Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Big world problems, small city resources

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How to tackle growing problems with fewer resources? That dilemma encircles our city's government at all times, and this week is no different.

The City Council docket this week includes final review of a contract that outlines new recycling costs, as well as fresh petitions surrounding safety concerns at Reid Middle School, homelessness and panhandling.

The council's Tuesday meeting is to follow a Monday forum meant to demystify the inner workings of city government. The soldout event, called "The Big Reveal: How Pittsfield City Government Works," features city leaders and was organized by Mill Town Capital and The Dulye Leadership Experience.

Perhaps the forum will shed light on what one councilor calls "stale government." Ward 7 Councilor Tony Maffuccio promised during his campaign to light a fire under the city, and he is certainly stirring up some important conversations.

One of Maffuccio's petitions pushes the city for a permanent solution to a longstanding struggle to staff the school resource officer position at Reid Middle School. But solving that problem hinges on the ability to solve another: the Pittsfield Police Department's current patrol shortage.

Even more intractable are issues of homelessness and panhandling, and Maffuccio also has a petition for each of them, both asking for council subcommittees to explore possible solutions.

And while we're talking about some of society's most pressing problems, waste management stands among the most persistent for governments across the world. The recycling market took a hit in recent years as China cut back on recycled imports, and now communities in Massachusetts are feeling the effects.

Earlier this month, councilors on the Public Works Committee unanimously recommended approval of a new recycling contract that could cost the city about $178,000 in new fees over the first year alone. Now the full council will take a final look on Tuesday.

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The City Council is slated during the meeting to accept another $99,000 from the state's Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs toward an increasingly costly dam removal project on Mill Street. The new funds join the city's contingency fund for the project, slated to cost $3.8 million.

City schools will receive backpacks filled with trauma kits this week, thanks to a grant from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The all-hazard first-aid kits will help schools prepare for emergencies.

And there could be some shifting around of alcohol licenses this week, as Mission seeks the all-alcohol license formerly used by Lach's Lounge, which was ordered by the city to cease alcohol service following a slew of violent incidents.

The city's Licensing Board will also hold a show-cause hearing for Jae's, alleged to have permitted a disturbance and made sales to patrons after hours.

Heads up

The Berkshire Community Action Council is looking to shape its work for the next three years with input from the community. The group will hold public coffee hours Friday at South Congregational Church from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m., with Mayor Linda Tyer and state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier, D-Pittsfield, scheduled to attend.

The group's coffee hours sessions dovetail with a survey process. You can find their community needs survey on their website.

And if you want to cast your vote in the presidential primary but haven't been paying much attention, now might be the time to tune in. The City Council is set to approve polling locations Tuesday for the March 3 vote.

What's up in Pittsfield? Tell me via email at adrane@berkshireeagle.com, @amandadrane on Twitter, and 413-496-6296.


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