A last call for 4 Pittsfield city councilors in final meeting of year
PITTSFIELD — Some outgoing city councilors capped their terms Tuesday with smiles on, yet the mood was bittersweet for others during the last meeting of the year.
The night's City Council meeting was the last — at least for now — for four city councilors: Melissa Mazzeo (at large), Donna Todd Rivers (Ward 5), John Krol (Ward 6) and Tony Simonelli (Ward 7).
Incoming councilors taking their seats will be inaugurated Jan. 6.
Todd Rivers choked back tears as she signaled her intentions to return, while Mazzeo promised to be an active voice at the other side of the podium.
"I won't be here next month, but I actually will be here, and I'll be coming to council and I will be fighting for all of this to happen," Mazzeo said, while discussing a fresh petition she filed with her council colleagues.
Councilors Mazzeo, Chris Connell and Kevin Morandi called for a recalculation of water and sewer rates in light of post-bid savings on a wastewater plant overhaul. Connell stressed the importance of filing the petition with the council in its current form.
"I'm doing this now as opposed to waiting until next month because this council are the 11 members that went through all the meetings and all the numbers regarding this issue," he said.
The project had been scheduled to cost $74 million, he noted, yet the price dropped to $61.4 million after bids went out. He said that, in light of those savings, Mayor Linda Tyer's administration should reconsider a series of rate increases that began rolling out this year, which, he said, should be passed along to ratepayers.
"Ratepayers have suffered quite a bit," he said.
Mazzeo echoed those sentiments and urged her colleagues who will remain next month to see this matter through.
"I hope that as we're going forward that these are the things that you'll be diligent about," she said. "It's absolutely what we should be doing."
To close the meeting, Council President Peter Marchetti passed out honorary plaques for each of the outgoing representatives, each of whom took a turn at some last words.
Krol, who has sat on the council for 10 years alongside Mazzeo, said the group was able to serve the city well despite the political divides in play, noting the council's historic vote to build a $120 million building for Taconic High School.
"For all we hear about the divides in this city, we certainly have accomplished a lot in the last decade," he said.
Mazzeo said there were contentious times through the years, thanking colleagues for "tolerating me on some of my long-winded nights," but she also learned a lot and made lasting bonds. And she enjoyed helping people, she said.
"It really makes it all worthwhile," she said.
Todd Rivers said there were busy times over her four years as a councilor, recalling fondly how, when it started to snow, she would prepare for calls from constituents with her feet up, phone in hand, a notebook and a cup of tea.
It wasn't her choice to step down, she said, but her mother is ailing on the other side of the state and she has to be with her during her end-of-life journey.
"I'll be back," she said, looking toward Pittsfield Community Television cameras that livestream the meetings.
Simonelli, who is stepping down to spend more time with his family, prided himself on the political independence he showed over his eight years on the council. And while Todd Rivers remembers snowstorms fondly, he said he won't much miss weathering all those phone calls. They're not as enjoyable as the rest of the work, he said, "and I know the ward councilors know what that means."
Councilors pointed to being on the right side of winning votes and on the wrong side of losing ones, but they said that what mattered was doing what they thought was right.
"I live with my decisions," Simonelli told The Eagle. "I never made it based on politics or favoritism or anything like that. Just what I thought was the right thing to do."
Amanda Drane can be contacted at email@example.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.
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