Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Construction coming to downtown, 4th of July Parade woes

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We've got a big capital project that will soon make waves downtown, financial concerns surrounding our annual Fourth of July Parade, a ban on single-use plastic bags and the mayor's home rehabilitation program that could make landfall this week.

The city is preparing to demolish the Columbus Avenue Parking Garage — work starts in April — and replace it with a surface lot. The long-awaited project was estimated to cost the city $2 million, and construction is scheduled to wrap up in June.

The city's beloved Fourth of July Parade is strapped for cash, and we can expect some conversation this week about crucial fundraising.

The City Council meets 7 p.m. Tuesday, and important agenda items include Mayor Linda Tyer's new plan to give homeowners zero-interest loans for exterior renovations, a new ordinance regulating solar developments and a bag ban that stumped councilors during the previous meeting.

Regarding Tyer's new initiative, councilors will consider a request to use $250,000 from the city's Economic Development Fund to give homeowners loans to repair things like roofs, porches, siding and doors. Slouching homes in the city serve as a barrier to economic development and community stabilization, Tyer says.

Last week the City Council Committee on Community and Economic Development voted unanimously to recommend the appropriation of funds.

We can expect the council to finally take a vote on a proposed ban on single-use plastic bags this week. If approved, the ban would allow for compostable alternatives that mimic plastic and would begin Jan. 1 of next year.

Councilors gridlocked during the last meeting about whether or not to impose a 5-cent charge on paper bags offered at the register, and after taking a 5-5 vote on that point decided to table the conversation.

And Tuesday's meeting is the last stop for a solar ordinance that would prohibit larger-scale solar developments from setting up shop in residential neighborhoods.

The Human Rights Commission meets this week amid an identity crisis. City Solicitor Stephen Pagnotta is scheduled to give commissioners some legal guidance around resolutions, and the body will continue to rethink its mission and how best to address human rights issues in the city.

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On the school and conservation front

The School Committee takes a first look this week at its budget for fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1. The committee will also consider resolutions backing two state-level measures: one that would increase funding for public schools, and another that would increase funding for public higher education.

Johannesburg-based visual artist Iris Dawn Parker will be visiting city schools this week. Her trip to the Berkshires reflects a collaboration between the Berkshire branch of the NAACP, Pittsfield Public Schools, Miss Hall's, Williams College and the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.

The Conservation Commission meets 6 p.m. Thursday and will consider a few notable projects. They could grant clearance for repairs to the bridge on Hancock Road, and they'll take a look at restoration plans for a private septic system whose owner failed to respect the wetland boundaries.

Commissioners will also vet a proposed solar facility off Churchill Street and will discuss the feasibility of a handicap-accessible trail at the Wild Acres Conservation Area off of South Mountain Road.

Heads up

MCLA is poised for a grand opening at its new Pittsfield location, 66 Allen St., beginning 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The Berkshire Athenaeum's spring book sale, sponsored by the Friends of the Berkshire Athenaeum, will be held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Athenaeum.

Hotel on North and the Junior League of Berkshire County will host a clothing drive for Goodwill's "Suit Yourself" program on Thursday starting at 5 p.m. at the hotel. The program lends a hand to those in need of professional attire.

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


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