Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Council takes on schools budget, new legs for housing loan program

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The ball will be back in the City Council's court this week as Mayor Linda Tyer serves back the latest in a volley over her proposed housing loan program.

During the City Council meeting on Tuesday, Tyer will propose forming a working group to advance the measure, which failed to clear the City Council last month.

Tyer had originally proposed taking $250,000 from the General Electric Co. Economic Development Fund to fuel the zero-interest loan program, but the council bucked the plan because of the funding source. Several councilors who had voted down the measure filed a petition calling on Tyer to from a group that could explore alternative funding sources.

She proposes adding Finance Director Matt Kerwood and councilors Pete White and Kevin Morandi to the original planning group used to craft the program. Members include Community Development Director Deanna Ruffer, community advocates Carolyn Valli and Alisa Costa, as well as representatives from each of the participating banks.

The city's budget hearings continue this week with perhaps the most important of them all — the one devoted to the $63.5 million spending plan for the Pittsfield Public Schools. The upcoming fiscal year will be no ordinary one for the school system, as the city plans to see significantly more in school reimbursements than ever before.

Superintendent Jason McCandless says it's the first time in his tenure with the district that he gets to reinvest in programs and people, and he intends to make good use of the opportunity. He has plans for new spending on restorative justice, school security, curriculum improvements and upgrades to the district's special education programs.

The city's annual Memorial Day procession begins 9 a.m. Monday. The group will proceed to North Street, head north to Wahconah Street and stop at Pittsfield Cemetery, where a 9:45 a.m. ceremony will follow.

Workers' comp, riverside projects, fresh petitions on council docket

Finance Director Matt Kerwood requests that the council transfer $100,000 from the unclassified budget to the workers' compensation budget, which councilors will consider during their Tuesday meeting. He said the request comes because there's a higher than expected number of public safety employees who are currently out on injury or illness.

The council will be asked to approve last pieces of funding for projects along the West Branch of the Housatonic River — one to construct the West Side Riverway Park on Dewey Avenue, and another demolishing the Mill Street Dam and restoring the contaminated riverbed beneath it.

A call for help from Eaton Lane residents is also on the council's plate this week. The City Council's Public Works Committee voted earlier this month to throw support behind residents of Eaton Lane, which has been a private way since its inception in the early 1990s. Residents of the road say it could soon cave in without a hand from the city.

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Ward 3 Councilor Nick Caccamo has a proposed resolution on the Tuesday agenda that, if passed, would ask the state to act on litter caused by nip bottles. The measure would signal support for a state bill that, if passed, would make nip containers redeemable like other types of bottles and cans.

There's also a fresh citizens petition on the agenda asking councilors to back the idea of a new courthouse complex and referring the measure to members of the Berkshire legislative delegation.

New ground, new grads and new leaders

Central Berkshire Habitat for Humanity breaks ground this week on a long-awaited affordable condominium project at the corner of Gordon and Deming streets. Community leaders will join the nonprofit for a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. Friday.

The city must line up a replacement for Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski, who plans to retire this summer. To accomplish that, there will be a Civil Service assessment Friday for the department's internal candidates.

Berkshire Community College will host its annual pinning ceremony for 37 graduates of the college's two-year nursing program Thursday evening, in the Koussevitzky Arts Center. The event should serve as a bright spot for the embattled program, which won't admit new students in the fall as the college works to implement changes required by national and state regulators.

Heads up

A new cannabis shop could be coming to South Street, in the building that houses Enso Asian Bistro. The company behind the proposal, The Mensing Group, will host a community outreach meeting 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Berkshire Athenaeum.

The shop would be the second in the pipeline for that stretch of Route 7; a company called Green Biz has a provisional license from the Cannabis Control Commission and plans to open up a store at 1021 South St., formerly occupied by Amazing.net.

Solid Waste crews with Republic Services got backed up on Friday, and so will be playing catch-up on Tuesday for properties not serviced. Due to the Memorial Day holiday, all residents normally serviced on Mondays will instead see their trash picked up on Tuesday, and a one-day delay continues throughout the week.

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


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