Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pittsfield city council talks free parking for veterans, impending North Street infrastructure project, Miss Hall’s gift to DEI office

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During discussion of a $600 gift from private all-girls boarding school Miss Hall’s, Ward 5’s Patrick Kavey said he was uncomfortable accepting the donation to the city’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office given the spring’s explosion of sexual abuse allegations over years there.

“Just with the ongoing investigation that’s happening at Miss Hall’s- I fully support diversity, equity and inclusion, I just feel uncomfortable taking a donation from them the same week that or the week after press reported allegations about the ongoing behavior there,” said Kavey. “So, I won’t be supporting this tonight.”

The council accepted the gift with Kavey, Ward 7 councilor Rhonda Serre, and council Vice President and at-large councilor Earl Persip in opposition.

The body heard a report from the Ordinance and Rules subcommittee supporting an amendment to city rules that would allow all veterans to park for free in Pittsfield regardless of the plates on their car.

City solicitor Stephen Pagnotta said he had concerns about enforcement of the change.

“The amendment that’s a little unusual is the one that provides that a veteran qualifies under the ordinance if they have a valid current veteran’s license plate or is registered with the city pursuant to any system established to implement this ordinance,” he said. “We don’t have that system yet- Presumably it will work. I mean, I presume the ordinance could be amended if that system isn’t established. Just want to point out that we don’t have that system set up yet.”

Persip also expressed skepticism.

“This is kind of sloppy,” he said. “So let’s just make it simple. If we approve just the veteran plates tonight, I’m on board, and then you work out everything else after the fact. But it seems very sloppy, it seems like it’s not ready. If you just want to say a veteran plate gets free parking starting tomorrow, I’m for it. Anything beyond that. It’s too sloppy. It probably shouldn’t have came back. But so if you just want to not do all this and just do a veteran plate, you have my vote. If not, it’s too sloppy.”

At-large city councilor Kathy Amuso disagreed.

“I think it’s easy enough to just say a veteran comes in and shows documentation and gives their plate and they can be added in,” she said.

Mayor Peter Marchetti offered what he described as a simple solution.

“We have a Department of Veterans Services,” he told the council. “We can complete a form that requires all the same information that all of you guys filled out when you were first elected to the city council that has your name and your license plate number. The Department of Veterans Services can get the information to the commissioner, we can put it in there and the plate scanners. It’s a very simple process that could take us 10 minutes tomorrow morning.”

The council approved the amended ordinance.

Nicole Scarborough of energy company EverSource spoke to the council to give them fair warning about an impending major infrastructure project that will take place on North Street, the main downtown corridor.

“This includes rebuilding three existing manholes, installing an additional manhole, and 490-feet of twelve five-inch conduits encased in concrete,” she said.

The undertaking will involve digging up a significant portion of the roadway stretching roughly from Eagle Street to just past Melville Street.

“The benefit is we’re increasing our infrastructure, which will provide more capacity for all these lovely EV chargers going everywhere,” Scarborough told the council. “We just need to get more power into everywhere, basically. But I know the city has requested a bunch of EV, I know of at least four EV charging stations. So, this will allow us to bring the power to those areas.”

Eversource did not have a timeframe to offer the council, which unanimously accepted the company’s presentation.

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