first responder personnel in our Police and Fire Departments who worked tirelessly during Pittsfield’s COVID response.
2. Municipal broadband.
3. Lower city utility rates by a significant contribution to the water filtration system upgrades.
4. The city’s trash collection and removal program. Possibly look into purchasing the Community Eco Pittsfield Resource Recovery Facility that is in bankruptcy. The other is that if the City changes its approach to the current system, the funds should be used to purchase the necessary equipment to implement any changes so that the taxpayers do not have to.
5. Road repair/reconstruction money supplement.
Obviously these proposals are open for improvement, but I think they are a start.
Kenny Warren, Pittsfield
Investing in low-income households
I think that Pittsfield’s American Rescue Plan Act funds should be spent as follows.
Approximately 75 percent of the funds should be used to help subsidize the poor and those most impacted by COVID. I’m thinking of using the money to offer monthly stimulus checks to those making below $50,000 a year. Please note that while this limit is above the national poverty line, those making less than $50,000 a year are still struggling to make ends meet between taxes and other increased living expenses.
I think the remaining 25 percent of the funds should be used to help fix infrastructure including patching potholes. But first and foremost, I believe the funds need to help those struggling economically.
David Grossman-Ponemon, Pittsfield
Investing in tourism and other local economy boosters
The $32.4 million infusion is a unique opportunity to help our community.
I think the money needs to be used first for COVID-19 related expenses, including premium pay for low-income essential workers. This should also include replacing lost public sector revenue.
Investing in tourism and related aspects will help our economy and provide jobs. This will help people in our community improve their economic status and help our community in so many ways.
Water and sewer issues are a health item and needed improvements in these areas should be included in this windfall.
Our roads are in dreadful condition. Since the windfall cannot be used directly for improving roads, it might indirectly allow for this critical need because it will free up money that the city might have used for any of the seven allowed categories.
This is a very unique opportunity to have this kind of money come our way and it should be used with extreme thoughtfulness.
Naomi Schwartz, Pittsfield
Investing in our roads
Although I do not live in Pittsfield, I come here every day.
I urge that some portion of federal stimulus money be spent to complete the repairs to Barker Road, especially near its intersection with Cadwell Road. I have flattened several tires in its potholes during recent winters.
Fred Rutberg, Stockbridge
The writer is the president and publisher of The Berkshire Eagle.