PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Tuesday’s city council considered 13 agenda items in less than an hour.
Besides communications and routine appointments, there were two items relating to the city’s infrastructure and one to its retired residents.
The panel voted to enter into a five-year fiber optic cable agreement with Dalton, approved an application to install a pole jointly owned on East Housatonic Street by Verizon New England and NSTAR Electric, and approved a recalculation the cost of living adjustment (COLA) for retirees.
The purpose of the agreement with Dalton is to install fiber optic cables on city-owned utility poles for data communication between the city’s existing fiber infrastructure and its two water treatment plants.
A 12-strand cable will be installed on utility poles running from the city border to the Ashley Reservoir Water Treatment Plant at 432 Washington Mountain Road in Dalton and a second cable from Old Windsor Road to the plant. Cleveland Reservoir Water Treatment Plant at 601 Frank Schnopp Road in Hinsdale.
The agreement stipulates that Pittsfield will bear all costs of installing the cable and will be responsible for its maintenance. Dalton will have the four strands of the cable.
The project will cost approximately $53,000.
Ward 2 Councilman Charles Kronick voted against the contract because he said Dalton was getting “free water” from the city.
Utilities and Utilities Commissioner Ricardo Morales said it was irrelevant to the conversation.
“My position on this is that we are not touching this fiber optic contract with the town of Dalton until they, in fact until we resolve all other water negotiations and that “They’re paying their fair share for treated water. whatever it has to do with that fiber optic,” Kronick said, insisting his comment was valid.
He added that it should be “sent back to the drawing board”.
Morales clarified the purpose of the contract after additional questions from general counsel Karen Kalinowsky.
“The operation of the fiber optic cable and the 12 strands in it has no value to Dalton. They might not even use all four lines. We just allow them to tap into it, at their own expense, because we we’re not using four of the 12, we’re only using six of the 12,” he said.
“We incur the cost of operating the cable, we get permission from Dalton to use their poles, that’s all this deal. There’s no reason for Dalton to make a deal. If we put that off side while waiting for a better deal, it’s not gonna happen. There’s no reason for Dalton to come back to us for anything.
Warren said he agreed it was legitimate to consider all deals with the city, but added that his colleague was wrong to reject the deal.
“This deal is totally for the benefit of Pittsfield. We need this wire, this fiber optic cable, it’s for our benefit,” he said.
“Dalton don’t charge us or anything for right of way etc. They use four prongs. I think it’s totally for our purposes and they get a benefit out of it. If we have to negotiate that other contract a bit more aggressively that’s another issue but I don’t think that should stop us [from] do something that is in our interest and for the quality of our water. »
The board had previously denied Verizon and NSTAR doing business as Eversource, twice due to unpaid taxes. The companies approached the panel in March and November last year and were turned down.
It passed at that meeting because CFO Matthew Kerwood said taxes were paid in full.
With taxes and interest combined, Eversource owed the city about $5 million. It is legal for the company to appeal its taxes as long as it pays half the amount for personal property.
The city has used a mixed method to rate the utility since 2018, and Eversource has been challenging its personal property bill since then, paying only about half.
The plan is to place poles, wires, cables and related fixtures on the north side of East Housatonic Street approximately 145 feet west of the center line of Deming Street. The post is intended to better support the existing post line and allow the cables to continue onto Copley Terrace.
“Since the last time we met, Copley Terrace has lost power due to an underground outage,” an Eversource representative said during the meeting.
“The cable is very old, it’s only one phase out of three and it’s probably older than most of us in this room, so I highly recommend supporting this pole.”
The board also voted to increase the maximum base for retiree COLA by $2,000, an increase that hasn’t happened since 2010. This will increase the maximum base from $14,000 to $16,000.
The Pittsfield Retirement Board unanimously backed the increase in late April.
“Retired people receive a pension and that pension varies from individual to individual depending on when they retired, age, years of service, etc.,” Kerwood explained. “So the purpose of establishing a COLA, which the board votes on an annual basis to give a cost of living increase to retirees, what’s before you tonight is proposing to use a base of $16,000 for the purposes of the COLA calculation rather than $14,000.”
Kronick unsuccessfully offered to file the request, then voted against it. He felt there were “a lot of questions about a lot of issues” related to it.
Separately, a petition from residents requesting a public hearing on proposed changes to Deming Park and related infrastructure has been referred to the Parks Commission.
Last month, the Parks Commission gave the city the go-ahead to move forward with a project to fix parking issues at Deming Park, acknowledging it was a long-standing issue during Babe Ruth and Little League baseball season.
The panel was given a concept layout that includes a newly paved parking lot for 68 spaces, an entrance and exit, and some reconfiguration.
Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Sherman pointed out that there would be no curb next to the Palmer variety store, as it was a possibility that was debunked. The councilor had responded to the concerns of several members of the community on this subject.
He supported the submission to the Parks Commission and heard additional details about the project.
Parks, open spaces and natural resources program manager James McGrath said parking is an ongoing issue at the facility and the city has worked with an engineering firm, community stakeholders of baseball, the Parks Commission and the Conservation Commission to come up with a design to fix it.
The design is one way in and out traffic throughout the park.
McGrath added that it’s appropriate that the Parks Commission wants additional community input. He believes there is a strong basis for why the repairs need to be done and that the community will support the mission.
Key words: Cost of life,