Look Ahead, Pittsfield: Mayoral contenders, marijuana taxes and a school budget takes shape

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Important puzzle pieces could line up this week as more political contenders step up.

All incumbent city councilors — except Ward 4 Councilor Chris Connell and Councilor At Large Melissa Mazzeo — have made clear their roles in the November election, with Councilors John Krol and Tony Simonelli stepping down from city politics.

Connell will likely announce his plans early this week.

Mazzeo and Connell also happen to be strong dissenting voices on the council, pushing against the grain on spending and on issues like the wastewater treatment plant.

Mayor Linda Tyer so far has two challengers: Craig Gaetani and Scott Graves, owner of Rusty Anchor Marina.

Meanwhile, Tyer will spend time during the City Council meeting on Tuesday to respond to nudges from city councilors, including one from Mazzeo and Connell asking to set aside marijuana taxes for road work.

Tyer asks for more time — six more months — to monitor the new revenue stream, track its patterns and report them to councilors before deciding on how to spend it.

Tyer is also slated to respond to Krol's petition calling for an update on the aging Pittsfield High School building and where the city stands on the prospect of consolidating high schools. Tyer and Superintendent Jason McCandless say the most pressing building issues are at Crosby Elementary School, Conte Community School and Morningside Community School, and they plan to reconvene the School Building Needs Commission around the issue later this month.

The city's new Business Development Manager Michael Coakley will catch the council up on his work to date in response to a request from Ward 2 Councilor Kevin Morandi, and Public Services Commissioner David Turocy will update councilors about upcoming road work.

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Krol also fired off a couple of fresh petitions requesting a report on the costs and effectiveness of ShotSpotter, a piece of technology that alerts the Pittsfield Police Department to shots fired and helps pinpoints their location.

And Krol will shine a spotlight on concerns from Berkshire Nautilus owner James Ramondetta, who cosigned a petition calling for review of the new parking plan along Summer Street. Parking changes are coming to that area of downtown given the demolition and reconstruction at the old Columbus Avenue parking garage.

School funding, census and community projects

The School Committee is scheduled to weigh in regarding the schools budget as proposed by McCandless, who will present some adjustments made to his original proposal after talks with the city. The City Council will need to give ultimate approval of the school spending plan in May.

Tyer, state Rep. Paul Mark and the U.S. Census Bureau will host a Census 2020 kickoff at City Hall on Monday. Mark is the chair of the House Committee on Redistricting, and census data plays an important role in deciding representation — especially given population decline in Berkshire County.

The Community Preservation Committee hears more project pitches this week as it decides how to dole out up to $600,000 in funds. Projects on the agenda this week include special collections work at the Berkshire Athenaeum, restoration work at Arrowhead and roof restorations at Colonial Theatre, the old St. Mary's complex and Zion Lutheran Church.

Heads up

Childcare of the Berkshires hosts the annual event "Step Up for Kids" this week on the steps of City Hall, 11 a.m. Friday. The organization is slated to line the steps with children's shoes in the name of the abused and neglected.

It's National Library Week, so stay tuned to the Berkshire Athenaeum's calendar for themed happenings. City restaurants also kick off restaurant week on Saturday, so be on the lookout for deals and special offerings.

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


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